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En Plein Air: 10 Sculpture Gardens in the U.S.

Get your art fix and some fresh air all in one spot.

If you’re someone who’s looking to balance their outdoor activities with a little bit of culture, there’s nothing better than a sculpture garden to help you get your art fix. From institutions that collect large-scale works from some of the most renowned international artists to unique collections by folk artists, here are 10 American sculpture parks where you can stretch your legs and take in some stunning pieces of art. And, as an added bonus, you don’t have to worry about trying to peer around big crowds or anyone shushing you.

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PHOTO: kerochan/Shutterstock
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Olympic Sculpture Park

WHERE: Seattle, Washington

Overlooking the Puget Sound is the Olympic Sculpture Park. This park, which opened in 2007, is free and open to anyone who’d like to stroll along the waterfront and take in large sculptures, like Eagle, an abstract work by Alexander Calder.

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PHOTO: Victoria Lipov/Shutterstock
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Storm King Art Center

WHERE: New Windsor, New York

Storm King, located in New York’s Hudson Valley, is a 500-acre open-air museum. Now in its 60th year, visitors can view Storm King’s permanent collection of modern sculptures as well as special exhibitions. Enjoy art that is complemented by nature and the landscapes that surround them.

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PHOTO: The Neon Museum
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The Neon Museum Boneyard

WHERE: Las Vegas, Nevada

Ever wonder where Las Vegas’ neon signs go when they’re retired? Many of Las Vegas’ famous signage gets a new lease on life at The Neon Museum Boneyard. Here, many of the Vegas strip’s most recognizable signage has been collected, allowing visitors to get an eye-level experience with over 150 signs spread out over three acres.

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PHOTO: blgrssby(CC BY-SA 2.0)/Flickr
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Laumeier Sculpture Park

WHERE: St. Louis, Missouri

When it opened in 1976, Laumeier Sculpture Park was one of the first of its kind in the United States. Decades later, it continues to be a place where visitors can traverse the 105 acres, taking in the over 70 large-scale sculptures that occupy the park including Fletcher Benton’s Donut No. 3 and Mark Di Suvero’s Bornibus.

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PHOTO: Mad Ball(CC BY-SA 2.0)/Flickr
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DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

WHERE: Lincoln, Massachusetts

About 20 miles outside Boston is the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, which features modern and contemporary outdoor artworks. The museum’s PLATFORM series features commissioned works by artists that interact with the park’s landscape, such as Myoung Ho Lee’s Tree…#2 (on view until June 2021).

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Chauvin Sculpture Garden

WHERE: Chauvin, Louisiana

While many sculpture parks feature works created by several artists and are typically meticulously curated, the Chauvin Sculpture Garden is unique in that its works are the creation of a single artist. In the ‘90s, Kenny Hill began filling his yard with concrete sculptures ranging in subject from angels to cowboys. Though Hill would eventually abandon the park in 2000, Nicholls State University continues to maintain this singular collection of folk art.

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PHOTO: photo.ua/Shutterstock
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Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

WHERE: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden turns 11 acres of the city into an airy green space where visitors can view over 40 pieces of public art, including the garden’s signature work is the playful Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The sculpture has become so beloved since it was installed in 1988, it’s become an unofficial emblem of the city.

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PHOTO: PQK/Shutterstock
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Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

WHERE: Grand Rapids, Michigan

In 2002, the Frederik Meijer Gardens added a 30-acre sculpture park to its grounds. The permanent collection includes works by Rodin and Degas as well as such contemporary masters as Ai Weiwei and George Segal. Visitors can take in these incredible works of art while walking quiet paths and meticulously maintained gardens.

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PHOTO: Andrey Bayda/Shutterstock
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Cadillac Ranch

WHERE: Amarillo, Texas

Sometimes art is a painting or a sculpture, sometimes it is realist and sometimes it is abstract. And, other times, art is 10 literal Cadillacs that have been half-buried in the Texan desert. This ode to the golden age of the American car was installed in 1974 and, though it is technically on private land, visitors are not only encouraged to come view the vertical automobiles but to leave their own graffiti, as well.

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PHOTO: Mariersal4(CC BY-SA 4.0)/WikimediaCommons
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Porter Sculpture Park

WHERE: Montrose, South Dakota

If you’re ever driving down I-90 in North Dakota and see a colossal bullhead flanked by two ram-headed skeletons, don’t worry, you haven’t driven through a portal to the Netherworld, you’ve simply arrived at Porter Sculpture Park. The surreal sculptures that populate the park are the work of artist Wayne Porter, who makes the large-scale pieces out of scrap metal.

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