7 Must-See Museums in the USA
A great way to get a feel for a country’s culture is to see what it chooses to show off in its museums. At last count, the United States has over 35,000 museums. That means if you went to one museum every single day, it would take you about 100 years to see them all!
Since you might not have quite that much time to spare, we thought we’d highlight some of the US’s best museums. If you're looking to study English abroad in the USA, you'll definitely have to set aside some time to check out these interesting and one-of-a-kind attractions.
Art Institute of Chicago – Chicago, Illinois
The renowned Art Institute of Chicago houses some of the most famous examples of American art, including American Gothic (that painting with the pitchfork) and Nighthawks (that painting in the diner), as well as notable works from all over the world. The museum famously appeared alongside many other Chicago landmarks in the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Other museums to see: Field Museum of Natural History, Museum of Science and Industry, Adler Planetarium
Hidden Gem: Chicago Sports Museum
Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York, New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is so famous, you’ll often hear it shortened to a single syllable: The Met. It’s the largest art museum in the United States, and houses every sort of art you could hope to see from all corners of the world, ranging from the ancient to the modern. It even has impressive collections of musical instruments, weapons, and more.
Other museums to see: American Museum of Natural History, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), National 9/11 Museum and Memorial
Hidden Gem: Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Exploratorium – San Francisco, California
The Exploratorium is a science museum that makes sure you participate actively in the museum experience by learning things hands on. This museum is designed to educate its visitors with interactive exhibits for people from all backgrounds, and on Thursday nights even offers special after-hours events for visitors over 18 years old.
Other museums to see in San Francisco: De Young (fine arts museum), Museum of the African Diaspora, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco,
Hidden Gem: Musée Mécanique (a museum of antique arcade games, which you can play!)
The Getty Center – Los Angeles, California
Most often referred to simply as The Getty, this museum collects Western art from the Middle Ages to the present. It boasts impressive outdoor sculptures to complement its iconic architecture and gardens, and in addition to the exhibits has the added bonus of breathtaking views over Los Angeles.
Other museums to see: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), The Broad (modern art), The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum
Hidden Gem: Museum of Jurassic Technology (a museum that has nothing to do with the Jurassic period and instead makes you question which of its objects are real)
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – Boston, Massachusetts
If you walk around the Kenmore/Fenway area of Boston, you might think you’ve walked a further than you planned when you see a 15th-century Venetian palace! The building was constructed for 20th-centry arts patron Isabella Stewart Gardner and houses her private collection of European, Asian, and American art. In keeping with Gardner’s wishes, anyone wearing Red Sox paraphernalia will get a $2 discount – and you get in for free if your name is Isabella, or if it’s your birthday!
Other museums to see: Museum of Science, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Museum of Fine Arts
Hidden Gem: Museum of Bad Art
Franklin Institute – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Named after famed scientist and statesmen Benjamin Franklin, the Franklin Institute is a highly respected science museum and one of the oldest science education centers in the USA. Favorite attractions include real-life demonstrations of electricity and the ability to give your own televised weather forecast!
Other museums to see: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Independence Hall, National Constitution Center
Hidden Gem: Mütter Museum (a museum of medical oddities)
Smithsonian Institution – Washington, DC
The Smithsonian Institution is by far the must-see collection in the United States – not only is admission free of charge, but it includes 19 museums in one, spread out mostly through the nation’s capital. Everyone is sure to find something that appeals to them, whether the National Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, or the recently-opened National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Other museums to see: National Holocaust Memorial Museum, International Spy Museum, Newseum
Hidden Gem: Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens
There are far too many museums of us to write about, but this more than enough to get you started. Know of any other museums we missed? Let us know in the comments! Want to learn more about how you can live and study in the USA – whether its just for a couple weeks during a long holiday or for a longer period of time – get in touch with any questions you might have.