When you think of museums do you think about boring old places where you stare at dusty artwork and are really only good for field trips or dates when you are trying to impress someone with your art knowledge? Sure, many museums are a little on the stodgy side, but the United States is filled with some of the most unique and interesting museums in the entire world dedicated to art, music, science, history and even favorite foods. Yes, food.
Last year 24/7 Wall Street put out their list of the best museum in every state based on attendance and general popularity, but we’ve compiled a list of some of the most interesting spots in every state that have to be on your must-visit list when you can travel again. Some of these spots are closed right now due to the COVID pandemic, but many are offering virtual tours in the meantime.
The Legacy Museum
This important museum in Montgomery opened in 2018, and is located on the site of a former warehouse where enslaved Black people were imprisoned. It is also near one of America’s most prominent slave auction spaces and a dock where enslaved people were trafficked. Not an easy spot to visit, but this powerful museum has art, history and videos of this dark time in America’s past.
Alaska Native Heritage Center
From their Hall of Cultures to the immersive life-sized village sites, stepping into the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage offers an in-depth look at 10,000 years of Alaska Native history.
Musical Instrument Museum
This Phoenix institution opened in 2010 and is the largest museum in the world strictly dedicated to musical instruments. Once inside, you’ll travel around the world, looking at galleries filled with instruments you’ve likely never seen before, and the world’s largest playable sousaphone.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
This outstanding space in Bentonville not only houses some pretty amazing art, but is known for its unique buildings and walking trails. They use the space to craft some special exhibitions like the North Forest Lights, which is an immersive experience bringing amazing lights to the forest There’s a large American art collection, architecture, including a house created by Frank Lloyd Wright. The entire space is free to visit, as it is sponsored by Walmart (which has its roots in this town, and there is even a museum dedicated to the chain store nearby).
If you haven’t been to the Getty Center, that traditional landmark needs to be on your list as well, but a trip to the Broad in Los Angeles is a must. This modern art space is known for the famed infinity rooms created by Yayoi Kusama. But they’ve also got a huge collection of other artists as well.
Denver Art Museum
This distinctive space is not only known for its vast art collection, but also its stunning architecture. The sharp angled North building was designed by Daniel Libeskind, and is situated next to the original castle-like museum space designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti.
Mystic Seaport Museum
This Northern Connecticut coastal spot boasts a recreated 19th century seafaring village. Yes, there are plenty of boats to explore, including a whale ship, but also a one-room school house, printing shop and even a planetarium.
This DuPont estate is open to the public and features tours of the historic 175 room mansion, a wide collection of antiques and 60 acres of land to explore.
The Dali Museum
This St. Petersburg museum has captured the spirt of the famous and bizarre artist, with from the quirky sculptural design that shapes the space to a garden filled with melting benches. They also have rotating exhibitions on other famed artists that were contemporaries of Dali’s like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
World of Coca-Cola
There’s a lot of great options in Atlanta, from the important National Center for Civil and Human Rights, to the sublimely silly Center for Puppetry Arts , but not none will delight the entire family like the World of Coca-Cola. This fun space opened 30 years ago and has a 3-D theater, a set-up so you can see how bottles are filled and a tasting room.
A trip to the Pearl Harbor National Monument is on every tourists list, but if you want to get to know more about the history of Hawai’i, this large space in Honolulu is filled with a huge collection of traditional artifacts and royal heirlooms, and is entirely dedicated to Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures.
Idaho Potato Museum
In Blackfoot, Idaho, you can visit this museum entirely dedicated to the state’s famous potatoes. The museum gives a history of the popular crop to its evolution to chips, fries and more, filled with potato facts and accomplishments.
The Art Institute of Chicago
This iconic spot is famous for a reason, and a Chicago fave if you are looking to recreate some Ferris Bueller fun. But it’s notable for its vast collection of really famous art. You want to see Grant Wood’s American Gothic painting? They’ve got it. You want to see some famed works by masters like Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso, Monet and more? They’ve got those in spades.
Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
It’s got a massive dinosaurs busting out of the building and nibbling on the roof. How can this NOT be on your must-see list? Geared towards the more young at heart, they’ve got some cool dinosaurs, a Sports Legend experience, an Avenue of Champions and some impressive artwork by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly.
Union Pacific Railroad Museum
Located in Council Bluffs, this historic gem opened in 2003, aiming to share American history through the lens of the railroad, specifically how the Union Pacific railroad connected the country.
Museum of World Treasures
This history museum in Wichita is filled with a little of just about everything, from military garb from World War II to shrunken heads and mummies, plus dinosaurs, fossils and more.
National Corvette Museum
There are a lot of museums out there that have spaces dedicated to history, but few that have a whole exhibit dedicated to a momentous occasion that happened at the museum itself. But this Bowling Green spot was the site of crazy event in 2014. Their Superdome structure, used to display some amazing Corvettes of yesteryear, was the site of a sinkhole that swallowed eight vehicles. Wild, right? The superdome has been repaired, but you can still see the wreckage in the Corvette Cave-In Experience.
National World War II Museum
If you are heading to New Orleans, you are probably visiting the famed French Quarter, having a few adult beverages and stuffing your face with beignets, but you can also visit this massive museum dedicated to the war and its veterans.
Farnsworth Art Museum
If you are a fan of Andrew, Jamie or N.C Wyeth, this collection in Rockland, Maine is the one you need to see. The museum spotlights many Maine artists, but has a lot of Wyeth family pieces on display. Plus, Rockland is a super cute town for exploring when you are done.
American Visionary Art Museum
This unique Baltimore spot highlights intuitive and visionary self-taught artists and their unbridled creativity.
Museum of Fine Arts
Much like the Art Institute in Chicago, this Boston collection boasts some of the most-acclaimed artists in the world. Visit to see famed pieces by Degas, Monet, Rembrandt and O’Keeffe.
The Henry Ford
Visit the Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, just part of the Henry Ford complex, to see a history of Ford’s car creations and other inventions. You can also visit historic Greenfield Village to take a ride in a model T or take a factory tour.
Paisley Park Museum
The home of the iconic musician Prince has been turned into a museum where you can tour the grounds and his studio and see footage and more of the late artist.
Two Mississippi Museums
You can get these two Jackson museums for one. Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and Museum of Mississippi History deep dive into the Civil Rights movement and the history of this Southern state.
It is hard to describe this magical St. Louis establishment. It’s part children’s museum, part aquarium, part amusement park and part insane art installation. The building has used the old warehouse and museum features to create a truly one-of-a-kind experience, complete with a Ferris Wheel on the roof, outdoor climbing structures from recycled materials and a 10 story slide. Take this author’s advice and create a meeting place before you all venture out to explore this vast space.
Museum of the Rockies
You want to see dinosaurs? This is the place to go. This Bozeman establishment houses the largest Tyrannosaurus skull ever discovered.
The Durham Museum
Inside Omaha’s Union Station this museum features amazing architecture, but also traveling exhibits on science, culture and history.
The Neon Museum
Celebrating one of Las Vegas’ most famed artifacts: the neon sign. Created in 1996, this spot, featuring a Neon Boneyard, has signs from fallen Vegas casinos. Bring your cameras, this spot is perfect for Instagram lovers.
New England Ski Museum
Nestled in two locations in the White Mountains, the museum has a Franconia Notch and North Conway branch, both packed with info on the history of skiing.
Liberty Science Center
Inside Jersey City’s Liberty State Park you’ll find this massive science museum that is home to the largest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
This Santa Fe spot is devoted to the artistic career of American artist Georgia O’Keefe, including art she created in her childhood. If you leave Santa Fe, and head to Abiquiu, you can visit her home and studio as well.
American Museum of Natural History
You can’t really go wrong with most of New York’s large museums. From the legendary Metropolitan Museum of Art to the iconic MOMA to the Guggenheim and so many more, New York City alone is chockablock full of great spaces and there are even more as you head upstate. But if you want to feel like you’ve stepped right into Night at the Museum, this is the spot for you.
This mega-mansion is in Asheville and holds the title of America’s Largest Home. Built by George Vanderbilt, this home boasts 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and a full-sized basement swimming pool. Can you imagine living there? You can take tours of the house, gardens, stay at the inn on the estate grounds, go on carriage rides, visit their farm, or stop in at the winery.
North Dakota Heritage Museum
Located in Bismarck, North Dakota’s largest museum features four galleries that highlight the history of the state.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
You’ll want to visit this glass pyramid to see tributes to some of the music that has shaped the country. Watch videos, listen to music, see cool video highlights from their annual induction ceremonies and so much more.
Oklahoma History Center
Adjacent to the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City, this museum explores the history of the state. And they might not even mind if you bust into the title track of the musical Oklahoma while walking around.
National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
If you’ve only experienced the Oregon Trail via video game, now you can see this historic movement played out in many spots in Oregon. There are several spots where you can walk the trail and learn about the plight of these travelers, including this one in Baker City and the End of the Oregon Trail in Oregon City.
The Franklin Institute
The Museum Mile in Philadelphia is packed with plenty of options, from an exceptional Please Touch children’s museum to the legendary art museum with those famed steps from Rocky and the Rodin Museum, but this science museum named after the inspired founding father Ben Franklin is a fave. Plus, there is a two story giant heart to climb through.
The Providence college Rhode Island School of Design is one of the premiere art institutions in the country. This museum curates some inspiring examples of art from all time periods.
Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum
In the Charleston harbor you can explore the World War II aircraft carrier the USS Yorktown, and a fleet of other historical landmark ships. You can even sleep on the boat!
The Mammoth Site
This working museum in Hot Springs is definitely unique. Built over a massive mammoth bone bed, where they’ve uncovered multiple full skeletons, you’ll see archaeologists actually working to uncover more mammoth fossils as you learn about the prehistoric creatures.
Country Music Hall of Fame
No matter if you are a die-hard country music lover, or aren’t really a fan, this Nashville spot features the history of the genre like no other. Filled with costumes, photos and historic items and instruments, see how country music has changed over the years.
Houston, we don’t have a problem! This museum is the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center, you know, where mission control is for all those trips to space. See an enormous Saturn V rocket, and more awesome vehicles that have actually been in space. You can even add-on experiences to meet an actual astronaut.
Natural History Museum of Utah
This beautiful space highlights the nature and prehistoric creatures that helped make Utah so special, including exhibits on Utah’s 8 native tribes.
It could take days to explore this expansive museum in Shelburne that stretches over forty-five acres of land is filled with 39 different structures, including a landlocked steamboat. You’ll see a little bit of everything that Electra Havemeyer Webb curated in her life from folk art to architecture to duck decoys, French Impressionist paintings to dolls. It’s an eclectic location to say the least.
National Museum of the Marine Corps
Head to Triangle, Virginia to find this remarkable building that spotlights the Marine Corps and their valuable role in American history.
Museum of Pop Culture
No matter if you are into Minecraft, Marvel movies, grunge music, horror clicks, or fantasy, this Seattle space has a little bit of something for everyone.
Huntington Museum of Art
The collection of art here is combined with a plant conservatory, filled with exotic tropical flowers. There are also hiking trails to explore when you are done checking out the artwork.
You’ll see thousands of the iconic motorcycles on display in this Milwaukee museum and even get to sit on some to feel like you’re hitting the open road.
Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Not just about the notorious cowboy, this museum in Cody is home to the Plains Indian Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum, the New Cody Firearms Museum and the Whitney Western Art Museum. Talk about your one stop shopping.
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