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.
Alabama: U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Huntsville is home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, the best museum in Alabama. The museum has one of the most extensive collections of space and rocket artifacts in America
Ken Thomas/Wikimedia Commons
Alaska: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center
This Alaskan museum boasts art exhibits, a history section, and a smaller science museum inside. According to one enthusiastic reviewer, it's a "must-see while in Anchorage."
Arizona: Musical Instrument Museum
Phoenix's Musical Instrument Museum has the largest collection of instruments in the world. It houses over 15,000 instruments, a few concert halls, and interactive musical experiences.
Arkansas: The Walmart Museum
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."
The Walmart Museum/Yelp
California: The Getty Center
California has many wonderful museums, but The Getty is its crown jewel. The Getty gets nearly 2 million visitors every year who come to take in its sweeping views of Los Angeles as well as its historic art. Even celebrities go to The Getty.
Colorado: Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum
This railroad-focused museum in Colorado will transport you back to the time of cowboys and the early settlers of the Old West. You'll see gorgeous views of rocky canyons and untouched wilderness.
Milan Suvajac/Wikimedia Commons
Connecticut: Yale University Art Gallery
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.
Delaware: Hagley Museum and Library
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.
Florida: Salvador Dali Museum
Look inside the colorful world of Salvador Dali inside the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. Many of the surrealist's paintings, sketches sculptures, and photographs housed in this Florida building that is shaped like a rectangle from which a free-form geodesic glass bubble explodes.
Georgia: National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center
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.
Hawaii: Bishop Museum
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!
Mark Miller/Wikimedia Commons
Idaho: Idaho Potato Museum
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.
Illinois: The Art Institute of Chicago
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!
Indiana: Dream Car Museum
If you go to the Dream Car Museum in Evansville you're going to see exotics, classics, muscle cars, race cars, movie and TV cars - basically every car you've ever dreamed about. Plus, it's free to visit.
Iowa: National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
This Dubuque museum is a great time for families. Go on a boat ride, see a 4D film in the National Mississippi River Museum amphitheater, or even pet a sting ray while you're learning all about marine life.
Kansas: Oz Museum
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.
Kentucky: Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
Whether you're going because you're passionate about baseball bats or Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," you're sure to have a great time at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. You can stand beneath the world's largest baseball bat and see how these iconic bats are made.
Louisiana: The National WWII Museum
"Sobering yet invigorating!" is how one reviewer explained their experience at Louisiana's National WWII Museum in New Orleans. The historic museum is a far cry from Bourbon Street, but it's a Smithsonian classic.
Maine: Portland Head Light
The oldest lighthouse in Maine is also a museum. This lighthouse at the entrance of Portland Harbor offers stunning views from its top. Check it out on your next visit to Maine.
Maryland: American Visionary Art Museum
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."
Massachusetts: Museum of Fine Arts
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.
Michigan: The Henry Ford
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.
Minnesota: Spam Museum and Visitor Center
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.
Mississippi: Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum
This museum is a must-see if you love Elvis Presley. Not only will you see the home in Tupelo where the King of Rock n' Roll was born, but you'll see a chapel and the Assembly of God church building where the family worshipped.
Missouri: City Museum
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.
Montana: World Museum of Mining
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.
Nebraska: The Durham Museum
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.
Ali Eminov/Wikimedia Commons
Nevada: The Mob Museum
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!
New Hampshire: Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center
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."
New Jersey: Silverball Pinball Museum
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.
New Mexico: Meow Wolf
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.
New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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.
North Carolina: Wright Brothers National Memorial
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.
North Dakota: National Buffalo Museum
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.
Ohio: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
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.
Oklahoma: National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
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.
Oregon: Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum
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.
Pennsylvania: Gettysburg Museum & Visitor Center
Step back into U.S. history at the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center. This destination is dedicated to the Civil War and contains relics from battle, documents, and Civil War-era firearms. You can even walk through Gettysburg National Military Park, although we hear it's haunted.
Rhode Island: National Museum of American Illustration
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.
National Museum of American Illustration/Yelp
South Carolina: The Kazoo Factory
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.
South Dakota: Mammoth Site of Hot Springs
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.
Tennessee: Titanic Museum
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.
Texas: The Alamo
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.
Utah: Thanksgiving Point
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.
Vermont: Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home
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.
Virginia: Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
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.
Washington: Experience Music Project Museum (EMP)
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.
Washington, D.C.: Newseum
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.
West Virginia: Archive of the Afterlife: The National Museum of the Paranormal
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?
Left: Steve H./Yelp; Right: Archive of the Afterlife “The National Museum of the Paranormal”/Yelp
Wisconsin: History Museum at the Castle
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!
Wyoming: Buffalo Bill Center of the West
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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