For many people, being surrounded by artwork is just as rejuvenating as a day at the beach. Fortunately, some of the best tourist spots in the U.S. also provide a rich artistic culture. Whether you’ve hit a creative roadblock or simply enjoy eye-catching visuals, these five vacation destinations for the artsy traveler are sure to spark your imagination.
1. Berkeley, California
Considering the namesake of Berkeley, CA, is the Irish philosopher George Berkeley, it’s not a surprise that the Bay Area city has attracted free-thinkers, creatives, and intellectuals for generations. Such a collection of temporary and permanent residents results in artistic viewing opportunities on virtually every block. From galleries and museums to outdoor exhibits and street art, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
One of the most popular spots is the Berkeley Art Center, which showcases work by local artists of all mediums. They also host regular lectures and talks, allowing fans to discuss pieces of artwork with their favorite creators. The Trax Gallery, on the other hand, specializes in ceramics. Visitors can catch exhibits during the fall and spring, but the gallery closes during the summer. However, the second-floor apartment above the studio is available for rent year-round, allowing you to immerse yourself in a creative space during your stay.
The city even combines its love of art with local sweets at the Chocolate and Chalk Art Festival in August. Roam the streets to see sidewalk and wall creations from artists of all ages and experience levels, browse booths ran by local craftsmen, and taste a long list of desserts while sipping on wine or craft beer. Want to show off your artistic skills? Join the chalk art contest; they accept both pre-event and same-day registrations.
2. St. Louis, Missouri
Midwest cities are often overlooked as vacation destinations for artsy travelers, but St. Louis’ collection of eye-catching, man-made artwork and natural visuals rivals that of New York City. Nowhere in the city showcases these qualities better than the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM). Spanning three stories, the museum features both ancient and contemporary works from around the world. It’s also conveniently located in Forest Park, which is home to The Muny, the Missouri History Museum, and plenty of natural scenery for photographers and painters alike.
The Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) St. Louis is another must-see spot. Along with an ever-changing selection of exhibits, the site hosts regular public forums, artist talks, and lectures. Its location in the Grand Center Arts District provides easy access to some of the other most-visited creative spaces in the city, including the St. Louis University Museum of Art, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, and The Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries.
3. Ann Arbor, Michigan
With a population just over 120,000, it’s hard to imagine Ann Arbor, MI, as a thriving hub for artists. Yet, that is exactly what the small city has become. Its commitment to providing a creative space and culture culminates in the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair. Held in July, the event actually combines four local art fairs: Street Art Fair, Summer Art Fair, State Street Art Fair, and the South University Art Fair.
Whether you make it to town for the festival or not, there are a plethora of other attractions you definitely want to see. From tattoo art to stained glass, the Ann Arbor Art Center offers a unique blend of exhibits as well as instructional classes. For buyers, the gallery provides personalized assistance selecting original pieces, but there’s also an opportunity to buy prints.
4. Austin, Texas
If your aesthetic preferences fall into the quirky or uncanny categories, then Austin, TX, is the perfect vacation destination for you. Following the city’s unofficial slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” artists and curators in Bat City like to push the boundaries of creativity. This quality is displayed in various local attractions, like the Museum of the Weird, the Hope Outdoor Gallery, and the Cathedral of Junk. Even though it’s slightly more mainstream, there are also plenty of eccentric exhibits at The Contemporary Austin museum.
5. Mesa, Arizona
While the desert landscape offers eye-catching visuals, the brightly colored artwork and intricate sculptures displayed throughout Mesa, AZ, steal the spotlight. The best place to dive into the art scene is the Mesa Arts Center. Not only does the facility’s museum offer a wide collection of exhibits, but they also offer classes regularly, like glass blowing, and play host to the Mesa Arts Festival every December. Other sites in the city you won’t want to miss include the i.d.e.a Museum and the William Barnhart Studio.
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