Art Works Blog

Take a Break from Vacation with Blue Star Museums

Summer is the perfect time to pack up the family, head outside, and visit some of the nation’s most beautiful places: our state and national parks. However, whether you have a rainy day, a bad sunburn, or just want to throw in some culture on your vacation, Blue Star Museums has you covered. Blue Star Museums are free to all active-duty military and their families, and can be found across the country. Here are some ideas to add to your itinerary:

If you are visiting Yellowstone National Park...
Check out the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum (Jackson Hole, Wyoming)

With the scenic backdrop of Wyoming outside, a trip inside the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum offers a glimpse for young and old about the history and culture of the peoples in the area. The museum immerses visitors in Jackson and the Old West, including walking tours of the town with a costumed guide and archaeological digs for the kids. Balancing the city's rugged history and charming character, this museum is every bit as captivating as the Wild West itself.

If you are visiting Appalachian National Scenic Trail...
Check out The Bennington Center for the Arts (Bennington, Vermont)

The unquestionable beauty of Vermont is captured on the canvases of the Bennington Center for the Arts collection. If you are trekking this multi-state trail, it is well worth your time to soak up the landscapes and impressive array of Native American pieces on display. The size and variety of art here makes it as unique as the park itself. Don’t forget to stop at the gift shop for your own piece of art on the way out!

If you are visiting Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park...
Check out the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History (Santa Cruz, California)

After seeing the majesty of the towering Redwoods, take the family to see the other wonders of nature in the Monterey Bay area. Exhibits include marine life tanks, garden habitats, geology experiences, Native-American history, and animal wildlife, ensuring that there is something for everyone in the family. For a little added fun, check out the surfing museum in the nearby lighthouse.

If you are visiting Yosemite National Park...
Check out National Automobile Museum (Reno, Nevada)

Set next to one of the nation’s largest and most beautiful parks is the National Automobile Museum, celebrating the ingenuity of American technology. Featuring over 200 cars and realistic scenes, one can take a trip back in time, either down memory lane or all the way to the origin of the automobiles in the 1900s. Currently on display are special exhibits on SpaceMobiles, celebrity cars, art about cars, and automobile-themed collectibles from around the nation.  

If you are visiting Fort Sumter National Monument...
Check out Drayton Hall (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina)

Between graceful magnolias and Civil War monuments in Charleston lies Drayton Hall, a historical home built before the Revolutionary War. Across the 350-acre property, one can tour the beautifully appointed plantation house, pay respect at the African American Cemetery, take a nature walk, and learn about the slaves whose impact can be felt in the low-country even today. The artifacts have been displayed across the nation in exhibits focusing on life in the American South. Among the plethora in Charleston, it is one of the most beautiful historic houses still standing.

If you are visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial...
Check out the
 Museum of Geology (Rapid City, South Dakota)

In the shadow of perhaps the most famous rock in our nation, the Museum of Geology is a great way for the whole family to learn about the minerals and fossils of America. Exhibits include mounted dinosaur skeletons, minerals, meteorites, and a hands-on area for kids to learn and explore. During the summer, families can take a Paleo tour to feel what is like to be a geologist. This is a museum everyone in the group will want to dig into!

If you are visiting Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve...
Check out the New Orleans Museum of Art (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Take a break from the hot, Cajun bayou and take in the other half of Louisiana’s beauty in the New Orleans Museum of Art. From the Antebellum parlor to pictures of Hurricane Katrina from 2005, art has been used in New Orleans to celebrate, decorate, and cope with tragedy. This museum covers the entire history of the city in its collection. There are kid-friendly activities as well as those for adults. Situated in the heart of the city, it’s also easily accessible. 

Interested in other ways our nature can intersect with art? Learn about our new "Imagine Your Parks" project, a collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service.

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