Looking to plan a cultural weekend or day trip and hoping to visit a great American art museum? These are some of the best art museums in the US to help you decide where to go. Add these to your American art bucket list.
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The Best Art Museums in the US
ASU Art Museum (Arizona)
Visiting ASU Art Museum is one of the most fun things to do in Tempe, Arizona. The museum is located on the Arizona State University (ASU) campus in Tempe and is the perfect place to visit if you’re already on the school’s grounds. Best of all, admission to the museum is free!
ASU Art Museum features a variety of artworks with rotating exhibits throughout the year. The exhibitions can range from regional to international artists with contemporary pieces and those from Latin American and Latinx artists. Even though the museum places a larger emphasis on Latin American art, there is usually modern art as well as crafts and ceramics.
One of the coolest things about the ASU Art Museum is the building itself. The museum’s building was designed by Antoine Predock, an architect from Albuquerque, New Mexico and also houses studios as well as dance and theater labs.
When visiting ASU Art Museum, be sure to park at the front of the museum, in ASU Lot 9, located at the corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street for complimentary parking. If you’re parking in those spaces, do remember to sign in at the front desk in the lobby of the ASU Art Museum.
Contributed by Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear
Phoenix Art Museum (Arizona)
Contributed by Dee Nowak from Vanilla Papers
The Broad Museum (California)
Contributed by Kay from The Awkward Traveller
The Getty Center (California)
The Getty Center is a combination of world-class art, modern architecture, and gorgeous gardens, and each part is worth exploring. Set up high on a hillside in West Los Angeles, the views alone are worth the visit. This place rivals many of the great museums of Europe. Even if you’re not interested in art, I’d encourage you to visit.
I’ve been to the Getty several times, and yet I feel like I haven’t seen it all, so allow a few hours for your visit. There are dozens of galleries displaying the permanent collection and there are several additional galleries for special exhibits. Special events are frequently held on weekends including concerts, performance art, and family activities–check the website for more details.
The Getty is one of many free museums in Los Angeles. In addition to not charging admission, the Getty also offers free audio guides and docent-led tours. I’ve experienced both of these and recommend them as a way to learn more about this remarkable institution.
Parking is available at the bottom of the hill. Allow time to park and then take the tram to the entrance. On the weekends the Getty will be very crowded, so arriving early is recommended.
Contributed by Wendy Lee from Empty Nesters Hit the Road
Museum of Modern Art San Francisco (California)
Dalí Museum (Florida)
If you like art, and in particular surrealist art, you must add the Dalí Museum in St Petersburg, Florida, to your list of American art museums to visit. It is dedicated to the life and work of the Spanish artist, and it’s the largest collection of his work outside of Spain.
Here you will find 2,400 pieces that include oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and also sculptures, photographs, and other exhibits.
The museum offers guided tours where they explain how the museum came to be in St Pete, Dalí’s links to Florida and also the meaning and symbolism of his most important works. The tour was just as surreal as Dalí’s art itself, given by a very passionate lady with a shoe for a hat!
One of the things that makes this museum different, is that you can explore some of the artist’s pieces of art through augmented reality. You just download the museum app and you can immerse yourself into the paintings and discover each element and the meaning behind Dalí’s use of symbolism. It’s a very novel way of understanding the way his mind worked.
There is also a virtual reality experience where you can ‘walk’ through a Daliesque world with some of the most symbolic elements of his work.
The building where the museum is housed is a masterpiece in itself and worth a visit if you are an architecture lover. It reflects the surrealism contained within it with a glass bubble erupting from within a concrete block.
Even if you only have one day in St Pete, I would highly recommend a visit to this fascinating museum.
Contributed by Teresa from Brogan Abroad
The High Museum (Georgia)
The High Museum of Art in Atlanta is the premier location for art in the Southeastern United States. Located in the heart of Atlanta on Peachtree Street The High is definitely one of the best American art museums. The High has African, American, European, folk and self-taught, modern and contemporary art collections, and other permanent art collections.
Some of the most popular pieces at The High include a Basquiat in the Modern and Contemporary art collection, jewelry from Tiffany and Company in the Decorative Arts and Design collection as well as Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Child in the European Art collection. In addition to the notable works in the permanent collection, The High also gets some of the most talked-about traveling exhibits like Picasso, Infinity Mirrors, and Warhol.
So whether you are native to the Southeast and able to visit The High regularly or just visiting and looking for something to do; there is always a new and exciting traveling exhibit, as well as updates and rotations in the permanent collections.
If you are considering visiting The High it is easily accessible by car (Woodruff Arts center Parking deck ~$8 -$16), train (Marta, Arts Center Station ~$5 roundtrip + free parking), or rideshare. Tickets generally cost ~ $15 unless there is a special exhibit and then pricing can vary.
While you are not allowed to eat or drink in the museum unless it is a special event there is a café in the courtyard just outside the entrance and a lot of great restaurants around in Midtown.
Contributed by Allie G. from WOC Travel
The Art Institute of Chicago (Illinois)
Contributed by Patti from The Savvy Globetrotter.
Isabella Steward Gardner Museum (Massachusetts)
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts is unusual in many ways. First of all, it is located in a private home that used to belong to Isabella Stewart Gardner herself. Ms. Gardner and her husband were extremely wealthy, and they spent large portions of their fortune collecting beautiful art.
After Mr. Gardner died, Isabella Stewart Gardner purchased a large building, moved into the 4th floor, and turned the other three floors into an art museum. After she died, she left her museum to the public. Her only rule was that nothing inside the museum could be changed.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum contains works of art from every time period from ancient Rome to the 20th century. Some of the most well-known works in the museum include paintings by Rembrandt, Whistler, and a portrait of Ms. Gardner herself by John Singer Sargent.
But the most famous paintings in the museum are the few empty frames you’ll see hanging on the walls. The pictures that used to be in the frames were stolen in a heist, and they have never been recovered.
The artwork isn’t the only reason to visit the museum. There’s also a gorgeous garden and courtyard where the museum sometimes hosts concerts and serves drinks. It’s the perfect place to spend an evening in Boston. And one final tip! Be sure to visit the museum if your name is Isabella. All Isabellas get in for free.
Contributed by Stella Jane from Around the World in 24 Hours
Minneapolis Institute of Art (Minnesota)
The Minneapolis Institute of Art is home to 90,000 works of art that represent 5,000 years of world history and has a steady stream of fascinating rotating exhibits. The museum has seven curatorial areas: Arts of Africa & the Americas; Contemporary Art; Decorative Arts, Textiles & Sculpture; Asian Art; Paintings; Photography and New Media; and Prints and Drawings.
Some of their most notable pieces include a sculpture by Do Ho Suh, which is based on a coat of traditional Asian armor and is composed of thousands of polished military dog tags. Others range from a painting by Vincent Van Gogh titled “Olive Trees” to contemporary pieces such as “Soundsuits” by Nick Cave, which are sculptures that were originally created to be worn.
This museum is also deeply committed to getting children interested in art and hosts numerous kid-friendly activities each year. One of these events is their popular “rock the cradle” event, which is a free monthly event for families, kids and the young at heart. It’s held the second Sunday of every month and features hands-on activities, live music, dance performances, family tours and more.
General admission to the museum is free and no reservations are required. The Minneapolis Institute of Art also hosts free public tours throughout the day. *Note, the museum is closed on Mondays and some special exhibitions do require tickets ahead of time. Please feel free to call the museum for more information: 612.870.3000
Contributed by Lindsey Puls from Have Clothes, Will Travel
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Missouri)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, houses over 40,000 art objects. Opening in 1933, Nelson-Atkins combined two philanthropists visions, creating a powerhouse museum in the heartland of America.
The museum’s philosophy of making art approachable to all is represented in the variety of displays. The museum houses one of the top three Asian art collections worldwide outside of Asia. The Guanyin of the Southern Sea, a Chinese Buddhist sculpture from the 11th or 12th century is a great piece of art.
The museum is well known for its impressive Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection. Visitors should not miss seeing the Boulevard des Capucines by Claude Monet. Fans of the Italian Baroque period will appreciate the museum’s Caravaggio’s Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness.
Located in the sculpture garden on the grounds of the museum is the most recognizable piece of art. The “Shuttlecocks,” created by Claes Oldenburg and Coosjevan Bruggen, appear to use the main building as if it were the badminton net in a giant game, with four shuttlecocks scattered on the front and back lawns.
Admission is free, though special exhibits may cost a fee. The museum remains open until 9 pm on Thursday and Friday evenings. Live local bands, adult art activities, and community activities entertain visitors the third Thursday of every month.
All these policies combine to encourage visitors to enjoy repeated visits to the museum and take their time exploring and discovering new art styles. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is one of the best museums in the United States.
Contributed by Annick Lenoir-Peek from The Common Traveler
The Neon Museum (Nevada)
One of the most unique art museums in the USA is the Neon Museum in Las Vegas. The Neon Museum exhibits iconic Las Vegas signs from years gone by. Housed in an exhibition area called the Neon Boneyard, the Neon Museum is home to many of the most famous signs which once lit up the Las Vegas Strip.
The retro signs are laid out along pathways throughout the exhibit and visitors walk among them. It is possible to get up close with some of the most famous historic signs from the Las Vegas of days gone by. One of the most remarkable pieces is the 82 foot tall Hard Rock Café guitar sign.
This was the first-ever neon sign that Hard Rock used. While most people visit the Neon Museum during the day, it’s possible to see the exhibit from a different perspective after dark. In the evenings, 19 of the signs illuminate, just as they did when they lit up Las Vegas.
One of the more recent additions to the collection was the massive skull from Treasure Island casino.
It takes around 30 minutes to explore the Neon Museum and only cellphones are allowed to take photos. No video or audio recording of any kind is allowed with prior consent from the museum management.
Contributed by David from Show Them The Globe
The Met Cloisters (New York)
Contributed by Karen from WanderlustingK
Museum of Modern Art (New York)
The Museum of Modern Art in New York City should be on every art lover’s travel bucket list. Located at 11 West 53rd Street in Midtown Manhattan, MoMA is one of the largest museums in the world devoted to the preservation and display of modern and contemporary art. In 2019, MoMA closed for several months to expand and renovate its facilities.
Without a doubt, the best-known piece at MoMA is Vincent van Gogh’s A Starry Night. Expect to have to deal with crowds to get a glimpse of this important artwork.
Other notable works at MoMA include Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon—named “the most important artwork of the last 100 years” by Newsweek magazine in 2007 (the 100th anniversary of this important painting’s creation)—Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950; Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory; a large Monet Water Lilies triptych; and Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World.
Regular admission tickets to MoMA can be purchased ahead of time online. Discounted tickets are available for seniors (over 65), visitors with disabilities, and students. Children 16 and under are admitted for free.
MoMA also offers free admission to all guests from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Fridays. MoMA strongly suggests that guests at the museum for UNIQLO Free Fridays plan their visit for 6 p.m. or later.
Contributed by DARCY VIEROW from PLAN, READY, GO
The New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York)
The New Museum of Contemporary Art is located in the Bowery neighborhood of Manhattan. Founded by New York art curator Marcia Tucker in 1977, the New Museum is New York’s only dedicated contemporary art museum.
Previously, Tucker worked as a curator for the Whitney Museum of American Art, but she wanted to create a space to showcase new works by living artists.
Easily recognized for its blocky, modern architecture, the building itself resembles a haphazard stack of gray boxes and was designed by Tokyo-based firm SANAA.
Unlike many art museums, the New Museum does not have a permanent collection on display. Instead, the museum of is home to dynamic exhibitions that focus on emerging and established contemporary artists from around the world. Exhibitions typically change every three to six months and there are anywhere from one to three exhibits at a time.
In addition to exhibits, the New Museum also offers workshops, lectures, and other events, many of which are free and open to the public.
Regular admission for the New Museum is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $12 for students. However, the museum offers pay-what-you-wish every Thursday evening from 7 PM to 9 PM.
Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum (New York)
The Guggenheim Museum in New York is one of the most iconic architectural buildings as well as being many people’s favorite art gallery in the city. The museum’s striking, white, nautilus design stands quite at odds with the greenery of neighbouring Central Park, but once inside, the importance of the flowing architectural design becomes apparent.
The spiralling ramps help visitors move through the varied art collections and are an artistic experience in and of themselves.
The Guggenheim Museum started as a place for Solomon R. Guggenheim to display his collection of non-objective paintings but has turned into a global establishment sharing vast collections with the public.
The Guggenheim features a range of static pieces and ever-changing collections that keep even the most discerning art lover intrigued and entertained. However, it also provides art novices with big-name works by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin and Édouard Manet.
Visitors are able to explore the gallery at their own pace or opt to take a guided tour by one of the informative museum educators. These tours allow you to gain a greater understanding of contemporary art and give you the chance to see the museum highlights as well as some lesser-known gems.
Not only does the Guggenheim Museum offer wonderful art collections, but it also works as a cultural center and educational institution with regular talks, workshops and children’s camps to help inspire the next generation of artists.
The Guggenheim Museum is open daily and entrance is included in the New York CityPASS ticket.
The Whitney Museum of Art (New York)
Stretch your artistic horizons (like, really stretch) at the Whitney Museum of American Art located at 99 Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District of New York. Sitting at the edge of artsy Chelsea in Manhattan, with a prime location between the High Line and the Hudson River, this renowned museum is not just full of trending art inside, it’s one of the hippest areas in the city to explore.
Inside, you’ll find some top tier icons of modern art: think Alexander Calder, Jasper Johns, Georgia O’Keefe and Andy Warhol. With 22,000 works in the collection by some 3,000 American artists, the Whitney offers a deep dive into contemporary art movements of the 20th and 21st centuries.
When to go? During the Whitney Biennial, an inclusive survey of current American art that runs every two years. It’s a fabulous time to check out the newest of the new, from high shock-value pieces, to work that will dazzle you with its ingenuity. The best way to include the Whitney in your NYC itinerary?
Put it in a walk. As one of the main landmarks on the High Line, a super cool pedestrian path on an abandoned elevated rail line, the Whitney makes a great starting point for a High Line stroll.
Along the way, you can explore big-name commercial galleries in Chelsea, and wrap it up at the trendy Hudson Yards, where another head-turning piece of art awaits you, the 150-foot tall climbable structure known as the Vessel.
Contributed by Carol Perehudoff of WanderingCarol
The Cincinnati Art Museum (Ohio)
The Cleveland Museum of Art (Ohio)
The Cleveland Museum of Art is frequently rated among the best free art museums in the United States and has a fantastic permanent collection and is internationally renowned for its Asian and Egyptian art and consistently hosts special exhibits that draw visitors from all over the country.
In 2018, the Cleveland Museum of Art hosted the popular Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, which attracted over 120,000 visitors.
The focal point of the museum is the enormous Ames Family Atrium, which was completed in 2013. The unique and interactive ArtLens Exhibition features rotating masterpieces and an area is a family favorite.
The Cleveland Museum of Art also features world-renowned Impressionist works, including the left panel of Monet’s Water Lilies similar to the massive canvasses displayed in the Musee l’Orangerie in Paris.
No visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art is complete without a stop in the Armor Court where kids step back in time several centuries and imagine what it would be like to wear a coat of armor. And, from the Armor Court, you can step outside to check out a replica of Rodin’s The Thinker sculpture and enjoy the Wade Lagoon.
The Cleveland Museum of Art is a great museum for the whole family and one of the best things to do in Cleveland with kids.
Contributed by Catherine D’Cruz from We Go With Kids
Philadelphia Museum of Art (Pennsylvania)
Universally recognized as “the place Rocky ran up the steps”, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is much more than just a famous movie backdrop. This is actually one of the premier art museums in the United States and is a must-visit attraction for any Philadelphia itinerary.
The entire area around the museum is an homage to the old world. The building is modeled on a Greek temple, overlooking the grand tree-lined Benjamin Franklin Parkway (itself modeled on the Champs-Elysees in Paris). As you climb the “Rocky Steps” to enter the museum, stop to admire the view towards Philadelphia City Hall and the skyline of Philadelphia.
The museum has an immense gallery, with a particular focus on Western and Asian art. The modern art collection includes Picasso’s “Three Musicians,” which is one of our favorite works. There is also an impressive armor collection, a Japanese tea house, and perhaps the most impressive collection of early-American furniture and housewares in the world.
Additionally, the museum possesses the largest collection of Rodin sculptures outside Paris, located in an annex called the Rodin Museum (also on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway). Be sure to plan your visit, as you can easily spend hours roaming the galleries.
Contributed by Derek from Robe Trotting
Dallas Museum of Art (Texas)
Contributed by Priya Vin from Outside Suburbia
Modern Art Museum (Texas)
While you may not have heard of the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, you will probably recognize many of the artists – Andy Warhol, Banksy, Jackson Pollack, and Roy Lichtenstein, to name a few – in their permanent collection. The displays are changed frequently so that they can show the full range of their collection. They also have some interesting temporary exhibits on the ground floor.
The art is housed in a dramatic contemporary building with floor to ceiling windows and a water feature in the back. The Cafe is a lovely place to dine during your visit or they are also open for dinner Friday evenings. Make a reservation if you would like a window seat.
Don’t miss the sculpture garden outside. Roxy Paine’s work titled Conjoined is a 40-foot-tall by 45-foot-wide stainless-steel sculpture of two trees whose branches connect in midair. There are also works by Henry Moore and Richard Serra.
The Modern is located in Fort Worth’s Cultural District, directly opposite the Kimbell Art Museu and near the Amon Carter Museum, The Museum offers half-price tickets on Sundays and free admission on Fridays. There are Docent-led tours Tuesday through Sunday at 2 pm.
Contributed by Anisa Alhilali from Two Traveling Texans
Hirshorn (Washington, D.C.)
When visiting Washington DC you are certainly spoiled for choice when it comes to art museums. Located on the National Mall, a 2-mile long space that is home to many of Washington’s most famous landmarks, the Smithsonian’s Hirshorn Museum is a celebration of modern and contemporary art. Highlighting both American and international artists the Hirshorn’s rotating exhibits feature thought-provoking works in a variety of media ranging from sculpture to digital and even interactive exhibits.
The Hirshorn has hosted works from notable contemporary artists such as Ai Wei Wei, Yayoi Kusama, and Barbara Kruger.
Outside the plaza and sculptiure garden seamlessly blends the beauty of Washington DC with modern sculpture. surrounding the museum sculpture garden features works from Yoko Ono, Auguste Rodin, and Barry Flanagan. As part of the Smithsonian Collection entrance to the Hirshorn Museum is always free.
Contributed by Brianna from The Casual Travelist
Milwaukee Art Musem (Wisconsin)
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