Where Does Illinois Rank Among Best States For Museum Enthusiasts?

Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

When Illinois residents are not following their beloved sports teams and using Illinois sportsbook apps to place wagers, there is plenty of opportunity for them to get a little culture.

May 18 is International Museum Day, a day for recognizing and celebrating the varied cultural institutions nationwide, and we decided to mark the day by seeing where Illinois stacks up among the best states for museum-goers. Using data from the 2018 edition of the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Data Files, IllinoisBet calculated the number of museums, botanical gardens, planetariums and zoos per square mile. We then ranked each state according to the density of such institutions.

Illinois is ranked 14th on the list, with 271 museums and other cultural touchstones scattered across its 57,913 square miles.

Here is how the states ranked, in order of how many museums they have per 10,000 square miles.

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States Ranked By Most Museums Per Square Mile

Rank, StateNo. of MuseumsArea (sq. miles)Museums per 10,000 sq. mi.
1. Rhode Island441,545284.79
2. Massachusetts22310,554211.29
3. Connecticut1065,543191.23
4. New Jersey1488,722169.69
5. Delaware282,489112.50
6. Maryland13812,405111.24
7. New York48554,55488.90
8. Pennsylvania32246,05469.91
9. Ohio25944,82557.78
10. Hawaii6210,93156.72
11. New Hampshire509,34953.48
12. Virginia22142,77451.67
13. Florida33565,75750.90
14. Illinois 27157,91346.79
15. California739163,69645.15
16. Vermont409,61641.60
17. Indiana14636,41940.08
18. South Carolina10532,02032.79
19. Tennessee12742,14430.13
20. Georgia17259,42528.94
21. Kentucky11140,40727.47
22. Wisconsin17665,49626.87
23. Washington17471,29724.40
24. Alabama11652,42022.13
25. Michigan21296,71321.92
26. Iowa12256,27221.68
27. Maine 7635,37921.48
28. West Virginia4924,23020.22
29. Louisiana10552,73819.90
30. Missouri13169,70618.79
31. Texas448268,59616.68
32. Minnesota13986,93515.99
33. Colorado160104,09315.37
34. North Carolina209139,39114.99
35. Oklahoma9269,98813.16
36. Mississippi6048,43112.38
37. Kansas9882,27811.91
38. Oregon11798,37811.89
39. Nebraska8077,34710.34
40. Utah6684,8967.77
41. South Dakota5577,1157.13
42. Idaho5683,5686.70
43. New Mexico75121,5906.17
44. Wyoming5197,8135.21
45. Arkansas70137,7325.08
46. Montana73147,0394.96
47. Arizona127295,2344.30
48. Nevada45110,5714.07
49. North Dakota36183,1081.97
50. Alaska43665,3840.65

Art Institute of Chicago Is An Icon

The No. 1 ranked museum in Illinois according to TripAdvisor is the Art Institute of Chicago. That’s no surprise at all; it’s considered one of the top art museums in America and a must-see for any visitor.

Certainly the museum is known far and wide, and was a major stop on “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” where Ferris and his friends romped among the masterworks (and a company called Chicago Movie Tours offers a tour of the Art Institute called “The Art of Ferris Bueller” too).

Paintings from artists as diverse as Vincent Van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Edward Hopper, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Mary Cassatt, Rene Magritte and Grant Wood are among the most famous works at the AIC. But the collection – containing more than 300,000 items – spans many centuries and includes sculptures, photographs and much more.

Among the museum’s current exhibitions is one called “Kwame Brathwaite: Things Well Worth Waiting For” revolving around the works of the photographer who died on April 1 at age 85. Brathwaite spent decades capturing the Black experience in America; the AIC exhibit opened on Feb. 25, weeks before his death, and continues through July 24.

Chicago Boasts Other Giants

The AIC was ranked the No. 3 art museum in America in a 2021 article from TimeOut, which listed the nation’s top 37 art museums. But it was not the only entry from the Land of Lincoln.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago was No. 13 on the list. That museum not only holds paintings and sculptures, but features modern dance, theater and music.

For visitors or residents interested in sports, including IL sports betting, there’s always the Chicago Sports Museum at the Water Tower Place mall.

The Windy City also boasts the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry near the University of Chicago, the Adler Planetarium and so much more.

Outside of Chicago there’s the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and the Illinois State Museum, both in Springfield, and the Naper Settlement in Naperville.

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Jim Tomlin is a writer and editor for IllinoisBet.com. He has been a journalist for 30 years, with experience at publications such as the Tampa Bay Times, Saturday Tradition, Saturday Down South and FanRag.

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