6 Destinations for the Ultimate Museum Road Trip

Want to experience the beauty of fine art around the country but don’t know where to go? Look no further—read on for a museum “bucket list” that will inspire the artist in you.

 

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum (Photo by Amy Meredith)

As a branch of the legendary Smithsonian Institution in our nation’s capital, the Smithsonian American Art Museum is dedicated to the work of American artists. Like the rest of its historic counterparts in Washington D.C., visiting the museum is an experience of a lifetime. The beautiful structure, the quality of the art, the depth of the information, and the grandiose halls give this museum a unique feel you won’t find at many other art museums.

The artwork displayed ranges in origin from the colonial period to contemporary masterpieces created in the United States today.

The museum is just one facet of the Smithsonian museum and research complex, which consists of 17 museums, galleries, and a zoo, all of which are free to enter.

 

Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art in New York (Photo by Jim Yi)

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is more than just a world-class museum—it’s a bustling center for cultural activity in New York City. As a gathering place for live art performances, the MoMA hosts concerts with popular music artists, such as Jay Z and Kanye West, taking the stereotypical museum experience to the next level.

The MoMA is one of the most frequented museums in the world with an average of 2-3 million visitors annually. The museum’s collection features some of the most timeless and historic examples of modern art, including: Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Paul Cézanne’s “The Bather,” and Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans.”

 

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Photo by Monica Arellano-Ongpin)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, better known as The Met, sits alongside Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and has been open since 1880. The Met contains over 5,000 years worth of artwork of varying styles, the oldest being an Iranian storage jar from approximately 3800–3700 B.C. The Met holds one of the world’s largest collections of artwork and is a must-visit for any New Yorker or tourist looking to delve into art’s vast archive.

If you’re feeling adventurous, check out The Met’s satellite locations: The Met Breuer and The Cloisters. The former displays an extensive collection of 20th and 21st-century art, while the latter explores art and architecture from medieval Europe.

 

Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts (Photo courtesy of DIA.org)

The Detroit Institute of Arts is a Motor City hotspot, located in the budding Midtown neighborhood. The DIA was founded in 1885 and is the famous home of Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry Murals,” painted on the walls of the museum lobby in 1932. What makes the DIA special—aside from having one of the top art collections in the United States at 66,000 works—is the grandeur of the building. Walking in and strolling through the halls is an experience worth a trip in itself.

The variety of art exhibited at the DIA showcases the museum’s versatility. You can find anything from ancient Native American sculptures and Egyptian mummies to photographs by local Detroit artists and masterpieces from Rembrandt van Rijn.

 

Art Institute of Chicago

One of the two lion statues (Kemeys, bronze 1893) flanking the Institute’s main entrances (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, this gem is a creative beacon in a city known for its artistic vibrancy. Featuring historic collections of both ancient and modern art, the Art Institute of Chicago is perfect for art lovers with all tastes. In fact, the museum’s modern wing is arguably second-to-none, including artwork by Pablo Picasso (the Institute was one of the first in the U.S. to display his work), Henri Matisse, and Marc Chagall, among countless other avant-garde greats.

The Art Institute of Chicago frequently holds a diverse array of special exhibitions. In 2016, the museum hosted an exhibit featuring Chagall called “Chagall Homecoming.” Other notable exhibitions throughout history include: “America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s,” which focused on artists redefining modern art in the Great Depression era, and “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms,” highlighting three depictions of Vincent van Gogh’s bedroom in Arles, France.

 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The “Urban Light” sculpture at the LACMA (Photo by Elliot Harmon)

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or the LACMA, has been a staple for the art community on the West Coast since 1965. As the largest art museum in the western United States, the LACMA holds over 130,000 works of art spanning from ancient times to modern day.

The LACMA is also world-renowned for its “Urban Light” sculpture that leads into one of the entrances. It’s comprised of 202 restored street lamps that were once used in the 1920s and 1930s to illuminate the streets of Southern California.

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