New York. Paris. London. Those are some of the big cities that travelers hoping for some cultural enrichment flock to. But what if you’ve had your fill of The Metropolitan Museum of Art or have grown tired of The Louvre? Here, four cities that might surprise you with its delightfully unexpected art and culture scene.
1. Daytona Beach, FL
As we recently reported, there’s more to Daytona Beach than sun, sand, and race cars. One of the city’s other big attractions is the Museum of Arts and Sciences, which is situated amid a beautiful nature preserve. The museum has an eclectic mix of permanent collections and changing galleries. During a visit, you might see one of the largest collections of Coca-Cola memorabilia in the world, early American furniture, Chinese art, and Napoleon-related artifacts (including his bed pictured above). One of the more unusual finds here is the 13-foot-tall skeleton of a giant ground sloth, and coming in 2015 is a new “Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art” collection of more than 2,600 paintings of Florida. Admission is around $13.
2. Cincinnati, OH
This city is famous for its chili — but what about ballet, opera, and a symphony orchestra? Believe it or not, you can find all of that in the Queen City. The Cincinnati Ballet presents around 30 performances each year, with a mix of classic, neo-classic, and contemporary styles. Upcoming performances include The Nutcracker and Alice in Wonderland ($32). The Cincinnati Opera holds the distinction of being the second oldest opera company in the country, right behind the New York Metropolitan Opera, and performs during the summer months starting in June. Finally, with a founding year of 1895, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is the fifth oldest orchestra in the U.S. and plays masterpieces from the likes of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Mozart.
3. Arlington & Fort Worth, TX
AT&T Stadium isn’t just the home of the Dallas Cowboys. It’s also an art lover’s haven: its collection of contemporary art features paintings, sculptures, photographs, and specially commissioned pieces. Some of the stadium’s entrances are flanked by massive installations, and tours are given three times a day for around $24. Less than an hour’s drive away is Fort Worth, where you can get a feel of how the city’s growth depended on the cattle trade at the Stockyards Museum ($2). Read more about the surprising high culture of Fort Worth here.
4. Palm Springs, CA
Known as a resort destination for couples and spa-goers, this SoCal city actually has the largest concentration of mid-century modern architecture in the U.S. In fact, its design reputation is so revered that there’s an entire week dedicated to celebrating it. In the upcoming year, Modernism Week will take place February 12-22, featuring shows, tours, films, lectures, music events, vintage trailer exhibition, and more. Tickets to the events are sold a la carte, starting around $15, but there are plenty that you can attend for free. Of course, you can always take a guided or DIY tour around town anytime of the year.
Bonus: A Creative Venue in Hong Kong
While Hong Kong has certainly become a great art hub in Asia, we were still tickled with one very creative concept that we just had to share. K11 Art Mall is an impressive art exhibit located within a high-end mall. Here, you can kill two birds with one stone: before or after you get some retail therapy, check out some artwork in the mall’s basement where creations by up-and-coming Chinese artists and higher-quality pieces are on display. The museum has an outpost in Shanghai, which earlier this year hosted an exhibition of 40 Monet paintings, with even more locations planned throughout China. Admission is usually free, though special exhibits may require a fee.