American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Seven Major Art Experiences in America
More than three weeks ago, the travel site Tripbase featured a blog post about the seven most disappointing art exhibits in the world. Although I have yet to see all those on the list, I did indeed pay a visit to the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, during a long-ago trip to Rome, and I must admit to a definite sense of dismay at seeing the famous chapel ceiling. While I was admittedly impressed by Michelangelo's feat – after all, it couldn't have been easy to paint such detail on such an elevated surface during the Renaissance era – I was ultimately disappointed by the experience, which required enduring an incredibly lengthy line, only to be crammed into a throng of tourists, all craning to view images that are, in truth, too high to see and better appreciated in any number of art history books.
In a way, seeing the chapel reminded me of the difference between experiencing a football game in person and watching one on television. While being at a stadium definitely has its charms, it's often much easier to perceive the action with the help of various camera angles and instant replays.
Of course, there's nothing quite like experiencing a place or event firsthand, which is why traveling somewhere is far superior to reading about it in a book. It helps, though, when the experience is worth the hassle. So, if you're interested in art, consider visiting one or all of these seven major American institutions, all of which feature enormous permanent collections as well as fascinating temporary exhibitions.
The Art Institute of Chicago:
111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 312/443-3600, 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Wed., 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Thurs.-Fri., $18 adults, $12 seniors 65 and over, children 14-17, and students, children under 14 free
As I mentioned in a previous post, the Windy City boasts a variety of intriguing art collections, including the contemporary sculpture in Millennium Park. My favorite, though, is still the incredible Art Institute, which houses a humongous selection of sculpture, paintings, drawings, photographs, textiles, and other artwork – from ancient Egyptian pottery to Ansel Adams' black-and-white photographs to an outdoor sculpture garden. Some of the more popular exhibits include the Impressionist gallery, the arms and armor display, Marc Chagall's illuminated America Windows, and the Thorne Miniature Rooms, a collection of 68 miniature dioramas that illustrate a wide array of architectural styles and interior design periods.
de Young Museum:
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, California, 415/750-3600, 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Tues.-Sun., $10 adults, $7 seniors 65 and over, $6 children 13-17 and college students, children under 13 free
San Francisco residents and visitors alike appreciate the renovated de Young Museum, the highlight of Golden Gate Park. Established in 1895 and renovated in 2005, the de Young integrates innovative architecture and the natural landscape with a wonderful collection of artwork from Europe, Africa, the Pacific, the native Americas, and America circa 1670 through the present, including paintings by John Singleton Copley and Grant Wood.
J. Paul Getty Museum:
Getty Center: 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California, 310/440-7300, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tues.-Fri. and Sun., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat., free
Getty Villa: 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, California, 310/440-7300, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Mon., free
The J. Paul Getty Museum, a well-favored cultural gem of Los Angeles, comprises two amazing locations: the Getty Center and the Getty Villa. As with San Francisco's de Young Museum, the gleaming white Getty Center – which houses European sculpture, paintings, drawings, manuscripts, photographs, and decorative arts – blends stunning modern architecture with the surrounding landscape. Visitors also appreciate the serene gardens and breathtaking city views – sometimes, even more than the art. The Getty Villa, meanwhile, presents Roman-inspired architecture and gardens near the Malibu coast, plus an incredible collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art:
5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, 323/857-6000, noon-8 p.m. Mon.-Tues. and Thurs., noon-9 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sat.-Sun., $15 adults, $10 seniors 62 and over, $10 students 18 and over, children under 18 free
In addition to the Getty, Los Angeles boasts a number of worthwhile art museums, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Consisting of several large exhibition buildings, LACMA houses a vast array of paintings, prints, sculpture, textiles, photography, and decorative artwork from around the world, including Korean ceramics, German Expressionist paintings, modern furniture, and drawings by Rembrandt, Matisse, and van Gogh. Beyond the extensive permanent collection and ever-changing exhibitions, however, LACMA also offers periodic concerts, film screenings, and other cultural events.
The Metropolitan Musem of Art:
1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, 212/535-7710, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. and Sun., 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., $20 adults, $15 seniors 65 and older, $10 students, children under 12 free
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – founded in 1870 and nicknamed the Met – is not only one of the finest attractions in New York; it's also one of the world's largest museums, housing more than two million works of art. Situated in Central Park, the expansive Met captures more than 5,000 years of world culture, from Mesopotamian jewelry to Paul Gauguin's drawings to 1930s-style French evening wear.
National Gallery of Art:
4th and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 202/737-4215, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun., free
Created in 1937 and located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the National Gallery of Art features a wide assortment of prints, drawings, photographs, furniture, ceramics, tapestries, European sculpture, and paintings from around the world. The National Gallery also oversees an impressive sculpture garden, and it's not far from the stupendous Smithsonian Institution, which encompasses several art museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and the National Museum of African Art.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum:
1071 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, 212/423-3500, 10 a.m.-5:45 p.m. Sun.-Wed. and Fri., 10 a.m.-7:45 p.m. Sat., $18 adults, $15 seniors 65 and over and students, children under 12 free
Though New York is rife with art museums and gallery districts, most residents and visitors would probably agree that the iconic Guggenheim is a must-see attraction. Focused on 20th-century artwork – such as masterpieces by Monet, Picasso, and van Gogh – this renowned institution also presents lectures, classes, performances, film screenings, and contemporary art exhibitions.
Naturally, this list just scratches the surface of America's love affair with art. From the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the Detroit Institute of Arts to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts, this country offers a wealth of marvelous art collections. The only problem, perhaps, is the impossibility of seeing them all in one lifetime. In fact, even the seven listed here are too massive and ever-changing to experience completely. Of course, it doesn't hurt to try. So, good luck, art lovers – may you have some wonderful art museum experiences in 2011!
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of The Art Institute of Chicago / Text © 2011 Laura Martone