Art Along the Way: Outdoor Art on your Cycling Vacation
Going on a cycling vacation is one of the most intimate ways to get to know an area. As you spin along rail trails and quiet roads, you get up close and personal with people, towns and nature. On a bike, you’ll see little things that you’d miss by speeding along in a car or a bus.
Imagine riding through the adobe lined streets of Santa Fe, under a brilliant blue sky. You stop and take a swig of water, and something shiny catches your eye. Across the street is a glittering, undulating wind sculpture garden. You meander over to snap a quick picture, then you have a memory for life.
At Wilderness Voyageurs, our tours are designed to give you a real local taste of every place we visit. Here, we’ve highlighted a few tours that visit areas with incredible public art installations, galleries, architecture and sculpture gardens that you can visit along your ride, or access on a quick side trip.
Minimalist Art in West Texas & Big Bend
This Texas bike tour is full of incredible sights. From the expansive Big Bend National Park to the huge views on River Road, you’ll think that there’s nothing more to see. As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas. But when you travel to the small town of Marfa, you’ll experience another side of the Long Star State – the quirky artistic side, colored with Texas ranching style.
Marfa is a place for creatives. This tiny town is a quiet destination that gives you the space and a slower pace to contemplate art. Marfa’s internationally-renowned art scene is inextricably linked with this iconic landscape.
In the 1970s, New York minimalist Donald Judd moved to Marfa, drawn by the enchanting terrain beneath a large cerulean sky. He purchased several buildings for art installations, forever solidifying Marfa as a global art community. Today, you can visit Donald Judd’s buildings at the Chinati Foundation and Judd Foundation. There visitors can tour his large-scale architecture projects, paintings, and designed furniture, alongside other artists’ exhibitions.
As you walk through town, you’ll encounter numerous Marfa art galleries inviting you in to discover local, national and international talent. There are also large murals and numerous public art installations on the highway leading into town. Don’t worry, we’ll visit the famous Prada Marfa on the last day of this tour.
Art on Florida’s Suncoast
Visitors to Florida imagine everything beachy — fruity cocktails, lazy days in the sun, easy coastal cruising, salty water and lots of birds. You might be surprised to find yourself cycling along the Pinellas Trail, suddenly immersed in St. Petersburg’s warehouse district and surrounded by huge, colorful murals.
St. Petersburg arts scene looks a lot like the inside of a kaleidoscope – vividly colored and full of possibilities. Artistic expression in this vibrant downtown area takes place in museums, murals, beautiful galleries, local theater and concerts. Condé Nast Traveler named St. Pete one of the top small U.S. cities with “big-time art scenes” in 2022.
The Pinellas Trail, which forms the backbone of our Florida Suncoast bike tour, runs through the entire Warehouse Arts District. This area has transformed from a primarily industrial area to an artists’ community. The wide open warehouse spaces accommodate large-scale creative processes and projects, making big art creation accessible to more than a select few. This area is home to the Duncan McClellan Gallery, Fairgrounds St. Pete, Morean Arts Center for Clay, and ArtsXchange.
On this tour, we stay an extra day in St. Pete, so you’ll have time to see other museums if you choose. The Waterfront Museum District is home to the Dalí Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Mahaffey Theater, and St. Pete’s sparkling waterfront park system, which features some fun public art installations like a flock of bright red pelicans that sit atop the pier. Downtown, you have the chance to see the fantastically whimsical Chihuly Collection.
Michigan’s Mushroom Houses
They’ve been called Hobbit houses, mushroom houses, Hansel and Gretel houses, Flintstone houses, Harry Potter houses and lots of other names. Look at them closely and you find hints of a Swiss chalet, a Cotswold cottage, an Asian pagoda, European castles and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style.
These incredibly unique houses, designed by master builder Earl Young, are a sight to see on the Michigan Islands, Trails and Dunes tour. Earl Young famously didn’t use blueprints. As an artist, he created homes that fit the site, rather than forcing the landscape to accommodate the design. These structures are marked by whimsical chimneys, wavy roofs clad in shake shingles, arched doorways, enchanted fireplaces, low ceilings, turrets and genius use of stone that can run the gamut to jewel-colored boulders to stacked limestone.
Over the course of his fifty-year career, Young would build twenty-six residential houses and four commercial properties.“Stones have their own personalities,” Young told a reporter for the Detroit Free Press in 1973. “People say I’m crazy when I say so, but they really do. Why, I found a stone that weighed 160 tons. It was formed 350 million years ago at the bottom of a warm sea and was carried here 10,000 years ago by glaciers.”
Bike Path Art & Galleries in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley
The Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado’s Western Slope has a rapidly blooming art scene. The town of Carbondale, once a sleepy ranch town, has been booming for the past decade or so. Artists of all kinds are attracted to the clean, crisp air, the gorgeous mountain scenery and the vibrant, fun community there. Upriver from Carbondale, the glamorous ski town of Aspen has its own unique artistic vibe.
On our Cycle Colorful Colorado bike tour and our Kick Some Pass bike tour, we spend some time cruising through Carbondale and Aspen on the Rio Grande bike trail. As we ride into Carbondale under an intricate archway, we begin our ride on the Rio Grande ARTway.
The Rio Grande ARTway is a collaboration between Carbondale Arts and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which manages the bike path. It’s a public arts project with fun sculptures, public gardens and colorful mosaics embedded in the earth. Riding along this one-mile park through downtown Carbondale gives you the overall vibe of the Carbondale arts community, which puts on several public art festivals and events throughout the year.
Arts have long been integral to the town of Aspen. Art galleries punctuate the brick-lined streets, and the Aspen Art Museum stands out on the edge of town. Aspen Art Museum is a “kunsthalle,” a non-collecting institution home to contemporary exhibitions and aimed at the promotion of free art with complimentary admission.
Art, Big and Small, in Santa Fe
Santa Fe, New Mexico is a city unlike any other, truly living up to its tagline, The City Different, at every turn. Nestled among the mountains of northern New Mexico, Santa Fe has inspired generations of artists from O’Keeffe to Oliphant, McCarthy to Martin.
Perhaps it’s the light. At 7,200 feet above sea level, light does pretty magical things to a place. Or the landscape: expansive, sprawling desert-but-not-quite-desert. Maybe it’s the mud that’s turned into gorgeous red and orange adobe. Or perhaps Santa Fe owes its character to the artistic traditions that span the centuries and to the diverse cultural groups that have called the city their home.
But it’s not just turquoise jewelry and Western paintings you’ll find here. As its name implies, The City Different creates art experiences – no matter your preference – that are truly, authentically all its own. See large-scale sculpture like Ethyl the Whale (an 82-foot life-sized sculpture of a blue whale made of hand-recycled plastic trash), trippy immersive art at Meow Wolf, classic bronze statuary at Museum Hill, and hand-beaded, traditional adornments at the galleries downtown. You can visit sunny Santa Fe on our four-day Santa Fe Hub and Spoke Tour, as well as our longer Santa Fe and Taos cycling tour!
South Dakota’s Large-Scale Works
Experience the legendary Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the enormity of Crazy Horse Memorial. However, there is tons more mind boggling art in South Dakota. Wander through the bronze sculptures in the City of Presidents in downtown Rapid City. Get lost in the huge tangle of bikes piled next to the Mickelson Trail. Browse local art galleries to bring home a one-of-a-kind trinket as a reminder of your cycling tour in South Dakota. No matter what your expectations are, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and enamored with what you find along the way.