Explore Seattle

Your Guide to Seattle Arts: Museums, Theater, Film, Music and More

Plan your cultural excursions while in the Emerald City.

The art scene in Seattle goes far beyond paintings in museums and even the hot new band. Here, art includes visual art in a huge variety of mediums; music, theater and some things that encompass multiple genres. While it’s impossible to do a comprehensive roundup, here’s a start to exploring Seattle’s many facets of art.

Visual Art

Seattle’s visual art community is extensive, between museums large and small as well as galleries. Be sure to check out glass art while here as the Seattle community is one of the best. Dale Chihuly, a giant in blown-glass art, has a long-term exhibit at Chihuly Garden and Glass or check out Canlis Glass, the Glasshouse Studio or the Seattle Glassblowing Studio. If you’re interested in Native American Art, two great galleries to get started are Steinbrueck Native Gallery and Stonington Gallery. Visiting the big museums in town, where you’ll see everything from the ancient art of Mesopotamia to modern artists both local and international, check out the Seattle Art Museum and Asian Art Museum, the Frye Art Museum and the Henry Art Gallery. Other great museums include the Northwest African American Museum and Bellevue Arts Museum. For photography, check out Photographic Center Northwest while pottery lovers should visit Pottery Northwest. Possibly one of the best ways to really get a sense of both Seattle’s multifaceted art and the personality of the city’s neighborhoods, check out an art walk.

Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington
Seattle Art Museum (©My Lil' Rotten/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Art Walks

Neighborhood art walks usually happen once a month, with businesses opening their doors to display art, play host to music and more. One of the best is the Pioneer Square art walk on the first Thursday of every month. Other art walks worth checking out are the second-Friday art walks in Belltown or Phinney Ridge, second-Saturday art walks in Ballard or Georgetown and second-Thursday art walks in Capitol Hill and West Seattle

Pioneer Square Art Walk,Seattle, Washington
Pioneer Square Art Walk (Courtesy Alliance for Pioneer Square)

Public Art

Don’t forget to simply look around when exploring. Seattle is full of public art from sculpture to murals. Consider a visit to the Olympic Sculpture Park, nine acres of art and incredible views. Another great neighborhood for public art is South Lake Union. Changing fast with the entrance of Amazon headquarters, in addition to many other tech companies, there are sculptures of all kinds scattered through the streets and in courtyards.

Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, Washington
Olympic Sculpture Park (©Doug Kerr/Flickr, Creative Commons)


From tiny operations to grand displays of costume, sets and lighting, Seattle’s theater community is varied and vibrant. The two largest theaters are the Paramount, which hosts a yearly lineup of traveling Broadway shows, and The 5th Avenue Theatre, known for its excellent productions of both beloved shows and new musicals. 

Taproot Theatre, in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, has a full program of plays and musicals performed in an intimate theater setting. Seattle Repertory Theatre, winner of a Best Regional Theatre Tony Award, produces both new and classic plays. Find Seattle Rep in Seattle Center. Downtown, head to ACT Theatre for a variety of works on contemporary themes. With multiple performance spaces there are often a number of options from experimental to more traditional productions. Book-It Repertory Theatre brings novels to the stage, including classics and contemporary tomes. Another choice is Seattle Public Theater, located at Green Lake. For a smaller, but still mighty, musical experience, check out Seattle Musical Theatre in Magnuson Park. In West Seattle, ArtsWest produces a wide variety of shows as well as displaying art in the gallery. Love opera? Seattle has that, too. The Seattle Opera has a program that includes both traditional operas and more contemporary shows.

Taproot Theatre, Settle, Washington
"Joyful Noise" from the 2016 season at Taproot Theatre (©Erik Stuhaug)


With city ties is quite a musical roster: Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Macklemore, Death Cab for Cutie, Heart, Jelly Roll Morton, Sir Mix-a-Lot and many more. Check out the following spots for a chance to see the next big thing in your favorite genre.

The largest music venues in town include Key Arena, the Paramount Theatre, White River Amphitheater, the Tacoma Dome and, for the extreme superstar (think Beyonce and Paul McCartney), CenturyLink Field or Safeco Field.

More intimate venues include The Showbox, Neumos, The Tractor Tavern, High Dive, The Sunset, Nectar Lounge, The Triple Door and Chop Suey. Many of the artists at these spots fall into the rock, alt-folk, indie and hip-hop genres.

If you’re a fan of country music, check out The Tractor Tavern and also Little Red Hen.

Jazz has a huge presence in the city, with venues that include Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz Club, Egan’s Ballard Jam House and, if you’re into blues rather than jazz, Highway 99 Blues Club.

Prefer classical? The Seattle Symphony performs at Benaroya Hall with a huge program of concerts. Benaroya Hall hosts other events, too, including the occasional contemporary pop act. Seattle also has a few choirs that perform on a regular basis, including the Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus, the Seattle Chamber Singers and Showtunes, who perform concert versions of rarely staged musicals.

Seattle Symphony, Seattle., Washington
The Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall (©Ben Van Houten)


Film lovers shouldn’t worry: Seattle has plenty of opportunities for big blockbusters and unheard of indie flicks. One of the best movie-going experiences for big blockbusters can be had at Cinerama, located in Belltown. From giant chairs with plenty of legroom to beer and chocolate popcorn, it’s a fun place to see a movie. For lesser-known films, check out the lineup at SIFF. With three theaters, there are plenty of movies showing seven days a week, including some fun special engagements like the French Cinema Now, Cinema Classics and Cinema Italian Style. Another spot for indie flicks is Sundance Cinemas, located in the University District. Landmark Theatres has three Seattle locations that show indie and foreign flicks—check out Crest Cinema Center for second-run cheap seats.

Cinerama, Belltown, Washington
Cinerama (©Benjamin Benschneider)

Find the latest arts events on the Seattle calendar.