France has the Louvre, Italy has the Vatican Museum and England has the British Museum. But America also has many of the world’s greatest museums, featuring many of the world’s most famous and most recognizable works of art. Best of all, many of the nation’s top museums require just a small fee or are absolutely free. Here are five of the best museums in America.
National Gallery of Art
6th St. and Constitution Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20565
The National Gallery of Art is one of just many top museums that can be found in the nation’s capital. Located on the National Mall between Third and Ninth streets, the gallery houses a considerable collection of European and American paintings, including the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in North America. In addition to da Vinci’s “Ginerva de’ Benci,” other notable works of art include Monet’s “House of Parliament,” Vermeer’s “A Lady Writing a Letter,” Rosseau’s “The Equatorial Jungle,” Jacques-Louis David’s “Napoleon in His Study,” Edward Hicks’ “Peaceable Kingdom,” Childe Hassam’s “Allies Day” and Jackson Pollock’s “Number 1, 1950.” Admission to the National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden is free.
Related: Your City Guide to Washington D.C.
The Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603
The Art Institute of Chicago is arguably the best museum in America and certainly among the world’s best. Founded in 1879, the institute is the second largest museum in America and houses more than three million works of art. The Art Institute has one of the world’s finest collections of European paintings, including van Gogh’s “The Bedroom,” Rembrandt’s “Old Man with a Gold Chain,” Renoir’s “Two Sisters” and Monet’s “Water Lily Pond.” However, the most famous painting at the Art Institute of Chicago may be by that of an American – Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.” Other notable American artists whose work are part of the museum’s permanent collection are Georgia O’Keefe, James Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Home and Edward Hopper, immortalized by his 1942 oil on canvas painting “Nighthawks.”
The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90049
The Getty Center is one of two locations that comprise the world-renowned J. Paul Getty Museum. Located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, the Center’s vast collection includes Greek and Roman antiquities and priceless European paintings. Among the most notable works of art are Renaissance drawings from Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Monet’s “Sunrise,” van Gogh’s “Irises” and other works from artists such as Renoir, Rembrandt, Munch, Pissaro and Jackson Pollock. There is no admission fee to the Getty Center but parking is $15. Visitors can take the Getty Center tram from the parking lot to the hilltop museum complex.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 5th Ave.
New York, NY 10028
Located along New York’s Museum Row in the Upper East Side, the Met is the largest museum in the country. The museum’s permanent collection holds more than two million works of art, including many of the world’s most famous paintings. Notable works of art include van Gogh’s “Wheat Field with Cypresses” and “Self Portrait with a Straw Hat,” Vermeer’s “Young Woman with a Water Pitcher” and “Study of a Young Woman,” Monet’s “Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies” and Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” Easily the most visited museum in the country, the Metropolitan Museum recently announced that 6.2 million people visited the museum in the last fiscal year. The recommended fee to visit the Met is $25.
1000 Jefferson Drive S.W.
Washington, DC 20004
Comprised of 19 museums, nine research centers and the National Zoological Park, the Smithsonian Institution is the largest museum and research complex in the world. Eleven of the Smithsonian museums are located on the National Mall, including the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History and the National Portrait Gallery. Many of America’s greatest treasures are housed within the national museums, including the authentic Star Spangled Banner and Dorothy’s ruby slippers at the National Museum of American History, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and the 1903 Wright Flyer at the National Air and Space Museum and the Lansdowne portrait of “George Washington” at the National Portrait Gallery. Because the Smithsonian Institution lies on federal property, admission is free to all visitors.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.