18 Most Famous Museums in the United States

America is home to over 35,000 museums, and dozens of them attract millions of visitors from every corner of the world annually. Its scientific, art, and history museums are among the world’s most celebrated. Here are 18 of the most famous museums in America. 

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

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The U.S. government runs the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, which consists of a massive collection of 17 museums, galleries, and a zoo. Washington.org explains that the collection comes from multiple continents and includes over “150 million objects, works of art, and specimens.” It attracts millions of visitors from all over the world every year. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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This art museum in New York is the largest in the Americas and the world’s fourth largest. It’s America’s most visited museum, attracting millions every year interested in its expansive art collection of two million ancient and modern pieces and its famous exhibits on Egyptian artifacts. 

The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

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The Art Institute of Chicago attracts a million visitors annually with its impressive permanent collection of around 300,000 works of art, notably pieces from Pablo Picasso, Edward Hopper, and Grant Wood. It also includes over 60 Thorne Miniature Rooms that depict historical European and American interiors. 

The Getty Center, Los Angeles

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The Getty Center opened to the public in 1997 and is renowned for its architecture, gardens, and views over the City of Angels. Visit California notes that despite its galleries being “filled with masterpieces that might intimidate those not familiar with 17th-century Baroque art,” it also has kid-friendly workshops and “free weekend music and theater performances.”

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York 

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The Museum of Modern Art was established in 1929 and was the first in America to be devoted exclusively to modern art. MoMA explains that its current collection “contains almost 200,000 works of modern and contemporary art.” In 2022, it attracted over 2 million visitors from across the world. 

The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 

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This art museum has free entry and features a substantial collection of old master paintings donated by Andrew W. Mellon, the Treasury Secretary from 1921 until 1932. The museum also contains paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh.

The Field Museum, Chicago 

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The Field Museum in Chicago is known for its extensive natural history collections and the skeleton of Sue the T. rex. Its permanent exhibitions attract up to 2 million visitors annually, including fossils and interactive programs highlighting conservation needs. 

The American Museum of Natural History, New York 

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This natural history museum complex on the Upper West Side of Manhattan comprises 20 interconnected buildings that house 45 permanent exhibits, a library, and a planetarium. It contains around 35 million specimens, cultural artifacts, and frozen tissue and attracts five million visitors annually. 

The National WWII Museum, New Orleans 

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This Smithsonian Institution-affiliated museum was founded in 2000 and focuses on American servicemen’s contribution to the Allied victory during WWII. The National WWII Museum explains it tells the story of the American experience in the war “so that all generations will understand the freedom and be inspired by what they learn.”

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco 

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The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has a leading role in contemporary art on the West Coast and is famous for its living wall of native plants. It contains over 33,000 photos, paintings, sculptures, and media art. 

The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland 

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This art museum is famous for its collections of Asian and Egyptian art. With a permanent collection of over 61,000 works of art, the Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the most visited art museums globally and one of the wealthiest in America.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia 

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The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s iconic steps were famously featured in the movie Rocky, and are now celebrated with a bronze statue of the boxer. It also contains an extensive collection of Renaissance, American, and Impressionist art that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. 

The Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston 

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The Houston Museum of Natural Science is famous for its Burke Baker Planetarium and Cockrell Butterfly Center. It’s one of America’s most visited science museums, and in 2022, 1.5 million visitors visited. 

The Guggenheim Museum, New York 

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The revered architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed this striking museum on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It has a collection of around 8,000 works of contemporary, impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modern art, and its exhibitions attract thousands of art fans from all over the world. 

The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 

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The Whitney Museum of American Art in West Village claims to have “arguably the finest holdings of twentieth-century American art in the world.” Its permanent collection contains over 25,000 paintings, prints, drawings, and sculptures of new media artifacts by over 3,600 artists. 

The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit 

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This art institution in Motor City has one of the largest art collections in America, worth billions of dollars. It is famed for its Diego Rivera murals. Its encyclopedic collection has over 65,000 artworks dating back to the earliest civilizations. 

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles 

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LACMA, the largest art museum in Western America, is home to over 150,000 works representing art history dating back to antiquity. It’s also known for its celebrated film screenings and concert series, which attract almost a million visitors annually. 

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 

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This art museum is the 20th largest in the world and is home to one of the Americas’ most comprehensive collections, which includes over 450,000 works of art and 8,161 paintings. The museum is also known for its collection of over 1,100 historical musical instruments. 

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