Whether you’re an art lover, a history buff, a space geek, or just have a curious mind, nothing will quench that inquisitive thirst like wandering around a museum. We’re blessed to have some of the very best in the world right here in the U.S., and it can be difficult to narrow it down when choosing which one to visit.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Here are 10 must-see museums in the U.S. (See also: How to Visit Museums for Free)
1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City
Celebrating over 5,000 years of incredible art from across the globe, this museum is truly a national treasure. So it’s little wonder that over 7 million people stream through the doors of The MET’s three locations each year. Among those three sites, over 2 million pieces of art are in its permanent collection, and there’s even a rooftop bar with views over Central Park at the Fifth Avenue location.
Admission fee: $25
2. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans
This ambitious museum documents the American participation in World War II from how and why it began, why the U.S. was involved, and how we ultimately helped to end it. In parts it’s harrowing, in others it’s inspirational, but it’s informative and interesting from beginning to end. The National World War II Museum is thoroughly modern with a focus on interactive exhibits, movies, and a thoughtful layout taking you right into the depths of the war.
Admission fee: $28
3. The Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is regularly rated as one of Chicago’s top attractions. It’s home to 300,000 works of art, including some of the most iconic paintings in the U.S., like Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” and several pieces by Monet.
Admission fee: $29
4. National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City
Thought provoking, humbling, and emotional are some of the words frequently used to describe this beautiful tribute to the victims of 9/11. Built to remember the thousands of people killed in the atrocious attacks, as well as to honor those who risked their lives trying to help, this memorial is truly moving. Twin reflection pools occupy the site where the two towers once stood, providing a tranquil and peaceful place to consider the impact of the attacks and the many sacrifices made that day.
Admission fee: $24
5. USS Midway Museum in San Diego
This unique maritime museum is based on the USS Midway, the U.S.’s longest serving aircraft carrier in the 20th century. This floating airstrip has a long and distinguished history that saw it taking part in the Cold War, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, and many other significant battles. The museum is a hands-on celebration of the importance of the USS Midway and demonstration of its inner workings, taking you right into the heart of the vessel.
Admission fee: $21
6. National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Boasting the world’s biggest collection of aviation artifacts and space memorabilia, the National Air and Space Museum is an homage to all things that fly, and the study of the universe. You’ll find aircrafts ranging from early airplanes to advanced spaceships, as well as the documented history of flight from it’s very beginnings to its current stage. Between this location and the other in Chantilly, VA, the National Air and Space Museum brings in over 8 million visitors a year. (See also: 8 Free Things You Can Do on Any Vacation)
Admission fee: Free
7. The Getty Center in Los Angeles
As impressive as the collection of influential artists on display here are the buildings and gardens surrounding it. The Getty Center incorporates modern architectural design, with stunning outdoor spaces joining them together. The buildings are magnificent, and the gardens are truly breathtaking. In addition to pieces by Van Gogh and Cezanne, you’ll also get access to some of the most incredible views across the City of Angels.
Admission fee: Free
8. American Museum of Natural History in New York City
Kids will probably know the American Museum of Natural History as the setting for the Ben Stiller movie, Night at the Museum. But while they may be disappointed that the exhibits don’t actually come to life, they’ll soon get over that when they discover the awesome exhibits on display. From dinosaur skeletons to models of marine life, this place is a treasure trove of cultural and scientifically significant finds. (See also: How to Entertain Your Grandkids Without Going Broke)
Admission fee: $23
9. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City
The Museum of Modern Art houses pieces by all of the big hitters, including Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” to “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali. It also offers live performances, films, and other events that are sure to expand the mind. And if you get hungry while browsing their huge collection of famous works of art, you can grab a bite to eat at any of their three restaurants.
Admission fee: $25
10. NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida
Learn about space and space travel in the most engaging way possible, short of blasting off in your very own shuttle. The NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers a fun and highly educational look at the history of space travel in the U.S. You can also dine at one of several space-themed restaurants, or have lunch with an actual astronaut!
Admission fee: $57