10 Great American Sculpture Gardens

These summertime favorites are a treat for the whole family.

By Casey Edwards

Looking to add some culture to a walk in the park this summer? Check out our guide to 10 beautiful sculpture gardens from Washington to New York.

1. DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

Lincoln, Massachusetts

The whole family (dogs included) can picnic on the expansive lawns then wander 30 acres of grassy and woodsy grounds. There are about 60 sculptures to contemplate here. One standout piece is Jim Dine’s masterful Two Big Black Hearts—get an up-close look so you can take in the shapes of seashells, hammers and other items incorporated into the hearts’ surface. The property also holds the former deCordova summer home, now an art museum with a roof terrace that provides views of neighboring Flint’s Pond. (decordova.org; adults, $14; free if you walk or cycle)

2. Olympic Sculpture Park

Seattle, Washington

Opened in 2007, this nine-acre environmentally friendly park of native flora holds just over 20 sculptures. The lawn zigzags down to the Puget Sound waterfront and its arresting perspective on the Olympic Mountains. Some of the artworks (including Louise Bourgeois’s installation Eye Benches) provide places to sit and appreciate the charms of downtown Seattle’s largest green space. (seattleartmuseum.org; free)

3. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Bentonville, Arkansas

A major endeavor founded by Alice Walton in the state’s quiet northwest corner, this museum focuses exclusively on American art. Thanks to its setting among lush native Ozark forest, there are 3.5 miles of trails along which you can discover about 20 stunning artworks. Don’t miss James Turrell’s The Way of Color, an immersive light show activated only at dawn and dusk that incorporates the slowly shifting colors of the sky. (crystalbridges.org; free)

4. Benson Sculpture Garden

Benson, Colorado

This harmonious 10-acre garden grew out of an annual outdoor late-summer sculpture sale (now in its 33rd year) that has helped fund the purchase of the roughly 150 sculptures currently on view. The small-scale, primarily figurative works are scattered around a series of lakes, with flowers, trees and the Rocky Mountains in the distance providing a pretty locale for an art-filled afternoon. (sculptureinthepark.org; free)

5. Lynden Sculpture Garden

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The impressive collection of Peg and Harry Bradley—who acquired contemporary sculpture throughout the 1960s and ’70s—holds court on their former property of gently rolling lawn, lake and woodland. Lynden showcases 50 or so pieces, including those by groundbreaking modernist sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, as well as some more-recent pieces acquired by the garden. (lyndensculpturegarden.org; adults, $9)

6. Brookgreen Gardens

Murrels Inlet, South Carolina

Give yourself plenty of time to explore this multifaceted, family-friendly Lowcountry attraction. The 9,100-acre property includes not only a sprawling 550-acre sculpture garden that exhibits almost 1,500 small-scale figurative works by more than 350 artists, but also a zoo, trails and archaeological sites. Founded in 1931, Brookgreen Gardens has since earned a place as a National Historic Landmark. (brookgreen.org; adults, $16)

7. Laumeier Sculpture Park

St. Louis, Missouri

Visitors to this 105-acre dog- and kid-friendly park come for the woodsy pathways and quirky contemporary works, such as Niki de Saint Phalle’s vibrant Ricardo Cat. There are about 60 pieces throughout several areas, including a children’s sculpture garden, as well as a separate indoor museum. Be sure to spend some time observing Alexander Liberman’s huge red The Way, which has become emblematic of the museum. (laumeiersculpturepark.org; free)

8. The Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden

Houston, Texas

Part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, this garden packs the history of modern sculpture into its compact one acre. Artists from Rodin to Ellsworth Kelly are represented, and the park’s plan is as noteworthy as the 25 works on display: The famed sculptor Isamu Noguchi designed it, incorporating walls and a wide variety of trees to create a relaxing oasis among the bustling Houston cityscape. (mfah.org; free)

9. Storm King Art Center

New Windsor, New York

Built to create a dialogue between the romantic Hudson Valley landscape and the art itself, Storm King rewards those who invest time in the 130 works spread out along its 500 acres of sumptuous fields, meadows and woods. At heights of up to 65 feet, the 10 towering steel sculptures by Mark di Suvero are hard to miss, but important pieces by such eminent artists as Alexander Calder, Maya Lin and Andy Goldsworthy can also be discovered. (stormking.org; adults, $15)

10. The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

New Orleans, Louisiana

A humongous safety pin and a gleaming tower of 98 men of decreasing size are just two of the 64 pieces in this charming 5-acre garden affiliated with the New Orleans Museum of Art. And a true Southern garden it is, with picturesque pines, magnolia trees and oaks dripping with moss. Connecting it all is a pathway that both circumnavigates and crosses a lagoon, making this sculpture park a great place for a leisurely and inspiring stroll. (noma.org; free)

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: June 2016