Art Works Blog

Blue Star Museum Spotlight: Get Outdoors Edition

Planning a trip to a museum this summer doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to sacrifice a sunny day outside. Enjoy sunshine, blue skies, and being surrounded by natural beauty while visiting some of these Blue Star Museums that offer an opportunity to experience nature and art, together. From wildlife to sculptures to botanical gardens, there’s enough to see for everyone…inside and out! Add one of these museums in your summer itinerary and get outside today!

Lady Bird Wildflower Center Austin, Texas

Founded by former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, the Lady Bird Wildflower Center introduces its visitors to the beauty and diversity of wildflowers and other native plants. Along with its central gardens of varied wildflowers and plants, the center also has a family garden, a 4.5-acre garden designed for families and designed to encourage nature play. The center’s arboretum, butterfly garden, view from the San Antonio Tower, and walkable trails all help visitors engage with the natural side of Austin.

Lyon Arboretum - University of Hawaii-Manoa Honolulu, Hawaii

Located in a zone of tropical rainforest and home to over 5,000 tropical plant species, the Lyon Arboretum is renowned for its conservation efforts and its abundant and colorful landscape. The arboretum includes 193.5 acres of tropical rain forest, more than seven miles of hiking trails, and 12 themed gardens – including the Children’s Garden, the Herb and Spice Garden, and the Native Hawaiian Garden – all of which will inspire an appreciation of the unique flora of Hawaii and the tropics.

Tohono Chul Tucson, Arizona

Experience the nature, art, and culture of the Sonoran Desert region at Tohono Chul, a botanical garden with 49 acres of lush desert. Plants are specifically cultivated and chosen to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, which, along with a view of the Santa Catalina Mountains, can be appreciated by visitors. The three nature trail options allow for additional outdoor exploration. The artworks housed in the indoor art galleries reflect the convergence of cultures and art circles in Arizona. Through August 14 check out A(maze)ing maps and legends, which explores artists riffs on cartography.

Mt. Cuba Center Hockessin, Delaware

Native plants and ecosystems are the focus of Mt. Cuba Center, a botanical garden in Hockessin, Delaware. The garden possesses 50 acres of displayed land – including a formal garden, paths, ponds, and meadows – as well as 500 acres of natural land intended for conservation. Visitors can explore the gardens on their own or join a “Garden Highlights Walk.” Either way, they will encounter the center’s commitment to conservation and connect with the beauty of the area’s native plants.

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum Lincoln, Massachusetts

Only 20 miles west of Boston, on the shores of Flint Pond, deCordova’s exhibitions connect visitors to contemporary art and culture in a unique park setting. The sculpture garden is a full 30 acres of artwork by significant 20th- and 21st-century artists, including Jim Dine, Marianna Pineda, and Nam June Paik. Special programs include yoga in the park, nature tours, curator and artist conversations, many special talks, and screenings. deCordova is also home to an indoor permanent collection that contains a range of works, with a particular focus on photography. Through September 18, the exhibition Overgrowth looks at how a range of artists “represent prolific growth, expansion, and transformation in the natural world and the built environment.”

Lynden Sculpture Garden River Hill, Wisconsin

The Lynden Sculpture Garden combines art and nature in its scenic Wisconsin setting. Formerly the estate of the late Harry and Margaret Bradley, the property has been renovated using sustainable practices. Today, the garden’s permanent collection spans 40 acres of park, lake, and woodland, containing 50 monumental sculptures by Mark diSuvero, Barbara Hepworth, and Isamu Noguchi among others. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the scenery alongside the sculptures as well as the temporary indoor gallery exhibits. The garden’s outdoor and indoor spaces both feature work by living artists.

Audubon Center at Riverlands Alton, Missouri

Wildlife observation is exciting with the center’s high-powered scopes, 140 degrees of viewing windows, giving visitors a chance to see wildlife like Bald eagles and Trumpeter swans. The Heron Pond Avian Observatory (designed by architecture students) offers an especially unique observation experience. Water conservation and connection to the Mississippi River is emphasized through programs like the Native Plant Garden. Scheduled tours with a naturalist and indoor exhibits are also available.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum 
Chicago, Illinois

Experience and learn about nature even in the middle of the bustling city of Chicago. The Notebaert Nature Museum is a part of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, one of the oldest science academies in the country. It’s known for its iconic Judy Istock Butterfly Haven and for providing more hands-on science instruction than any museum in Chicago. In addition to live animal feeding and butterfly releases, you can also marvel at the changing face of the sky in Skyscape, Chasing the Perfect Storm, an exhibit of photographs by David Mayhew.

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