Food & Culture

The Nordic Museum Is the Sleeper Hit of Seattle’s Museum Scene

This month's Editor's Note from Rachel Hart

By Rachel Hart May 3, 2018


This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the May 2018 issue. Click here to subscribe.

As I write this during the first days of spring, we’re experiencing that annual dance between the first warm, bright days of the season and the clinging wintery days with cold, rainy (and snowy) stretches. During that first sunny weekend, neighbors start to emerge from hibernation, tend to their gnarly yards and say hello—only to go back inside again for a few more weeks, like a groundhog that just saw its shadow. We revel in the extra daylight hours during this time, but slog through the first few weeks of mornings that are still so very dark. And above all, we crave the sun.

And so, to paraphrase Tennyson, in springtime our fancies turn to thoughts of sunny places. And yes, keep your chuckles to yourself, we do have them.

One of my favorite roadside attractions on the drive through the sunnier, eastern part of the state is the sign in Yakima, declaring the town, “The Palm Springs of Washington.” Erected on private property pretty much just to celebrate the 199 days a year of sun there, it’s truly a sign of our enduring Northwest resiliency and optimism. We embrace the sun where we can find it, even if it doesn’t come clad in midcentury modern fabulousness. Don’t miss our Palm Springs/Yakima smackdown—and our recommendations for other terrific sunny Pacific Northwest getaways.

On the more “indoor” side of things: Long before it was hip to be hygge, Seattle magazine has been a fan of what I consider the sleeper hit of Seattle’s museum scene, the Nordic Heritage Museum. This month, it’s opening a brand-new, gleaming building in Ballard on Market Street, just west of 24th Avenue (and will also offer the neighborhood its first new event space in decades). We have always loved this celebration of our city’s Nordic heritage, but we’re especially fans of the museum’s progressive programming, film series and events. When we were looking for a partner for our 2016 50th-anniversary issue coloring page insert (illustrated by the brilliant Frida Clements), the museum shared our vision. Here, we take you inside the new museum—renamed simply the Nordic Museum—for a sneak peek at what you’ll find when it opens this month.

Of course, you can’t think of the city’s Nordic roots without thinking of Ballard. But those roots extend beyond that neighborhood’s boundaries as Steve Scher explores in his neighborhood walkabout story on Dexter Avenue, and as Knute Berger reminisces in his column.

Even though I have no Nordic heritage, I grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, which has a big Danish population. (It also has fantastic Danish bakeries the likes of which I still can’t find locally—O & H Danish Bakery kringle, I’m looking at you; respectful apologies to Larsen’s in Ballard.) So it’s kind of destiny that I ended up living in Ballard. Our kids marched as Norwegian trolls in the annual Syttende Mai parade with the Ballard Boys & Girls Club. We bought viking helmets at Scandinavian Specialties. We “hip, hip, hurrah” (such a measured, civilized parade cheer!) with the revelers. Everyone can feel a little part of the Nordic culture by celebrating our city’s heritage. But the kringle here still pales in comparison.

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