18 Places to Find Incredible Outdoor Art

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Art is all around us—you don’t have to go to a stuffy museum to introduce your kids to the fine arts. We’ve rounded up 18 jaw-dropping outdoor art installations across the country that the whole family will appreciate. Some are interactive and others are just larger than life, but all of them are well worth a visit. Keep reading to see them all.

photo: Kate Loweth

Isak Heartstone | Breckenridge, CO

From a downtown full of sculptures to live theater performances, Breckenridge is full of ways to explore the arts. Track down the famed Breckenridge Troll while you are there. Named Isak Heartstone, this 15-foot tall wooden troll sculpture is located on the Trollstigen Trail next to Illinois Gulch Trailhead. This massive sculpture is by Danish artist Thomas Dambo, who is known worldwide for bringing awareness to recycling and upcycling by building great things out of trash. Bonus: you can even explore the area's public art using the self-guided audio tour

Online: tinybeans.go-vip.net

Spoonbridge and Cherry | Minneapolis, MN

Created by a husband-wife pop artist duo, this larger-than-life spoon and cherry sculpture can be found at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Admission is free, so you can also check out the garden’s other pieces, including everything from a giant blue rooster to wind chimes that make soft music. Here's our guide to other kid-friendly Minneapolis activities

Online: walkerart.org/visit/garden

Wynwood Walls | Miami, FL

Wynwood Walls was started in 2009 to showcase international street art. Stroll through the rotating collection of more than 50 murals at this outdoor museum, then head out into the Wynwood district to check out the surrounding art galleries and eclectic shops.

Online: thewynwoodwalls.com

Seven Magic Mountains | Las Vegas, NV

Like a colorful mirage, this weird and wonderful exhibit is in the middle of the desert outside Las Vegas. Kids will get a kick out of these 30- to 35-feet high sculptures, made from painted and locally-sourced boulders. Check out our guide to other kid-friendly Las Vegas attractions

Online: sevenmagicmountains.com

The Beltline | Atlanta, GA

The BeltLine is a fantastic family-friendly pedestrian loop that’s expanding around Atlanta, and, as a new and very popular initiative, has a growing collection of artworks exhibited. There’s a mix of permanent and temporary exhibits, and even musicians and performers on occasion. Even cooler, as the Beltline expands, so will the collection (there are currently 110 different works exhibited). Grab your strollers and bikes, and hit the trail! 

Online: art.beltline.org

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle | Escondido, CA

This magical place is the only American sculpture garden and the last major international project created by artist Niki de Saint Phalle. It’s inspired by the mythic, cultural, and historic roots of California, and it’s a wonder for kids of all ages. There's a bright mosaic snake wall, a maze entrance to the garden and nine free-standing sculptures, which include totems inspired by Native American, Mexican and pre-Colombian culture. Don't forget to look for Queen Califia herself, a mythical warrior queen! Looking for more outdoor art in Southern California? We’ve got the best places right here.

Online: escondido.org

Cottontail on the Trail | Minneapolis, MN

If you head to the Portland Avenue stretch of the Minnehaha Creek Trail, you’ll find Jeff Barber’s "Cottontail on the Trail.” The rabbit (or Minnehaha bunny) is an iconic trail marker and landmark, and on most warm days, you’ll find kids crawling, playing, and jumping all around the impressive bronze sculpture.

Westmoreland Park Nature Play Area | Portland, OR

Art that looks good and can be touched? Sounds like our kind of place. In 2014—using repurposed concrete for water play areas and salvaged logs for climbing—environmental artist Adam Kuby collaborated with GreenWorks Design Firm to create a playspace that reflects the recent, and nearby Crystal Springs restoration efforts. A popular spot for kids and adults alike, take a peek at our insider’s guide to find out more.

Lupe the Mammoth | San Jose, CA

Affectionately named “Lupe,” this metal pipe rendering of a wooly mammoth was designed by LA artists Feyja Bardell and Brian Howe. It was installed on the Guadalupe Trail in 2015 and represents the spot where the bones of a 12,500-year-old mammoth were discovered 10 years earlier. While kids can’t touch or climb on the structure, it’s a perfect way to get them excited for a day of science and fun before heading to the nearby San Jose Children’s Museum, where a replica of the prehistoric animal can be found. Search for more cool outdoor art in the San Francisco Bay Area by clicking here.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum | Austin, TX

This woodsy, magical garden inspires creativity for all. Not only is it a wonderful place to wander through at your own leisure, but the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum caters to families as well. The permanent collection is filled with the works of Charles Umlauf, a prestigious sculpture who taught at the University of Texas, Austin for 40 years. Each sculpture is gently waxed, and touching is okay (climbing is not). Stop by on family day, the second Sunday of each month, for art-making, sculpture demos, family yoga, live music, and storytelling. Family days are free, and the rest of the time, admission is just $7 for adults and free for kids under 12. Get more information about the museum here.

Socrates Sculpture Park | Long Island City, NY

You can check out both permanent and rotating exhibits at Socrates Sculpture Park. It's free to get in, there are a lot of events (yoga, music performances, kid workshops), and the former landfill is landscaped with over 90 varieties of plant life. Plus, there’s plenty of other fun stuff to do in the area. Hallets Cove, which you’ll find just north of the park, is a public beach and kayak launch during the warm months of the year. Find out more here.

Crown Fountain | Chicago, IL

Modern art at its finest comes to Chicago in the form of Crown Fountain. With its two 50-foot glass video installations of Chicagoans as new-age gargoyles spouting out water and visitors running around in swimsuits just like any public splash pad, it’s definitely a bucket list hit for all ages. Bonus: it's super close to The Bean. Check out this guide for other famous fountains in Chicago and this story on everything fun to do in Millennium Park

Red Wagon Sculpture | Spokane, WA

This Spokane playground is basically a toy that’s built to scale so playground runners can slide out of the big red wagon’s handle. This sculpture was built in 1990 and is 27 feet long—at least we know it’ll fit Clifford! Get more info here

City Museum | St. Louis, MO

This museum can be also described as a larger-than-life art sculpture that kids and parents can run around in. Jump on a plane, climb through a wire tunnel… It’s constantly “under construction” by a team of 20 different artists to ensure that every visit will be different. Get more kid-friendly St. Louis hot spots here

Online: citymuseum.org

Sun Tunnels | Lucin, UT

Four huge tunnels sitting in a desert leading nowhere might not seem like art, but there’s definitely more than meets the eye with this installation. Just looking through one of these can reframe how you see your surroundings, and the shadows they cast can teach little ones about sun orientation. Plus, they are just totally awesome to run through!

Online: umfa.utah.edu/land-art/sun-tunnels

555 Mission St. Sculpture Garden | San Francisco, CA

A quiet sculpture garden in the SOMA district of San Francisco is like jumping into a colorful children’s book. Pixelated silhouettes and cousins of Jack Skellington live here. The plaza is also perfect for a downtown picnic.

Olympic Sculpture Park | Seattle, WA

A free park devoted to 22 sculptures with unbelievable views of the Seattle waterfront makes for a perfect day out with the kids. Unfortunately, these sculptures are hands-off, but there’s a nearby museum with interactive exhibits that your littles can touch to their heart’s content.

Online: seattleartmuseum.org/visit/olympic-sculpture-park

Heavy Metal | Chattanooga, TN

Heavy Metal is an uber-fun playground of sound, where your kids can make music with friends or be a one-man band! This sculpture was created in 2000 and is a part of Chattanooga's city public art collection.

Online: locate.publicartarchive.org/art/Heavy-Metal

—Susie Forseman, Gabby Cullen & Christal Yuen 

 

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