A Weekend Museum Date on First Hill
First: ☕ Then: 🖼 And finally:🍦
November 17, 2022
📸: Frye Art Museum | "Boren Banner Series: Sadie Wechsler"
The First Hill neighborhood is home to two of Seattle’s best museums: The Frye Art Museum, a 70-year-old free museum with a permanent collection full of world-class paintings, and Museum of Museums (MoM), a newly opened museum that got its start shortly after Seattle’s COVID lockdowns. MoM’s exhibitions are as bright as its signature neon sign, and its innovative and occasionally controversial approach to art has made it a busy neighborhood spot. Meanwhile, you can experience centuries of art history while bathing in architect-approved light at the Frye.
Both are great, and both are the focus of today’s planner. We’ll start with a cup of coffee at another neighborhood favorite and wrap up with a little sweet treat from a beloved Capitol Hill izakaya.
Start with caffeine ☕
Before heading to the museum, ask your date to meet you at Boon Boona Coffee, located across from Seattle University’s Logan Field. (It’s also connected to another neighborhood favorite, Carmelo’s Tacos.) This Renton-based coffee company focuses exclusively on African coffees, brewing beans from all over the continent. The owner of Boon Boona, Efrem Fesaha, told Capitol Hill Seattle Blog that the shop is about “paying respect to where coffee came from,” AKA Ethiopia, and other countries like Tanzania and Rwanda. It’s a quiet spot that’s conveniently next to 12th Ave Square Park, so you can sit down for a casual chat before heading to MoM.
Fun fact: The US Small Business Association just awarded its Small Business Person of the Year award to Boona’s owner, Efrem. Well-deserved!
📍Boon Boona Coffee: 1223 East Cherry Street
Open every day until 5 PM. Their original location is in Renton. That spot is great too, but head to the Seattle cafe this time. (And pro tip: They’ve got a coffee subscription service. Pick two coffees and set a delivery frequency. Easy!)
Choose your own adventure 🧭
You’ve got two First Hill museums you could explore for Step #2 today.
The first: Head to Frye Art Museum for top-tier paintings and sculptures from the 19th century to today. As of updating this article, they’ve got a great collection of spooky contemporary paintings on display.
The second: Check out Museum of Museums for a more playful, contemporary approach to a museum.
Read on, then make your decision. (Of course, if you’re really feeling up to it, you could always go to both 😊)
Start with the classics 🎨
The Frye is one of the leading museums in Seattle. If you or your date have never been before, put it at the top of your list.
The museum’s permanent collection began around the extensive private collections of Charles and Emma Frye, who passed away in 1940 and 1932, respectively. Nineteenth-century German Romantic paintings made up most of their collection, so the museum has been committed to what the Fryes liked: realism over abstraction, lots of representational paintings and sculptures. Think paintings of cows, but really interesting paintings of cows. That said, it’s not the 1930s anymore, and today’s Frye often features abstraction. Take its current exhibits of contemporary works, Srijon Chowdhury: Same Old Song and Door to the Atmosphere, which lean toward the spooky and fun.
Importantly: One of Charles Frye’s demands around the collection was that admission to view it would always be free, something that’s still true 70 years after the Frye first opened.
📍 Frye Art Museum: 704 Terry Avenue
Open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm. Again, free 🙂
How many museums are in this thing? 🖼️
Looking for another option?
One of the brightest additions to the First Hill area is Museum of Museums, a building on Swedish Medical Center’s campus that artist and entrepreneur Greg Lundgren renovated into an arts hub right as the pandemic hit Seattle. The building has two exhibition spaces, which the museum’s curators often fill with trippy exhibits. It’s a friendly space, so it works well for everyone from moms to Tinder dates. Ask the front desk person to explain the building’s layout—or wing it. Part of the fun at MoM is getting lost.
📍 Museum of Museums: 900 Boylston Ave
Open Wednesday and Thursday from 6 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday from 12 to 10 pm, and Sunday from 12 to 6 pm. Admission is between $10 and $20, depending on when you go.
There are two main entrances. Enter from Boylston to head straight to the galleries. Enter from Broadway to meander through the gift shop or enter the “kitchen,” a flexible space that sometimes hosts private events, classes, and vintage clothing markets.
Put away the gray ☁️
Pretend you’re a sunburst in January and break out the color. Seattle loves to paint its buildings a dreary navy or gray, but that’s thankfully not the case here. Use the museum’s kaleidoscopic art and laid-back vibe as your style inspiration for the day. You’ll probably want to take a lot of selfies while you’re here.
The littlest cinema in Seattle 🍿
One mini room you shouldn’t miss is the museum’s closet-sized “Charles Mudede Theatre.” Named after a local filmmaker and philosopher, this hallway-turned-cinema only fits four seats and a small projector. Guest programmers have screened everything from PNW-focused music videos to a collection of “ritual films.” The theatre also functions as a hallway, so you’ll watch more than just the people on screen.
On display now: The museum’s fall exhibits include GUM BABY, Tariqa Waters’ new Alice and Wonderland-like immersive exhibit that’s ripe for TikToks. Also: NEW ALGORITHMS, a group exhibition about Afrofuturism that includes installations, paintings, digital work, and a whole bunch more.
Speaking of that gift shop 🎁
MoM’s Gift Shop is its own kind of museum. Find it on the first floor, where it features around 60 rotating objects. The last time we visited, we found a gigantic glass jar of bouncy balls for sale. Nearby, a sculpture of a Morton Salt can sat next to a green screen kit. These aren’t your average gifts.
What is this? A center for ants?! 🐜
If you thought the Mudede theater was small, just wait, MoM gets even smaller.
It might look teeny, but this mini museum inside MoM isn’t for ants—it’s for dolls. Don’t miss the “Supperfield Museum of Contemporary Art” (SMCA), an elaborately designed museum (with quite a bit of lore) on MoM’s first floor. It showcases flamboyantly constructed rotating exhibitions for its miniature museum patrons. The center’s motto is “Mini Museum, Full Sized Drama!” and its Instagram plays out like a reality TV show. One mini patron was recently arrested; another had to get rushed to the hospital.
Top it off with cream 🍧
After you’ve got your fill of art, take a quick walk over to the nearby Japanese dessert window, Baiten, to fill up on fruit sandwiches and soft serve. Created by the team behind the beloved neighborhood izakayas Tamari Bar and Rondo, Baiten serves up an impressive menu of Japanese treats. (If dessert won’t cut it, pop into the connected Tamari Bar for some baos and karaage.) Once you’ve acquired your treats, end your date with a walk through Capitol Hill’s iconic Cal Anderson Park. And there you go! What a full-ass day!
📍 Baiten: 510 E Pine St
A 10-minute walk from Museum of Museums. Open Thursday through Sunday. Check out Baiten’s Instagram for updated hours. They’re connected to Tamari Bar, but you can access their take-out window from the street.
📍 Cal Anderson Park: 1635 11th Ave
A 10-minute walk from Baiten. Open daily from 4 AM to 11:30 PM.