Across the United States, you’ll find many wonderful museums, documenting everything from history and art to sports, professions and more.

Large and small, these museums tell the story of people, places, communities, nature, animals, and more, from centuries past to current events. They are worth visiting to get a broader perspective on life, where we come from and where we are going. Plus, they can be part of a truly memorable trip or vacation.

Narrowing down the list of must-see museums is quite a challenge, but here are 10 of the best museums in the United States that should be on your list. And then don’t miss The 6 best off-the-radar destinations in the United States that you must visit.

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Located in New York City, the Tenement Museum showcases the stories of immigrants and migrants who came to America between the 1860s and 1980s.

Learn how they lived in the historically recreated apartments as they pursued the “American Dream”. Their determination, resilience, and endless desire to carve out a better life for themselves not only reflects the depths of the human spirit, but also how America became the country it is today. Not surprising Reuters named the Tenement Museum “the third best non-arts museum in the world” and the White House awarded it a National Medal for Museum Services.

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International Spy Museum in Washington DC

For those interested in the world of intrigue, intelligence, and espionage, the Spy Museum in Washington, DC features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts available to the public.

Some of the most notable artifacts include a 1922 silver dollar with a spring-loaded pin laced with a deadly toxin worn by American pilots who could choose death over capture, Operation Bernhard coined the currency created by the Nazi intelligence service SD (Sicherheitsdienst) to disrupt the British economy and the Japanese four-rotor Enigma machine used to send scrambled messages.

National Museum of the American Indian

Also in Washington, DC, the National Museum of the American Indian contains one of the world’s largest collections of artifacts, photographs, records, and more documenting Native Americans throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Featuring permanent and temporary exhibits, the museum documents the many ways American Indians are integrated into American history and culture by examining individual tribes and notable figures in history. Current exhibits delve deep into the treaties between the United States and Native American nations and why Native Americans serve in the United States Armed Forces.

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jackson mississippi
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Highlighting the people and places in Mississippi that changed a nation, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson features eight galleries filled with interactive exhibits that tell the stories of oppressed black Mississippians and their struggle for equality from 1945 to 1976 .

You’ll hear the stories of Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Vernon Dahmer, but you’ll also hear about the many men, women, and children who also fought to be recognized as equal not only as Mississippians and Americans, but also as as human beings with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Artifacts include a “colored” entrance sign, separate school textbooks, the rifle used to murder Evers, a burnt cross and a button from the 1966 Fear March.

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans

New Orleans’ #1 attraction, the National WWII Museum, takes an in-depth look at why WWII was fought, how the Allies won, and what that victory means today through exhibitions, personal testimonies and multimedia experiences spread across five galleries.

Visitors can see how the United States became involved in the war, explore key moments such as D-Day and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and step into the shoes of those who had to make difficult decisions during the war . You can even take a 4D journey through the war in “Beyond All Boundaries,” narrated by Tom Hanks.

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Arizona Musical Instrument Museum
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With over 8,000 instruments from more than 200 countries, the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona focuses on the instruments that people around the world play every day. Each piece demonstrates to what extent music is a universal language, a language that will not be denied, regardless of place or circumstance.

From examining the inner workings of a Steinway grand piano to an African xylophone to a Japanese shõ mouth organ, it’s amazing how music has come to life over the years. There’s even an exhibit featuring instruments made from recycled and discarded materials, including oil drums, cooking utensils, water pipes and x-rays.

Booth Museum of Western Art
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In association with the Smithsonian Institution, the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia presents the nation’s largest permanent exhibition of Western American art. Paintings, sculptures, photographs and more document the people and places that lived in the West.

In the Frank Harding Cowboy Gallery, all cowboys, including Blacks, Caucasians, Hispanics, and Asians, are honored in a variety of artwork. A notable gallery is the Carolyn & James Millar Presidential Gallery, which features a signed one-page letter from every U.S. president. There’s even an interactive gallery, Sagebrush Ranch, aimed at kids ages 2-12.

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Bishop Museum in Hawaii

In Honolulu, the Bishop Museum pays homage to Hawaiian culture and heritage through more than 25 million historical, cultural and natural artifacts. The objects are displayed in permanent and temporary exhibitions such as “Taxonomy: Our Lives Depend On It”, which examines how the identification and naming of plants and animals affect our daily lives.

Don’t forget to take a look at the museum’s exterior murals, which bring together traditional culture, creative expression and Indigenous perspectives.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, visitors can experience a haunting, narrative history of the Holocaust that claimed the lives of an estimated six million European Jews and at least five million prisoners of war.

Exhibits include historical artifacts, photographs, video footage, and personal testimonies from victims and survivors. It also includes an exhibit that examines American responses to Nazism, war, and genocide, as well as an exhibit that shares the experiences of Americans who saw first-hand evidence of Nazi atrocities. It’s a harrowing but necessary step back in history that everyone should see.

Oklahoma City National Museum and Memorial
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Located in the heart of Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum documents the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and honors the victims, survivors, and community that was at never changed by the event. Visitors can learn the stories of those who died that day as well as those who survived, as well as walk through law enforcement efforts to piece together what happened not only to find and arrest the suicide bombers, but also to gather the evidence needed to bring the suicide bombers to justice.

Once there, take the time to stroll among the field of empty chairs at the outer symbolic Memorial, which represents the victims.

These are just a few of the best museums in the United States, but there are so many more to explore.


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