function OptanonWrapper() { window.dataLayer.push( { event: 'OneTrustGroupsUpdated'} )}25+ Places to Find Great Art Outside in California
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25+ Places to Find Great Art Outside in California

25+ Places to Find Great Art Outside in California

Murals, sculptures, and even painted fire hydrants expand the Golden State’s cultural scene
Posted 4 years agoby Katrina Hunt

California is home to a lot of world-class museums, but the state also offers proof that you don’t need conventional buildings to house great art. Cities and towns across the Golden State are increasingly offering more opportunities to experience public art—whether it’s murals that illuminate the history of a destination, or fanciful sculptures that enhance the sweeping landscapes. Next time you’re in these places, listed north to south, don’t miss these photo-op-ready (and mostly free) outdoor artworks.

Bears and Paul Bunyan, Del Norte County

This North Coast county uses public art to celebrate its connection to nature: Crescent City is dotted with murals (like one commemorating even a long-ago tsunami), while the bridge over the Klamath River features a pair of bears that were painted gold in the 1950s as a prank. At Klamath’s Trees of Mystery, walk the Trail of Tall Tales to see chainsaw carvings of Paul Bunyan, Babe the Blue Ox and other characters, rendered from redwood timbers.

Butte County Murals in Chico

Phoenix Rising, Butte County

In the Shasta Cascade region, Butte County’s public art scene looks both backward and forward. In Chico, murals are scattered around downtown, while Oroville’s murals tip their hat to the area’s Gold Rush history. In nearby Paradise, don’t miss the phoenix sculpture outside the town’s new Building Resiliency Center, made with donated keys from homes lost in the Camp Fire.

Alleyway Art Project, Fort Bragg

This Mendocino County project sought to bring beauty to “overlooked” spots around town, so today you can explore the back end of downtown Fort Bragg with its colorful depictions of rhododendrons, a sea monster, and a vivid mural inspired by an Indian folk tale.

Gold Panner Statue, Auburn

Visit the historic district in the Placer County town of Auburn to see the 45-ton Claude Chana, Gold Panner monument which honors the prospector who first discovered gold here in 1848. Fun fact: It was created by a local dentist who sculpted other local works in the 1970s.

Wide Open Walls, Sacramento

These ever-expanding murals in the capital city started as an annual festival, but you can see the impressive works year-round, from landscapes to abstract pieces, giant bunnies, and Johnny Cash. Create your own tour using its website to sort by neighborhood or each year’s collections.

Sculpture Trail, Sonoma County

The Sonoma County towns of Cloverdale and Geyserville are home to more than 30 large outdoor sculptures, known as the Cloverdale Sculpture Trail. The current assortment (which changes every two years) includes plenty of abstract works, as well as a giant candy apple and a whimsical “pigasus.”

Napa Art Walk

This biennial exhibition of juried sculpture rotates every two years, and is displayed around Downtown Napa. Take the free, self-guided audio tour (available on the Otocast app), vote on your pick for the People’s Choice Award, and stop in at nice diversions that happen to be located near sculptures, such as the Oxbow Public Market.

Sidewalk Art, Benicia

Look down as you stroll the sidewalks of downtown Benicia and you’ll see mosaic tiles by local artist Guillermo Granizo illustrating the historic landmarks, people, and events that have shaped the North Bay town. Start at J Street, then follow along First St.

Todos Santos Plaza Utility Boxes, Concord

If you visit the Farmer’s Market in the East Bay town of Concord, notice the colorfully decorated utility boxes that surround Todos Santos Plaza. Next, head down Salvio Street to see the mural depicting a July 4 celebration from 1894 featuring the town founders, the Galindo family.

Mission District, San Francisco

The Mission District is home to literally hundreds of murals and painted fences, often with themes of social justice or environmental issues. An easy first stop: The Women’s Building on 18th St., and its MaestraPeace Mural, which was painted by seven female artists in 1994 to celebrate women’s contributions around the globe.

Murals of Santa Cruz

Pedal around this bicycle-friendly town to see the city’s public art, including the 49 murals, sculptures, and more along Pacific Avenue. Make it a game by doing the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History’s free scavenger hunt, or just by seeking out these public murals, including the museum’s colorful outdoor plaza Abbott Square