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Art Outside the Gallery

There is no shortage of art galleries, museums, installations and studios in California. With many indoor museums closed, where can art lovers get their fill in the open air? Whether it's murals and street art, a stand-alone installation in an unexpected locale, or outdoor museums with plenty of space for social distancing, California has some of the best places to admire art outside.

Miles of Murals
If you added up the length of all the walls, alleyways and buildings in California adorned with unique murals and street art, chances are they would stretch longer than the state’s 840 miles of coastline. 

  • Central Coast 
    A great way to explore the Central Coast by foot (or bike) is on the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. The 18-mile trail offers ocean views, iconic landmarks and diverse art. Learn the area’s unique history through murals along the trail, followed by a visit to Cannery Row in Monterey featuring John Steinbeck sculptures. 

    Originating as an artist haven, Carmel-by-the-Sea continues the tradition through murals. Visitors have plenty of outdoor art to see, including Cypress Inn’s mural honoring Charlie Chaplin, Forest Lodge’s mural portraying Albert Einstein, and the new Carmel Shell mural, representing the town’s symbol of home, shelter and recovery, visitors have plenty to see. 

    A tour of Ventura’s street art is easily walkable or bikeable (rent a bike at Ventura Bike Depot), and makes for a kaleidoscopic tour. From a stylish version of the Shinto solar goddess Amaterasu, to a ceramic tile collage depicting Ventura’s history, to a string of murals with explosions of color, you can start your Ventura art tour anywhere in town. 

  • Central Valley
    Take in the flair of Fresno in Downtown Fresno's Mural District. See wall murals abounding with the creativity of local artists, as well as various sculptures and public works of art throughout downtown Fresno.

    There is plenty of art to discover on a walk around downtown Visalia. Locals embrace many types of art including murals that highlight the nearby national parks and the town’s rich heritage. Even fire hydrants are open canvases - ‘Art on Fire’ is a collection of hydrants that line Main Street, each painted by a different artist.

  • Gold Country 
    The vibrant streets of Auburn are beautifully adorned with murals and mosaics that celebrate its storied past while highlighting the local artistic talent of today. Be sure to check out the colorful mural on the exterior of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce. 

  • Los Angeles Area
    Burbank may have the most animation studios and production facilities per square mile of any city in the world, but it also has trendsetting murals in all shapes and sizes. A stroll through the city reveals subjects like Frida Kahlo, words of inspiration, mosaic tiles and more. A map of locations makes it easy to spot the murals.  

    The streets and buildings of Los Angeles are adorned with over 1,500 murals, each paying tribute to the city’s vibrant culture in a unique way. Highlights include a collection of works by Shepard Fairey, a celebration of the city’s Latino heritage and the ever-changing walls of the Downtown L.A. Arts District. For a quick day of mural hopping, check out the three clusters of murals along the Metro Rail Red Line through the NoHo Arts District, Hollywood and Downtown. 

  • North Coast
    In the coastal city of Fort Bragg, community organization Flockworks is leading the Alleyway Art Project, a creative charge to beautify the blank walls of the city’s numerous north-south alleys with art. 

    Del Norte County
    ’s outdoor art ranges from vivid murals that represent the history of the coastal communities, to hand-carved wooden sculptures scattered in a redwood forest, to a myriad of maritime anchors along Crescent City’s Anchor Way. 

  • San Diego Area
    Barrio Logan’s art scene is one of San Diego’s most intriguing, with eye-catching Mexican street art. Chicano Park is home to the largest concentration of Chicano murals in the world with more than 80 murals painted on the bridge’s pillars. The vibrantly colored murals are best viewed in daylight.

    More than a dozen artists have transformed the village of La Jolla into an outdoor contemporary art gallery. The murals of La Jolla feature massive works by local artists and international contemporary art stars. The murals can be toured via self-guided map

    North of San Diego, Oceanside's creative foundation culminates in stunning and vibrant murals painted up and down the city's downtown streets. Transforming ordinary buildings into public works of art, the murals add a beautiful expression to the city. A mural map with every major location helps with DIY mural hunts.

Statues and Sculptures of all Sizes and Subjects

Sculptures and statues abound in California, with many popping up in surprising places. Whether you are in town or out in the wild, make it a point to seek out these outdoor works of art.

  • Deserts
    Experience an array of wild horses, dinosaurs and unusual creatures in Borrego Valley. Known as Galleta Meadows Sky Art Sculptures, artist Ricardo Breceda scattered 130 pieces of fascinating and mind-blowing works throughout the valley, turning a simple drive in the desert into a true adventure. 

  • Los Angeles Area
    This September, Compound, a new cultural non-profit dedicated to the intersection of contemporary art, wellness and community, will open in Long Beach. Free and open to the public, the 15,000-square-foot complex consists of two main buildings linked by a large outdoor courtyard and sculpture garden. 

    The West Hollywood Design District, roughly defined by the junctions of Melrose Avenue and Robertson and Beverly Boulevards, is home to the renowned Pacific Design Center. The complex’s vibrantly colored buildings and unique outdoor sculptures make it a must-visit. Visitors will find a 25-foot stainless steel “Seat of Design” chair sculpture by Selbert Perkins Design, and a matching lamp called “Illuminating Design.”

  • Northern California Wine Country 
    Napa Art Walk in Downtown Napa is a rotating exhibition of sculptures by artists from the Western U.S.. The curated walking tour is made up of sites all a short distance from one another, with several near popular destinations like the Oxbow Public Market. A free, self-guided audio tour is available on the Otocast app. 

    In the acclaimed wine region of Carneros, The Donum Estate showcases it’s one-of-kind art collection. Donum’s guided tour features more than 40 museum-quality sculptures on the estate’s picturesque property. Tours of the outdoor collection can be combined with wine tasting and dining to engage all the senses. 

    Sonoma County offers great guided outdoor art experiences - with or without wine. Unbeaten Path Tours’ WalkShops take visitors around Sonoma County’s coast, through all the outdoor sculptures at Timber Cove and the jaw dropping architecture at Sea Ranch. Meanwhile, the Art & Wine Tour by Active Wine Adventures takes you to see Sonoma Valley’s eclectic and intriguing art and taste well-crafted wines. 

    You can also explore the outdoor art galleries of Sonoma County on your own. Stroll through the outdoor Sculpture Trail in Geyserville and Cloverdale or search for more than 70 statues of Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts cast around Sonoma County, whimsically decorated by local artists.  

    At Paradise Ridge Winery, sip vineyard-designated wines while taking in sweeping views and exploring the curated sculpture garden, Marijke’s Grove. The unique outdoor gallery is currently featuring the exhibition RESILIENCE, including works that shows the artists’ radically different reflections about “resilience” after the 2017 Paradise Ridge fires.

  • San Diego Area
    The Stuart Collection on the campus of the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla is a unique collection of 20 site-specific works by leading contemporary artists. The collection differs from a traditional sculpture garden by integrating some of the works with university buildings and architecture. 

    View the Port of San Diego’s extensive collection of public art while strolling along San Diego Bay. Many works commemorate San Diego’s rich military significance, most notably, the Unconditional Surrender/Embracing Peace statue, located next to the USS Midway Museum

  • San Francisco Bay Area
    In the North Bay city of Benicia, downtown streets are lined with public art. Notable sculptures include Neptune’s Daughter, a nearly 7-foot bronze sculpture and Tiles by Guillermo Granizo, illustrating the town’s story through a series of mosaic tiles lining the downtown sidewalks.

    In historic downtown Gilroy, public artwork and cultural gems are on display. Bronze sculptures celebrate figures from the city’s historic past, including its friendly namesake John Cameron Gilroy and the stagecoach stationmaster tending to the horses of early travelers. 

  • Shasta Cascade
    Across Butte County, art lovers can find public art on their outdoor explorations. The college town of Chico is full of bright murals, sculptures and other art installations. In Paradise, public art is part of the community’s rebuilding process, including a phoenix sculpture made out of donated keys from homes lost in the 2018 Camp Fire.  

Experiences, Experiments and Electrical Boxes
Innovation is part of California’s DNA, but not just in tech. Innovation drives creativity in art as well, from creating immersive experiences to beautifying everyday objects. 

  • San Francisco Bay Area
    Dare to dream in the new immersive outdoor experience “The Riddle of the Sphinx” at San Francisco’s eclectic Gregangelo Museum. The experience goes through three outside areas with a variety of installations where visitors are immersed in art, stories and riddle-solving. 

    Concord’s Todos Santos Plaza is surrounded by utility boxes that double as pieces of art. The Concord Art Association commissioned artists to paint the boxes in individual styles and now these eye-catching masterpieces are enjoyed by all who come to enjoy the park.  

    In Santa Cruz, a DIY public walking art tour takes art (and fresh air) aficionados past a series of 49 murals, sculptures and signal box art pieces throughout the City of Santa Cruz. All works are the creations of local artists using a variety of canvases for their artwork: concrete, traffic signal cabinets and raised planter boxes along Pacific Avenue.

  • Central Coast
    The expansive vistas in Cambria’s Fiscalini Ranch are best enjoyed from one of the many artistic benches located throughout the preserve. Benches located along the trails are each unique pieces of art - some are constructed from distinctive materials, while others feature special decoration - but all offer an artistic place to take in nature’s beauty.

    Enjoy a magical night in Paso Robles as the sun sets and the stars begin to shine. Head out Highway 46 East to experience Bruce Munro: Field of Light at Sensorio as it illuminates the landscape with over 58,800 colorful stemmed spheres covering rolling hills dotted with oak trees. 

    Outdoor art is woven into the downtown core of San Luis Obispo, from the individualized utility boxes that sprinkle the streets to the uniquely designed life-size cow sculptures from the previously hosted CowParade. And don’t forget to look up in any of the downtown parking garages - each has been recently decorated by local artists. 

Note: As communities re-open after COVID-19-related closures, some parks, businesses and attractions may still be closed or have new protocols in place. Please verify local guidelines and regulations for all destinations and hours and availability of individual businesses before publishing. Check out Visit California’s Responsible Travel Hub for guidance on how visitors can travel within California safely.