Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Best of 2016: The Most Enjoyable & Enlightening Museums, Exhibitions and Attractions I Experienced

The primary impetus for my travels, at least domestically, tends to be a live event: a rock concert, baseball game, theater performance (or several, as on Broadway).

This was again true in 2016, when Bruce Springsteen shows took me to Columbus, OH (by way of Cleveland) and Washington, DC (followed by Baltimore and Philadelphia). The Cubs playing in the World Series brought me back to Cleveland. A Paul McCartney show at Busch Stadium prompted a train trip down to St. Louis.

But as these events tend to be at night, my trips also allow for considerable exploration of museums--predominantly art--and other attractions.

Over five days in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia--which included the travel time--I visited 15 museums, plus the White House, U.S. Capitol, Independence Hall and various other attractions, a few of which only from the exterior.

I also got to some places around and near Chicagoland, and this post aims to recall some of the cultural excursions I enjoyed the most in 2016.

As with all of my Best Of lists, there are imperfections in terms of definition and delineation.

It seems apt to split museum and non-museum attractions, but while the latter could theoretically include ballparks, restaurants or live performances, I'm not looping such things in here.

And even in terms of the museum listings, in some cases I cite particularly great Special Exhibitions, while in others simply a visit to the museum itself (or both). The point is more to highlight than to rank these, though in the case of Special Exhibitions, most have come and gone.

In the specific case of the Art Institute of Chicago, I have visited it for so long and so often--including a few times this year--here I will merely consider special exhibits I saw this year, although the museum as a whole could always rank near the top My Favorite Museums list.

My Favorite Museum Visits of 2016

1. Van Gogh's Bedrooms - Art Institute of Chicago (my review)

2. Cleveland Museum of Art

3. National Gallery of Art - Washington, DC

4. National Portrait Gallery - Washington, DC

5. Philadelphia Museum of Art

6. Baltimore Museum of Art
7. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - Cleveland

8. Barnes Foundation - Philadelphia

9. Vic Muniz exhibition and Eskenazi Museum of Art @ IU - Bloomington, IN

10. American Art Museum - Washington, DC

11. St. Louis Art Museum

Honorable Mention

- Phillips Collection - Washington, DC
- Missouri History Museum - St. Louis
- Walters Art Museum - Baltimore
- Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden - Washington, DC
- Museum at Ford's Theatre - Washington
- Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen - Chicago Cultural Center
- Benjamin Franklin Museum + Benjamin Franklin Court - Philadelphia
- Babe Ruth Museum - Baltimore
- National Constitution Center - Philadelphia
- Indianapolis Museum of Art
- Liberty Bell Pavilion Museum - Philadelphia
- Second National Bank / Portrait Gallery - Philadelphia
- National Museum of the U.S. Air Force - Dayton, OH 
- America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s - Art Institute of Chicago (my review) 
- The New Contemporary - Art Institute of Chicago

- Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem - Art Institute of Chicago
- Pritzker Military Museum & Library - Chicago
- Vanishing Beauty: Asian Jewelry and Ritual Objects - Art Institute of Chicago

Best Non-Museum Attractions Visited in 2016

1. White House Tour - Washington, DC

2. Independence Hall Tour - Philadelphia

3. National Mall - Washington, DC

4. Bristol Renaissance Faire - Bristol, WI (my review)

5. West Side Market - Cleveland

6. Indiana University Campus + Student Union + Lilly Library - Bloomington, IN

7. Inner Harbor - Baltimore, MD

8. Library of Congress (main foyer only) - Washington, DC

9. U.S. Capitol Tour (limited due to construction) - Washington, DC

10. Gateway Arch "Journey to the Top" - St. Louis

11. Carpenters Hall - Philadelphia 
Honorable Mention 

North Park Nature Center - Chicago
Emily Oaks Nature Center - Skokie, IL
Keay Nature Park - Wilmette, IL

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