There are more than 35,000 museums in the U.S. alone. Yes, you heard that right. From world-renowned curations to hidden gems, true museum-goers will always have a few must-visit spots on their list when traveling. And while it’s impossible to hit up all the thousands of exhibits in the country (or is it?), there are definitely some key ones to take in in this lifetime ... or even this season.
“The fall season is the perfect time to explore all that America’s museums have to offer,” James Brad, writer and founder of travel blog Travare shares. “From art and history to science and culture, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.” Indeed, the halls of a museum tell so many stories and introduce you to a world of new ideas, art, and concepts while giving you a visual representation of history.
This fall, whether you’re going on an out-of-state trip or looking for a new activity to partake in close to home, visiting a museum can get you out of the autumn chill and into a display of one-of-a-kind art and incredible visual storytelling.
Ahead, TZR tapped a few travel and museum experts for their top picks of museums (in no specific order) in the U.S. Consider your fall plans made.
The Met may sound familiar to you if you love watching the annual gala on the first Monday in May. But the iconic museum itself displays a vast collection of art from around the world. It is one of the world’s largest and most famous museums. Brad shares that, with over two million works of art, the Met has something for everyone to enjoy. Its stunning display of artwork, fashion, and artifacts will top off the perfect fall day in the city.
The Museum of Modern Art: San Francisco
Travel expert and co-founder of Motel Matcher Lauren Farley has always been a fan of art museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. “It has such a wide variety of art, from modern to abstract to expressionist." The museum has incredible pieces by artists like Matisse, Picasso, Klee, and Chagall. It also features a sculpture garden that’s free to visit during gallery hours.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture: Washington, D.C.
As the newest addition to the Smithsonian family of museums, the National Museum of African American History & Culture is one you could spend a full day adventuring through. The powerful museum tells the story of African Americans in the United States — from the transatlantic slave trade to the present day. An impressive 36,000 artifacts are on display in the museum, displaying documents, photographs, and artwork.
National Air & Space Museum: Washington, D.C.
Maarten Cox from Gecko Routes says that the National Air & Space Museum is the most suitable place for individuals who are seeking a sense of adventure and like to explore new things. “This museum has so many exhibition galleries that feature astronomy, the program of Apollo space, world wars and many more.” It’s the perfect day-trip museum to visit and one will enjoy seeing the interesting artifacts that tell hundreds of space-y stories.
Seattle NFT Museum: Seattle, Washington
Although one of the newer, tech-related museums in the country, it’s an impressive one you should visit if able. Travel writer Cazzy Magennis says it’s one of the many exhibits that allows you to explore the future of art via displays of blockchain pieces, a technological trend that is gaining traction in the creative industry. “The museum includes 30 massive screens sprawled across 3,000 square feet of space,” she says, adding that the museum also features work from up-and-coming crypto artists, like Larva Labs.
Museum of Broadway: NYC
Magennis recommends that all fans of musicals should visit The Museum of Broadway in New York, which opens November 15, 2022. “They’ve curated an interactive experience for guests to learn about the history and development of Broadway, from its origins to the present day,” she shares. The museum uses a mix of immersion technology and traditional museum displays to tell the unique stories behind world-famous productions like Rent and Hamilton. “It’s an especially rewarding experience for those who have always wondered how a show is put together from start to finish,” she says.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial: Honolulu, Hawaii
While one may prefer to be soaking up the Hawaiian views and culture all year long, taking some time out of your sunbathing can prove to be very educational and enriching — especially for those who appreciate history, politics, and culture. Cox shares that the Pearl Harbor Memorial is filled with stories about the most pivotal periods in U.S. history. You’ll learn about the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the entry of the U.S. into World War II.
The National Civil Rights Museum: Memphis, Tennessee
The National Civil Rights Museum traces through the history of the struggle for equal rights for Black people in the United States. Blogger Vered DeLeeuw says that the museum covers the history from the time the first slaves arrived, through the Jim Crow era, to the Civil Rights Movement in the ‘60s. The activism of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a point of heavy focus, and your walk through the museum ends in the reconstructed motel room where he was assassinated.
The Art Institute of Chicago: Chicago, Illinois
Cox shares that The Art Institute of Chicago is the perfect place to enjoy modern and contemporary art, architecture, and exclusive design collections. The museum features a wide range of exhibitions along with a variety of virtual and on-site opportunities to explore. If you’re a fan of the art by Van Gogh and other renowned and revolutionary artists, your time here will be well-spent.
Jamestown Settlement: Williamsburg, Virginia
Travel blogger Melanie Hartmann says that the Jamestown Settlement is a must visit this fall. “This living-history museum has vast indoor exhibits, some of which are interactive, along with an outdoor [component],” she shares. IRL reenactors share how Native Americans lived and traded with the English colony of Jamestown in a manufactured life-size Paspahegh town. There are even life-size recreations of the famous three ships that sailed from England to Virginia in 1607 that you are able to explore.
Millicent Rogers Museum: Taos, New Mexico
Celebrating the art and culture of Southwest, the Millicent Rogers Museum was created as a memorial for the socialite and oil heiress who fell in love with Taos’ local art community. Rogers set down roots in Taos in the late 1940s after discovering that the New Mexico air was good for her poor health. She made friends with the towns artisans and developed a collection of jewelry, weavings, and art that became the initial core of the museum’s exhibit. These days, it’s grown its showcase, and features a permanent collection of more than 7,000 objects and works from Native American and Hispanic artists.
Crow Museum of Asian Art: Dallas, Texas
A celebration and visual love letter to the vast cultures of Asia, this vibrant museum is a can’t miss. The robust collection features creative works from China, Japan, India, Korea, and Southeastern Asia, spanning from historical to contemporary. Current exhibits to check out (before they’re gone!) include Rare Earth: The Art and Science of Chinese Stones, Vishnu: Across Time and Space, and The Art of Lacquer.
The Andy Warhol Museum: Pittsburgh, PA
Pop culture and modern art collide beautifully at this high-octane museum that pays homage to legend Andy Warhol. Located in the city the creative was born, the exhibit tells of Warhol’s colorful life through his art, boasting the largest collection of his artworks and archival materials.