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Dale Chihuly Chandeliers Display In Seattle Washington At Chihuly Garden And Glass Review By In The Great Wide Travel Blog Museum Reviews

Chihuly Garden and Glass


As our last stop of our month-long Amtrak USA Rail Pass adventure, we spent 2 days in Seattle and were delighted to be able to visit one of the most beautiful and unique museums we’d ever seen: Chihuly Garden and Glass!


CONTENTS



Where is the Chihuly Garden and Glass?

The Chihuly Garden and Glass is located inside the Seattle Center, a compound north of downtown Seattle that also includes the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center, Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), and a bunch more. You can even see it directly beneath you through the glass floors up in the Space Needle!


The physical address for the Chihuly Garden and Glass is: 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109.



How to Get to the Chihuly Garden and Glass

The Seattle Center Monorail is the easiest way to get to Chihuly Garden and Glass from downtown Seattle. The 0.9-mile-long monorail runs along/above 5th Avenue between Seattle Center and Westlake Center in downtown, making no intermediate stops, so it only takes about 3 minutes. Although the monorail itself could be considered a tourist attraction (and was named a Historic Landmark in 2003), it also operates as a regular public transit service with trains every ten minutes, running for up to 16 hours per day.


Adult fares for the monorail are $3.25 for one-way service with discounts for youth and senior citizens, and advance tickets are not available. There are machines at the stations where you will purchase your ticket(s) as you board the monorail.


The Westlake Center (which is at the other end of the monorail from Chihuly Garden and Glass) is a major transportation hub in downtown Seattle, so you can take just about any bus or rail line and end up there, but honestly, we stayed in Chinatown and walked everywhere while we were in Seattle, apart from taking the monorail.


If you’re driving to Chihuly Garden and Glass, there are paid parking structures in the Seattle Center, and the parking fees go towards maintaining free programs at the Seattle Center as well as their public gardens. Cost is $15 for 2-12 hours but will be more if there’s a big event happening, such as a concert or sports game at the Climate Pledge Arena. Parking downtown and taking the monorail up is generally more expensive though, so if you must drive, plan to park at the Seattle Center and you’ll have to skip the monorail altogether.


Chihuly Garden And Glass Review At Seattle Center In Washington By In The Great Wide Travel Blog Museum Reviews

History of the Chihuly Garden and Glass / Who is Dale Chihuly?

The main exhibition hall at Chihuly Garden and Glass used to be the home of a long-defunct theme park. The owners and operators of the Space Needle, the Wright family, had the idea to turn the building into a showcase of a local artist, so they called Dale Chihuly, who is from Tacoma (just south of Seattle). Chihuly has taken great interest in expanding the influence of the arts in the region and is a world-renowned glass-blowing artist.


The Wright family worked with Dale Chihuly from day one to renovate the existing building into an exhibition hall, but added the idea of a giant glasshouse (like a greenhouse, but not for plants) and garden to exemplify the beauty of Chihuly’s blown glass art.


Dale Chihuly co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School, located in Stanwood, Washington, about an hour north of Seattle, which is now recognized as one of the best glass blowing schools in the world. He also founded the HillTop Artists program in Tacoma, Washington, at Hilltop Heritage Middle School and Wilson High School. Chihuly made a name for himself by exploring the boundaries of blown glass, "moving it into the realm of large-scale sculpture".


Unfortunately, Dale Chihuly was blinded in his left eye during a serious car accident, then dislocated his shoulder during a bodysurfing accident a few years later, forcing him to adapt his glass-blowing methods to heavily rely on the support of his team to build his designs, as blowing glass is highly physically demanding. He still assists and guides his team through the process of creating his pieces, some of which you can see his paper designs for in the museum.


Chihuly Garden and Glass opened on May 12, 2012, officially holding 8 exhibitions (described in the next section). Despite being a museum named specifically for him, his largest permanent collection can actually be found at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be disappointed by the amount of work here. It’s hard to imagine another museum displaying even more pieces of his work than are on display here.


However, his work is on display in over 400 locations worldwide and he has retail stores in Las Vegas and Macau (as well as in the gift shop at Chihuly Garden and Glass). You can find all of his exhibitions on this page of his website.


Persians Collection By Dale Chihuly Garden And Glass Seattle Washington Museums Reviews In The Great Wide Travel Blog

Our Experience

We happened upon our first Dale Chihuly blown glass art piece by accident earlier on in our month-long trip across the country and back using the Amtrak USA Rail Passes, during our first major stop in Denver. We were browsing through the Denver Botanic Gardens and spotted his piece ‘Colorado’, which was installed there in 2015. It was beautifully magnificent and just a small taste of what we would see almost a month later at Chihuly Garden and Glass when we visited Seattle, the last city on our trip.


It’s interesting to have a museum dedicated to one person’s work; usually it would be a famous painter, like the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. To have a museum solely dedicated to a glass blower seems insane, but Chihuly Garden and Glass defies expectations at every turn.


There are 8 official exhibitions at Chihuly Garden and Glass, but they flow so well into each other, and there’s so many pieces on display, that it feels natural to progress from one to another.


Chihuly Garden And Glass Winter Brilliance Blown Glass Icicles Art Exhibit Seattle Washington Reviews In The Great Wide Travel Blog

The first exhibit is ‘Winter Brilliance’, the smallest display at Chihuly Garden and Glass, but a stunner of an opener. Involving the lack of color, but evoking the wonder of ice and snow, the huge icicle stars and glass snow melt beneath them exudes a brilliance that must be absorbed, rather than viewed.


Dale Chihuly, from Tacoma, WA, is a huge proponent of the indigenous population in the Washington area. In fact, the Pilchuck Glass School that he co-founded has roots with the indigenous population, with Pilchuck meaning ‘red water’ in the local indigenous tongue. His respect is exemplified in his ‘Baskets’ series, which is a number of glass “bowls” of all shapes and sizes, inspired by the local indigenous population’s woven baskets. Some of the inspirational baskets are even on display next to the blown glass pieces.


Mille Fiori Chihuly Garden And Glass Blowing Museum Review In Seattle Washington In The Great Wide Travel Blog

Mille Fiori means ‘a thousand flowers’ and this display is among the most striking in the museum. Made of hundreds of individual blown glass “flowers” and plant-like shapes, the piece stands in the middle of a darkened room, with only the glass garden display being lit in the center, allowing you to do a full 360 degree tour of the “garden”. It’s an intensely beautiful display, allowing active interaction as you encompass the art, rather than being a passive viewer.


Note: You are able to get very close to the glass art to observe it, but do NOT actually touch the glass pieces, no matter how tempting it may be. While you are allowed to get very close to the glass with nothing between you as a safeguard, attendants are stationed in each room to dissuade any action that could compromise the art.


Macchia Forest Dale Chihuly Art Collection Museum Of Glass Blowing Review In Seattle Washington In The Great Wide Travel Blog

Macchia Forest was inspired by Chihuly’s challenge to himself to use all 300 colors available to him in the hotshop. He managed to master a technique of sandwiching two different colored glasses with white in-between to create bowl-like shapes, creating stark contrast and giving you strikingly different views of the piece, depending on which angle you’re looking at them. The light passes through them differently as well, casting lovely refractions onto surrounding surfaces, giving you more new perspectives of the pieces.


This ‘different perspective’ angle is on high display when you pass through the ‘Persians’ room, which contains a large number of pieces from his ‘Persians’ series. Each glass art piece is a different shape, size, and color, but here at Chihuly Garden and Glass, he decided to place them all upon a glass ceiling with light pouring through them down onto you, the observer, as you walk through. Again, it almost makes you the exhibit, rather than the beautiful glass positioned above you. Although it is another smaller exhibit, it is an incredibly beautiful room and one of Phoebe’s favorite experiences. (See the photo at the top of this section.)


The ‘Chandeliers’ display shows off Chihuly’s obsession with hanging glass from up high, and exemplifies the work that really made him famous, taking the ideas of glass-blowing and taking it into the realm of large-scale sculptures. It’s almost scary to think of these beautiful glass pieces being suspended so delicately. It feels as though even the slightest wobble could cause the pieces to fall. (See the photo at the very top of this article.)


Dale Chihuly Garden And Glass Under The Sea Forms Blown Glass Fountain Tower Centerpiece In The Great Wide Travel Blog Museum Reviews

Another exhibit is one inspired by the ocean and it contains one of the largest pieces in the museum as the centerpiece: a large fountain of glass exploding upwards, made up of hundreds of blown glass pieces. This style of sculpture, which he calls Towers, came from his desire to present chandelier-style sculptures in spaces where the ceiling structure would not be able to hold the weight of the glass.


Surrounding the stunning centerpiece are more recognizable sea creatures, like crab, squid, and octopuses. The grey and opaque coloring on these pieces make them stand out from the rest of the museum that is bursting with color, but they also stand out for the fact that they are such recognizable creatures, while the rest of Chihuly’s work is an experiment in shape and form. Behind each of the animal pieces are the original design drawings that Chihuly gave to his team, since he can’t actually blow the glass himself anymore. You can see a number of his drawn-out designs throughout the museum.


Ikebana And Float Boats Blown Glass Museum Review Of Chihuly Garden And Glass Exhibits By In The Great Wide Travel Bloggers

The Ikebana and Float Boats also shows off how out-of-the-box Dale Chihuly thinks about his art and how to display it. In this exhibit, two canoes are overflowing with dozens of art pieces. One canoe is filled with Ikebana, his representation of the Japanese art of flower arrangement, with glass flowers pouring out of glass vases. The other canoe is filled with his ‘Floats’, glass balls of all colors and sizes, which he once displayed in a Venice exhibit by tossing the glass balls into a river, allowing them to bob and float down the river in a natural way.


We saw the river display on film, in the 50-seat theater which showed a slice of Chihuly’s history with glass blowing. We’d never actually seen glass blowing in action, so to see a master at his craft (even on film) was awesome. When we got home a short time later, we watched ‘Blown Away’, a glass blowing competition show on Netflix, that really demonstrates just how physically exhausting glass blowing can be, not to mention the sometimes tedious science behind it.


Next to the theater is a cafe that sells refreshments and light snacks, like pizza, beer, and wine. In the piazza that has a number of tables and can seat about 90 people is a small Airstream trailer that has been converted into a tiny hotshop with local glass blowing artists demonstrating the process a few times a day. Make sure to note when those demos start, as the seats will fill up quite quickly, and being front and center is the best way to experience the intense heat and details of the glass-blowing process.


Glass House Green House Art Display At Chihuly Garden And Glass In Seattle Washington In The Great Wide Bucket List Blog

From there, we moved into the Glasshouse, a structure built specifically for the Chihuly Garden and Glass, to showcase only one piece. Chihuly is obsessed with conservatories (which we learned in the film running in the theater) and jumped at the chance to have one built for this permanent museum. It’s an oddly shaped structure, mostly greenhouse in style, but with an off-center, pointed ceiling. The building is beautiful, but what really takes your breath away is the 100-foot long glass sculpture hanging from the Glasshouse ceiling. Reds, oranges, and yellows are lit up by the sun from every angle due to the nature of the glass house allowing light in from everywhere, and it is mind-blowing. Standing at the right angle, you can spy the Space Needle perfectly framed by the glass sculpture, as it is directly overhead. If you’re looking for the best selfie moment at Chihuly Garden and Glass, this is it!


Even after all those displays, and the crowning achievement of the Glasshouse and it’s sculpture, you’ll discover you’re only halfway through the beauty of Chihuly Garden and Glass, as we realized we hadn’t actually been through the Garden yet. This outdoor exhibition space is much more free-flowing, with no signs to mark particular pieces, but allowing you to absorb the beauty and splendor of his glass pieces intermingled with nature.


There are hundreds of glass sculptures throughout the Garden, of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are made to blend into the surrounding nature and some are designed to be very striking. Since we went in autumn, several of those striking colors were perfect compliments to the changing autumn leaves. Regardless, the Garden is serene and peaceful; so much so that a bunny just casually sat and ate while people walked by.


And did we mention the incredible views of the Space Needle?


Chihuly Garden And Glass Seattle Center Space Needle In Washington Travel Blog Reviews By In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog

Tickets for the Chihuly Garden and Glass

General admission tickets for Chihuly Garden and Glass are $32 for adults (ages 13-64), $27 for seniors (ages 65+), and $19 for youth (ages 5-12). Under 5 get in for free.


While this ticket price is well worth it to see the amazing exhibit at Chihuly Garden and Glass, they also offer a combo ticket to also visit the Space Needle on the same day for $57. This would save you around $8.


The combo ticket would also be well worth the money to visit both the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass, but this ticket only allows you to visit the Space Needle once, so the best offer is to purchase a Seattle CityPass for $115, which allows you to visit the Space Needle twice (to get day and night views, which we highly recommend), the Seattle Aquarium, and then your choice of three of the following: Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), Woodland Park Zoo, or Chihuly Garden and Glass. Since MoPOP, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and the Space Needle are all in the Seattle Center, it’s an easy way to see all three (plus the Aquarium and a beautiful harbor cruise, which are nearby the Westlake Center in Downtown). We didn’t visit the Woodland Park Zoo, as it was further north, but the deal on the CityPass is hands-down the best offer, especially if you’re staying in Seattle for a few days (you have 9 days to see all of the attractions included in the CityPass, so you can take your time with it or squash it all into 2 days like we did).


Chihuly Garden And Glass Sculptures In Nature In Seattle Washington In The Great Wide Travel Blog Museum Reviews

Our Verdict

Chihuly Garden and Glass is a unique experience, especially for museum lovers like us. It's an entire museum dedicated to one incredible glass-blowing artist who transformed the medium into never-before-seen large scale sculptures. Coupled with it being in the shadow of the modern wonder that is the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass should be on your bucket list.


Quick Reference Guide

What

Where

How to Get There

Take the Seattle Monorail from the Westlake Center in Downtown Seattle to the Seattle Center. It’s just a few bucks and is easy to use. If you’re driving, plan to pay at least $15 for parking at the Seattle Center, but more if there’s a big event happening.

Time Commitment

We spent 2 hours wandering through in the afternoon, but you could definitely spend longer here, especially if you want to see one of the glass-blowing demonstrations.

Cost

Our recommendation: CityPass for $115 and see multiple attractions for one base price (which saved us ~$60 per person overall)

General admission:

Regular (ages 13-64) - $32

Senior (ages 65+) - $27

Youth (ages 5-12) - $19

Chihuly Garden and Glass/Space Needle combo ticket: $57

Reservation Info

Buy tickets online in advance to ensure admittance

Our Verdict

Highly recommended. It’s an experience one must see with their own eyes to truly absorb the beauty of, even if you’ve never even thought about glass-blowing before. Pair this with a trip up to the top of the Space Needle for an unforgettable day!


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Couple Travel Blog Writers Adam and Phoebe for In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog

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