50 States, 50 Museums, 50 Awesome Things to Do This Summer

Hayley Milliman - Content Lead

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Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…

If you take our advice and check out a museum this summer, that is!
Museums are, in our humble opinion, the best place to spend a summer day. You can have fun, you can learn, and you can, for at least a few hours, escape the wretched heat.

If you’re looking for an adventure this summer, look no further than this list! We’ve curated some of the best goings-on happening at museums around the US this summer. Be sure to check out the one nearest you, or, if you’re ambitious, pack your bags and try to hit all 50!

Alabama

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

The Birmingham Civil Rights Museum is a truly unique and beautiful space that elevates our history with events, tours, multimedia exhibits and so much more. Our country has a complicated past, and this museum in the heart of the southern American states beautifully addresses our nuanced, troubled and powerful history.

Alaska

Anchorage Museum

Summer Bike Tour: Public Gardens, Thursday, August 9 5:30PM

If your summer vacation takes you to Alaska, chances are you love outdoor activities like biking and hiking. The Anchorage Museum programs tours designed to enrich your life through art while enjoying the great outdoors. The Bike Tour leaves from the Museum and lasts roughly 2 – 3 hours. When you’re through, step into the Museum’s air conditioning, and check out the way cool art exhibits!

Arizona

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West

The Rattlesnake’s Kiss, Saturday, July 28 1 – 2 PM

What better way to learn about the great west than through drama? Enjoy a dramatic reading of Jethro Compton’s third installment of his Frontier Trilogy: The Rattlesnake’s Kiss. This modern dramatic reading harkens back to the tropes of old western films – you get the best of both worlds!

Arkansas

Museum of Discovery

Tinkerfest, Saturday, September 15, All Day

Tinkerers, this one’s for you! Participate in this day-long festival of hands-on activities in the museum and surrounding neighborhoods. No tinkering is off the table – prepare to be thoroughly engaged! And for your non-tinkering partners, the museum is full of exhibits and treats for all!

California

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

American Apotheosis, Sunday, August 26 1PM

For the high brow museum-goers of Los Angeles (visitors, too!) who crave a connection to the insanity of our current political climate and our past, come view Shahn, Mooney and the American Apotheosis, a recently acquired exhibit featuring the depression era artist Shan’s depiction of the interesting life of labor activist Tom Mooney. This is a think piece. Prepare yourself.

Colorado

El Pueblo History Museum

Farmers Market, Saturday, July 28, 8:30AM – 1PM

This one is pretty straightforward – a farmer’s market! It’s not Denver, it’s not Boulder, it’s El Pueblo. The beautiful community comes together at the city’s History Museum for their Farmer’s Market where you can purchase Colorado-only produce, trinkets and more. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day in Colorado!

Connecticut

Maritime Aquarium

There is so much to do at Norwalk’s Maritime Aquarium, one day is almost not enough time to enjoy its unique exhibits. Watch marine workers train seals and feed sharks, touch wet water creatures from the local waters of the Long Island Sound in the wonderfully curated touch tank, and get up close and personal with the giant ship that takes up most of the lobby. Take my word for it – you won’t want to leave!

Delaware

Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library

Dining by Design, April 1, 2018–January 6, 2019

Delaware has no shortage of interesting museums but this one is unique in its beauty and innovative exhibits. This summer, learn about why we dine the way we dine as this exhibit walks its viewers through the history of how humans eating traditions have evolved. Yum!

Florida

The Dali Museum

Cult Classics: Die Hard, Thursday, August 7, 7PM – 11PM

If you love the art of Salvador Dali and you love the movie Die Hard, this event is specifically cultivated for you! Any fan of the weird and wacky in art and film will simply love this out-door, come-as-you are viewing of the cult classic Die Hard at this fancy-free art museum.

Georgia

Center for Civil and Human Rights

Under My Hood, Sunday, July 29, 6PM – 8:30PM

The Center for Civil and Human Rights is worth a visit all of its own, but this performance is especially intriguing. The center will act as a safe performance space where storytellers of diverse backgrounds share their tales of their experience of assumptions, stereotypes and humanity.

Hawaii

Iolani Palace, Honolulu

Royal Hawaiian Band Concerts, Fridays, 12 noon

Take an a-typical trip on the Island of Honolulu to the Iolani Palace. Learn about the royal Hawaiians of the past, and on most Fridays at noon you can hear the Royal Hawaiian Band play on the lawn.

Idaho

Museum of Idaho

Veggie to Vodka, Friday, July 20, 7:30pm – 9:30pm

Join Grand Teton Distillery and MOI for a presentation on the fascinating science that transforms our everyday Idaho potatoes into one of the world’s most potent and popular adult beverages. Tastings and hors d’oeuvres included, 21 + only.

Illinois

The Art Institute of Chicago

Never a Lovely So Real, on display through October 26

The Art Institute of Chicago has many exhibits worth visiting, and this summer one of them is Never a Lovely So Real: Photography and Film in Chicago, 1950-1980. Travel back in time and imagine yourself in the Chicago of yesteryear in this moving exhibit.

Indiana

Eiteljorg Museum

Interwoven: Native American Basket Weaving, on display through August 5

Visit this inimitable museum and learn about the rich tradition of Native American Basket Weaving. The exhibit is on display until August 5 this summer – a perfect way to pay homage to the many different histories of our states and country.

Iowa

Figge Art Museum

Guided Meditation, Selected Sundays at 5:30pm

If you find yourself in Iowa this summer, take a beat. In this crazy, overstimulated world we often seek refuge in the temperature-controlled halls of museums. It’s only natural that a guided meditation would take place in those halls as well – go, learn and relax.

Kansas

Museum of World Treasures

A Night of Treasures Fundraising Gala, Saturday, July 21, 7PM – 11PM

An evening of food, drinks, dancing, and fun all in support of the Museum of World Treasures! For this year’s Fundraiser Gala, each floor of the Museum will host hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants and a slew of silent auction items donated to us by local sponsors! Peruse the museum’s unique treasures while bidding on a few of your own! And yes, there is a $50.00 price tag for entry but it does cover food drinks and dancing – what a fun night!! It is a fundraiser, after all.

Kentucky

Muhammad Ali Center

America to Zanzibar Exhibit, on display through December

Learn about the beauty of the Muslim cultures all across the world at the museum celebrating the memory of Muhammad Ali. This exhibit is without a doubt a great way to learn about this culture, second only to traveling the globe!

Louisiana

Louisiana State Museum

Free First Sunday, every month

Are you too busy to visit the Capitol Park Museum during the week? Bring the whole family to explore Louisiana’s history and culture for special hours on the First FREE Sunday of the month from 1-4:30pm! This event is free and open to the public.

Maine

Ogonquit Museum of American Art

Totally Tuesdays, Garden Talk, Tuesday, July 24, 6PM

Gardening as an art? Yes please! OMAA gardeners Carol Woodman and John Prendergast discuss their 22 years of experience tending to OMAA’s 3-acre seaside sculpture gardens. Light refreshments served at 5 p.m. Lecture is free with OMAA admission and always free for OMAA members.

Maryland

B & O Railroad Museum

Evolution Engine, Saturday, July 28, 10am – 3pm,  Sunday, July 29, 11am – 3pm

What do dinosaurs and trains have in common? Maybe nothing, but they sure make a fun afternoon! Bring the kids AND your inner kid for this wacky combo of history and science at one of Maryland’s most unique museums.

Massachusetts

Museum of Science

Cirque du Science, Thursday, September 6, 7PM – 9PM

Come one, come all: to the greatest party on Earth! Join the Museum’s Innovators on the riverfront Washburn Pavilion for an end-of-summer spectacular that is sure to leave you and your guests talking. Featuring acts from the Boston Circus Guild, an exclusive performance by Niki Luparelli and The Gold Diggers, street magic by Dezrah the Strange, and so much more, Cirque du Science will test your understanding of what a modern circus spectacular at the Museum of Science can be.

Michigan

Museum of African American History

And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture

This long-term exhibition serves as the central experience of the museum.  The 22,000 square-foot exhibition space contains more than 20 galleries that allow patrons to travel over time and across geographic boundaries.

Minnesota

Mill City Museum

Riverfront Then and Now, 1958 and 2008, on display through September 16

Minneapolis is home to one of the most breathtaking riverfronts in the US, full of history, character and undeniable charm. In this exhibit, learn about how this part of Minneapolis has changed with the times.

Mississippi

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art

One Destination, Two Masters – the slogan says it all. This museum is so full of activities there’s no way to promote just one! You’ll just have to go and visit yourself to understand the majesty and utter kookiness of the artwork of these two famous artists. Classes, exhibits, workshops and more – this museum is brimming with interesting things to do!

Missouri

St. Louis City Museum

Meet me in St. Louis and be prepared to access that inner-kid in you. The City Museum is one-of-a-kind, an unforgettable experience for kids of all ages. In the summer, you can access the roof for five bucks – but with floors and floors of interactive exhibits you might not even get to the roof! Be sure to check out their awesome website too: it’s almost as fun as the museum!

Montana

Montana Natural History Center

Hunting and Gathering Lecture Series: Medicinal Plants, Wednesday, August 15, 7PM -8:30 PM

Ever wondered about the lives of hunter-gatherers? Find out all you’d ever want to know when you visit Missoula, Montana’s Natural History Center. This program is designed specifically for adults, so get a babysitter for this one!

Nebraska

Joslyn Art Museum

Treasures of British Art, the Berger collection, on display until September 9

Treasures of British Art 1400–2000: The Berger Collection presents a rare opportunity to view one of the most important collections of British art in America. For the historically-minded art geek!

Nevada

The Neon Museum

Hot Yoga, Saturdays 4:30PM – 5:30PM

Blend your love of holistic exercise of the mind body and soul with your love of kitschy, glowing, neon signs – both American traditions at this point, right? This hot yoga class is conducted in the natural, outdoor heat of Nevada summer. Can you take the heat?

New Hampshire

Strawbery Banke Museum

Figtree Kitchen Cafe, Every Day, 10AM – 5PM,

Figtree describes itself as “a small batch artisan baker located on the New Hampshire Seacoast providing great tasting food that’s prepared fresh and made from scratch with the highest quality ingredients.” In other words, come for the gardens, stay for the baked goods. ‘Nuff said.

New Jersey

Insectropolis

Feeding Frenzy Fridays, happening July and August

The name says it all – this is an insect museum. And that’s right, the insects are alive! Those living insects need to eat, and on Fridays at 1:30PM the staff shows the museum’s visitors how it’s done. Surely not for the squeamish, and definitely for enthusiasts of the creepy and crawly!

New Mexico

Museum of International Folk Art

Summer Arts Alive, July 24 through August 9, 10AM – 2PM

The museum’s holdings represent diverse cultures and constitute the largest collection of international folk art in the world. In addition to some truly eye-opening exhibits, the Museum offers some unique classes as well. Want to learn Huichol Beading, how to design a glass bead or weave with trash? Here’s your chance!

New York

Opus 40

Set in the idyllic countryside at the foot of the Catskill Mountains, this sculpture park is so much more than a museum. Visit their website and pick out an event to attend, or just pack a picnic, grab your best friend, and get ready for a day of truly excellent cloud watching, surrounded by post-modern sculpture and wildflowers.

North Carolina

Life and Science Museum

Adult Summer Camp, Friday, July 27, 6:30PM – 10PM

Let’s face it, museums are one of the best places to give in to nostalgia and unleash your inner child. The Life and Science Museum in Durham facilitates that. Make friendship bracelets, practice archery, race your friends up a 28′ climbing wall, make s’mores, and create a perler bead masterpiece—with adult bevvies of course!

North Dakota

Heritage Center and State Museum

Cycling History Highways, Saturday, July 28, 12PM

Join archaeologists and cyclists as they cycle the highway to history! This route will take you a total of 52.7 miles between the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site (Oscar-Zero Missile Alert Facility and November-33 Launch Facility) and the Finley Air Force Station. Clearly only for folks who really really love bike riding and do it all the time anyway.

Ohio

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Incuya Music Festival, Saturday and Sunday, August 25 and 26

Looking for a music festival less expensive than Coachella and more musically diverse than Lollapalooza? Cleveland has you covered with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Incuya Festival. What? Halls of Fame are technically museums!

Oklahoma

Museum of Osteology

What is osteology? Osteology is the study of bones and skeletons. Cool, right? This museum displays over 350 skeletons from animal species all over the world. Might sound like the beginning to an indie horror flick – but who doesn’t like a good indie horror flick?

Oregon

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Portland’s Premier Movie Theater

In Portland, Oregon the biggest, most technologically advanced movie theater is inside of a museum. Catch the summer’s most thrilling blockbusters or a science documentary film festival – whatever you come to see, your movie viewing experience will be forever changed.

Pennsylvania

Barnes Foundation

Renoir: Father and Son/Painting and Cinema, daily through September 3, 1PM – 2:15PM

Ever heard of Renoir? Did you know he had a son? Did you know his son was into making movies? Well, now you do! Father and son shared muses, motifs, palettes, and a deep sense of place. Learn more about the artistic exchange between two masters of image-making.

Rhode Island

RISD Museum

Design the Night, July 19, 2018, 5PM – 9PM

Design your own summer night at the Museum with artists hailing from near and far, trendsetting libations, and indie soundscapes. Music performances, art projects and pop-up shows have the visitors in the middle of the action. A fun and innovative way to experience a museum!

South Carolina

Charleston Museum

Historic House Tours

A beautiful museum in its own right, the Charleston Museum offers tours of local historic houses as a lens through which we can view the history of the state of South Carolina. Exquisite and informative, these tours take place at several different mansions near the museum.

South Dakota

The National Music Museum

Are you a music lover? Will you be in Vermillion, South Dakota this summer? Hey, it’s possible! In fact, there is a whole museum for you. Go check out this historical treasure in a somewhat unlikely locale!

Tennessee

Cheekwood Estate and Gardens

Thursday Night Out, every summer week through August 30, 5PM – 10PM

Pack up the family for an evening under the stars featuring live music, food trucks, bars, and a featured outdoor art exhibition: Cracking Art. Thursday Night Out is free for Cheekwood members, and half-price for all not-yet members.

Texas

Meadows Museum

Drawing from the Masters, Sunday, July 29 1PM – 3:30PM

Nestled in one of the most beautiful college campuses in the whole USA, the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University is a gem of an art museum that you won’t want to miss, especially if you are a serious art lover. Enjoy an afternoon of informal drawing instruction as artist Ian O’Brien leads you through the Meadows Museum’s galleries.

Utah

Clark Planetarium

NASA Lunar Rock & Meteorite Certification, Tuesday, August 7, 9AM – 2:30PM

Are you a teacher or educator of some sort? Have you ever dreamt of being an astronaut? Here is your chance to get certified to take part in the Lunar and Meteorite Sample Disk Program (whatever that means). Registration is required. Lunch is provided!

Vermont

Burlington City Arts

Festival of Fools, Friday – Sunday, August 3 – 5, 10AM-10PM

Festival of Fools celebrates its 11th year devoted to community engagement through the celebration of circus arts, music and comedy for family audiences. In accord with Burlington City Arts’ mission to make the arts accessible in greater Burlington, Festival of Fools offers free events, open to the public and appropriate for all age groups.

Virginia

Colonial Williamsburg

AX THROWING! (and other cool stuff)

There’s a new trend circulating amongst the millenials that is both dangerous and steeped in history: Ax Throwing! This summer, visit Colonial Williamsburg to improve your form and see where it all began!

Washington

The Museum of Pop Culture

Universe of Superheroes, currently on display

Thought museums were strictly for relics? Fossils? Dead… things? Check out this museum dedicated to modern pop culture and flout the biggest stereotype about museums. Exhibits like their characters of the Marvel Universe are informative and fun. Plan your visit today!

West Virginia

Mothman Museum

In November 1966, eerie things began to occur in the small town of Point Pleasant.  Strange lights in the sky…mysterious “men in black”…and a flying red-eyed creature called Mothman changed this small West Virginia town….forever. Want to know more? Who wouldn’t??!! Check out this niche museum dedicated to the folklore of a small town in West Virginia.

Wisconsin

Circus World Museum

Grab the kids and run, don’t walk, to this exciting museum where you will learn more than you ever thought you’d know about circuses of all kinds. Summer fun lives here! A perfect museum visit for families.

Wyoming

The Brinton Museum, Big Horn

To Honor the Plains Nations, on display now

The Brinton Museum is located in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains on the historic 620-acre Quarter Circle A Ranch near Big Horn, Wyoming and presents 19th, 20th and 21st century Western and American Indian Art in an ideal setting.

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