20 Best Art Museums in the USA You Need to Visit in Your Lifetime

Last Updated on June 04, 2023 by Nikki Jain

Looking for the best art museums in the United States? We've got you covered with this ultimate list of best US art museums.

Art tells stories, preserving cultures and events in permanent stasis upon a chosen medium.

That's why art is such an important part of history and its collection and interpretation are often considered crucial to our world and societies.

In a land as storied and diverse as the United States, it's no surprise that many American art museums showcase and tell the tale of the country's history.

From ancient art to works done just last year, museums are there to honor and exhibit the legacy of each creation.

Some museums are themed, focusing on specific genres, cultures, and time periods. But many others are much more diverse, bringing to life many stories.

Here are the 20 best art museums in the USA.

Best Art Museums in the USA

Table of Contents [Show]

Affiliate links may be used in this post. I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you use my affiliate link.

1: Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York City, NY

Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York City, NY
Dreamstime/Lei Xu

You'd be hard-pressed to find any more famous art museums in the USA than the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Simply referred to as The Met, this incredibly celebrated museum is so vast that it's almost impossible to see it all at once. Everything from the displays to the facilities is nothing short of world-class.

The cultural epicenter of the region, The Met, is housed inside a Gothic Revival building in Central Park. Its Great Hall is already impressive enough, but the permanent collection is to die for.

Collections encompass classical antiques, Ancient Egyptian antiquity, Greek and Roman art, Islamic exhibits, Asian textiles, and iconic clothing.

You'll find 5,000 or so years of history stuffed into the walls of the Met. Each gallery is themed and organized based on the wonders they hold. Temporary and rotating exhibits are equally worth viewing.

Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York City, NY 10028

Website: www.metmuseum.org

Also Read: The Best Museums in New York City

2: Museum of Modern Art - New York City, NY

Museum of Modern Art - New York City, NY

The Museum of Modern Art is an airy, modern hub of pop culture and 20th-century delights.

Covering 630,000 square feet, this is one of the top art museums in the US when it comes to contemporary art.

Temporary exhibits are just as lively and enriching as permanent ones, with lots of shops, unique spaces, and special collections to boot.

Part of the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection is the absolutely iconic wonders of Starry Night by Van Gogh, Water Lilies by Monet, and Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Picasso.

You'll also see Campbell's Soup Cans by Warhol and The Persistence of Memory by Dali, among many others. Cutting-edge fashion, film, and photography are also on display.

Address: 11 W 53rd St, New York City, NY 10019

Website: www.moma.org

You Might Like: The Famous Art Galleries in New York

3: Philadelphia Museum of Art - Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Museum of Art - Philadelphia, PA

The Philadelphia Museum of Art was designed based on the temples of ancient Greece, and that's just the beginning of its notable features.

Widely recognized among the best US art museums, it boasts 200 galleries and keeps adding new ones - an impressive feat for one of the oldest museums of its kind in the country.

What can you see at the Philadelphia Museum of Art? Works by Cezanne, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, and more are particularly notable, as are the collections of European, Asian, and American art.

There are also entire structures and portions of former buildings within the museum's complex.

That includes an Indian temple hall from the 16th century, an authentic Japanese teahouse, and a Chinese Palace hall from the 17th century.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is also the site of the most iconic Rocky scene, where Rocky Balboa runs up the 72 steps in front of the museum.

In commemoration of that big moment in cinema, a Rocky Statue has been erected at the steps' base.

Address: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130

Website: www.philamuseum.org

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Philadelphia

4: Los Angeles County Museum of Art - Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles County Museum of Art - Los Angeles, CA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, simply called the LACMA, opened in 1965 and has given itself the well-fitting title of an encyclopedic museum.

Numerous individual buildings make up its 20-acre expanse, each dedicated to different collections and typically separated by culture.

The LACMA has everything, from Islamic artifacts to modern artworks and European impressionist paintings to Korean and Japanese art. Greek art, Mexican art, fashion, design, and jewelry are also proudly displayed.

As with many things in LA, the LACMA has managed to become known as a good selfie and photo destination thanks to two different art installations.

One is Urban Light by Chris Burden, which features rows upon rows of steel gray street lamps. The other is Levitated Mass by Michael Heizer, a huge boulder that can be seen "floating" in suspension above a path.

Address: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Website: www.lacma.org

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Los Angeles

5: The Art Institute of Chicago - Chicago, IL

The Art Institute of Chicago - Chicago, IL
Dreamstime/Ivan Kokoulin

The Art Institute of Chicago is set in a grand Beaux-Arts museum. From the beginning, it sets an opulent stage with two bronze lions that stand flanking the entrance.

Once inside, you'll be treated to more than 300,000 permanent collection items from across the planet.

The Art Institute of Chicago is primarily renowned for its features of impressionist and post-impressionist artworks, though it does have many other genres under its belt.

There are paintings from the Byzantine era, showcases of early European and American furnishings from the 13th to 20th centuries, and much more.

Address: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

Website: www.artic.edu

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Chicago and The Best Museums in Chicago

6: National Gallery of Art - Washington, D.C.

National Gallery of Art - Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art is quite close to the Capitol Building and has become a hotspot for art aficionados far and wide.

It's one of the best art museums in the US and is composed of two buildings. The West Building is inspired by the Roman Pantheon and features older works by everyone from Claude Monet to Sandro Botticelli.

The East Building is modernist in design and houses numerous modern works, such as those by Mark Rothko and Henri Matisse.

The National Gallery of Art focuses on American and European art for the most part. There are photos, sculptures, paintings, prints, and much more.

Names like Johannes Vermeer, Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Rembrandt, Roy Lichtenstein, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, and Pablo Picass can be seen in its halls.

Address: Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20565

Website: www.nga.gov

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Washington, D.C.

7: Museum of Fine Arts - Boston, MA

Museum of Fine Arts - Boston, MA

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is one of America's oldest art institutions, so, unsurprisingly, it's among the best art museums in the US.

More than 50,000 works call this neoclassical wonderland their home, including Korean art, Egyptian artifacts, works by old masters, and a huge John Singer Sargent collection.

One of the most loved parts of the Museum of Fine Arts is the Art of the Americas exhibits, containing a collection opened in 2010.

Here, you'll view all sorts of important and iconic works by various indigenous cultures in North, Central, andSouth America.

There are also works here by contemporary American artists like Joan Mitchell, Edward Hopper, and Georgia O'Keefe.

Address: 465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115

Website: www.mfa.org

8: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - San Francisco, CA
Dreamstime/Chon Kit Leong

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is incredibly modern, boasting fantastic facilities and standing prominently among some of the other elite best art museums in the US.

The downtown establishment is easily accessible and easily spotted by its impressive exterior, a "living wall" covered in native plants and water-like fiberglass panels.

Opened in the 1960s, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is spread across 170,000 square feet with 10 floors of exhibition spaces.

You'll find videos, photos, paintings, sculptures, and even light and neon installations.

A collection of post-1960 German art, many pop artworks by Andy Warhol, and gorgeous painted panels made by Mehretu are just a few notable attractions.

Address: 151 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Website: www.sfmoma.org

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in San Francisco

9: Detroit Institute of Arts - Detroit, MI

Detroit Institute of Arts - Detroit, MI

The Detroit Institute of Arts is a shining star in its city. With a history spanning as far back as 1885, the current building of the proper museum opened in 1927.

That structure is often called the Temple Of Art and is a gorgeous beaux-arts creation, with a huge space that includes a 380-seat lecture hall and an auditorium that seats 1,150.

There are over a hundred different galleries at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Its permanent collection includes a Self Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh and the iconic Detroit Industry fresco of Diego Rivera.

A wide range of events and programs are also held here, including book discussions and concerts.

Address: 5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202

Website: www.dia.org

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Detroit

10: Cleveland Museum of Art - Cleveland, OH

Cleveland Museum of Art - Cleveland, OH

The Cleveland Museum of Art is relatively small in size, but it manages to welcome a whopping 550,000 annual visitors.

Since its founding in 1913, the museum has grown to be known as one of the best US art museums.

Over 61,000 works are on display here, spanning the impressive time span of 6,000 years, arranged in convenient chronological order.

The Cleveland Museum of Art is home to various paintings, installations, photos, artifacts, and sculptures from big names in art history.

These include works from the likes of Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Salvador Dali, and Vincent van Gogh.

There are also special programs for people of all ages, including the interactive, hands-on Studio Play for children.

Address: 11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106

Website: www.clevelandart.org

11: Getty Center - Los Angeles, CA

Getty Center - Los Angeles, CA
Dreamstime/Ken Wolter

The Getty Center is a proud display of incredible architecture, an achievement that makes it more than just one of the best art museums in America.

It is set in a structure of concrete and steel, shaped in a circular fashion and offering 360-degree views of the gorgeous city of Los Angeles from the Santa Monica Mountains.

Fountains and bridges are scattered about the complex, creating an almost medieval aesthetic.

Within the Getty Center, you'll find all sorts of displays. There are historic manuscripts, Renaissance paintings, Etruscan statues dating back 2,500 years, Baroque sculptures, American photography, and more.

This is a fantastic place to go if you want to see the true classics of art history.

Address: 1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049

Website: www.getty.edu

12: The Whitney Museum of American Art - New York City, NY

The Whitney Museum of American Art - New York City, NY
Dreamstime/Yooran Park

The Whitney Museum of American Art is set in a gorgeous building by Renzo Piano, designed in a futuristic, glass-covered style.

There are 50,000 square feet of galleries inside the museum, not including its four outdoor spaces, its theater, its terraces, and its library and reading rooms.

The Whitney, as it's often simply called, is home to over 23,000 works, primarily from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Over 3,000 artists have items displayed here, including Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon, Jean-Michel Basquait, and Alexander Calder.

The Whitney offers a high-brow curated collection from photos to paintings and sculptures to films.

For the most part, the institute seems almost like a gallery more than a museum, which adds to the classy atmosphere.

Address: 99 Gansevoort St, New York City, NY 10014

Website: www.whitney.org

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in New York City

13: Smithsonian American Art Museum - Washington, D.C.

Smithsonian American Art Museum - Washington, D.C.
Dreamstime/Ritu Jethani

It's tough to mention art museums without discussing the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Boasting one of the planet's largest art collections, it's one of the most prestigious and largest art museums in the US.

The museum has been through many names, tons of exhibits and changes, and plenty of history. 

More than 7,000 artists are represented in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's collections.

Access to the museum is free, and you'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to what to see and explore. As a Smithsonian affiliate, that's no surprise!

New Deal art is especially abundant, as well as Gilded Age works, American impressionist paintings, contemporary crafts, modern folk art, African American art, Latino art, realist art, western expansion art, and photography.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum also has expanded public spaces in addition to its several permanent galleries.

This means that its complex includes the likes of the Luce Foundation Center for American Art, the Lunder Conservation Center, and the unique Old Patent Model Museum.

Address: G Street NW, 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20004

Website: www.americanart.si.edu

14: Walker Art Center - Minneapolis, MN

Walker Art Center - Minneapolis, MN
Dreamstime/James Kirkikis

The Walker Art Center is well-known for its notable collection of contemporary and modern works by European and American artists.

Photographs, paintings, and sculptures are among the media you'll find. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is one of the center's most attractive portions, even among those who aren't always a big fan of art.

The Walker Art Center is also home to the Hahn/Cock, one of two very large blue cockerels made by Katerina Fritsch, a German artist.

The 20-foot-tall statue, made from fiberglass, is a satirical feminist work, though it's much more recognized for its intentional innuendo.

Address: 725 Vineland Pl, Minneapolis, MN 55403

Website: www.walkerart.org

15: High Museum of Art - Atlanta, GA

High Museum of Art - Atlanta, GA

The High Museum of Art greets you off a building with stunning aesthetics, a white porcelain cover, a unique light system, and walking paths that wind whimsically.

There are a few buildings that make up the overall compound, and with 17,00 works, it's one of the Southeast's biggest museums.

One of the most significant parts of the High Museum of Art is its sizeable American art collection of works from the 19th and 20th centuries.

This collection contains the masterpieces of the likes of John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Harriet Hosmer, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Frederick Kensett, John Singleton Copley, Edmonia Lewis, and more.

On top of that, there is also a sizeable European work collection, an African diaspora collection, and all manner of masks, ceramics, and sculptures dating as far back as the 1300s.

Don't forget about the photography and decorative arts on display, as well as the extensive collection of folk and self-taught works.

Address: 1280 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309

Website: www.high.org

16: Milwaukee Art Museum - Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee Art Museum - Milwaukee, WI
Dreamstime/Joe Sohm

If you're an architecture lover, you've likely already heard of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

It's one of the most famous American art museums, not necessarily for its collections but for its three gorgeously-designed buildings.

A futuristic style is created with a 90-foot ceiling of vaulted glass, a suspension bridge in luminescent white, and cantilevered wings that open on clear days.

With that being said, the Milwaukee Art Museum also contains plenty of stunning works of art in its 341,000-square-foot expanse.

About 30,000 works are on display here, including one of the planet's biggest collections of Georgia O'Keefe creations.

There are also pieces by Joan Miro, Gustave Caillebotte, and Claude Monet, a vast pottery collection, and numerous galleries of Folk and Outsider American Art.

Despite its relatively small size, there are also lots of works by contemporary artists. You'll find Bluffs by Tara Donovan, a Brillo Box by Andy Warhol, and a sculpture by Robert Smithson.

The museum's basement also has a unique collection known as Chair Park, where you can try out various famous chairs, such as the Tulip Chair of Eero Saarinen and the Peacock Chair of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Address: 700 N Art Museum Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Website: www.mam.org

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Milwaukee

17: Baltimore Museum of Art - Baltimore, MD

Baltimore Museum of Art - Baltimore, MD
Dreamstime/Jon Bilous

The Baltimore Museum of Art is one of the best art museums in the US, boasting over 95,000 different pieces and serving as a massive draw for art aficionados across the planet.

Better yet, general admission is free, with fees only being charged for special exhibits and events.

At the Baltimore Museum of Art, you'll find some of the biggest collections of art by Andy Warhol.

There's also a huge wing of works donated by sisters Claribel and Etta Cone, encompassing the likes of Matisse, Cezanne, and Picasso in the aptly-named Cone Wing.

Also not to be overlooked are the showcases from artists of color in the Contemporary Wing and a large selection of Asian art, African art, and European sculptures.

Address: 10 Art Museum Dr, Baltimore, MD 21218

Website: www.artbma.org

Also Read: The Best Museums in Baltimore

18: Seattle Art Museum - Seattle, WA

Seattle Art Museum - Seattle, WA
Dreamstime/Yooran Park

The Seattle Art Museum is yet another art museum in the United States that can't be contained within a single location.

Its contents, which total close to 25,000 works, are distributed across three different locations and include the Olympic Sculpture Park and Seattle Asian Art Museum.

The Seattle Art Museum, also simply called SAM, hosts an eclectic collection. Its bright displays include works by Native American artists from the Northwest Coast and a lovely, teeming African art collection.

Though entrance fees are a little high, free admission is available once a month on that month's first Thursday.

Address: 1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

Website: www.seattleartmuseum.org

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Seattle

19: Denver Art Museum - Denver, CO

Denver Art Museum - Denver, CO

The Denver Art Museum is home to one of the most reputable art collections between the West Coast and Chicago, making it one of the best museums in the US.

It encompasses two buildings and spans a vast range of time, with artifacts dating back to pre-Columbian days all the way up to more contemporary displays of sculptures and paintings.

Both of the aforementioned buildings are stunning, with one resembling a fortress and the other that appears almost like a crystal.

Each exhibit hall is grouped by theme so that you can enjoy an organized viewing experience at the Denver Art Museum.

One of the more popular features here is the museum's compilation of art from western America, some dating back to the 1800s.

You'll find works by famous artists like Winslow Homer and Vincent Van Gogh, too, as well as textile art, African art, fashion, and much more.

Address: 100 W 14th Ave Pkwy, Denver, CO 80204

Website: www.denverartmuseum.org

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Denver

20: The Museum of Fine Arts - Houston, TX

The Museum of Fine Arts - Houston, TX
Dreamstime/Valentin M Armianu

The grand expanse of The Museum of Fine Arts is made up of a pair of buildings and a delightful sculpture garden.

There are over 64,000 works on display within, sourced from six different continents and featuring a wide range of genres and styles.

The original building is notably stunning, designed in 1924 in a Neoclassical architectural style.

The permanent collection of The Museum of Fine Arts has a wide variety of creations. You'll find Bacchanale by Picasso, Nympheas by Monet, and lots of works by French impressionists and from the Italian Renaissance.

There are also mobiles, photographs, and mixed media masterpieces. The newer building of the museum continues to expand to hold more contemporary works and photography exhibits. 

The sculpture garden is equally enticing. You'll find Cloud Column, a sculpture by Anish Kapoor that holds a prototype of the famous "Bean", and lots of art by Rodin, too.

It's no surprise that The Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, Texas is one of the best art museums in the US.

Address: 1001 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX 77005

Website: www.mfah.org

Plan your trip to these best art museums in America soon!

Art aficionados are spoiled for choice when it comes to the best art museums in the USA.

You can find just about any institute for any chosen artistic topic if desired, and most larger museums have specially organized sections that make perusing different subjects a lot easier.

No matter which museum you choose to visit, you're sure to learn a lot and treat your senses. Don't forget to check out admission fees, opening schedules, and special events and programs for each museum before you arrive.

17 Nature Photos That Prove America Is Amazingly Beautiful

Read Article