Strategy Key to Seattle Art Museum

Article excerpt

Our guide to the Northwest's preeminent art collections

NOW THAT A YEAR HAS PASSED since the opening of the Seattle Art Museum's new downtown home, visitors have discovered that it takes a bit of planning to "do SAM." With its headline-grabbing architecture and world-class collections, the $62-million limestone-clad museum has had no problem drawing crowds. To make your visit a satisfying one, you need a strategy: Go early in the week (but not on Tuesdays), avoid the elevators, and take advantage of the special programs and free docent-led tours.

GETTING IN

Thanks to Seattle's hilly topography, museaumgoers can enter on two different levels. The lower one, on First Avenue, is more dramatic and is adjacent to the museum's acclaimed gift store.

While you are in the lobby, be sure to check out the information board that lists tour times and special events for children and adults alike.

The Second Avenue entrance is closer to the local Metro stop and the Museum Cafe, which is open during the museum's regular hours. At lunch, there's often a 15- to 20-minute wait, but the smoked salmon chowder is worth it. One solution is to eat early and tour the galleries during the lunch rush. Whichever way you enter, though, remember: The only public rest rooms are on the First and Second Avenue levels, so plan ahead.

START AT THE TOP

Savvy visitors avoid the elevators (and their waits) as much as possible. Your best bet is to ride to the fourth floor and work your way down through the galleries via the stairwell.

The fourth floor houses the museum's collection of Western and Near Eastern art, from the ancient Mediterranean to the contemporary Pacific Northwest. …