Best museums in the U.S.

Written by:
October 4, 2018
Jim.henderson // Wikimedia Commons

Best museums in the U.S.

Museums are places of wonder—portholes to history, beauty, and inspiration. For some, museums represent a kind of fantasy, whether that involves living in the Metsome of those 17th-century beds do look pretty comfy—or hanging out with an animated dinosaur skeleton.

Everyone can find a museum that appeals to their specific interests. There are museums dedicated to nearly anything one could imagine: from ice cream and PEZ memorabilia to a museum dedicated to mustard. There’s even a museum devoted exclusively to bad art.

Stacker pulled data from Foursquare in order to rank the top-rated museums in the United States. Some of them are enormous, featuring art from every corner of the globe; some explore a particular niche, person, or moment in time. Whichever the case may be, one fact remains: the museums on this list are the best of the best. Come on in—no ticket required.

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#50. Newseum

Address: 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (at 6th St. NW), Washington, D.C.

Foursquare rating: 9.4

Newseum is one of the most interactive museums in existence. This establishment is dedicated to the importance of a free press and the First Amendment, and features exhibits like “1968: Civil Rights at 50,” and an interactive newsroom where visitors can play the role of a newscaster. However, not everyone is thrilled by the museum’s mission or location.


#49. Whitney Museum of American Art

Address: 99 Gansevoort St. (btwn 10th Ave. and Washington St.), New York, NY

Foursquare rating: 9.4

At $25 dollars a pop, tickets to the Whitney Museum of American Art certainly don’t come cheap, but that’s the price of viewing world-class art in New York City. Recent exhibitions include work by Andy Warhol and David Wojnarowicz, both of which affirm the museum’s commitment to “the full range of twentieth-century and contemporary American art.” Though a recent location change did ruffle some feathers, the new space does seem to be growing on the public at large.


#48. The Field Museum

Address: 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. (at McFetridge Dr.), Chicago, IL

Foursquare rating: 9.4

Though the current iteration of the Field Museum has been open to the public since 1921, its origins date back further. The collection was founded with items displayed at the 1893 World’s Fair. In addition to displaying this collection, the museum also employs researchers and scientists, and has a hand in important sustainability work.


#47. Albert Einstein Planetarium

Address: 600 Independence Ave. SW (at 6th St. SW), Washington, D.C.

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The Albert Einstein Planetarium is a component of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. The Planetarium features a variety of shows each day, including “Journey to the Stars,” narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, and “Dark Universe,” an exploration of the 95% of the universe that isn’t visible. The best part: astronaut ice cream is available after each showing.


#46. Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University

Address: 571 S. Kilgo Cir. NE, Atlanta, GA

Foursquare rating: 9.4

Located in Druid Hill, Georgia, the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University features art and artifacts from antiquity to the present. Now considered one of the most revered institutions in the state, the museum was originally founded in 1919.


#45. The National WWII Museum

Address: 945 Magazine St. (at Andrew Higgins St.), New Orleans, LA

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, aims to present an understanding of the war that is at once all-encompassing and personal. The museum also aims to portray the war in today’s context, analyzing the impact of the war that changed the world. A new exhibit, “So Ready for Laughter,” explores the legacy of Bob Hope, whose entertainment of the troops greatly contributed to morale.


#44. Denver Art Museum

Address: 100 W. 14th Avenue Pkwy (btwn Broadway & Bannock St.), Denver, CO

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The Denver Art Museum contains more than 70,000 works divided between 10 collections. In 2006, the museum doubled in size with the addition of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building. The entire complex now totals more than 350,000 square feet. The museum was also honored as the only U.S. stop on a tour of the biggest Monet exhibition in years.


#43. Space Shuttle Endeavour

Address: California Science Center (700 Exposition Park Dr.), Los Angeles, CA

Foursquare rating: 9.4

In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded just a minute after liftoff, killing all seven crew members on board. Endeavour was built as a replacement, and made its final launch in 2011, making it the youngest member of NASA’s retired space shuttle fleet. The Endeavour is now on display in Los Angeles at the California Science Center.


#42. National Gallery of Art

Address: 6th St. and Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The National Gallery of Art was given to the general public by Andrew W. Mellon, a Pittsburgh art collector who also served as secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury from 1921 to 1932. Mellon offered the gift of his art collection to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, and in 1937, construction began. The museum features work by renowned artists like Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, and Mark Rothko.


#41. National Air and Space Museum

Address: 600 Independence Ave. SW (at 6th St. SW), Washington, D.C.

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The National Air and Space Museum houses another museum on this list—the Albert Einstein Planetarium—but its offerings don’t stop there. This museum, which is free to the public, is a hub of all things flight, featuring attractions like the only piece of the Apollo 11 space shuttle to return to Earth. The museum is commencing a massive construction project in 2018, which will take an estimated seven years to complete.  


#40. Museum of Science and Industry

Address: 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr. (at 57th Dr.), Chicago, IL

Foursquare rating: 9.4

Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry features exhibitions that range from “The Science Behind Pixar” to “Coal Mine.” The unifying theme behind each exhibit here: a dedication to “inspiring the inventive genius in everyone.”


#39. The Jewish Museum

Address: 1109 5th Ave. (at E. 92nd St.), New York, NY

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The Jewish Museum was founded in 1904, and in 1981, officially became a New York City landmark. The museum explores art within Jewish culture and was the first museum of its kind, remaining one of the oldest in the world dedicated to the Jewish experience.


#38. The Oriental Institute

Address: 1155 E. 58th St. (btwn Woodlawn Ave. and University Ave.), Chicago, IL

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The Oriental Institute is dedicated to the history, art, and archaeology of the ancient Near East. Some of the most fascinating pieces at the museum include ancient cuneiform tablets, and a 17-foot-tall statue of the famous King Tutankhamun. There are also more than 1,000 Paleolithic artifacts, and, of course, plenty of mummies.


#37. North Carolina Museum of Art

Address: 2110 Blue Ridge Rd. (at Wade Ave. Extension), Raleigh, NC

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The history of the North Carolina Museum of Art began in 1924, with the formation of the North Carolina Art Society. The museum’s current permanent collection was established in 1947, when the North Carolina General Assembly allotted $1 million for the purchasing of art. This made North Carolina the first state to use public funds for purchasing artwork. The museum is currently accepting donations for Hurricane Florence recovery.


#36. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Address: 11 W. Jones St. (at N. Salisbury St.), Raleigh, NC

Foursquare rating: 9.4

Bug-lovers unite: the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is hosting “BugFest” this October. Aside from several specialized exhibits, you can also sample bug-centric dishes prepared by local chefs. This museum is North Carolina’s most visited; the centerpiece being the SECU Daily Planet.


#35. Houston Museum of Natural Science

Address: 5555 Hermann Park Dr. (at Caroline St.), Houston, TX

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The Houston Museum of Natural Science features a wide-ranging permanent collection, including the Wiess Energy Hall, Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, and Cabinet of Curiosities. Also included is the Herzstein Foucault Pendulum, which was first exhibited at the 1851 Paris World’s Fair. This pendulum proves Earth’s rotation: The pendulum’s swing appears to change throughout the day, but this is in fact the result of the Earth rotating beneath it.


#34. National Gallery of Art - West Building

Address: Constitution Ave. NW (at Madison Dr. NW), Washington, D.C.

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The West Building at the National Gallery of Art contains American art as well as European painting and sculpture from the 13th through 16th centuries. This wing of the museum was designed by architect John Russell Pope at the request of Andrew Mellon, the museum’s founder. Oddly, the two men died within 24 hours of each other in August of 1937.


#33. Renwick Gallery

Address: 1661 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (17th St. NW), Washington, D.C.

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The Renwick Gallery is a branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum dedicated to exhibiting American contemporary craft. Highlights of the collection include Nick Cave’s “Sound Suit” and Wendell Castle’s “Ghost Clock.” And for those not in Washington, D.C., the gallery is available to view via virtual reality.


#32. American Museum of Natural History

Address: 200 Central Park W. (btwn W. 77th and W. 81st St.), New York, NY

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The American Museum of Natural History was founded in 1869, and specializes in curating knowledge about human cultures, as well as the natural world and universe beyond. Located on the edge of Central Park West in New York City, the museum features exhibits that explore the human senses, deep-sea oceans, and more.


#31. The Museum of Flight

Address: 9404 E. Marginal Way S. (at 96th Pl.), Tukwila, WA

Foursquare rating: 9.4

Dedicated to all things airborne, the Museum of Flight honors and exhibits the Boeing Company, fighter planes from both World Wars, and so much more. The museum is located just outside of Seattle, and in addition to simply honoring all forms of aircraft, the organization also aids historic restoration projects. The museum’s Restoration Center and Reserve Collection at Plaine Field, where the restorations take place, is a 23,000-square-foot space.


#30. National Museum of Natural History

Address: 1000 Constitution Ave. NW (at 10th St. NW), Washington, D.C.

Foursquare rating: 9.4

It may not boast the iconic giant whale of New York’s American Museum of Natural History, but Washington, D.C.’s National Museum of Natural History is nothing to scoff at. A branch of the Smithsonian, like several on this list, the museum showcases nature, dinosaur exhibits, and everything else to do with the history of the natural world. The NMNH also does extensive research work behind the scenes.


#29. Strong National Museum of Play

Address: 1 Manhattan Square Dr. (at Chestnut St.), Rochester, NY

Foursquare rating: 9.4

No paintings or dinosaur bones here: The Strong National Museum of Play houses the world’s biggest collection of materials related to play. The museum is interactive by nature, making it a top destination for families in New York. Exhibits might allow children to take on the role of an astronaut or gets hands-on with video games.



#28. Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center

Address: 14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy, Chantilly, VA

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is a component of another museum on this list: the National Air and Space Museum. This exploration of all things aircraft and spacecraft is a companion museum to the Washington, D.C. location. Highlights of the museum include the Space Shuttle “Discovery” and Boeing Stratoliner.


#27. National Portrait Gallery

Address: 800 F St. NW (at 8th St. NW), Washington, D.C.

Foursquare rating: 9.4

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. features an incredible selection of—you guess it—portraits. Recently, portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were unveiled in the gallery. To say these portraits have been good for business would be an understatement.


#26. The Broad

Address: 221 S. Grand Ave. (at 2nd St.), Los Angeles, CA

Foursquare rating: 9.4

For those interested in visiting The Broad, getting tickets ahead of time is essential; otherwise, get ready to wait. Located in downtown Los Angeles, this popular museum has been open for only three years. It focuses exclusively on contemporary art, like the beloved infinity mirror rooms.


#25. Asian Art Museum

Address: 200 Larkin St. (at McAllister St.), San Francisco, CA

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco features a permanent collection of more than 2,000 pieces of art from all Asian cultures. One example that’s not to miss: “The Buddha Triumphing Over Mara.” The museum has planned a massive construction undertaking, and recently received a $5 million gift from East West Bank.



#24. National Museum of the US Air Force

Address: 1100 Spaatz St. (at Wright Patterson Air Force Base), Dayton, OH

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world, located near Dayton, Ohio. The museum has galleries devoted to missiles, the Cold War, the Korean War, and much more. Those far away from Dayton can experience all the museum has to offer via a virtual tour.


#23. Philadelphia Museum of Art

Address: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The Philadelphia Museum of Art features exhibits that honor Dior’s “Fabulous Fashion,” “British Satirical Prints,” and more. The museum houses a collection of approximately 227,000 objects from nearly every phase of art history. The museum first emerged from the 1876 International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine.


#22. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Address: 600 Museum Way (at NE J St.), Bentonville, AR

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The goal of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is to unite artistic creation of with natural beauty of the world. The museum’s name comes from a nearby natural spring, and references the bridge structure incorporated into the building’s architecture. The museum was founded in 2005.


#21. Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center

Address: 1195 Baltimore Pike (btwn Middle St. and Route 15), Gettysburg, PA

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center is the gateway into experiencing Gettysburg, the site of one of the most significant battles of the Civil War. The battle was fought over the course of three days in July of 1863. At the end, General Robert E. Lee ordered the Confederate troops to retreat, and the rest is history.


#20. Henry Ford Museum

Address: 20900 Oakwood Blvd (at Village Rd.), Dearborn, MI

Foursquare rating: 9.5

Located in Dearborn, Michigan, the Henry Ford Museum is named after Henry Ford, the American innovator and inventor, and founder of the Ford Motor Company. Legend has it that in childhood, he demonstrated early skills by organizing other children to help engineer small machines. The museum honors more than just this man; rather, it pays tribute to all forms of ingenuity, innovation, and resourcefulness.


#19. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Address: 900 Exposition Blvd (at Vermont Ave.), Los Angeles, CA

Foursquare rating: 9.5

Like a few other establishments on this list, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles studies the past via nature. This museum features a wide range of exhibits. There’s the Dinosaur Hall, a Spider Pavillion, and a sparkling Hall of Gems and Minerals.


#18. American Swedish Institute

Address: 2600 Park Ave. (E 26th St.), Minneapolis, MN

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The American Swedish Institute, based in Minneapolis, is an arts and culture institution that celebrates the country’s enduring ties to Sweden. This connection can be traced back to the 1840s, when Swedish immigration began to swell and many immigrants settled in southern Minnesota. The ASI campus includes the Turnblad Mansion, which was donated by the Turnblad family in 1929.


#17. National Museum of African American History and Culture

Address: 1400 Constitution Ave. NW (btwn 12th and 14th St. NW), Washington, D.C.

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only museum in the country devoted exclusively to the documentation of African-American life, history, and culture. The building was designed by David Adjaye, featuring a mixture of components and inspirations from different African cultures. A current exhibition explores the legacy of Oprah Winfrey.


#16. Dallas Museum of Art

Address: 1717 N. Harwood St. (at Flora St.), Dallas, TX

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The Dallas Museum of Art was established in 1903, and is among the top 10 largest art museums in the country. The museum covers more than 5,000 years of history and is 14,800 square feet in size. In addition to showcasing a vast variety of artwork, the museum also focuses a great deal of energy on conservation.


#15. Atlantis Exhibit Kennedy Space Center

Address: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Merritt Island

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The Atlantis Exhibit tells the story of NASA’s three-decade space shuttle program. For those with an interest in space, the Atlantis Exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center offers flight-training simulation. Visitors can enter the inside of the Atlantis Space Shuttle to step into an astronaut's space boots.


#14. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Address: 11 W. 53rd St. (btwn 5th and 6th Ave.), New York

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The Museum of Modern Art in midtown Manhattan houses a collection of nearly 200,000 works, 80,000 of which are available to view online. Some of the exhibits at MoMA force the viewer to question their own relationship with the art, like Peter Fischli’s “If Everything Is Sculpture Why Make Sculpture?” If art-viewing works up an appetite, there are highly rated dining options inside the museum.


#13. Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Address: 1001 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston houses more than 65,000 works of art, from ancient times to present day. Exhibits include displays of British Royal portraits, Islamic art, and the life of Vincent van Gogh. The museum was built in 1900, and is the largest in the southwest region of the United States.


#12. Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Address: 3200 Darnell St. (btwn Van Cliburn Way and University Dr.), Fort Worth, TX

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The majority of the current items at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth are cultivated from between 1945 and the present. The museum is the oldest in Texas, first chartered in 1892. The name has changed over time, including iterations like the Carnegie Public Library Art Gallery and the Fort Worth Art Center, but the dedication to public appreciation of art has never decreased.


#11. Biltmore House

Address: 1 Lodge St., Asheville, NC

Foursquare rating: 9.5

Construction on the Biltmore House began in 1889, at the behest of George Vanderbilt, grandson of famous industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt. The house was opened to friends and family on Christmas Eve of 1895, featuring 35 bedrooms, 65 fireplaces, and 43 bathrooms. Today, the property includes the original home, as well as hotels, stunning gardens, and a collection of artwork that belonged to the Vanderbilts.


#10. Louis Armstrong House Museum

Address: 34-56 107th St. (btwn 34th and 37th Ave.), Corona, NY

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The Louis Armstrong House Museum is both a National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark. The house was occupied by the famous jazz artist and his wife, Lucille, from 1943 until the ends of each their lives, and was never occupied again.


#9. USS Midway Flight Deck

Address: 910 N. Harbor Dr., San Diego, CA

Foursquare rating: 9.5

One component of the USS Midway Museum, located in sunny San Diego, is the Flight Deck. Here, visitors can view and interact with the planes that took naval aviation into the jet age. This selection includes bombers, helicopters, and fighter pilots, as well as access to the command center from which Operation Desert Storm was operated.


#8. Brooklyn Museum

Address: 200 Eastern Pkwy (at Washington Ave.), Brooklyn, NY

Foursquare rating: 9.5

One of the oldest and biggest art museums in the country, The Brooklyn Museum’s history stretches back to 1823 during the creation of the Brooklyn Apprentices’ Library, an organization that would later include Walt Whitman. The museum’s collection covers a diverse stretch of time, from African art to European painting to contemporary work. In total the museum contains more than a million works, covering 560,000 square feet.


#7. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Address: 151 3rd St. (btwn Mission and Howard St.), San Francisco, CA

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, also known as SFMOMA, exhibits modern and creative work from artists like Frida Kahlo, Rene Magritte, and Andy Warhol. The museum reopened in 2016 after renovations, and according to WIRED, the new look has the museum “headed for icon status.” The new museum was intended to create not just a beautiful space for showcasing art, but a fully immersive experience for every visitor.


#6. Philbrook Museum of Art

Address: 2727 S. Rockford Rd. (at E. 27th Pl.), Tulsa, OK

Foursquare rating: 9.5

The Philbrook Museum of Art may be full of stunning art, but perhaps more importantly, it also hosts a Burger Night each Friday. Another added bonus is the gardens, some of which are part of the original property and some of which were added in 2004. Inside the museum, beauty abounds with Hopi carvings, explorations of memory, and much more.


#5. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Address: 5905 Wilshire Blvd (at Fairfax Ave.), Los Angeles, CA

Foursquare rating: 9.5

LACMA has thrived in Los Angeles since 1965, and is now the largest art museum in the western United States. In addition to exhibiting an extensive art collection, LACMA also hosts talks, screens films, and, in the summer, puts on free jazz concerts every Friday night. LACMA is in the process of raising money to go towards renovations that are supposed to begin this year.


#4. J. Paul Getty Museum

Address: 1200 Getty Center Dr., Los Angeles, CA

Foursquare rating: 9.6

The one-time richest man in the world—who despite his wealth, refused to pay a requested ransom when his grandson was kidnapped—J. Paul Getty also lent his name to an extraordinary museum. The museum has branches at the Getty Villa in Malibu, and the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa focuses on the arts of Ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria, while the Getty Center location exhibits European paintings and drawings.


#3. The Cleveland Museum of Art

Address: 11150 East Blvd (at Wade Oval Dr.), Cleveland, OH

Foursquare rating: 9.6

The Cleveland Museum of Art was founded in 1913, and officially opened in 1916. Since its inception, the museum has focused on not just the showcasing and preservation of art, but also educational programs for children and adults. Current exhibitions include displays of William Morris textiles, and Danny Lyon’s photography of Manhattan.


#2. The Art Institute of Chicago

Address: 111 S. Michigan Ave. (btwn Monroe St. and Jackson Dr.), Chicago, IL

Foursquare rating: 9.6

In 1879, the Art Institute of Chicago established a founding mission: to collect, preserve, and interpret works of art of the highest quality from across the globe. It has since preserved this vision through its extensive collections of art, featuring artists like James Webb, Andy Warhol, and others. The museum also offers stunning outdoor spaces.


#1. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Address: 1000 5th Ave (btwn E 80th & E 84th St), New York

Foursquare rating: 9.7

And the winner is ... none other than the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The Met has three locations: The Met Fifth Avenue, the largest and perhaps most iconic location; the Met Breuer, which features modern and contemporary art; and the Met Cloisters. The Met showcases 5,000 years of history, and has provided New Yorkers and tourists access to art for more than 140 years. If all that isn’t enough, there’s also an incredibly famous annual gala.


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