The Center for Wooden Boats

Learn time-honored crafts and sail in old-fashioned vessels at this interactive museum, which celebrates the local boating legacy.

Enjoy hands-on activities at the Center for Wooden Boats, a lakeside museum that gives visitors the chance to ride and shape traditional dinghies, canoes and rowing boats. The center is run by passionate locals who wish to share their love of boating and the craftsmanship of boat makers. Join workshops that demonstrate the artistry of boatbuilding and paddle out onto the waters of Lake Union.

The center was born out of one couple’s love of old boats. In the late 1960s, Dick and Colleen Wagner owned a large collection of traditional craft, which they started to rent out. As these rentals grew in popularity, their collection became a museum, which eventually became the Center for Wooden Boats. Find out more about the center’s aim to preserve tradition and educate new generations.

Engage with the history of boatbuilding in one of the center’s rotating exhibits. Discover the role that the Pacific Northwest had played in the craft, get insights into engineering and glimpse into the future of sailing.

Head out onto the lake to experience these boats in action. The museum has a fleet of traditional vessels available to rent. Join a group of up to six people on a gentle pedal boat journey or find a partner to paddle in a classically designed canoe. The center offers lessons in sailing and kayaking for all ages.

Attend a workshop with the artisans who work at the center. Families can take part in activities like building toy boats or book into weekend-long courses where participants build their own vessel. Adult workshops range from holistic week-long programs to shorter courses that focus on specific skills like woodworking with hand tools.

The Center for Wooden Boats lies on the southern shores of Lake Union, just around the corner from the Museum of History and Industry. The South Lake Union streetcar line stops just outside the center, where you can also find limited parking. The Westlake Ave. & Mercer St. bus stop is under 5 minutes’ away. The center is open daily in summer; it’s closed on Mondays in spring and winter, and on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Admission is free, although rentals and workshops come with a fee.