National Nordic Museum (formerly the Nordic Heritage Museum)

2655 NW Market St, Seattle, WA 98107, USA

The indigenous people welcomed the first European settlers in 1851. Soon reports reached Scandinavia, like Ostenson Stine’s: “When you throw your eye upon Puget Sound, and behold the fleet of fish barges, rolling upon her briny breast, a reminiscence of the coast of Norway steals into your soul.” It sparked a wave of immigration, now celebrated in a new $45-million landmark-building near the Ballard Locks. The sleek, sophisticated design has a central atrium evoking a fjord, crossed by bridges and pierced by contemporary stained-glass bird sculptures. While some of the exhibits honor Olde Worlde crafts and tools, expect interactive innovations as well. A fan favorite: pillows resembling giant stones, strewn under birch trunks. Cuddle up and watch gorgeous film footage that could easily inspire a trip—or several—to Europe.

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Head North to the Nordic Heritage Musem's Yulefest

The Nordic Heritage Museum is an interesting museum of local history year-round, chronicling the history of Seattle’s Nordic immigrants through art, cultural objects, and replica storefronts and buildings. But for one winter weekend, the annual Yule Fest takes over the museum, filling it with arts and crafts, Christmas decorations, traditional Scandinavian apparel and accessories, folk music and dancing, and authentic food and drink. Everything from buttery-soft reindeer leather purses to straw horses is for sale, and kids can get in line for a chance to sit on Santa’s lap.

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