Top 10 Museums in the United States

Museums are the best way to explore history, science, and art in person. The best museums in the United States are interesting, educational, and a pleasure to visit. This list contains some of the most famous museums in the United States – from art to science, from history to nature. These are the top museum destinations in America.

Best Museums in the United States

10 Best Museums in the United States

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
  2. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Colorado
  3. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
  4. ​Museum of Modern Art, New York City
  5. National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
  6. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California
  7. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
  8. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
  9. Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois
  10. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is one of the world’s largest art museums. Its collections include works from around the world and all periods of history. In addition to its permanent collection, the Met also presents special exhibits.

The Met has more than 2 million works of art. These works span the ancient to modern eras and include sculptures, paintings, mummies, and archaeological pieces.

Metropolitan Museum of Art entrance NYC
Metropolitan Museum of Art entrance NYC

The museum’s permanent collection is divided into 17 curatorial departments. Each department focuses on a specific medium. A few more prominent departments include European Paintings, Arms & Armor, and Photographs.

Arms & Armor includes a section devoted to full suits of armor. The pieces here are all extremely well-crafted. Another popular section is the American Wing.

'A Thomas Crown Affair', United States, New York, New York City, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lobby
‘A Thomas Crown Affair, United States, New York, New York City, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lobby

The European Sculpture and Decorative Arts collection contain more than 50,000 pieces. There are extensive holdings of furniture, glass, textiles, and tapestries. The collection is solid in Renaissance sculpture.

Founded in 1870, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is located on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. The museum is open six days a week (except Wednesday). For visitors, the museum offers a variety of activities.

NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art: Armor for Man and Horse
NYC – Metropolitan Museum of Art: Armor for Man and Horse

The museum’s rooftop features a rotating art installation that gives visitors views of Central Park. Additionally, there are several resting spots to enjoy the atmosphere. Guests can also rent audio tour devices at the museum.

The Met’s collections include many of the most famous American paintings. Works by Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, and James McNeill Whistler are included in the collection.

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Colorado

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is a world-renowned attraction ideal for families and kids of all ages. This museum offers a full day of fun and learning at a reasonable price.

Museum of Nature and Science, Denver, CO
Museum of Nature and Science, Denver, CO

With more than 1 million pieces, the collection is divided into six major sections. They are dinosaurs, ancient artifacts, wildlife, science, outer space, and health.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science is a nonprofit institution with more than 350 staff members and volunteers. It’s accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is a Smithsonian Affiliate.

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Through RTD buses, visitors can get to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for free. These buses stop near the museum on Colorado and Montview Boulevards. Additional street parking is available around the museum. Guests can also use the complimentary underground parking garage.

Display of stuffed mountain lions and their prey at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in Denver, Colorado (LOC)
Display of stuffed mountain lions and their prey at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in Denver, Colorado (LOC)

The museum also offers a Discovery Zone for young kids. They can enjoy interactive displays that show animals and human bodies in action.

In addition to a world-class collection of dinosaurs, wildlife, and science, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science also features a planetarium, IMAX theater, and more.

The National Gallery of Art (NGA) is one of the world’s premier museums. It houses one of the world’s most significant collections of art, with works spanning the history of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present. Located in Washington, D.C., the NGA focuses on European and American art and decorative arts.

The National Gallery of Art is located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., across from the Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum. Visitors can explore the museum’s permanent collection on self-guided or docent-led tours.

Washington DC: National Gallery of Art - West Building
Washington DC: National Gallery of Art – West Building

Aside from the permanent collection, the NGA also exhibits works from special exhibitions. Recent highlights include Barnett Newman’s “The Stations of the Cross” and the Three Centuries of American prints. There is also a sculpture garden, which hosts outdoor concerts.

A private-public partnership supports the National Gallery. The federal government funds the museum’s operations and gives maintenance funding. Private donors and special programs also fund the museum.

Washington DC: National Gallery of Art - Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, Ein Schauspiel, 3X by Frank Stella
Washington DC: National Gallery of Art – Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, Ein Schauspiel, 3X by Frank Stella

The gallery’s permanent collection contains more than 150,000 works. These include paintings, sculptures, graphic works, drawings, and photographs. Many of the collection’s pieces are from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Some of the artists represented in the gallery’s collection are Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh.

The National Gallery of Art was established in 1937. Andrew Mellon, a Pittsburgh banker, was instrumental in creating the museum. He provided initial funding for its realization and donated his vast art collection. In addition, Mellon’s children funded the construction of the East Building.

​Museum of Modern Art, New York City

If you’re looking for a museum in New York City, look no further than the Museum of Modern Art. This impressive museum is located in Midtown Manhattan and houses some of the best works of art in the world.

The museum’s collection includes paintings, sculptures, design pieces, and film. Visitors can view Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpieces. It’s possible to spend an entire day exploring MoMA’s collection, but visitors should know that the museum can get busy.

Museum of Modern Art: view down West 53rd street looking south
Museum of Modern Art: view down West 53rd Street looking south

The museum has a library with more than 300,000 books to make your visit easier, a sculpture garden, and a restaurant. Visitors can also use free audio guides.

A visit to MoMA will take around two hours. You can start floor by floor, but take an escalator to the sixth floor to see the older artwork.

'Three Musicians' (1921), painting by Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973), Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York City.
‘Three Musicians’ (1921), painting by Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973), Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York City.

MoMA is a great place to learn about contemporary art, and the museum has a program that focuses on artists from around the world. There are some lesser-known figures, as well as those who are renowned.

In addition to the collection, the museum has a sculpture garden and a Michelin-starred restaurant. So, buy tickets online in advance if you’re planning a trip.

National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

One of the most visited museums in the world, the National Museum of Natural History, is located in Washington, D.C. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution and offers many exhibitions.

In addition to permanent and temporary exhibits, the museum is home to over 126 million natural science and cultural artifacts.

Washington DC: National Museum of Natural History
Washington DC: National Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History opened in 1910 and contains over 1.5 million square feet of exhibition space. It has one of the largest collections of vertebrate specimens in the world.

This Smithsonian Institution institution is renowned for its research. The museum also offers educational programs to help people learn about the natural world. Several gift shops sell books and jewelry, as well as educational toys and toys for children.

Ocean Hall, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
Ocean Hall, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

Visitors can view the museum’s collections on a full-day tour or during a quick visit. The museum is open Monday through Saturday except for Christmas Day and Thanksgiving. Visiting at the beginning of the day or in the afternoon is recommended to avoid crowded galleries.

The museum has a full-scale butterfly pavilion and a model of a 52-foot mega-tooth shark. In addition, visitors can feed real tarantulas and view live coral reefs. Various animals, including lions, tigers, and dinosaurs, can be seen in the exhibit.

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California

If you want to see some of the best museums in the United States, you should visit The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. This museum is a research and cultural institution with some of the world’s most impressive collections of rare books and art. It is located near Pasadena and is open to the public.

Aside from its collection of paintings, drawings, prints, and manuscripts, the library also features several themed gardens. For example, the English Garden, Japanese Garden, and Desert Garden are among the most spectacular in the Los Angeles area.

Piazza view of mansion, Art Museum, Huntington Library
Piazza view of the mansion, Art Museum, Huntington Library

While most of the collections are based on American history, there is also a substantial European section. Some highlights include Gainsborough’s masterpieces, Turner’s The Grand Canal, and Lawrence’s Pinkie.

Huntington Botanical Gardens are home to 120 acres of diverse plant life. They feature the world’s most extensive cactus collection and many unique plants.

Herb Garden in May, Huntington Library
Herb Garden in May, Huntington Library

Another garden highlight is the Harry Hirao Suiseki Court, which features suiseki or viewing stones. You can also view camellias in the Japanese Garden and North Vista.

As part of the art collection, The Huntington also has two galleries, the Susan and Stephen Chandler Wing and the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. Both exhibit works from Huntington’s collections.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), in Houston, Texas, is one of the country’s largest art museums. It’s also one of the oldest. In addition to its primary collection, MFAH has two decorative arts house museums and a museum school.

MFAH’s collection includes more than 70,000 works from six continents. Highlights include a collection of ancient Egyptian sculpture, contemporary design, Renaissance painting, and Japanese earthenware. Besides its permanent collection, MFAH has contributed almost fifteen thousand images to the Artstor Digital Library.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

MFAH’s collections are curated and organized by a staff of over two hundred artists and curators. In addition, they’ve organized many groundbreaking special exhibitions since 2000.

Private foundations and corporate donations have supplemented the MFAH’s collection. For example, in 1976, Target Stores donated substantial funds to the museum. This enabled the museum to expand its collection of twentieth-century photography.

Museum Of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum Of Fine Arts, Houston

The MFAH’s collection was expanded with the help of a 10-year challenge grant from the Brown Foundation. In 1970, the museum’s permanent collection totaled 12,000 works. By the end of the 1980s, it had grown to nearly twenty thousand objects.

MFAH’s main campus consists of the Audrey Jones Beck Building, which houses the comprehensive permanent collection of American art. It’s connected underground by Wilson Tunnel, which features a James Turrell installation, The Light Inside.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Smithsonian American Art Museum is one of the world’s largest collections of American art. The museum’s collection includes works by more than 7,000 artists. This has essential pieces by African American and Latino artists. It also features early colonial art, folk art, and sculptures.

Throughout its history, the museum has hosted hundreds of exhibitions. In addition to these, the museum publishes a peer-reviewed journal. SAAM also sponsors publication prizes and provides internships for college seniors.

Renwick Gallery - Smithsonian American Art Museum - Washington DC - United States
Renwick Gallery – Smithsonian American Art Museum – Washington DC – United States

While the American Art Museum contains some of the best contemporary art and sculptures in the country, it also boasts an outstanding collection of artworks from the 19th and 20th centuries. These pieces highlight the Gilded Age, the period of the United States’ development, and include many works by prominent United States artists.

The museum also features a research and scholars’ center that has been instrumental in exploring the history of American art. Dedicated to studying visual culture and its impact on American life, the center hosts scholarly symposia, publication prizes, and residential fellowships for scholars.

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian’s collections of American art and visual culture have benefited from the generosity of philanthropists such as Andrew Mellon, who donated a large portion of his collection. Other notable works in the museum’s collections include nineteenth-century landscapes and portraits, nineteenth-century American impressionist paintings, and New Deal art.

Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois

The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, is one of the oldest and most renowned art museums in the United States. Its world-class collection includes European, American, and Asian paintings.

The art museum has a modern wing that features works by Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell, and Eva Hesse. There is also a permanent collection that contains ancient artifacts.

The Art Institute of Chicago - Pae White's 'Restless Rainbow' overlooking The Lurie Garden and Millennium Park
The Art Institute of Chicago – Pae White’s ‘Restless Rainbow’ overlooking The Lurie Garden and Millennium Park

This museum is a cultural center for the city of Chicago. It is located in downtown Chicago, near the lakefront.

The Art Institute is known for its impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. In addition, the gallery contains such famous works as George Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, and Grant Wood’s American Gothic.

The building of the Art Institute of Chicago: one of the largest art museums in the United States
The building of the Art Institute of Chicago: one of the largest art museums in the United States

The Art Institute also offers a Ryan Learning Center that hosts classes and workshops for people of all ages. In addition, they offer courses on art history, drawing, and other topics.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, is an extraordinary and beautiful art museum. It features a permanent collection of works from the colonial era to contemporary times. This museum is the crown jewel of Northwest Arkansas.

This museum was founded by Alice Walton, daughter of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Visitors have come from all over the world to view the fantastic works on display. In addition, Crystal Bridges offers classes and educational opportunities. They also have a library and gift store.

Crystal Bridges is a nonprofit charitable organization that is committed to education. They have a program for schoolchildren to learn about American art. Since the museum opened, the Willard and Pat Walker School Visit Program has brought more than 200,000 schoolchildren to Crystal Bridges.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrored Room―My Heart is Dancing into the Universe (2018) at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrored Room―My Heart is Dancing into the Universe (2018) at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Located in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas, the museum is on 120 acres of woodlands. The grounds include sculptures and other large-scale works. In addition, there are walking paths, spring-fed ponds, and streams.

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