As globetrotters and seasoned connoisseurs of culture, the editors at the Pursuitist have journeyed to the four corners of the United States, delving deep into the country’s rich and diverse tapestry of artistic treasures. After careful and considered exploration, we’re delighted to unveil our curated list of the ‘Top 5 Best Art Museums in the US for 2023‘. Each iconic and inspiring destination on our list is a testament to human creativity, housing extraordinary collections that span continents and centuries. As you map out your cultural voyages for the coming year, be sure to anchor your itinerary with these must-visit artistic and creative inspired destinations.
1. The Art Institute of Chicago: The Best of 2023
Located in Grant Park, The Art Institute of Chicago stands as an indomitable icon of culture and history. With an expansive collection that spans 5,000 years and includes over 300,000 works from around the globe, it encapsulates the essence of human creativity. Its diverse range of exhibits has something for every art lover. From ancient artifacts to modern and contemporary art, it covers every era and style.
The museum is celebrated for its unique collection of American Art, including the much beloved “American Gothic” by Grant Wood and Mary Cassatt’s “The Child’s Bath”. The Thorne Miniature Rooms, another unique feature, is a set of 68 miniature rooms that intricately replicate European and American interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s.
In 2023, the museum continues to impress us with its ever-evolving exhibits and special programs. This year, it’s all about exploring the impact of digital media on contemporary art and culture – making it our must-visit art destination.
- Highlights: Be sure to see Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and the Thorne Miniature Rooms.
- Hours: Open Wednesday-Monday, 10:30 am–5:00 pm; Thursday until 8:00 pm.
- Dining: Visit Terzo Piano for Italian-inspired fare, or the Museum Cafe for a quick bite.
- Visiting Tip: Reserve time for the Thorne Miniature Rooms and the modern wing housing contemporary and modern art.
2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: The Quintessential Cultural Mecca
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, often referred to as The Met, sits majestically on the edge of Central Park. With over 2 million works of art spanning over 5,000 years, The Met is not just an art museum—it’s a journey across the world’s collective history and imagination.
Home to masterpieces from every corner of the globe, The Met is particularly famed for its comprehensive collection of European paintings, where one can find works from all the Old Masters. Its extensive collection from Egypt includes the iconic Temple of Dendur. 2023 has seen The Met embrace the theme of “Inclusivity and Diversity,” hosting a wide range of exhibits that celebrate artists of all races and backgrounds. This dedication to showcasing diverse voices makes The Met a top choice for 2023.
- Highlights: Discover works from Rembrandt to Vermeer in the European paintings section, and don’t miss the Egyptian Art galleries, which include the Temple of Dendur.
- Hours: Sunday–Tuesday and Thursday: 10:00 am–5:00 pm; Friday and Saturday: 10:00 am–9:00 pm.
- Dining: Grab a bite at the Great Hall Balcony Bar overlooking the magnificent Great Hall.
- Visiting Tip: Be sure to check out the rooftop garden for changing installations and a stunning view of the city.
The Met Cloisters
Not only an architectural gem, but The Met Cloisters also offers a one-of-a-kind museum experience. This branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe.
- Situated in Fort Tryon Park, offering sweeping views of the Hudson River
- Houses a collection of over 5,000 medieval artworks, including the famous Unicorn Tapestries
- The building itself is constructed from five French cloistered abbeys, transporting visitors to a different era
- The gardens are a must-visit, featuring over 300 species of plants used during the Middle Ages
- Café on site serving light fare and beverages
- Easily accessible via public transportation or a short cab ride from downtown Manhattan
- Open seven days a week, with varied hours depending on the season; check their website for the most accurate information.
3. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles: A West Coast Marvel
Perched atop a hill in Brentwood with panoramic views of Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, commonly referred to as The Getty, is an ode to architecture and the visual arts. The stunning Richard Meier-designed campus is a work of art in itself, housing an extensive collection of European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts.
The Getty has long been admired for its remarkable holdings of European paintings, which include iconic works like Vincent van Gogh’s “Irises.” Its collection of French decorative arts from the reign of Louis XIV is also unparalleled. This year, The Getty has prioritized exhibits that explore the intersections of art and technology, making it a destination that feels particularly relevant for 2023.
- Highlights: Don’t miss Vincent Van Gogh’s “Irises” and the exquisite French decorative arts in the Getty Center.
- Hours: Tuesday–Friday and Sunday: 10:00 am–5:30 pm; Saturday: 10:00 am–9:00 pm.
- Dining: Enjoy a refined dining experience at The Restaurant at the Getty Center.
- Visiting Tip: The outdoor sculpture garden is a must-see. Plan to stay for sunset to enjoy an unparalleled view of the city below.
4. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: A Testament to Timeless Art
In the heart of Boston, a short distance from historic Fenway Park, the Museum of Fine Arts stands as a testament to humanity’s enduring love affair with art. With over 450,000 works of art, it is one of the most comprehensive art museums in the world.
From Ancient Egyptian artifacts to modern and contemporary art, the Museum of Fine Arts offers an encyclopedic exploration of human creativity. It’s particularly revered for its impressive collection of American Art. This year, the museum has placed a significant focus on highlighting local artists, providing a platform to the Boston area’s vibrant and diverse art community.
Just a stone’s throw away, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum offers an intimate and eclectic art experience, with an art collection personally curated by Isabella Stewart Gardner, a leading American art collector, philanthropist, and patron of the arts.
- Highlights: Standouts include John Singer Sargent’s “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” and works from Monet and Degas.
- Hours: Wednesday–Friday: 10:00 am–10:00 pm; Saturday–Tuesday: 10:00 am–5:00 pm.
- Dining: Sample New American cuisine at Bravo or grab a coffee at Taste.
- Visiting Tip: Don’t miss the Japanese Garden and Art of the Americas Wing. Also, the nearby Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, designed to resemble a 15th-century Venetian palace, offers a unique art experience.
5. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C: A Nation’s Treasure
Situated on the National Mall in Washington D.C., the National Gallery of Art holds the nation’s memories through its rich collection of European and American art. From the founding fathers to the diverse voices of the modern age, the gallery presents the American story in a global context through visual arts.
The museum is lauded for its collection of Italian Renaissance, French Impressionism, and American art from the 19th and 20th centuries. It also boasts the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas. In 2023, the museum continues to inspire with its emphasis on showcasing works that reflect the country’s diverse heritage and complex history.
- Highlights: Be sure to see Leonardo da Vinci’s “Ginevra de’ Benci” and the impressive sculpture garden.
- Hours: Monday–Saturday: 10:00 am–5:00 pm; Sunday: 11:00 am–6:00 pm.
- Dining: Enjoy a range of dining options from casual to fine dining across the East and West Buildings and the Sculpture Garden.
- Visiting Tip: Take advantage of free public tours and the children’s audio tour for family visits.
The pursuit of art can lead us down the most extraordinary paths, offering glimpses into the heart of human creativity and revealing the profound ways in which art interprets life. As the new year unfolds, we encourage you to embark on your own artistic odyssey across the United States, making a pilgrimage to these iconic institutions. Each one offers a unique and enriching perspective, and they collectively reflect the extraordinary breadth and depth of art’s enduring appeal. In the exploration of art, we often find that we also explore ourselves – our perceptions, our understandings, our humanity.
Onwards, fellow art enthusiasts, to the galleries of dreams and inspiration. These top 5 museums await you in 2023.
Christopher Parr, is the Editor and Chief Content Creator for Pursuitist, and a contributing writer to USA Today, Business Insider — and the on-air host of Travel Tuesday on Live at 4 CBS. He is an award-winning luxury marketing veteran, writer, a frequent speaker at luxury and interactive marketing conferences and a pioneer in web publishing. Named a "Top 10 Luxury Travel Blogger” by USA Today, Parr has also been selected as the official winner in Luxury Lifestyle Awards’ 2023 list of the “Top 50 Best Luxury Influencers and Bloggers in the World.”