Seven Phenomenal Museums on the East Coast

From French sculpture to modern art, airplanes to an iconic elephant, there’s so much to explore at these museums on the East Coast.

Whether you live on the East Coast or you’re just looking for a reason to visit, you can’t go wrong with spending an afternoon in a world-class museum. A museum visit enriches your life, giving you the opportunity to wander through centuries of history and art. From ancient Egyptian art to American military aircraft, these museums have so much to offer. 

Which one do you want to visit the most?

Guggenheim Museum, New York City, New York

Exterior of Guggenheim Museum in New York City, NY
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Visit this iconic and internationally-renowned art museum located in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Marvel at the design of the building, designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Once inside, you’ll be surrounded by stunning exhibitions of modern and contemporary art.

The Guggenheim is dedicated to showcasing art from the 1900s forward, and there are rotating exhibitions. Make sure you look online to see which artists will be featured before you plan your visit. You can also explore the Thannhauser Collection, which highlights the masters of modern art.

Carolinas Aviation Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina

Airplane inside Carolinas Aviation Museum
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Located near Charlotte Douglas Airport, the Carolinas Aviation Museum is a Smithsonian affiliate. Although the museum is currently closed, when they reopen there will be plenty to explore!

Discover different civil, commercial, and military aircraft, as well as helicopters. While you may not be able to go inside each aircraft, you can still see them up close and personal. You can also learn about the different aircraft and artifacts from the beginning of aviation. There’s even an exhibition about the miracle landing on the Hudson (which was featured in the Tom Hanks movie Captain Sully).

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

If you love French artwork, then you’ll love the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In this museum’s collection, you’ll find Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings from artists like Cezanne, Degas, Monet, Cassatt, Morisot, and Renoir. If you’ve seen the famous sculpture “The Thinker,” and wanted to see more from its creator, Rodin, you can find a fantastic collection of his work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Along with exceptional French art, the museum contains fantastic American works, too. You’ll see paintings, sculptures, furniture, ceramics, silver, and more from artists who lived in Philadelphia and beyond. Interestingly, and luckily for fans of medieval knights, the Philadelphia Museum of Art also contains the second-largest collection of arms and armors in the country.

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Alexandria Black History Museum, Alexandria, Virginia

Sign outside the Alexandria Black History Museum
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While it’s currently closed for renovations, the Alexandria Black History Museum is a must-see when it reopens. The museum’s mission is “to enrich the lives of Alexandria’s residents and visitors, to foster tolerance and understanding, and to stimulate appreciation for the diversity of the African American experience.”

Inside, you’ll find one permanent exhibition and a rotating exhibition. Next door is the Watson Reading Room, which currently contains over 3,000 texts documenting African American history. You can’t check out the materials, but you can learn more about African American history while you’re there.

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Smithsonian Castle in Washington DC
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The Smithsonian Institution is actually 21 museums, a zoo, and research facilities as well as other outposts, but we’ll focus just on the museums in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall. You’ll find the Smithsonian Castle, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, a Smithsonian Garden, and more. 

Unless you have unlimited time in Washington D.C., you’ll probably have to pick and choose your favorites. Before you visit, explore the Smithsonian’s information-packed website, and then schedule your itinerary based on what’s most interesting to you. One thing’s certain: no matter which museum you visit, you won’t be disappointed. 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts

Exterior of Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
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This museum isn’t just one of the best on the East Coast; it’s one of the best museums in the entire world. According to their website, “Today the MFA is one of the most comprehensive art museums in the world; the collection encompasses nearly 500,000 works of art

“We welcome more than one million visitors each year to experience art from ancient Egyptian to contemporary, special exhibitions, and innovative educational programs.” Their collections range from Art of Africa and Oceania to Art of Ancient Greece and Rome to Musical Instruments and Photography, and so much more. With such a wide variety of artwork to appreciate, the Museum of Fine Art Boston calls for at least half, if not a full day of exploring.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY

Exterior of the Met in New York, NY
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Last but not least, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, NY is more than just a place for the rich and famous to celebrate at a gala each year. In fact, this amazing museum features over 5,000 years of art from around the world.

The Met’s expansive collection ranges from Islamic to Medieval Art, from European Sculpture to the Costume Institute, and so much in between. The American Wing of the Met contains around 20,000 American artists from colonial times to the early-modern period. 

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