by Thuy-An Nguyen
photography courtesy of Emma Simonoff
It’s common to come across articles such as “Best Cities for Foodies” or “Cities with the Best Music Scene.” But, what about museums?
One of the most popular activities to partake in when touring a new destination is visiting its cultural hubs. Here are some places that offer a plethora of unique museum experiences.
The “Windy City” is so historically and culturally rich that its museums are a prime attraction. With a wealth of prestigious museums, like the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry and the Shedd Aquarium, Chicago has plenty of incredibly well-curated options for everyone’s interests.
Want to try something a little off the beaten path? For a more unusual experience, you can visit some hidden gems that dot the city, like the newly opened American Writer’s Museum or the Museum of Contemporary Photography.
LOS ANGELES, CA
Synonymous with the youthful soul of the city, many of Los Angeles’ museums have a novel, contemporary feel to them, some of the best among them being the art museums.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA, hosts a wide variety of art, from ancient to contemporary. However, it is well-known for its large, immersive and very Instagram-worthy contemporary art pieces. Another stunning contemporary art museum is The Broad in downtown Los Angeles, which hosts an active program of rotating exhibits and audience-engaging activities.
For a more classical experience, you can visit the J. Paul Getty Museum, more commonly referred to as the Getty, hosted in two locations: the Getty Center and the Getty Villa. The Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Gardens are also great to visit if you’re looking for a less-crowded option.
The U.S. capital boasts a rich history and intellectual character, only bolstered by the fact that it is home to the Smithsonian Institution, a wide variety of free museums along the National Mall. Offerings range from the National Air & Space Museum to the National Museum of African American History & Culture.
Away from the National Mall, there are still plenty of options. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum remains one of the most impactful museum experiences in the country, inspiring its visitors to “confront hatred, prevent genocide and promote human dignity.” For a family fun option, try the International Spy Museum, a non-profit museum with exhibits dedicated to the history and modern role of espionage that are sure to engage both kids and adults.
NEW YORK CITY, NY
Consistent with its urban environment, New York City doesn’t just boast incredible contemporary art in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) but unparalleled contemporary architecture. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was a breakthrough in museum design by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and while the building itself is a work of art, it continues to host art shows and its own art collection.
For a more expansive experience, the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a wide and impressive collection of ancient to contemporary art. Or you can escape Manhattan to visit the Museum of Moving Image in Queens, which explores the impact and history of movies, television and digital media.
STOPOVER: CORNING, NY
Watch glass figurines being made right before your eyes or even try glass-blowing yourself at the Corning Museum of Glass, dedicated to the art, science and history of glass.
We couldn’t go through this list without a nod to our hometown. Boston is a city that has deep roots in the founding of America and, as a result, is filled with rich history and historical collections. Visit the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, a museum that floats, where you can witness reenactments, a tearoom and multimedia exhibits.
One of the most famous museums in Boston dedicated to preserving world-renowned art is the beautiful Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which is also the site of a famous theft of 13 works worth more than $500 million in 1990.
For something a little offbeat, try a museum that displays “art too bad to be ignored.” This is the trademark of the Museum of Bad Art, located just outside of the city in Somerville.
SAN FRANSISCO, CA
Here you will find perhaps the most eclectic museums of the bunch. The hilly city is currently hosting the Museum of Ice Cream, where you can dive into a pool of sprinkles or waltz through a garden of over-sized gummies. The immersive art exhibit has been traveling around the country, treating Instagrammers to all their pop-art aesthetic dreams.
Among other novelty museums to visit are the Walt Disney Family Museum and the Exploratorium.
STOPOVER: MONTEREY, CA
The Monterey Bay Aquarium an expansive and engaging aquarium, promoting the preservation of ocean-life clearly in all of its exhibits.
Whether it’s the East Coast or the West Coast, from San Fran to D.C., there are enough museums to satisfy everyone’s tastes. Next time you find yourself in a new city, opt for a museum instead of a traditional beach day or shopping trip. You’ll have fun—and you might just learn something.