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View Free Art in the Midwest This Summer!

If you’re an artist or art enthusiast on a budget this summer (and that covers a lot of us!), you can view free art in the Midwest on a very cool road trip.

Okay, so it may not be as glamorous as going to the Louvre in Paris or viewing stunning Renaissance architecture in Florence. 

But beautiful art doesn’t need a pedigree or to have existed for hundreds of years to be the ‘real thing.’ And viewing art free doesn’t make it any less valuable.

Buckle Up to View Free Art in the Midwest

Hitting the open road is certainly freeing. Plus, in visiting each of the following Midwestern towns on the route, you’ll get a unique view of small-town America that embraces the arts. And you may even get some good reading in! 

So let’s go.

1. North Dakota

When many Americans think of art and the state of North Dakota, they think immediately of Mount Rushmore. And with good reason.

But we recommend heading to Regent instead. Find your way into North Dakota via I-94 and take Exit 72. It is here that you begin a 32-mile journey on what is known as the Enchanted Highway. 

It begins with the first sculpture entitled Geese in Flight. Then every few miles, you’ll be treated to a large metal sculpture unique to the state. If you’re particularly moved by a sculpture, you’re welcome to pull over and set up a picnic lunch near it. 

Heading back I-94 will take you over the 32 miles again, just in case you miss something.   

2. Wisconsin

If starting in North Dakota feels a little too ambitious and you’re not up for the 64 miles of road, you could start your journey in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It is here that the streets are lined with free art and stunningly colorful murals. 

Leaving Green Bay, veer south and a little west to hit Janesville. This smaller Midwest town is near the college town of Madison and there’s a strong art scene there as well. Walk through the downtown area to get a glimpse of all the murals. If the small detour to Janesville doesn’t fit into your schedule, you can continue to head due south to Illinois.

3. Illinois

Yeah, sure. You can stop along the way and hit some great museums in Chicago – if that’s in your budget. Whatever the case, you’ll want to head due south from Chicago and head for Casey.

If you’re a fan of whimsy, this is the town for you. It’s the home to 12 of the “world’s largest” items including a mousetrap, mailbox, gavel, and rocking chair. You’ll need to do some walking to view all of the items, though you can see many of them while driving as well. 

4. Iowa

While states like California, New Mexico, and New York always make the top of the ‘best places for art’ states, somebody has clearly overlooked Iowa.

Starting in eastern Iowa, Dubuque sits along the Mississippi River and has dozens of free murals to view. One of the most popular and impressive of them honors Ada Hayden – a prominent Iowan botanist, educator, and preservationist.

Head west to land in Mason City and take a break from murals. Mason City is home to the River City Sculptures that dot a 1.7 mile walkway through the city. They are available to view throughout the year and are replaced – with the exception of one – every May. The public votes on which one will stay. 

Continue on to Des Moines to check out the 4.4-acre park known as the John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. This free park boasts 30 incredible sculptures and is open from sunrise to sunset.

Finally, LeMars in the westernmost part of Iowa, is known as the Ice Cream Capital of the World. Since Blue Bunny Ice Cream is produced there, there are more than 50 6-foot-tall ice cream cone sculptures dotting the town.

5. Kansas

Kansas is another state that doesn’t make the ‘best art states’ list but has plenty to offer. Plus, it’s smack dab in the middle of the country so it’s centrally located. 

Marysville in the northern part of the state is known for black squirrels. It was given this moniker when a cage of sideshow attraction black squirrels were released from their cage in 1912. To celebrate this new infusion of black squirrels into the community, there are now 34 fiberglass sculptures spread throughout this town of 3000.

To get an eyeful of some more gorgeous murals, head to Abilene. The murals here celebrate the American West. The murals depicting the American Bison Stamp and Wild Bill Hickok are among the most visited.  There’s also a train mural that celebrates the Chisholm Trail. 

Finally, if you’re wondering where the world’s largest Czech egg can be found (and who isn’t?), it’s actually in Wilson, Kansas. If you’re not familiar with Czech eggs, they’re eggs that are beautifully and painstakingly decorated with traditional Czech patterns. The largest one in Wilson stands 20 feet tall. But there are smaller ones throughout this celebrated Czech community too.

Enjoy a Summer Full of Art!

Forget about the fancy museums at expensive destinations and check out all the free art in the Midwest this summer.

It’s a cool way to see what creative folks are doing in the heart of America. Plus, you’ll be able to pick up a lot of kitschy souvenirs along the way. 

And if you’re parenting a creative kid who’d love this trip but isn’t digging the conventional education scene, then contact us today. Our arts-integrated educational format could be just what he/she/they need to get inspired about learning. 


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