Special Report

Must-Visit Museums in Every State

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There are more than 35,000 museums in the U.S. Though many of them showcase art, there are many other kinds as well. Some celebrate humankind’s achievements, while others concentrate on certain regions or certain parts of our history (including humanity’s darker moments involving slavery and genocide). Some look to the future with exhibits on space exploration and modern technology, while still others offer a window to the past, revealing how those who came before us lived. (These are the cities with the highest concentration of historic places.)

Over the years, museums have evolved from presenting exhibits behind ropes and glass partitions to more interactive experiences that engage younger and older visitors alike. They have also hosted touring exhibitions that have become media events, such as “Treasures of Tutankhamun” from Egypt that took the United States by storm in the late 1970s.

Each state has dozens of worthy museums, and choosing which one or ones to enjoy can feel like an impossible task. To help with the challenge, 24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of the must-visit museums in every state.

To do this, we sifted through rankings of these institutions by various sources, including travel websites. We considered the top museums from these lists for each state and weighed visitor comments. In many cases, we chose museums that offer experiences unique to their environment rather than art collections that might be better-known. These institutions are often less expensive than their more celebrated counterparts, and are sometimes even free. (These are the most expensive museums in America.)

The type and description of each museum came from MuseumsUSA, an online guide listing 15,600 museums, 80 museum associations, and 1,900 vendors serving the museum community. Most of the descriptive details came from TripAdvisor

Click here to see the must-visit museums in every state

Some of the museums on the list are fairly new. For example, the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle was launched by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, was founded in 2005 by Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton. Others are venerable institutions that trace their origins to the 19th century. All are well worth visiting.

Alabama: U.S. Space and Rocket Center
> City: Huntsville
> Type: History, Military, Science, Specialized
> If you have time, also visit: The Legacy Museum

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center, home to one of the world’s largest collections of space memorabilia, has its origins in the 1950s when renowned rocket expert Wernher von Braun established a technology center in Huntsville. Von Braun suggested that a museum be created there and it opened in 1970. More than 650,000 people visit annually.

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Alaska: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center
> City: Anchorage
> Type: Anthropology, Art, Children’s, Culture, History, Library, Natural History, Planetarium, Science
> If you have time, also visit: Alaska Native Heritage Center

An important aspect of the Anchorage Museum is its commitment to recognizing and honoring the land, culture, and language of the Dena’ina people on whose land the museum is built. One of the major projects of the museum is its polar lab, which brings together thought leaders to discuss the present and future of the North and the Arctic.

Arizona: Musical Instrument Museum
> City: Phoenix
> Type: General, Specialized
> If you have time, also visit: The Heard Museum

One of the newer institutions on this list, the Musical Instrument Museum has a global vision, focusing on musical instruments played all over the world. Opened in 2008, the museum has more than 8,000 instruments from 200 countries.

Arkansas: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
> City: Bentonville
> Type: Art, Culture, Library, Park
> If you have time, also visit: The Walmart Museum

Founded by philanthropist and arts patron Alice Walton, the museum has as its mission to acknowledge the American spirit in a place that combines art and nature. Pavilions housing galleries are perched on areas around spring-fed ponds. One unique attraction: A 1954-vintage Frank Lloyd Wright house, dismantled at its original site in New Jersey and reassembled on the grounds.

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Source: simonkr / iStock via Getty Images

California: The Getty Center
> City: Los Angeles
> Type: Art, Culture
> If you have time, also visit: The Broad

The Getty Center is one of Los Angeles’ cultural jewels. Open everyday except Tuesday, with free admission, it includes works by such art icons as Van Gogh, Monet, and Cezanne. The building itself is an architectural wonder, designed by Richard Meier.

Colorado: Colorado Railroad Museum
> City: Golden
> Type: History, Science, Specialized
> If you have time, also visit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Railroads, which helped shape Colorado’s history, are the theme of this museum located west of Denver. The main building, completed in 1959, looks like a 19th-century railroad depot. A 15-acre railyard contains dozens of historic locomotives, passenger trains, and freight cars.

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Connecticut: Mystic Seaport Museum
> City: Mystic
> Type: Specialized
> If you have time, also visit: Yale University Art Gallery

Founded in 1929, the museum is home to four National Historic Landmark vessels, including America’s oldest commercial ship and the last wooden whaleship in the world. Included on the museum’s 19 acres is a recreated 19th-century coastal village and a working shipyard.

Delaware: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
> City: Brandywine Valley
> Type: Arboretum, Botanical Garden, Culture, History, Historic House, Library, Nature Centers, Park, Science
> If you have time, also visit: Delaware Air Mobility Museum

Once the country estate of the du Pont family, the museum contains 90,000 objects made or used in America since 1640. The 60-acre garden is among the most beautiful in the United States.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Florida: The Salvador Dali­ Museum
> City: St. Petersburg
> Type: Art
> If you have time, also visit: Ernest Hemingway Museum

As singular as the famed Catalan artist it’s named after, the Dali­ Museum opened in 2011. It is a site to behold with its unique, bulbous architecture housing the works of the mustachioed master. The museum first opened in 1982, heralding a cultural surge in the Tampa Bay area.

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Source: ampueroleonardo / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

Georgia: The World of Coca-Cola
> City: Atlanta
> Type: Specialized
> If you have time, also visit: The Center for Civil and Human Rights

Atlanta, where the world’s most famous soft drink was founded, is home to the only museum that pays homage to the beverage. You can trace the history of Coca-Cola, check out its more famous commercials, and sample drink variations on the beverage’s theme from all over the world.

Hawaii: Bishop Museum
> City: Honolulu
> Type: Specialized
> If you have time, also visit: ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

Bishop Museum, founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in honor of his late wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, is the largest museum in the state. It houses Hawaiian artifacts, documents, and photographs about Hawai’i and other Pacific island cultures.

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Source: Courtesy of Don Aslett Museum of Clean via Facebook

Idaho: Museum of Clean
> City: Pocatello
> Type: Specialized
> If you have time, also visit: Idaho Potato Museum

Author and speaker Don Aslett founded the museum whose mission is to impart the value of cleanliness and to expand the idea of cleanliness beyond homes and into minds and language. Worth a look is the vacuum collection, featuring the Daniel Hess Carpet Sweeper from the 1860s that is the world’s first vacuum cleaner.

Source: jrshein / iStock via Getty Images

Illinois: The Art Institute of Chicago
> City: Chicago
> Type: Art
> If you have time, also visit: Museum of Science and Industry

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of America’s great cultural institutions. It houses the largest Impressionist collection outside of Paris, and contains well-known contemporary works such as Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.”

Source: Courtesy of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Indiana: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
> City: Indianapolis
> Type: Children’s
> If you have time, also visit: Dream Car Museum

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, founded in 1925, is the largest children’s museum in the world with 500,000 square feet with exhibits and activities. It recently added a 7.5-acre outdoor health and fitness area that encourages participation in sports. The indoor section features the National Art Museum of Sport along with the World of Sport and History of Hoops.

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Iowa: The Union Pacific Railroad Museum
> City: Council Bluffs
> Type: Culture, History, Specialized
> If you have time, also visit: John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum

The Union Pacific Railroad Museum holds artifacts, photographs, documents, and equipment from the construction of the transcontinental railroad, which the Union Pacific company helped build. The Beaux Arts-style building was originally the Council Bluffs Carnegie Free Public Library and was established with the help of philanthropist and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.

Kansas: Museum of World Treasures
> City: Wichita
> Type: History, Science, Specialized
> If you have time, also visit: Oz Museum

Founded by Dr. Jon and Lorna Kardatzke in 2001, the Museum of World Treasures runs the gamut of world history, with exhibits relating to dinosaurs, ancient civilizations, the experiences of the Conquistadors. and the horror of the battlefields of the two World Wars.

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Source: Thomas Kelley / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Kentucky: Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
> City: Louisville
> Type: Culture, Sports, History, Specialized
> If you have time, also visit: National Corvette Museum

You can’t think of baseball without the bat so associated with the game, the Louisville Slugger. At the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, you can see how the famed clubs are made. Besides viewing the bats once held by Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, and Derek Jeter, you can stand in the batter’s box and experience what it’s like to face a 90-mph fastball.

Source: csfotoimages / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Louisiana: The National WWII Museum
> City: New Orleans
> Type: History
> If you have time, also visit: Mardi Gras World

New Orleans, where the Higgins boats that brought troops ashore on D-Day were developed, is the home of The National WWII Museum. Visitors get a comprehensive overview of how the war was fought, the industrial mobilization that led to victory, and poignant personal stories of those who lived through history’s worst conflict.

Maine: Maine Maritime Museum
> City: Bath
> Type: History
> If you have time, also visit: Portland Head Lighthouse

Visitors to the Maine Maritime Museum on the Kennebec River can view modern-day shipbuilding techniques, see a restored 1906 schooner, get a guided tour of the historic Percy & Small Shipyard, and see a blacksmith plying his trade.

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Source: marcutti / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Maryland: American Visionary Art Museum
> City: Baltimore
> Type: Art, Children’s, Culture, General, History, Library
> If you have time, also visit: Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park Center

Located on the southside of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the American Visionary Art Museum is a repository for the works from self-taught and intuitive artists. Coming up in May: the Kinetic Sculpture Race.

Massachusetts: Museum of Fine Arts
> City: Boston
> Type: Art
> If you have time, also visit: Museum of Science

The Museum of Fine Arts is Boston’s oldest and largest museum. Founded in 1870, it houses almost 500,000 works of art, from artifacts of ancient Egypt to its well-known Impressionist collection.

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Source: TennesseePhotographer / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Michigan: The Henry Ford
> City: Dearborn
> Type: Culture, History, Specialized
> If you have time, also visit: Detroit Institute of Arts

The Henry Ford was the educational vision of the auto mogul who put America on the road. He built two facilities in Dearborn – one to tell the story of America’s technological genius and the other to demonstrate how objects are made and used. His was among the first institutions to offer hands-on museum experiences.

Source: Joe Christensen / iStock via Getty Images

Minnesota: Minneapolis Institute of Art
> City: Minneapolis
> Type: Art
> If you have time, also visit: Spam Museum and Visitor Center

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is a free museum operated for the benefit of the general public. The museum recently announced it will exhibit five works by Vincent Van Gogh

Source: Kirkikis / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Mississippi: Delta Blues Museum
> City: Clarksdale
> Type: Culture, Music
> If you have time, also visit: Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum

The Mississippi Delta is known as the birthplace of the blues, and that uniquely American of music genres is honored at the Delta Blues Museum. Founded in 1979, the state’s oldest music museum is located at the recently renovated Yazoo and Mississippi River Valley Railroad Depot, and houses photos, artifacts, and instruments related to the blues.

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Missouri: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
> City: Kansas City
> Type: Art
> If you have time, also visit: City Museum

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the cultural pride of Kansas City, houses 40,000 pieces of art. Opened in 1933, it is known for its Bloch Galleries, featuring Impressionist art, photography, and Native American and Egyptian art.

Source: Courtesy of Museumoftherockies.org

Montana: Museum of the Rockies
> City: Bozeman
> Type: Natural History, Science, History, Planetarium
> If you have time, also visit: World Museum of Mining

Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is known for its dinosaur fossils, including a T. rex skeleton.

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Nebraska: The Durham Museum
> City: Omaha
> Type: History
> If you have time, also visit: Omaha Children’s Museum

The Durham Museum is housed in Omaha’s Union Station, an Art Deco treasure that is a National Historic Landmark. It features traveling exhibits with history and cultural themes. A current photo exhibit features the jazz singer Billie Holiday.

Source: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Nevada: The Mob Museum
> City: Las Vegas
> Type: Culture, General, History, Historic House, Library, Specialized
> If you have time, also visit: The Neon Museum

Created by the team that developed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. the Mob Museum muscled into Las Vegas in 2012 and became a hit. The museum tells the story of organized crime in America and its effect on the nation.

New Hampshire: Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center
> City: North Conway
> Type: Nature Centers, Science
> If you have time, also visit: New England Ski Museum

Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center is an observatory intended to measure the often extreme weather conditions on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington. Visitors can learn the science of meteorology at the center. In 1934, the observatory recorded the record for the fastest wind gust ever on Earth at 231 miles per hour, a record that stood for 62 years.

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New Jersey: Liberty Science Center
> City: Jersey City
> Type: Science
> If you have time, also visit: Silverball Pinball Museum

The Liberty Science Center in Jersey City is located in Liberty State Park, just beyond the gaze of the Statue of Liberty. The building is a 300,000-square-foot learning center that houses 12 exhibition halls.

Source: JannHuizenga / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

New Mexico: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
> City: Santa Fe
> Type: Art, History
> If you have time, also visit: Meow Wolf

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is named after the American woman who influenced American art in the 20th century. O’Keeffe came to New Mexico in the late 1920s, and the state’s landscapes as well as Native American culture shaped her technique.

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New York: American Museum of Natural History
> City: New York City
> Type: Natural History
> If you have time, also visit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The American Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s foremost scientific and cultural institutions and for generations has been an essential destination for school trips. Since it was founded in 1869, it has promoted its mission to discover, interpret, and disseminate information about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe.

North Carolina: North Carolina Museum of Art
> City: Raleigh
> Type: Art
> If you have time, also visit: The Biltmore House and Gardens

North Carolina Museum of Art, founded in 1947, features the People’s Collection, which is art owned by the citizens of North Carolina. The museum features art from the Italian Renaissance, Egyptian funerary works, and American painting and sculpture from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Source: gnagel / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

North Dakota: North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum
> City: Bismarck
> Type: History, Natural History
> If you have time, also visit: Cowboy Hall of Fame

The history and experience of North Dakota is told at the North Dakota Heritage Museum through artifacts and specimens, high-tech displays, and interactive exhibits.

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Ohio: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
> City: Cleveland
> Type: Culture, Music
> If you have time, also visit: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, the pyramid-shaped Rock and Roll Hall of Fame captures the energy, turbulence and passion of the music form. The 150,000 square-foot museum features seven floors, four theaters for films, and ever-changing exhibits. There are 351 inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since it opened in 1995.

Oklahoma: National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
> City: Oklahoma City
> Type: History, Art, Culture
> If you have time, also visit: American Banjo Museum

More than 10 million people have dusted off their boots and other footwear to visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum since it opened in 1955. An homage to the history and culture of the American West, it includes works by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, as well as sculptor James Earle Fraser’s famous work “The End of the Trail.”

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Oregon: Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
> City: Portland
> Type: Science
> If you have time, also visit: Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is a nationally known science center providing science learning to audiences. Its programs promote an innovative and sustainable society.

Source: dszc / E+ via Getty Images

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Museum of Art
> City: Philadelphia
> Type: Art
> If you have time, also visit: Gettysburg Museum & Visitor Center

The museum’s landmark building houses van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and the only dedicated Rodin Museum outside France. It also was featured in the famous scene in the movie “Rocky” where the underdog prizefighter runs up the steps of the museum and holds up his hands in triumph. A statue of Rocky stands next to the museum.

Source: Courtesy of RISD Museum

Rhode Island: The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum
> City: Providence
> Type: Art, Culture, University
> If you have time, also visit: National Museum of American Illustration

The Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design was established in 1877. It has more than 100,000 objects, including paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, costume, furniture, and other works of art from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Asia, and the Americas, as well as contemporary art.

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Source: warrenlemay / Flickr

South Carolina: Gibbes Museum of Art
> City: Charleston
> Type: Art
> If you have time, also visit: Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Opened in 1905, with the help of benefactor James Gibbes, the Gibbes Museum of Art has 10,000 objects that, according to the museum’s website, “collect, conserve, and interpret an American fine arts collection with a Charleston perspective.” The museum is known for its collection of 18th- through early 20th-century paintings, prints, photographs, and sculpture.

Source: Courtesy of The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota via Facebook

South Dakota: Mammoth Site & Museum
> City: Hot Springs
> Type: Archeology, General, Natural History, Science
> If you have time, also visit: The National Music Museum

While working on a housing development in 1974, workers uncovered what turned out to be South Dakota’s greatest fossil find, the remains of a mammoth, with tusks seven feet long. The site was preserved and today it is the world’s largest mammoth exhibit, and a world-renowned research center for Pleistocene studies

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Tennessee: Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
> City: Nashville
> Type: History, Music
> If you have time, also visit: Graceland

It only makes sense that Nashville would be the home of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. It houses more than 2.5 million artifacts, with two floors of gallery space featuring permanent- and limited- engagement exhibits. The first members inducted were Jimmie Rodgers, Fred Rose, and Hank Williams in 1961.

Source: Courtesy of Space Center Houston via Facebook

Texas: Space Center Houston
> City: Houston
> Type: Science
> If you have time, also visit: Bullock Texas State Museum

The Space Center Houston opened in 1992 and has become one of Houston’s top attractions. It is the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center and an affiliate of Smithsonian. The center has had more than 22 million visitors and hosts nearly 1.25 million visitors annually in its 250,000-square-foot educational complex.

Source: nesneJkraM / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

Utah: Natural History Museum of Utah
> City: Salt Lake City
> Type: Anthropology, Archeology, Children’s, General, Natural History, Science, University
> If you have time, also visit: Clark Planetarium & IMAX Theater

Amateur and professional paleontologists flock to the Natural History Museum of Utah, which enjoys a reputation as a respected state museum of natural history.

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Vermont: Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home
> City: Manchester
> Type: History
> If you have time, also visit: Shelburne Museum

Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home, is the historic home of Robert Lincoln, the only child of President and Mary Todd Lincoln to reach adulthood. The 412-acre estate has formal gardens, an observatory, a restored 1903 wooden Pullman palace railcar, a cheesemaking facility, and a teaching greenhouse.

Source: phakimata / iStock via Getty Images

Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg
> City: Williamsburg
> Type: History
> If you have time, also visit: Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Carriage rides, the tweet of fifes, the beating of drums, and people dressed in period garb let you know you are in Colonial Williamsburg. Stories of free people and slaves are woven together to bring the 18th century life to life.

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Washington: Museum of Pop Culture
> City: Seattle
> Type: Culture
> If you have time, also visit: EMP (Experimental Music Project) Museum

The Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP, near Seattle’s famed Space Needle, contains many of the world’s most famous pop-culture artifacts. Among them are science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov’s typewriter and the staff of Ra from the Steven Spielberg film “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The museum is big on hands-on experiences, such as testing your DJ skills in its Sound Lab.

Source: Daderot / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

West Virginia: Huntington Museum of Art
> City: Huntington
> Type: Art
> If you have time, also visit: Archive of the Afterlife: The National Museum of the Paranormal

The Huntington Museum of Art houses a permanent art collection of more than 16,000 objects, with nine exhibition galleries, an interactive education gallery, and an art-reference library of over 26,000 volumes.

Source: theasis / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

Wisconsin: Harley-Davidson Museum
> City: Milwaukee
> Type: History, Culture
> If you have time, also visit: Milwaukee Art Museum

The Harley-Davidson Museum’s website considers a visit to the museum a “journey from outsider to icon.” Once associated with youthful rebellion, the motorcycle is now considered a symbol of freedom. Motorcycles and memorabilia of various vintages are found on two floors of exhibits.

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Wyoming: Buffalo Bill Center of the West
> City: Cody
> Type: History
> If you have time, also visit: The National Museum of Wildlife Art

Since 1927, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West has strived to keep the American Western experience alive. The center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and includes five separate museums under one roof. Besides history and myth about the West, visitors can appreciate Native American culture and the nature and science of the region.

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