Sculptor Jonathan Borofsky's several-stories-high “Hammering Man” greets visitors to SAM, as locals call this pride of the city’s art scene. The genre-spanning museum features plenty of free public space. The first floor includes the SAM's fantastic gift shop, a café that focuses on local ingredients, and spaces for drop-in workshops where the whole family can get creative.
SAM's permanent collection surveys American, Asian, Native American, African, Oceanic, and pre-Columbian art. Collections of African dance masks and Native American carvings are particularly strong. Kanye Quaye's Mercedes Benz Coffin installation and the Italian Room, a reproduction of typical Lombard Renaissance–era room, are also favorites.
The grand staircase in the original South Building, with its imposing Chinese funerary statues, has always been fun to climb.
Arty film series take place monthly in the Plestcheeff Auditorium. Select Third Thursdays
and Third Sundays of the month, visitors can experience a tea ceremony in the superbly crafted teahouse on the third floor. Second Thursdays feature evening jazz ensembles. The real party, however, is SAM Remix, which happens on select Fridays (8–midnight). The exhibits are open and complemented by live music and DJ sets, talks, and wacky performance art.
SAM's free floors have the best attractions for kids, including an installation of cars hanging upside down from the ceiling and the WaMu OpenStudio. Select second Saturdays are Family Fun days, with kid-focused tours, performances, and workshops from 10 am to noon.
You can download SAM Audio—podcasts about the museum's collection—to your iPod or smart phone.
For the full scope of SAM's Asian-art collection—one of the best in the country—be sure to visit the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park—the collection here is just a sampling.
TASTE (www.tastesam.com), the museum's stylish restaurant, has good weekday happy hour deals and a solid wine and beer list. It's a pleasant spot for a sit-down meal, too, but if you want more variety, remember, Pike Place Market is only a block away.