A Student’s Guide to Visiting Top U.S. Art Museums

From history to cultural, design to science, art museums give us a unique glimpse into many fields

Student guide

Art museums give visitors much more than interesting items to view. They tell important stories, express culture, and allow us to ponder the world’s jumbled history. Planning a group trip to one of the U.S.’s best art museums offers a vital learning experience for students in a variety of fields.

Whether you’re an educator planning a field trip or students looking for an independent educational experience, consider surrounding yourselves with art!

Tips for Planning a Group Museum Tour

Most of the U.S.’s top art museums are located in major cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, but if you’re not located near a major art museum, consider visiting a local institution instead.

While organizing your museum trip, keep a couple things in mind:

  • Some museums require a few weeks’ notice before a group visit—be sure to explore your options well in advance.
  • Parking can be limited at big museums, so consider renting a minibus or charter bus to transport everyone together.
  • When you book tickets, inquire about complimentary admission for educators, chaperones, and your bus driver.

The Art Institute of Chicago

This famed Chicago museum is known for its expansive collection of Impressionist works and modern art. It’s also home to one of the country’s top art schools, making it a wonderful location for student trips. Adult and university groups can book guided lectures about everything from Asian art to food-related works, while K-12 groups can reserve a teacher- or docent-led program centered around art and its relation to topics like science and social activism.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met has become synonymous with history and art in NYC, offering extensive learning opportunities for visitors of all ages. University students can take advantage of discounted admission and can book guided group tours for up to 25 people for an additional fee. K-12 educators with 10 to 50 students have a variety of guided programs to choose from, with topics ranging from ancient Egypt to contemporary American art.

National Gallery of Art

Washington, D.C. has dozens of world-class museums, making it one of the best cities in the U.S. for academic exploration. The National Gallery of Art houses more than 124,000 items, including a large collection of works from European masters like da Vinci and van Gogh. As a government-regulated institution, admission, public workshops, and docent-led tours for groups of all ages are free. Educators can choose topics like storytelling through art and mythology for younger students to explore. Adult groups can select from a range of permanent collection tours, which include deep dives into artists’ creative choices and dissecting the meaning of modern art.

The Getty

It’s important to remember that many museums are a work of art themselves, boasting breathtaking architecture and long histories. The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles has two campuses that are hailed for their beautiful yet functional design (the Getty Center was designed with special consideration for earthquakes), perfectly manicured gardens, and amazing collection of European and American art. Best of all, general admission, tours, and school visits to The Getty are always free! Just be sure to allot a budget for parking for your charter bus or personal vehicles.

There’s always learning to be done outside the classroom.. Make your next group trip a special one with a day of art and education!