The most entertaining way to learn about anything is to go to a museum. Sure, reading about things is nice — but a visible or even tangible artifact from a certain time can make history really come alive.
The U.S. may be on the younger side as far as countries go, but we have a ton of museums, and even more artifacts and oddities. In every state there is at least one great museum that you definitely need to visit to learn things like the state’s history, a special event, a special person, or a trade.
To determine which museums were truly deserving of being deemed the “best” in every state, we consulted travel websites, read through reviews of various visitors, and took into consideration the impact and acclaim each museum had to boast. We wish we could include every weird and wonderful museum in America; however, we are confident that this list contains sights and interactive experiences worth traveling for.
While you may have your own idea of what the best museum is in your state, this is what we discovered when we searched for the best museum in every state.
The Walmart Museum/Yelp
If you’ve ever wanted to experience the history of Walmart, head to Arkansas. This 30-minute walk-through tour of Walmart and Walmart’s history will tell you all about how it grew from a small business to a multibillion-dollar company. As one visitor put it, “Must always go and get a load of salt water taffy. Then walk through and read the amazing stats. Finally, a malt shop at the end. Great experience on the square in Bentonville.”
Yale is already a big deal in America. But the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven is even more of a big deal, due to the fact that it is the oldest university art museum in the Western hemisphere. It houses early Italian painting, African sculpture, modern art, and more.
The Hagley Museum and Library near Wilmington has tons of stunning views. If you take a walking tour through the elaborate former family home and its woodsy trails, you will see gorgeous scenery along the Brandywine River and stone ruins from the black powder industry.
This war museum in Columbus will take you all the way from the American Revolution to present-day operations in Afghanistan. If you’re passionate about the U.S. military, the center hosts special events that you should definitely check out.
Mark Miller/Wikimedia Commons
When you plan your next Hawaiian vacation, you should definitely stop by the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. It’s one of the best things to do in Hawaii! It houses tons of Hawaiian royal family heirlooms, artifacts, documents, and photographs. It’s pretty much everything Hawaiian. There’s even a lava demonstration!
Do we even need to explain why this museum in Blackfoot, Idaho, is so awesome? It’s all about potatoes and how they came to America! Not only is there a large baked potato statue outside, the inside of this Idaho museum is filled with potato-y goodness and knowledge about all things potato including the original potato planted in Idaho, and the largest potato crispy made by the Pringles Company in Jackson, Tennessee.
No wonder the Art Institute of Chicago is the Windy City’s best museum. It’s been featured in popular media including “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and it houses the largest Impressionist collection outside of Paris. Plus, it’s in Chicago, the second city!
Click your heels together three times and you might just end up at the Oz Museum in Wamego. It’s an entire museum dedicated to all things “Wizard of Oz.” Basically anything related to the book or the film is housed at this Kansas museum — including the earliest L. Frank Baum books.
Baltimore is known for being off-beat. The cool East Coast town is home to the American Visionary Art Museum which highlights eclectic and funky works of outsider art. The experience has been called “jarring” and “enlightening.”
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is the fourth largest museum in the United States, which means it houses a ton of art. There are over 450,000 pieces in the MFA, including some from legendary Renaissance painters, Impressionists, and more.
Henry Ford himself may have had a questionable history of anti-Semitism but this museum in Dearborn is an impressive catalog of American events. This massive museum is a National Historic Landmark and includes such must-sees as the presidential limousine of John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln’s chair from Ford’s Theatre, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop, and the Rosa Parks bus.
The Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, is the absolute best because they give you “Spam-ples” — samples of Spam. Not only will you learn the history of canned meat, but admission is free and there are galleries with interactive games and cool photo ops.
The City Museum in St. Louis is the least boring museum ever. The interactive museum is full of eye-catching repurposed architectural and industrial objects, a super-explorable enchanted cave, a giant hamster wheel, a skate park, and an aquarium.
If you’ve ever wanted to explore the world of mining, now is your chance! The World Museum of Mining just outside Butte offers guests the opportunity to tour a mine, wear miner attire, and learn all about the industry’s long history.
Ali Eminov/Wikimedia Commons
The Durham Museum is one of Omaha’s most unique treasures and one of the nation’s most beautiful examples of art deco architecture. The building, which houses restored train cars, 1940s storefronts, model trains and other artifacts, is also a National Historic Landmark.
This is a must-see museum for any organized crime fanatic. This downtown Las Vegas museum showcases every major mob boss, details the biggest mob hits, has a piece of the bloodied brick wall from the Chicago Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, and displays tons of terrifying photos. There's even a speakesy in the basement of the museum!
Weather enthusiasts will enjoy this New Hampshire museum. It’s designed to measure the unique and often extreme weather conditions on Mount Washington and offers guided tours through its exhibits. While learning about weather may not appeal to everyone, many visitors have commented on how beautiful the area around the museum is. “The first part, where trees are still growing, was so beautiful and colorful,” described a visitor. “Then you climb above the tree level and it changes to an Alpine style drive. So beautiful.”
The Silverball Pinball Museum in Asbury Park is full of the loud plinking and pinging of pinballs whirling and whizzing. Pay a single fee to play unlimited games on every machine, eat pizza, or even enjoy Skee-Ball and air hockey.
Meow Wolf seems like the sort of place you would go to have a rave, but it’s totally a museum. The immersive and eclectic museum in Santa Fe features 20,000 square feet of exhibits, and visitors can either walk, climb, or crawl through them. The experiential journey is based on an overarching premise — something strange happened in a Victorian house that dissolved all reasonable expectations of time and space.
Whether you’re going because you appreciate art or just because you appreciate “Gossip Girl,” the Met is an absolutely iconic art museum that attracts around 7 million visitors every year. Admission is on a donation basis, but you’ll feel more like Blair Waldorf if you contribute.
This museum commemorates the first successful venture into heavier-than-air flight in the U.S. At this memorial on North Carolina’s Outer Banks you can see a massive monument and a visitors center, where you can learn all about the Wright Brothers, who flew the world’s first plane here in 1903.
We’re all about museums dedicated to large things or at least displaying large things, and the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown has it all. It’s home to the World’s Largest Buffalo, who has been stuffed and put on display outside, and he is absolutely massive — like dinosaur massive. The rest of the museum has artwork, artifacts and other Native American relics.
This Midwestern state rocks, and that’s probably why it’s home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (It’s actually because Cleveland radio DJ Alan Freed popularized the phrase in the early 1950s.) This museum dedicated to all things rock music has rotating exhibits, films, and a cool front-row experience that highlights the history of the genre.
Yee-haw! If you’re in Oklahoma, you need to check out the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. It has the most extensive collection of American rodeo photographs, barbed wire, saddlery, and rodeo trophies.
This Oregon museum is the perfect place to see all sorts of aircraft. From vintage planes to supersonic Blackbirds to space shuttles, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville has it all.
National Museum of American Illustration/Yelp
This entire museum in Newport is dedicated to illustration by American artists. Notable illustrators include Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, J. C. Leyendecker and N.C. Wyeth.
The Kazoo Factory in Beaufort, South Carolina, is actually amazing. It’s home to the world’s largest distributor of kazoos, kazoo recordings and kazoo memorabilia.
See super-old mammoth bones at Mammoth Site of Hot Springs in South Dakota. This Ice Age museum houses mammoth bones, pygmy elephant bones, and other skeletons.
Don’t question why there is a museum devoted to the Titanic in land-locked Tennessee. The Pigeon Forge attraction is the largest Titanic exhibit in the world, and it’s filled with tons of museum artifacts and tragic passenger stories.
Did you know you can visit one of the most talked-about historic battle sites in America? The Alamo in San Antonio was once a Roman Catholic mission and fortress, but now it’s a museum Texans and visitors from around the world can go to.
We’re giving thanks for Thanksgiving Point. This Utah site between Salt Lake City and Provo lies beneath a water tower and features an interactive farm, cafes, shops and the Museum of Ancient Life. Of course, if you get bored, you could always seek out the ground’s golf course and spa.
Like many historic sites in America, the former home of Robert Todd Lincoln and Mary Lincoln in Manchester has become a museum. Hildene features spacious greenery and a gorgeous façade. The large house is located on a 300-foot promontory overlooking the Battenkill Valley. Inside, Hildene is still furnished almost entirely with Lincoln family furniture, and contains artifacts belonging to the Lincolns’ ancestors.
You can visit Jefferson’s tomb at Monticello. Also at the former plantation outside Charlottesville are Jefferson’s artifacts, rooms, slave quarters, and the surrounding plantation. At this site visitors can really get an up-close view of what it might have been like to be a Jefferson.
This Seattle museum is dedicated to all things pop culture, but especially music. Test your DJ skills in the on-site Sound Lab, perform on stage, and learn about behind-the-scenes information.
The Newseum makes learning about free speech super fun. It features important pieces, from the very first press release ever to items from the modern-day media industry. Trace the evolution of communication in all forms, even protests, newspapers, radio, and even more.
If you’re into ghosts, this is the coolest museum ever. View haunted artifacts, read spooky stories, and more at The National Museum of the Paranormal in Moundsville. While some naysayers have left the museum suspecting none of the items had any actual paranormal history, others leave tinged with a lingering feeling that there were other unseen visitors attending, as well. Could this be the most haunted place in the whole state?
History Museum at the Castle in Appleton is actually dedicated to the history of Harry Houdini. This Wisconsin museum has a massive collection of his performance paraphernalia and personal documents, picks, locks, keys, and handcuffs. Visitors (especially children) are welcome to take magic lessons at the museum!
Paul Hermans/Wikimedia Commons
There are actually five museums and a research library at Wyoming’s Buffalo Bill Center in Cody. Each museum is dedicated to an individual subject, such as firearms, artwork, history, and more. The center features endless exhibits with historic manuscripts and crazy dioramas.
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is just one of the fun indoor places you can check out if it's too cold or rainy outside.
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