New York and LA boast headline-grabbing institutions but for sheer variety, no city can match Washington DC.
With more than 150 million objects held across 21 museums and galleries, the Smithsonian is by far the largest museum complex in the world.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg in the US capital, where handsome government buildings and monuments are surrounded by more than 70 museums.
Here are some of the most fascinating:
Art v science: ArTec House's dizzying blend of art, science and technology begins with an "immersion gallery" where 18,000 projectors beam moving artworks on to the walls and floor.
An in-house studio of composers, coders, engineers and mathematicians pushes the equipment to its limits. And with 122 million pixels and a 22.5-channel sound array, the level of detail in the mesmerising lightshow is astonishing.
The design concepts change quarterly, so you could find yourself walking through a kaleidoscopic waterfall of butterflies or a pitch-black room illuminated by webs of lasers, and the adjoining cocktail bar creates new themed drinks list for each exhibition.
More interactive displays make use of extended reality and motion capture technology, and because the works are visually spectacular but light on descriptions, an hour is plenty of time to take it all in.
Black history: The dark contradiction at the heart of "the land of the free" is that 12 of the first 18 presidents were slave owners.
In all, 12.5 million individuals were trafficked from Africa to the Americas as part of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and while the numbers are often shocking, the National Museum of African American History and Culture excels at colouring in the broad strokes with vivid individual stories.
Deeply moving exhibits take visitors from the genesis of the trade through Reconstruction, the civil rights era and the Black Lives Matter movement, providing vignettes of everyday black life along the way.
Add in more celebratory galleries showcasing the outsized contribution of African Americans to sports, music, science and popular culture and you can easily spend an entire day here, with a stop at the onsite Sweet Home Cafe to fuel up on southern classics like fried chicken with collards and cornbread.
House of secrets: If the Smithsonian is America's attic, the O Museum in the Mansion is more like the neighbour's storage unit - a cluttered space filled to the brim with a wildly mixed bag of treasures.
There are no maps showing the way through these five adjoining houses in the cosmopolitan Dupont Circle neighbourhood. Instead, guests are free to roam more than 100 themed rooms stuffed with everything from crystal chandeliers to Prince's Purple Rain jacket and a nightmarish gallery of laughing clowns.
To make matters even more interesting, the property is replete with 70 secret doors disguised as mirrors, bookcases and even a fridge.
Everything on display is for sale (with all proceeds funding a range of onsite concerts and artists in residence), and you can even stay the night in themed rooms including a two-storey log cabin filled with Western art and a John Lennon room with original drawings, letters and Beatles memorabilia.
The writer travelled with assistance from Destination DC and Brand USA.
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