When you think of San Diego, images of impressive sea cliffs, canyon trails and miles of coastline instantly come to mind. It’s a place where natural beauty attracts people from around the world.
But what might come as a surprise is the city’s lively art scene that invites visitors to climb a massive crocheted hammock, explore a Stonehenge-inspired outdoor sculpture and attend inspiring art parties.
In other words, you aren’t just glancing at artwork, you get to be part of it.
And it’s not just San Diego, of course. Cities across the nation have art experiences that are well worth planning an entire vacation around.
From San Diego’s world class museums to Vail’s outdoor artwork to San Francisco’s museum focused on ice cream, there’s plenty to choose from. You’ll find mesmerizing street murals, sculptures made of twigs and mind-boggling light installations.
Scroll through the gallery above to learn more and see some of the stunning art.
And check out Burning Man photos from this year below:
The Stuart Project, San Diego: Free and open to the public year-round, visitors can roam through the Stuart Collection on the University of California, San Diego, campus in La Jolla. This delightful collection of public art includes more than a dozen pieces, including a 180-ton teddy bear made of granite and a Richard Fleischner’s Stonehenge-like “La Jolla Project.” They are spread throughout the campus, so it’s a fun treasure hunt.
Color Factory, New York: Color Factory is a 12,000-square-foot space containing 15 interactive color experiences, ranging from a blue ball pit to a custom-built conveyor belt, that carries rainbow macarons.
The New Children’s Museum, San Diego: Kids will appreciate Whammock!, an interactive, three-dimensional textile environment of colorful crocheted hexagons, open pockets and hanging pendulums at the San Diego museum, which also boasts labyrinths of exploration and an interactive room filled with 40+ mattresses and 160+ “pillow” tires for children (and grown-ups) to play.
Outdoor art, Vail, Colorado: Vail takes its outdoor art seriously. This explains why there are more than 45 masterpieces on display in Vail Valley. During hour-long Wednesday Art Walks, guests learn more about the artists, including some who create colorful street murals. Another favorite is a monumental Stickwork installation, created by environmental artist Patrick Doughery. With help from volunteers, they transformed a little corner of Ford Park into a magical world of wood big enough that people can walk through it.
Museum of Ice Cream, San Francisco: Museum-goers can jump into the Sprinkle Pool, ride the cookie carousel or experience the popular Rainbow Room. The experience started as a pop-up in several cities. It has become a permanent fixture in San Francisco and is returning with a permanent location to New York City this fall.
Wonderspaces, Arizona: You can check out Wonderspaces through the year in places like Philadelphia, San Diego and Arizona. It’s a touring exhibit where people can connect with art through virtual reality, sound installations and film. The Arizona location is open from mid-October to March.
Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle: This long-term exhibition opened at Seattle Center in 2012 and displays Dale Chihuly’s colorful glass art in eight galleries, the centerpiece Glasshouse and a lush garden.
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