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The 12 Best Museums in the Northeastern USA

February 1, 2023 By CityPASS

Unsurprisingly, the oldest region of the United States is a well-known hotspot for its fascinating history and cutting-edge scientific community. But it also has an impressively robust art and culture scene. Here's our round-up of the best museums in the Northeastern United States. Why not make time to visit them all?

12 Must-See Museums in the Northeastern USA

Museum of the American Revolution: Philadelphia

Located minutes from the Liberty Bell, this collection of displays, artifacts, and engaging multimedia takes visitors on a crash course through early American history.

The museum has four sections of core exhibits, all charting a different aspect of how the United States came into existence. Visit on weekends to freely explore Revolution Place. This interactive exhibit features a recreated 18th-century meeting house, tavern, home, and military encampment.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA): New York

This famous contemporary art museum houses an extensive mixture of portraiture, sculpture, architecture, and design works. Permanent exhibits each represent a period, from the 1880s to the present day, creating a theme in itself.

MoMA also has a library with 300,000+ books and a 30,000-strong film collection. It holds seasonal and rotating exhibits, live performances, and an audio-guided tour so that you can learn the stories behind famous art pieces.

Barnes Foundation: Philadelphia

Albert C. Barnes loved Impressionist and post-Impressionist art. He chartered the Barnes Foundation in 1922, offering public access to his collection to teach everyone in the local area how to look at art. The collection now features works from Native American, European, and African artists. It's also home to antiquities from Egypt, Greece, and China.

The Barnes Foundation has 900 paintings, including ones by Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, and Cézanne, to name a few.

Harvard Museum of Natural History: Boston

Lovers of the natural world are spoilt for choice at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. The most-visited attraction at Harvard University offers 16 galleries, and its permanent collection includes:

  • Blaschka Glass Flowers: A world-famous collection of over 4,300 hyper-realistic glass botanical models, some of which were created over 120 years ago.
  • Earth & Planetary Sciences: Thousands of rare minerals and sparkling gemstones, and the chance to touch specimens dated from the beginning of our solar system.
  • Romer Hall of Vertebrate Paleontology: Spectacularly preserved dinosaurs, fish, and early mammals, including the first Triceratops skull ever discovered.

Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial: Philadelphia

The Battleship New Jersey was launched in 1942 and participated in 21 battles over almost 50 years. Step onboard to look around the most decorated battleship in the U.S.

The battleship offers two 90-minute tours that include just the ship itself. The Fire Power Tour allows you to wander the navigational bridge, Wardroom, and berthing area. The City at Sea Tour is narrated by knowledgeable guides and brings visitors to more crew-focused areas of the ship.

American Museum of Natural History: New York

There's something for everyone at the American Museum of Natural History. With 45 exhibition halls and countless ancient artifacts, this natural history museum has one of the world's largest collections of dinosaur fossils. One notable resident is "Lucy," one of the most complete skeletons of the early hominids.

The museum has a 2,500-square-foot recreation of a portion of one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth, the Dzanga-Sangha rainforest. And you can see a visual display of the 13 billion years of the universe at the Hayden Planetarium.

The Franklin Institute: Philadelphia

Philadelphia's Franklin Institute does a stellar job of making science fun for kids and adults. Subjects that might seem boring in other contexts are brought to life through innovative hands-on experiences, exhibits, and films. Visitors can partake in live science demonstrations, including watching a cloud appear in mid-air or learning how to make an explosion from simple elements.

National Constitution Center: Philadelphia

Go to the National Constitution Center if you're looking for the lowdown on early America's rich history. The center's main exhibit, The Story of We the People, combines historical artifacts, documents, and multimedia to illustrate the Constitution's continuing influence.

The museum features other fascinating displays, like its 42 bronze statues of the Founding Fathers or the 360-degree live performance of how the Constitution became what it is today. Learn how the Civil War changed the Constitution and experience an in-depth look at women's fight for the vote.

9/11 Memorial & Museum: New York

The 9/11 Memorial is an unforgettable tribute to the people who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks on February 26, 1993, and September 11, 2001.

Sunken twin pools set into the Twin Towers' foundations feature the names of every victim inscribed in bronze. The adjacent museum looks deeply into details before, during, and after the attacks. The Memorial and Museum evoke grief at such a monumental loss, allow visitors to put a story to the name of each victim, and inspire hope in how tragedy can ignite beautiful acts of compassion.

Museum of Science: Boston

Boston's Museum of Science features planetarium shows, IMAX films, temporary exhibits, live presentations, and more than 700 permanent interactive exhibits.

Amongst all the other impressive museums in Boston, this one is on a clear mission — to inspire a lifelong love of science in everyone. Engaging nearly five million people a year, the museum's staff believe when science belongs to all of us, we can use it for the global good.

Eastern State Penitentiary: Philadelphia

This imposing 1829 building, with its gothic architecture, functioned as an active prison until 1971. Now, you can tour the complex and put yourself in the shoes of infamous inmates like Al Capone or "Slick Willie" Sutton.

Interactive experiences include visiting the hospital and being given the keys to your very own cell. Permanent exhibits invite you to connect with Jewish life at the prison, 23 murals of the Catholic chaplains, rotating art installations, and essential questions about mass incarceration today.

Guggenheim Museum: New York

Starting life as a private art collection, the Guggenheim Museum opened its doors to the public in 1959. Since then, it has showcased both a permanent collection and an ever-changing selection of exhibits. One highlight is the Thannhauser Collection, featuring artwork that includes over 30 Picassos, plus a handful from Kandinsky, Gauguin, Degas, and others.

The curves and jutting corners of the Guggenheim's impressive architecture are their own marvel. This museum is truly a must-visit for any lover of aesthetics in NYC.

Tour the Best Museums at a Discount

Want to save money when you visit the best museums in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, and beyond? Pick up CityPASS® tickets for great deals on popular museums across U.S. cities.

Header image Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art © 2020

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