Van Gogh exhibit, parent review:
What better way to ring in spring than a field trip to see the immersive Van Gogh exhibit in Seattle.
It’s perfect for older kids: They’ll love seeing projections of Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers painting series, Starry Night, Cafe Terrace at Night and other famous works, while also learning about art history and Van Gogh’s life.
Van Gogh exhibit: getting there
The exhibition is located in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood, on Occidental Avenue near T-Mobile Park.
For us, it was an easy and short ride from the Eastside — 20 minutes across the 520 bridge. The parking lot in front of the warehouse is small, but streetside and public parking lots are available.
Be careful entering the main parking lot: There are numerous large potholes.
Parking is $5 and must be paid through a QR code or an app, before entering the exhibit. Directions for the app and the QR code are located on signs around the lot.
Sculptures of Van Gogh’s sunflowers are arranged around the entryway along with large-scale murals of his works, making for some awesome photo ops.
Main Exhibit Hall
Move ahead to the main exhibit hall and view the many paintings by the artist, as well as a timeline of his life. Placards around the room describe Van Gogh’s artwork and life in a lengthy manner (not ideal for the attention span of a child), but you can pick and choose a few facts to share.
The paintings that you see are not the actual portraits, but projections onto canvas boards. We miss the richness of color in the actual portraits, but it is a lovely way to take a glimpse into the wide variety of Van Gogh’s paintings.
My kids were drawn to the more interactive and immersive exhibits. Stand in front of a sculpted bust of the artist’s head and watch as a projection of colors make up Van Gogh’s face. “This is so cool!” was proclaimed a lot during our visit.
Large screens projected Van Gogh’s “Vases” paintings onto a hollow structure of a vase, making the painting look three-dimensional.
A life-size replica of Van Gogh’s room in France was created for families to explore. (Another great opportunity for photos!)
For kids who are able to read exhibit information, be prepared to talk about depression, attempted suicide, what an asylum is and why Van Gogh cut his ear – some of the most darkest and most creative moments in the artist’s life.
Van Gogh exhibit: pièce de résistance
The truly amazing portion of this adventure was the two-story, surround-sound, immersive room.
Find a seat in this massive space and feel like you’re in Van Gogh’s paintings.
Benches and swing-chairs are clustered around the room, and there also is plenty of space to sprawl out onto the ground, lie down and watch. Sit on an area rug for extra comfort.
The 25-minute video loop tells the story of Van Gogh’s life in a big way. We sat through it twice and felt like we still missed certain paintings and parts of the story.
Many of Van Gogh’s famous paintings are projected onto the large screen with lots of movement and interaction. The voice used to tell the story is both loud and soothing.
People who are sensitive to sound or prone to motion sickness may not be able to stay in the room for the entire show. Guests were moving in and out so it is easy to make a quick transition to the next part of the exhibit, if needed.
Pro tip: Bring headphones to help your child sit through the show or have another activity (coloring book, journal to draw in/write or a book to read) available for little ones, while you are in this portion of the warehouse.
Become the artist
The next space is an open area with bins of crayons and long desks. Pick up one of the coloring sheets, off the wall, and brighten up these plain pages with your own rendition.
The walls are covered with other guests’ drawings and colored pages. My kids loved seeing all the work that went into each, commenting on the funny pictures and the bright color schemes.
You can tape your drawing up to the wall, share it on screen in a virtual frame, or take it home as a keepsake.
The virtual reality room wasn’t something that we explored because the lines were long and we were ready to exit the museum after having been there for a couple hours.
It is available for an additional cost and a space where you can explore an additional 8 works of Van Gogh and walk through a day in the life of the artist.
Gift shop and exit
The end of the exhibit takes you to the gift shop, where you can purchase posters, prints, puzzles and other items that are printed with the works of Van Gogh.
Floor-to-ceiling murals are along the wall. Be sure to stop and admire the vastness of the work and pretend to be a part of the painting too!
Although a pricey outing for a family of four, the experience was memorable and one that my children talked about for many weeks after our visit. It’s a fantastic idea for a special trip during the holidays or school break!
Know before you go
- Location: 1750 Occidental Ave. South, Seattle
- Open March to May 2022
- Hours: Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturdays and holidays, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
- Plan to stay at the museum for 2-hours
- Ideal for ages 6+
- Masks must be worn at all times in the exhibition
- Less busy during the week
- Purchase tickets here. Tickets for a family of four typically cost $92
- No food or drink allowed in the warehouse
- The exhibit is wheelchair and stroller-friendly
Another Van Gogh exhibit:
“Imagine Van Gogh, the Original Immersive Exhibition in Image Totale” is running March 5 through April 27, 2022 (date extended!) at the Tacoma Armory. It is said to bring the artist’s work to life “in a vivid, spectacular way. … Original canvasses are expanded and fragmented, then projected into unusual shapes to emphasize the mesmerizing exaggerations and distortions of Van Gogh’s work.”
We have not yet had a chance to check it out!