The Best Museums and Exhibitions I’ve Ever Been To

A life’s worth of museum tickets and long lines.

Museums and exhibits can be transportive experiences that immerse and educate you about the world. I credit my mother to fostering my love for these places, when, growing up, she took my brother and I to every museum and exhibit in New York City. Whether it be the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Alexander McQueen exhibit or The Frick Collection, we took the day to look around and learn. The same applied to every vacation destination that my family traveled to, a walking tour or trip to the local museum being in order. This was a way for her to expose us to new perspectives, ideas, ways of life, and histories. She must have trained me well, as I have taken to visiting all of the best museums during my solo travels and study abroad trips. I make sure to do a full online evaluation wherever I go, so that I know what stops to hit along the way. And what museum trip would be complete without reading every insightful placard, taking a stop at the gift shop, and pocketing a pamphlet for the memories? If you ever need a suggestion, just ring me. I probably have a pamphlet for you somewhere!

 

Weaving Magic by Chris Ofili

The National Gallery

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I can honestly say that Weaving Magic is one of the most breathtaking pieces of art I have ever seen in my life. Composed of wool and cotton fibers, this enormous woven tapestry filled an entire wall within The National Gallery, a museum that houses some of the greatest masterpieces of all time. Appearing to be a watercolor painting, the craftsmanship displayed through this woven piece is so incredible, it had me entirely mesmerized. The tapestry, inspired by Ofili’s native Trinidad, was influenced by mythology and took an astonishing 3 years to create. Seeing this work for the first time was something I will truly never forget!

Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent

Somerset House 

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When I lived in London for the summer, museums were places that I visited every weekend. I was fortunate enough to stumble across this unique perfume exhibit at Somerset House during my stay. While Weaving Magic was a once in a lifetime sighting, this exhibit was a once in a lifetime experience. The exhibit was composed of various different rooms that encapsulated the experience of each smell within the room. It was designed so that visitors could pick up certain objects and smell them, while reading about their maker, influences, and history. Visitors were also encouraged to take a pencil and paper with them throughout the exhibit to write down their thoughts and impressions of the different scents. Boy, did I smell a lot of things that day! One of the best aspects of the exhibit, however, was the opportunity to speak with two perfumers from France, who could answer any question you might have around perfume chemistry and composition. Hmm… what a sweet day that was. 

California: Designing Freedom

The Design Museum

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California: Designing Freedom is an exhibit that I think about so often. Featured at London’s Design Museum, the exhibit traced how counterculture and even drug use led to Silicon Valley’s tech culture and the belief in boundless possibilities. The exhibit featured fascinating artifacts from the first ever Google signage (featured above) to blotter paper and a Harley-Davidson. The exhibit was divided into sections outlined: go where you want, see what you want, say what you want, make what you want, and join who you want. It might have been a longing to return back to the U.S. or the incredible exhibition (or a little bit of both) that made me consider this exhibit to be one of my all time favorites.  

The Fabergé Museum

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Located in Saint Petersburg, Russia, this museum is one that is not to be missed. The mere beauty and uniqueness of the museum itself are enough to warrant it a place on the list. The museum showcases the world’s largest collection of works by the House of Fabregé and it does not disappoint. There are over 4,000 items on display within this museum, which include many of Fabregé’s infamous eggs, that were created for the Tsars of Russia, made in the late 19th and early 20th century. There is so much to see in this museum, you might need to plan a whole afternoon for a look around! 

 

Edo Tokyo Museum 

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From the outside, the Edo Tokyo Museum’s architecture is spectacular- appearing half suspended in the air- and the inside does not disappoint either. The museum is packed with artifacts tracing Edo’s – or better known today as Tokyo’s- history, culture, traditions, and people. The museum is so visually stimulating, you feel as though you are walking through and experiencing the artwork, rather than reaching down to see and inspect it. I mean, there are multiple small villages, a wooden bridge, and a castle in this museum! If the museum wasn’t in Tokyo, I’d probably be visiting every weekend, just to make sure I read every poster thoroughly enough. 

Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color

FIT Museum

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Whenever I step into the Fashion Institute of Technology’s museum I am never disappointed. On a day when I popped in to see their latest exhibit Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color, I could not have been more excited to stumble across the carefully selected styles that were being presented within the collection. From big satin bows to Gucci ruffles, there were so many gorgeous designs that took each visitor on a journey through fashion history (no wonder this museum is a staple visit for me). FIT does an amazing job in every exhibit that they show and this was no exception, showcasing a beautiful curation of pieces that embody pink’s ever changing narrative throughout time. 

Monet’s Garden 

The New York Botanical Garden

 

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The New York Botanical Garden is a place that transports you to an entirely different location. Located in the Bronx, New York, the garden is sprawling and lush, with a greenhouse meant to dazzle. For my Grandmother’s birthday many years back, we visited a botanical curation of water lilies inspired by the paintings of Monet that was so beautiful. The exhibit even featured a green bridge within the greenhouse that was meant to be a nod to Monet’s The Japanese Footbridge painting. The Botanical Garden does such an expert job of curating exhibits, I am always pleased and delighted with whatever I seem to come across on a visit. 

CHOW: Making the Chinese American Restaurant

Museum of Food and Drink

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Although this museum is tightly tucked away, it’s worth the extra time searching for. The exhibit I had the pleasure of visiting, CHOW: Making the Chinese American Restaurant, featured a fortune cookie machine, a wall of Chinese food takeout boxes, and restaurant menus from as early as the 1900’s, featuring General Tso’s chicken and chow mein. Despite how small the museum is, it is simple and well curated, taking each visitor through the economic, social, and political factors that shaped Chinese-American immigration. It also highlights the entrepreneurial spirit and ingenuity of Chinese immigrants in starting Chinese restaurants that quickly flourished across America. At the end of touring the gallery, there was even a “chef’s table” that visitors could sit at, enjoy a small meal, and talk with the chef. The tasting menu included hot herbal tea, gyoza, savory pork lo mein, and rose, coconut rice pudding that simply could not be passed up!

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