Mural in of Dolly Parton on brick building

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A Guide to 9 Artsy Towns For Art Lovers In America

So many US cities have bustling art scenes. And yes, you have the obvious choices, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington DC, as well as other big cities. Whether it’s museums, galleries, public art, or theater, lesser-known arts towns rival the most prominent art centers in the county. Many small towns to medium-sized urban areas are cultivating their arts communities outside the major cities because it’s great for tourism. Check out this Guide to Artsy Towns across the country.

Cultivating the arts has been a way for decaying urban centers to revitalize themselves. Attract artists, galleries, live performance venues, and restaurants and shopping are sure to follow. Some towns on this list have long art histories; others are newcomers to this trend. But the one thing they all have in common is a vibrant cultural life. Some of the best cities are bringing the arts to Main Street and, with it, life back to the downtown area. Check out this guide to 9 artsy towns in America.

#1 Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville’s art scene is legendary, with art deeply rooted in the community. The River Arts District, born out of the need for affordable rent and spacious studios, is a great place to start. The district covers over a mile, with galleries offering demonstrations, workshops, live music, food, and more. The Second Saturday events, held every month on the second and fourth Saturdays, are a great time to visit. To explore the district, take the free trolley, and check out the River Arts District Artists website for more information.

Expand your exploration beyond the riverside to the Downtown Arts District. Many studios, showrooms, the Asheville Art Museum, and the Black Mountain College & Art Center are here. Downtown also hosts First Friday Art Walks from April through late fall. Remember Asheville’s thriving festival scene, such as Downtown After 5 in the summer, which offers a chance to hear free music from various artists.

Stay in comfort and convenience at The Foundry Hotel Asheville or The Windsor Boutique Hotel in the heart of Asheville. Enjoy fine dining and unique shopping experiences with easy access to everything the city offers; either is one of the best places to stay.

#2 Portland, Maine

The Portland Museum of Art, founded in 1882, is the oldest art institution in the state. The city boasts a thriving culinary scene and a love of art. Fans of contemporary works will enjoy the museum’s collection. Some other galleries include Greenhut Galleries, Portland Art Gallery, and Mayo Street Arts. On the first Friday of every month, explore the First Friday Art Walk, where the city’s artists, galleries, and art venues open their doors. Visit CreativePortland.com for details and download an app for the free self-guided tour.

When searching for accommodations, consider The Francis – a locally owned boutique hotel inside a beautifully renovated historic building.

Water flowing over a damn in Greenville South Carolina
#3 Greenville, South Carolina

Greenville offers a diverse cultural scene with fine art galleries, live music, theater, and dance. The city boasts a love of public art, featuring over 120 permanent works, including sculptures, statues, murals, and architectural elements. Visit the Greenville County Museum of Art to view the extensive collection of Andrew Wyeth’s watercolors, or join the First Friday Art Crawl to explore the city’s galleries.

Greenville, SC, has many great accommodations to choose from. The Westin Poinsett Greenville is a historic hotel in the heart of downtown, while the Swamp Rabbit Inn is a charming bed and breakfast near the arts district.

Exterior of the Andy Warhol Museum with close up on a sign
Photo by Guido Coppa from Unsplash
#4 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh has long been a center for the arts. Due to great industrial wealth at the turn of the 20th century, the city has world-class museums, a thriving performing arts scene in The Pittsburgh Symphony, The Pittsburgh Ballet, and several theater companies. An excellent place to start is the Carnegie Museum of Art, where one of the world’s most famous paintings resides, Water Lilies by Monet. The 58th Carnegie International, the longest-running survey of contemporary art in North America, just finished, but mark your calendar for 2026 when it returns. Next on the museum crawl is The Warhol, dedicated to the works of the city’s most famous artist Andy Warhol. The “Time Capsule” and “Cambell’s: Ode to Food” are housed here, along with many other notable works. And don’t miss The Mattress Factory, home to contemporary art installations, and The Frick Pittsburgh, home to a classical art collection.

Consider staying at the Fairmont downtown, close to theaters, or The Oaklander in the Oakland neighborhood, close to many of the city’s museums.

#5 Santa Fe, New Mexico

In 2005, Santa Fe was designated a UNESCO City of Craft and Folk Art, the first US city to hold such a designation. A good starting point for exploring art in Santa Fe is Canyon Road. This famous stretch of road is home to over 80 galleries and is a beautiful place to stroll and experience Santa Fe. The city is also home to renowned museums, such as the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture.

Check out the Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return for a more interactive art installation. More akin to a psychedelic funhouse, this experience is a counterpoint to many of the area galleries. Form & Concept is another gallery you want to take advantage of visiting. They are blurring the lines between craft, art, and design.

Find public art at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden. Take advantage of the Shidoni Arts Gallery and Sculpture Garden outside Santa Fe.

The Inn of the Five Graces is one of the iconic hotels in Santa Fe; another option is the Drury if you are looking for a slightly newer and less expensive option.

Night sky with stars over the art installation of a Prada store in Marfa, Texas
Photo by Leonardo Corral from Unsplash
#6 Marfa, Texas

About three-plus hours southeast of El Paso, Marfa is a town of only a few thousand people. Getting there is quite a journey. But this remoteness and sparse environment attracted minimalist artist Donald Judd to Marfa in the 1970s. He converted an old army base into a gallery of art, and the rest is art history. Still a town with only one stoplight, this West Texas town maintains a thriving art scene.

Today two foundations — the Judd Foundation and Chinati Foundation — occupy about two dozen buildings focusing on Judd’s work and legacy, along with installations of other contemporary artists. You will also want to check out Ballroom Marfa—a contemporary art museum with a constantly rotating exhibition program. You will experience a different show from other working artists almost every time you visit.

The area also has a quirky food and accommodations scene. From James Beard-nominated chefs at Cochineal to the Lost Horse Saloon, where Anthony Bourdain filmed one of the final episodes of Parts Unknown. Plus, accommodations range from Cibolo Creek Ranch, a sprawling five-star property set upon 30,000 acres, to El Cosmico, a 21-acre hotel, and campground with vintage trailers and safari tents.

Storefronts along the main street in Bisbee Arizona
Photo by Jim Witkowski from Unsplash
#7 Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee is a free-spirited, old mining town in the southern mountains of Arizona. It is quintessential old American West. Located 90 minutes southeast of Tuscon, nestled amongst the Mule Mountains, this quirky town has attracted art lovers since the 1970s. Galleries line the historic town center, and live music is always on tap. Embracing its rich mining history is a massive part of the town’s identity. Despite having just over 5,000 residents, this small town has a lot going on. Catch performances by local musicians at venues around the tiny town.

In Bisbee, art is displayed inside galleries and outside on walls and upstairs. Be sure to check out the Broadway Stairs Pop-Up Art Gallery. Other arts destinations include stops at the Sam Poe Gallery and Pritchard Gallery.

Check out the Letson Loft Hotel or The Shady Dell for unique accommodations.

#8 Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

Located in the mountains of West Virginia, Berkeley Springs has gained a reputation as an art tourism destination. It is best known for its natural warm springs and spas, but today it is also recognized as West Virginia’s first certified arts community. 1977 the Morgan Arts Council (MAC) established itself in this historic mountain town. Today, MAC is centered around Ice House, a 40,000-square-foot community art center that hosts exhibitions, classes, lectures, and a shoppable co-op representing more than 30 artists.

Check out Coolfont Resort and The Country Inn of Berkeley Springs for accommodations.

View of San Fransisco from the shore in Sausalito
Photo by Michael Yung from Unsplash
#9 Sausalito, California

Located across the bay from San Francisco, Sausalito is a charming waterfront town nestled at the base of steep hills that frame the bay and lie in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. The town’s streets are lined with inviting galleries and shops. Look into the Sausalito Artists studio space tours, a unique experience that provides a peek into this vibrant and creative community. Local artists guide all tours and accommodate up to 25 people. During the tour, you will meet artists in their working studios, observe the creative process, and purchase art directly from local artists.

Accommodations are plentiful in the area. Try The Inn Above Tide or Casa Madrona Hotel and Spa, both luxury options in Sausalito. Also, San Fransico’s hotels are a short ferry ride, drive or bike ride away. Check out my post on Biking the Golden Gate Bridge and Staying In The Presidio.


Arts Are An Important Park Of Travel

If traveling around the United States, check out the arts scene in different cities. It’s a great way to get a taste of the local culture and see what makes each area unique. Public art is especially appealing because it lets you immerse yourself in the community and better understand what makes it tick. Many small towns host art fairs, music venues, and community theaters, all to encourage a vibrant arts community. So take time to appreciate and engage with the arts wherever you go – it’ll make your trip even more awesome!

Below are links and resources to help you plan The perfect trip

Travel Resources

  • HOTELS
    Booking.com and Expedia.com are great resources for accommodations around the world. Book almost any hotel directly from these links.
  • TOURS
    The best places to book tours and activities are Viator or Get Your Guide . From great food tours to guided hiking adventures to local walking tours, you will find great experiences to add to your travels here.
  • FOOD EXPERIENCES
    EatWith is a great resource for authentic culinary experiences with passionate locals worldwide. Connecting travelers with hosts in over 130 countries, providing unique, intimate, and immersive experiences in private homes and exclusive venues.
  • TRAINS
    Trainline is Europe’s leading train and coach app. They work with over 210 rail and coach companies to help their customers travel to thousands of destinations across 45 countries. 

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