Art offers a way to look beyond just a region's people and customs, and glimpse into their soul. There are a lot of big cities known for their art museums, but culture goes beyond what's found in a gallery. Scattered across America, often in the strangest and most unexpected places, are artsy little towns that make exceptional travel destinations. Here are some of the best ones to explore.
Salida, ColoradoDeep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the small town of Salida is one of the funkiest and eclectic towns in Colorado. The downtown is bursting with art galleries that sell pieces ranging from beautiful landscape paintings to eccentric, outlandish, almost frightening sculptures. There are over 19 galleries in the small mountain town and all relatively affordable considering. The town itself is gorgeous with a backdrop of the Arkansas River Valley and the Sawatch Range.
Taos, New Mexico
While its neighbor to the south, Santa Fe, is also well known for its art scene, Taos is the craftier of the two. The Southwest desert culture is alive and well, and the art reflects that. Indian carpets, watercolors, sculptures, woven baskets, wooden instruments, arrowheads, and oil paintings can be found in more than 24 art galleries within the town, which is enough to keep any art enthusiast busy until you're ready to take some turns on the slopes.
Fredericksburg, TexasSettled by German immigrants in the middle of the 19th century, Fredericksburg is a strange and seemingly misplaced taste of Bavaria in Texas Hill Country. Not only is it a 175-year old German settlement in one of America’s most conservative corners, but it is an extremely creative community. Among the original settlers were prominent artists Hermann Lungkwitz and Friedrich Richard Petri who instilled the importance of art in Texas tradition. The town's 22 galleries feature pieces that look far more European that Texan, offering a trip across the pond without leaving the country.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
While it isn’t technically a state, Puerto Rico is still part of the U.S. In the Old Town alone there are 15 art galleries, a hot spot to take in vibrant Caribbean culture. If you're looking for a more contemporary, grittier scene, head to the trendy Santurce neighborhood. Along with street art, you'll find indie concerts and the Santurce es Ley festival, which highlights cross-genre creations.
They say art imitates life, and in Carmel's case, it couldn't be more true. In 1906, a local newspaper devoted an entire page to the writers and poets of Carmel-By-The-Sea before it was discovered in 1910 that over 60% of the residents were devoted artists, including a majority of the town's mayors who dabbled in poetry. With picturesque pastel Spanish architecture lining the seaside, it's hard not to feel inspired by the scene.
Friday Harbor, Washington
From the gift shops to galleries and boutiques, even the hardware store in Friday Harbor is decorated in murals and mosaics. A quirky little town in San Juan Harbor, you'll find everything from sculptures to paintings, photographs, fiber art, and pottery. Equally known for their performance art, be sure to catch a show at the San Juan Community Theatre or Island Stage Left.