In the United States, there are quite a few cities with great art museums. Of course, the bigger the city the more museums there are. If there’s a favorite painting or artist you’ve been dying to see, start your research there by finding out what museum they live in. Otherwise, choose your destination then be delighted by the art you see! This list includes five of the best cities to visit solely for their art museums (everything else is just a bonus!). If you’re a student, many museums offer a discounted student ticket price.
1. New York, New York
New York may just be the cultural hub of the United States and the world, and for good reason. The number of museums and galleries here is insane! Art lovers can take their pick from large, world class museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), or opt for smaller galleries like the Frick Collection or the Neue Galerie. Depending on what kind of art you like, there is truly something for everyone.
The Met is definitely a must-see, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to walk through it. If you love European classics, you will feel like you’re walking through a dream here! There is also the Met Cloisters, which are located further Uptown and focus on Medieval art and architecture. For modern art lovers, the MoMA houses all the famous pieces you’ve ever wanted to see. What’s great about MoMA though, is that you’ll find new artists and new favorites among all of their well-known counterparts. Don’t miss The Guggenheim, either, with its unique architecture to boot.
2. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is definitely a personal favorite of mine among all the cities with great art museums in America. The variety in Boston is exciting, and means you won’t suffer from museum fatigue! Of course the main museum to hit is the Museum of Fine Arts. Allow yourself at least a full morning or afternoon to explore the galleries there, you will certainly not be disappointed! Check their website ahead of time to see if any special events are happening, too.
My favorite art museum in Boston, however, might just be the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. You will be astonished to discover that this Venetian palazzo-inspired building was dreamt up by Gardner to become a museum, and that the art is all from her personal collection, one of the finest private art collections in America. It is astounding! The museum provides an intimate experience with the art, as if you truly are viewing it from someone’s living room. Boston is also home to the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Harvard Art Museums, and many other choices which will satisfy every art lover.
3. Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles isn’t just for the Hollywood obsessed, it’s also a place where you can genuinely find really great art. Of course acting and cinema are their own kind of art, but it’s not hard to find famous paintings and beautiful visuals in the City of Angels. To start, there is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA. It is typically home to some amazing contemporary installments on the grounds, while the interiors house many classics. It is the largest art museum in the West, and sits right on Museum Row.
If modern art is what you’re looking for, then you’ll want to visit The Broad in Downtown L.A. You’ll be happy to note that admission to The Broad’s permanent collection is free. The building is just as stunning as the art it holds inside. For a more classic art experience, the J. Paul Getty Museum is just the right place. The Getty actually boasts two locations, one that holds European art up to 1900, the other Greek and Roman antiquities housed in a villa recreated in the style of Roman country houses. Both are spectacular options! Once you visit, you’ll see why L.A. is listed here as one of the cities with great art museums.
4. Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. definitely makes the list for cities with great art museums in the United States. Art of course comes in many different forms, and there’s no place better to appreciate this than our nation’s capital of Washington D.C. The Smithsonian Museums are just a start. There’s the National Gallery of Art, and the National Portrait Gallery which is a must see. It is full of images of famous Americans, and it’s where you can see the recently unveiled official portraits of former President Barack Obama and of course, former First Lady Michelle Obama.
The lovely thing about visiting Washington D.C. is that the city is very walkable, and most museums are located in the same vicinity. When necessary, the metro is a breeze to ride, so you can get around very easily without a car. If you are interested in Asian art, check out the Freer Gallery of Art. If you’re more into modern media, the Newseum should definitely be on your list. It is a museum totally dedicated to the art of the news. Of course, art is created in so many different mediums. Browse any one of the Smithsonian Museums for lessons on fashion or the natural world for a change of pace.
5. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago must be present on this list of cities with great art museums, after all it is a bustling metropolitan with some great institutions dedicated to the arts. Like most of the other cities mentioned, Chicago has a museum that houses more classical art and another for the modern alternatives. The Art Institute of Chicago, with its great stone lions guarding the door, is a must see for the classics. Then head to the Museum of Contemporary art for your modern fill. Chicago also has great options for art museums dedicated to specific cultures and places, like the DuSable Museum of African American History and the National Museum of Mexican art.
There are so many cities with great art museums, do you have a favorite that isn’t mentioned here? Leave us a comment below, and share this with your friends who love art!
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Maggie is the blogger behind The Artful Everyday, a travel and lifestyle blog dedicated to living intentionally and finding beauty in the ordinary. She loves the idea that we get to escape our normal lives when we travel, and that it allows us to be more open to the world and its cultures. Maggie lived in Florence while studying abroad, then was an au pair in Rome last fall. She is very passionate about traveling in Europe, especially Italy, and living abroad. Maggie studied Interior Design at the University of Minnesota, but is currently pursuing a career in writing.