Checking out the Best Museum in the US

History Fangirl is turning seven years old in 2022! To make sure all travel guides are up to date, some posts are getting overhauled, which means you may come across posts that are under construction. Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more details.

FullSizeRender 16

As much as it pains me to admit this, I’ve been to art museums all over the world, and checking out the main art museum in a new city is usually one of the first things on my list. Alas, I lived in Lawrence, KS for four years in college and never made it to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, despite it being both free and only 45 minutes away. I must have been busy doing other thing. Oh well, I finally remedied this mistake.


According to their website, they are ranked as the best US Museum on Yelp, which I can totally get behind. The beautiful and fun sculpture garden alone are worth the visit.

My Favorite Travel Booking Sites for 2022 & 2023

These are my favorite companies that I use on my own travels.

Find cheap flights with CheapOair.

Find the best deals on hotels & vacation rentals on

For road trips and ground transportation, rent a car through Discover Cars.

Find the best city tours, day tours, bus tours, & skip-the-line tickets on GetYourGuide and Viator.

Find information and cruise reviews on Cruise Critic.

For packing and travel essentials order via Amazon.

For travel guidebooks to have with you during your trip, I always pick one or two from Rick Steves and Lonely Planet.

Get reliable travel insurance through World Nomads.

Store your luggage safely with Radical Storage.

Book an affordable family or romantic photography session on your trip through Flytographer (Use the code HISTORYFANGIRL for 10% off your first photoshoot).

If you’re going to boast you’re the best museum in the USA, you have to bring it. Some the factors that make the Nelson-Atkins such a pleasure to visit:

  • free admission
  • the Shuttlecocks! (sculpture garden)
  • lively atmosphere with engaged visitors
  • free daily tours
  • parking garage underneath for easy access ($8)
  • encourages photography and social media sharing
  • large permanent collection (35K+)
  • easy layout for navigating
  • gorgeous architecture
  • late hours 2 days a week

Many American museums have as extensive (or larger) collections, but I haven’t been in one that cared as much about enhancing visitor’s experience. For a free museum, they go above and beyond, and I felt more catered to than I have in much more famous institutions where you can pay nearly twenty dollars or more.


None of the at would matter though, if the art wasn’t up to snuff. The collection is fantastic, covering pieces from all of the traditional cultures and movements that would be expected in a national caliber art institution. Their photography wing, however, seemed uniquely exceptional and moving.

See also
How to Tour the White House

I mentioned when writing about my visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Art that I’ve been into Native American and Asian art lately. The collection in Kansas City was inspirational.

FullSizeRender 17

When I posted my July review, both my most popular photo from last month and the one that was my personal favorite ended up being from my afternoon at the Nelson-Atkins. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. When a museum actively encourages sharing your experience on social media and is full of lively visitors, that will make for some good photos. Art museums can sometimes be a dud photography-wise, but delighted people genuinely enjoying their visit can create special moments.

FullSizeRender 18

This was one of three great museums I visited in July that were free (the other two being Minneapolis and St. Louis). I whole-heartedly endorse this. It changed the makeup of the visitors and I saw groups of teens in both hanging out and enjoying the artwork. Inspiring. When I was in London, I loved that the museums there were also free.


What are your recommendations for great American art museums? Share below!

Leave a Comment