When it comes to art destinations in the Northeast, you’d be forgiven for only thinking of the region’s major metropolises and their world-class museums. And while the Met, MoMA and the Museum of Fine Arts should be on every art aficionado’s bucket list, New York City and Boston aren’t the only cultural hubs worth visiting.
Here are four road trip ideas to Northeast cities and regions doubling as artistic havens.
The Hudson Valley
The Hudson Valley’s scenery is gallery-quality itself, but there’s even more stunning sights to behold thanks to the region’s bounty of art museums. In the town of Nyack, just north of Manhattan, is the Edward Hopper House. The 19th-century building was the iconic artist’s childhood home. Today, it serves as a museum that exhibits Hopper’s art, as well as artifacts and memorabilia from his life.
Further up the river, you’ll find the Storm King Art Center just outside of West Point, in the town of New Windsor. The 500-acre outdoor museum is home to large-scale sculptures and artworks amidst meadows and rolling hills. Just across the Hudson is Dia Beacon. The expansive building, which once served as a Nabisco box-printing factory, is home to the majority of the Dia Art Foundation’s collection, ranging from the 1960s to today.
One last stop worth making is to Olana State Historic Site in the city of Hudson. The house and estate were once home to renowned landscape artist Frederic Church. Now it serves as a showcase for art, architecture and landscape.
Western Massachusetts is known as the home of the picturesque Berkshires. The region boasts an excellent food scene, recreational activities and a long list of cultural destinations. Speaking of this last category, nestled amongst the trees and rolling hills are three museums that every art connoisseur should have on their itinerary.
The trip starts in the southern portion of the state in the cozy town of Stockbridge. Here you’ll find the Norman Rockwell Museum, home to many of Rockwell’s iconic original paintings. In the northwest corner of Massachusetts, the town of Williamstown is home to the Clark Art Institute, a public art museum and academic research center.
Finally, head to the adjacent town of North Adams for the crown jewel of the Western Mass art scene: MASS MoCA. The museum’s expansive layout and indoor and outdoor venues perfectly showcase art of all forms, including painting, photography and sculpture.
Portland is so much more than lobster rolls and lighthouses (although those alone are worth the trip to Maine). It’s also one of the Northeast’s top art destinations. In the heart of the city is the Portland Museum of Art, the state’s oldest and largest public art institution. The museum’s vast collection of more than 18,000 pieces includes work by Andy Warhol, Winslow Homer, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Edvard Munch. In warmer months, you can tour Homer’s studio and spend time in the museum’s sculpture garden.
Portland is also home to the University of New England Art Gallery. The museum houses the university’s permanent collection and puts on exhibits that focus on the environment, social sciences, medicine, education, arts and humanities. Just outside of town is another university-based art institute – the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. The museum is home to one of earliest collegiate art collections in the nation, which has grown to include more than 25,000 pieces of work dating back 5,000 years.
If you’re only visiting the Burlington area for the skiing, you’re missing out on one the Northeast’s cultural gems. Vermont’s largest city is home to an art scene teeming with more than enough museums and galleries to fill any itinerary.
The Fleming Museum of Art, located on the University of Vermont campus, is the state’s preeminent institution of its kind. It houses a 24,000-piece collection from artists and cultures around the world. The nearby Champlain College Art Gallery, meanwhile, focuses on the work of contemporary local artists working in all media.
The Burlington City Arts Center hosts exhibitions, as well as art classes, camps and open studio hours in its three-level, state-of-the-art facility. Other notable stops to make on your Burlington art road trip include the S.P.A.C.E. (Supportive Places for Artists and the Creative Economy) Gallery, Soapbox Arts and the Frog Hollow Vermont State Craft Center.
The art is calling, now all you need is a ride. Good thing AAA members can save up to 20% on Hertz rentals.
Featured image: Storm King Art Center (Courtesy of I Love NY)