For more than 100 years Ye Olde Curiosity Shop has offered a truly unique experience for visitors and residents on Seattle’s waterfront. Joe Standley first opened the shop in 1899 as Standley’s Free Museum, later renaming it Ye Olde Curiosity Shop and filling it with unique, international finds that can still be seen today.
Through his trading and relationships with explorers, native people, trappers, prospectors and travelers, Standley was able to acquire rare items from around the world. Ye Olde Curiosity Shop has always been family owned and operated, and Joe’s descendants continue to acquire odd little tidbits and display them for the world to see.
There is no admission fee, and there never has been. Anyone is free to come in to gaze at the hundreds of natural wonders, cultural artifacts and oddities that fill the walls and hang from the ceiling. Ye Olde Curiosity Shop holds so many historical displays and unique objects that it has outgrown its location on Pier 54 and has expanded to include a second location, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop Too on Pier 55.
You will definitely want to stop in at both locations or else you might miss some of the one-of-a-kind bits and pieces you won’t see anywhere else in the world. From blowguns to ancient artifacts to Northwest native art, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop has something to fit the fancy of every family member.
Many celebrities have visited the shop to take a peek at the shrunken heads – including one that the shop reports is the smallest shrunken head in the world – and museums around the world have acquired artifacts from Ye Olde Curiosity Shop for their displays.
There are skeletons, lots of animal specimens vegans may or may not want to see, a grain of rice with the entire Lord’s Prayer engraved on it, a merman of questionable authenticity, and hundreds of other distinctive items to gawk at.
One of their most famous displays is Sylvester, a 130 pound, amazingly preserved mummy who lived during the old west and was found naked with a fatal gunshot wound in the Gila Bend Desert. He isn’t their only mummy, but he is the most popular. You can even buy a Sylvester bobble head to keep you company of the way home, or a postcard with his likeness to send off to an oddity-loving friend.
There are also mechanical displays that tell fortunes and show old time scenes, viewing machines that display historic photos, and even a penny squishing machine for an inexpensive souvenir option. But, of course, souvenir options are everywhere you turn, with shelf after shelf of Seattle souvenirs, Northwest art, truly tacky tchotchkes, personalized items, objects from around the world, t-shirts and other completely random things you never knew you needed.
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop and Ye Olde Curiosity Shop Too are located at Piers 54 and 55 on Alaskan Way on the Seattle waterfront. During the summer, the shop is open from 9:00am to 9:30pm everyday. Winter hours are from 9:00am to 9:00pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 10:00am-6:00pm the rest of the week.
While you are there, don’t forget to ask about meeting times and tickets for the Spooked in Seattle Ghost Tours led by actual ghost hunters.