The United States is full of historical and artistic treasures. Each state boasts its own unique cultural identity. New research reveals America’s top ten most culturally rich states, based on the number and significance of their cultural attractions. Did your state make the list?
The study conducted by FloridaRentals analyzed the number of cultural attractions in all 50 states and rated them on a percentage basis of the total attractions available. Landmarks, museums, and art galleries are all considered cultural attractions.
With 19,748 attractions, 3,692 landmarks, 2,225 museums, and 897 art galleries combined, these ten states are a treasure trove of history, heritage, and artifacts.
#10 – Delaware
Delaware may be a small state, but it’s home to 828 attractions, 150 landmarks, 75 museums, and 20 art galleries, with 29.59% considered culturally significant. According to Delaware Historical and Cultural Affairs, the state has 13 historical places designated National Historic Landmarks out of approximately 2,500 nationwide.
New Castle Historic District is an entire town with historic buildings dating back to the 17th century. The Old Swedes Church in Wilmington is one of the oldest churches in the United States. The Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library houses a large collection of American decorative arts.
#9 – South Dakota
Coming in ninth, South Dakota has 1,166 attractions, 192 landmarks, 135 museums, and 31 art galleries, with 30.70% considered of cultural value. The Mount Rushmore State’s cultural heritage combines Native American, Western, and European traditions. The gold rush also attracted miners, gamblers, and outlaws.
The Crazy Horse Memorial features the world’s largest mountain carving in progress, and sections of Badlands National Park are dedicated to Native American communities. Deadwood, once a booming gold rush town known for playing by its own rules, is now a National Historic Landmark. Institutions like the South Dakota Art Museum and the Dahl Arts Center have large collections by local artists.
#8 – Massachusetts
Massachusetts came in eighth with an impressive 6,812 attractions, 1,223 landmarks, 631 museums, and 266 art galleries, with 31.25% ranked culturally. Massachusetts holds an important place in American history, as one of the thirteen original colonies and the site of the first settlement.
Boston is home to the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile-long path through historical sites such as the Massachusetts State House and the USS Constitution Museum. Notable art galleries include the Museum of Fine Arts, the Harvard Art Museum, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
#7 – Vermont
Vermont is number seven on the list, with 1,656 attractions, 307 landmarks, 148 museums, and 74 art galleries, with 31.94% considered cultural. The Green Mountain State is known for its art, beautiful landscapes, and progressive social values. Vermont played an essential role in the American Revolution with the Battle of Bennington and was the first state to abolish slavery.
The Shelburne Museum, the largest history and art museum in northern New England, spans 45 acres and houses 39 historic buildings and galleries. Notable museums include the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, the Middlebury College Museum of Art, and the Southern Vermont Arts Center. The Bennington Museum offers a glimpse into the region’s past through an extensive collection of over 30,000 objects.
#6 – West Virginia
Coming in sixth is West Virginia, with 1,370 attractions, 284 landmarks, 122 museums, and 36 art galleries, with 32.36% considered cultural. West Virginia’s cultural heritage is tied to its Appalachian roots, including music, crafts, and culinary traditions.
Harper’s Ferry, a National Historic Landmark, was the site of abolitionist John Brown’s famous raid in 1859, which played a significant role leading up to the Civil War. The state is home to museums like the West Virginia State Museum and the Huntington Museum of Art, which feature everything from local history to contemporary art. The Tamarack Fine Arts Gallery features the work of more than 500 local artists.
#5 – Rhode Island
Rhode Island landed fifth with 1,499 attractions, 360 landmarks, 125 museums, and 49 art galleries. Of those, 35.63% were considered cultural. Rhode Island’s cultural heritage reflects its colonial history, maritime traditions, and contributions to the Industrial Revolution. The state is also known for its theater, music, and fine arts.
The Slater Mill Historic Site in Pawtucket was the birthplace of America’s industrial revolution. Historic Newport mansions offer a glimpse into the lifestyles of America’s elite during the Gilded Age. Art lovers can appreciate the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, the Providence Art Club, one of the oldest art organizations in the country, and the Newport Art Museum.
#4 – North Dakota
North Dakota came in fourth with 653 attractions, 169 landmarks, 64 museums, and seven art galleries, with 36.75% considered cultural. North Dakota’s rich heritage is tied to its indigenous roots, with various museums and cultural centers dedicated to Native American traditions and history. Folk and traditional music are a large part of North Dakota’s cultural arts.
Notable institutions include the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum in Bismarck, home to a collection of artifacts that explore the history and culture of the state. The Plains Art Museum in Fargo features contemporary and traditional art. Landmarks such as the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site offer a look into the lives and traditions of the Northern Plains tribes.
#3 – Kansas
Kansas placed third with 1,363 attractions, 330 landmarks, 247 museums, and 39 art galleries, with 37.65% considered cultural. Kansas’ history as a frontier state and agricultural innovator dates back to the 19th century. The state also has rich Native American history, with numerous tribes once calling the state home.
The Kansas State Capitol is decorated with impressive murals and sculptures depicting the state’s past. Kansas is also home to important historical sites like the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. Notable museums and art galleries include the Kansas Museum of History, the Wichita Art Museum, and the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas.
#2 – Mississippi
Mississippi came second with 1,377 attractions, 310 landmarks, 173 museums, and 41 art galleries, with 38.05% considered cultural. The Magnolia State’s cultural heritage is influenced by a mix of African American, Native American, and European American traditions, evident in its music, literature, and cuisine.
The Vicksburg National Military Park is an important landmark home to monuments and civil war battle sites. Mississippi has several noteworthy museums, including the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Delta Blues Museum. The Walter Anderson Museum of Art and the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art are well-known galleries featuring some of Mississippi’s most famous artists.
#1 – New Mexico
Ranked the most culturally rich state in the United States, New Mexico consists of 2,751 attractions, 367 landmarks, 505 museums, and 334 art galleries. Of those, 43.84% are considered cultural. A blend of Native American, Hispanic, and American traditions, New Mexico’s diverse cultural heritage can be seen in its art, cuisine, music, and architecture.
Famous landmarks include the ancient ruins of Chaco Canyon and the adobe structures of Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe houses an impressive collection of Native American and Hispanic art, while the Museum of International Folk Art showcases traditional folk art. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is dedicated solely to this iconic artist’s work, often called the “Mother of American modernism.”
Alex Sumuel is the founder of Wander With Alex, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore– and, on occasion, escape! She’s a proud Virginia native who has also founded the Explore Coastal Virginia website. Alex’s mission is to help people travel better.