Enchanted Highway
©TripAdvisor

Beyond the Museum: Spectacular Outdoor Art You Can See for Free

View Slideshow
Enchanted Highway
©TripAdvisor

A Breath of Fresh Air

From sprawling sculpture parks to downtown public art installations to colorful roadside attractions, there's plenty of spectacular outdoor art to see for free — or almost free — across America. Beat the crowds, get some exercise, and enjoy the beautiful summer weather at these amazing outdoor art spaces. Before heading out, check individual site information online for adjusted operating hours, parking limitations, indoor facility closings, program cancellations, and other rules and restrictions due to COVID-19.

Related: America's Most Iconic Buildings and Monuments

Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park
Stephanie H./Yelp

Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park

Kansas City, Missouri
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's 22-acre Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park boasts an impressive collection of sculpture art in the heart of Midtown Kansas City. Marvel at outdoor works such as Claes Oldenburg's and Coosje van Bruggen's site-specific "Shuttlecocks" as well as more recent additions such as "Ferment" by Roxy Paine and "The Glass Labyrinth" by Robert Morris.

Related: 51 Free Walking Tours From Across the U.S.

Cadillac Ranch, Texas
StevenStarr73/istockphoto

Cadillac Ranch

Amarillo, Texas
Just west of Amarillo in a cow pasture, Cadillac Ranch is a must-see roadside attraction for anyone traveling the historic Route 66 (south of Interstate 40 between exits 60 and 62). Built in 1974 by hippies from San Francisco with the help of eccentric millionaire Stanley Marsh 3, the public art installation features 10 graffiti-covered Cadillacs buried nose-first in the ground — the evolution of their tailfins on full display. The structure, open to the public at all hours, pays homage to the "Golden Age" of the American automobile and also the Great Pyramid of Giza; visitors are encouraged to leave their mark on the ever-mutating layers of spray paint.

Related: 87 Weird Tourist Attractions Across America

Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild
©TripAdvisor

Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild

Lincoln, Montana
While the 2020 artist residency, music, and education programs have been postponed, visitors can still enjoy southwestern Montana's Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild. The 26-acre international sculpture park offers visitors a glimpse into the region's native landscape, culture, and industrial history through site-specific works made with natural and industrial materials tied to the community's economic and cultural traditions. Eighteen permanent large-scale installations inspired by the woodland area are on view.

Related: 23 Scenic Roads You Can Drive Only Around the Summer

I See What You Mean
Terry C./Yelp

I See What You Mean

Denver
A 40-foot blue bear is hard to miss in downtown Denver. Known as "The Big Blue Bear," "I See What You Mean" by Lawrence Argent is now an iconic symbol of the city itself. After seeing a local newspaper photo of a black bear peering into someone's window, Argent was inspired by the idea of a curious bear. Built out of steel, polymer, and concrete, the public art sculpture was installed in 2005 and the bear peeks inside the Colorado Convention Center with curiosity at what's happening inside the meeting place — a nod to the exchange of ideas and a play on art, technology, and whimsy.

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
©TripAdvisor

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Washington, D.C.
Explore the oasis-like National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, on Washington, D.C.'s National Mall, which features modern and contemporary outdoor artworks such as Marc Chagall's large-scale stone and glass mosaic "Orphée," Roxy Paine's towering "Graft," Magdalena Abakanowicz's powerful "Puellae (Girls)," Joan Miró's "Personnage Gothique," and Sol LeWitt's "Four-Sided Pyramid." Sit in the shade near the monumental fountain and meander the pathways through the lush, 6.1-acre garden.

Related: 24 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Washington, D.C.

Short North Arts District
©TripAdvisor

Short North Arts District

Columbus, Ohio
The best public art in Columbus can be discovered in the Short North Arts District. Visitors can view large-scale permanent works in the vibrant arts district as well as new outdoor art projects such as the seventh rendition of the popular, globally inspired Short North Mural Series One World and the Summer Spray Art Project, a collaborative experience featuring local artists painting portions of a 1,280-square-foot wall throughout the summer.

Related: Coolest Laundromats in the World

Her Secret is Patience
benedek/istockphoto

Her Secret is Patience

Phoenix
Janet Echelman's aerial public art installation at Civic Space Park in downtown Phoenix, "Her Secret is Patience," was designed to resemble a cactus flower in bloom. The steel structure is a feat of art and science; the artist collaborated with an international team of award-winning engineers. Its flexible polyester netting is suspended 38 feet above the ground on a framework of steel rings, cables, and poles, and the rippling, vortex-like net — created with integrally colored polyester fibers — reflects the southwestern light and moves with the desert breeze. Admirers' eyes are drawn to the sky, particularly at night when it's illuminated in various colors through specialized, programmed lighting.

Laumeier Sculpture Park
©TripAdvisor

Laumeier Sculpture Park

St. Louis
Just southwest of St. Louis, the 105-acre Laumeier Sculpture Park has been engaging the community through art and nature since 1976 as one of the first and largest sculpture parks in America. More than 70 works of large-scale outdoor art — by Donald Lipski, Jackie Ferrara, Alexander Liberman, and dozens of others — can be accessed via several walking paths and unpaved trails for a variety of ages and abilities alongside native plants such as goldenrod, black-eyed Susan, and butterfly milkweed. If you can't make it to the park, check out these online activities you can do from home.

Related: 30 Fun Free Attractions for Kids Across the Country

Olympic Sculpture Park
©TripAdvisor

Olympic Sculpture Park

Seattle
The Seattle Art Museum remains closed until further notice, but the museum's 9-acre, waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park — downtown Seattle's largest green space — is free and open to the public, with safety measures in place. The former industrial site showcases monumental contemporary installations within a sprawling natural landscape and picturesque views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and the Space Nee​dle in the backdrop.

Related: 11 Cities Where It's Easy and Fun to Walk 10,000 Steps a Day

Enchanted Highway Sculptures
©TripAdvisor

Enchanted Highway Sculptures

Regent, North Dakota
In western North Dakota, travelers can drive the Enchanted Highway — a 32-mile stretch between Gladstone and Regent — for a roadside collection of the world's largest scrap metal sculptures, created by metal sculptor and retired school teacher Gary Greff. Starting at Exit 72 on Interstate 94, giant metal artworks paired with pullouts and picnic areas pop up every few miles along the empty county highway: "Geese in Flight" and "Deer Crossing" in Gladstone, "Grasshoppers  in the Field" in Lefor, and "Fisherman's Dream," "Pheasants on the Prairie," "Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again," and "World's Largest Tin Family" in Regent.

Related: 50 Most Beautiful Highway Drives in America

Seven Magic Mountains
bmswanson/istockphoto

Seven Magic Mountains

Las Vegas
You can't miss renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone's whimsical Seven Magic Mountains, a vibrant public art installation just outside of Las Vegas near Jean Dry Lake and Interstate 15. Seven teetering, more than 30-foot tall towers made up of colorful, stacked boulders punctuate the arid Mojave Desert — a stark contrast between the "natural" majestic mountains and desert and the "artificial" electric excess of Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Since its opening in 2016, the installation produced by the Nevada Museum of Art and Art Production Fund has been extended to remain on view through the end of 2021.

Related: 36 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Las Vegas

 Besthoff Sculpture Garden
©TripAdvisor

Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art

New Orleans
The New Orleans Museum of Art's 11-acre Besthoff Sculpture Garden touts more than 90 sculptures by renowned artists from around the world — including works commissioned specifically for the site: a 60-foot mosaic wall by artist Teresita Fernández, a glass bridge by Elyn Zimmerman, and an installation by Maya Lin inside the Sculpture Pavilion. The garden is set within a native Louisiana landscape of pines, magnolias, and 200-year-old live oaks dripping with Spanish moss around two lagoons. While admission isn't completely free, the fee is $5 or less, making it a budget-friendly visit.

Precita Eyes Murals
Janet C./Yelp

Precita Eyes Murals

San Francisco
Based in San Francisco's Mission District, Precita Eyes Muralists have enriched and beautified the city's communities through creative, thought-provoking collaborative mural arts for more than 40 years. You can still find murals from the 1970s, as well as newer commissions. One of the city's largest and best known murals, the MaestraPeace Mural — co-painted by Precita Eyes founder Susan Cervantes — is on the Women's Building on 18th Street. Take a walking tour or explore murals in the city at your leisure; more than 450 murals can be found on schools, parks, and utility boxes across the Mission District (80 of them within an eight-block stretch).

Related: The Best of California For Budget Vacations

Salvation Mountain
Steven_Kriemadis/istockphoto

Salvation Mountain

Calipatria, California
In the Southern California desert about an hour and a half from Palm Springs, artist Leonard Knight's revered "outsider art" masterpiece Salvation Mountain shouts a powerful message: "God is Love." The massive tribute mountain — created with local adobe clay, straw, and a half-million gallons of donated paint — is covered in messages about love and prayers, and dozens of vivid paintings of bluebirds, suns, waterfalls, trees, and flowers.

Related: 20 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Palm Springs

Lynden Sculpture Garden
©TripAdvisor

Lynden Sculpture Garden

Milwaukee
With more than 50 sculptures across 40 acres of park, lake, and woodland, the Lynden Sculpture Garden provides a unique experience of art in nature. Its collection of permanent and temporary sculptures — by Alexander Archipenko, Barbara Hepworth, Clement Meadmore, Marta Pan, Mark di Suvero, and others — is open for "social distance walking." Admission is free at this time (usually $9 for adults or $12 with a docent-led tour reservation offered on Sundays). Virtual tours of the sculpture collection and temporary installations can also be accessed at lynden.tours.

Related: The Best and Worst Cities for Allergy Sufferers

Art Omi
©TripAdvisor

Art Omi Sculpture and Architecture Park

Ghent, New York
Just north of New York City and spread across 120 acres of field and forest in Hudson Valley, Art Omi Sculpture and Architecture Park offers a way to experience a range of large-scale sculpture art in an outdoor environment and stay socially distant from others. Art lovers will discover works from contemporary artists and architects, with new pieces added or exchanged each year. Before you wander the grounds, check out the Explore Map, which notes interactive sculptures and installations.

Related: The Best Cheap & Free Stuff New York State Offers

The Wynwood Walls
Boogich/istockphoto

The Wynwood Walls

Miami
The Wynwood Walls, a free urban graffiti art museum in Miami, makes up an ever-changing canvas of murals by some of the world's most legendary graffiti writers and iconic street artists. If you can't visit the animated outdoor street art destination in person, you can experience some of its past colorful street murals from afar by browsing the museum's online photo galleries of wall artists and doors and garden artists as well as video highlights.

Related: 30 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Miami

The Bean, Chicago
roman_slavik/istockphoto

Public Art in the Chicago Loop

Chicago
From a 50-foot untitled work by Pablo Picasso to "Cloud Gate" (aka "The Bean") by Anish Karpoor to "The Four Seasons" by Marc Chagall to "Flamingo" by Alexander Calder, the streets of downtown Chicago are a prime destination for outdoor public art. Explore the Loop's highly acclaimed works on your own or with a free Chicago Greeter tour led by expert locals, who will walk you through the city's captivating history, iconic landmarks, and off-the-beaten-path gems.

Related: 70 Free Things to Do in America's Most Popular Cities

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
Alexander Farnsworth/istockphoto

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

Lincoln, Massachusetts
Just 20 miles west of Boston, the 30-acre deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is the largest of its kind in New England. The park is an ever-evolving landscape of approximately 60 large-scale modern and contemporary sculpture and site-specific installations — and a peaceful space to immerse yourself in a landscape of bronze, marble, steel, granite, and wood sculpture art among fields, forests, and gardens. Experience works such as s in person or explore current exhibitions virtually for free. While visiting the park is $14 for adult admission, there are a range of discounts available.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
studiodr/istockphoto

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center

Minneapolis
In the heart of the city, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center showcases renowned works of modern and contemporary art in an urban park. Visitors can see more than 40 works of art across 11 acres — including the first work commissioned for the garden in 1988 and now an iconic symbol for the Twin Cities: the 50-foot-long fountain sculpture "Spoonbridge and Cherry" by artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

Related: 20 Unique Bathrooms Every Tourist Should Check Out

San Juan Islands Sculpture Park
©TripAdvisor

San Juan Islands Sculpture Park

Roche Harbor, Washington
On the northern tip of Washington's San Juan Island, the 20-acre San Juan Islands Sculpture Park contains more than 150 outdoor art creations by both world-renowned and lesser known sculptors. Five marked trails meander through forests, over hills, and around a beautiful natural pond. The jury-selected sculptures rotate out of the park after a two-year display and as some pieces are sold and new ones become available, so you're guaranteed new experiences visiting over time. There is a $5 suggested donation for adults.

Related: 40 Under-The-Radar Boating Destinations Across the Country

Michigan Legacy Art Park
Betsey K./Yelp

Michigan Legacy Art Park

Thompsonville, Michigan
On the forested grounds of Crystal Mountain Resort and 20 minutes from the shores of Lake Michigan, Michigan Legacy Art Park features a 30-acre wooded preserve with more than 50 sculptures, poetry stones, and miles of secluded hiking, cross-country ski, and snowshoe trails for visitors to wander. Social distancing is built into the art and cultural experience, as visitors explore artworks embedded in northern Michigan's naturally beautiful outdoor wilderness. The park is open from dawn to dusk daily, and the art adventure, accessible year-round, is well worth the $5 for adults. (Kids 17 and under are free.)

Related: 20 Prime Places to See Beautiful Cherry Blossoms

Socrates Sculpture Park
©TripAdvisor

Socrates Sculpture Park

Long Island City, New York
On the East River in Astoria, Queens, Socrates Sculpture Park — the largest outdoor exhibition space of its kind in New York City — was founded in 1986 as a community arts space and has operated as a permanent city park since 1998. The cultural anchor showcases relevant contemporary public art that engages the 5-acre waterfront landscape and diverse audiences. While the park doesn't have a permanent collection, many temporary works are built on-site in the outdoor artist studio space, giving visitors a glimpse into artists' creative process. The public park and its installations are open from 9 a.m. to sunset daily.

Glenstone
Alice W./Yelp

Glenstone

Potomac, Maryland
With nearly 300 acres of landscape integrated with art and architecture, Glenstone provides a serene setting to connect with nature and art. Paved paths and trails wind through meadows, forests, and alongside streams with outdoor sculptures — such as the seasonally blooming Jeff Koons' "Split-Rocker" and Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller's "Forest (for a thousand years...)" — peppered throughout the grounds. Admission is free, but you'll need to book your visit in advance.

Related: The Most Expensive Neighborhood in Every State