For most Californians, walking yields to driving as the main mode of transportation. Driving is such a driving force for the state’s residents that “Saturday Night Live” created a recurring sketch about soap opera characters discussing driving directions and named it “The Californians.” Fortunately, there is freedom from the freeways, thanks to monthly art walks which provide traffic-free strolls through top galleries in The Golden State. So if you’re a current resident or future tourist, step away from the car and step into the art scene of these Californian cities.
Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk
Los Angeles, CA
Downtown Los Angeles is the destination of districts for fashion, flowers, and jewelry. This section of the city is also home to the Art District and the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk in which art enthusiasts embark on free, self-guided tours of the area’s galleries and studios. Occurring on the second Thursday of each month, the walk features galleries that are open from noon until 10pm, opening up the opportunity for a daylong excursion. For those with not as much downtime for downtown, an evening paid tour option is led by Art Walk Ambassadors who share their knowledge of the area’s rich history and highlight favorite exhibits. Other paid tour options include the Historic Core Mural Tour which exposes the unknown backstories behind street art and the Building on History Tour which celebrates the intersection of art and architecture. Regardless of the tour type, be sure to swing by the Art Walk Lounge to view pieces available for purchase from local and international artists.
First Thursdays Art Walk
Laguna Beach, CA
Thanks to the MTV reality show of the same name, Laguna Beach is synonymous with the teenage drama of high school students. And while such reality TV may be far from real, there’s nothing fake about Laguna’s thriving art scene, which is put on full display every month during First Thursdays Art Walk. From 6 pm to 9 pm, guests can visit the city’s galleries via a free trolley service, which shuttles guests on a loop around town and provides an on-board guide to answer questions. The Art Walk features even more freebies in the form of complimentary evening admission to the Laguna Art Museum and an interactive gallery tour that can be downloaded from the izi.TRAVEL app.
El Paseo Art Walk
Palm Desert, CA
When a Tupac hologram is the most memorable moment, it’s hard to remember that Coachella is more than music; in fact, its full name is the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. But while music is the main attraction for the Coachella Valley, the neighboring city of Palm Desert is an oasis for art. As part of the citywide celebration Palm Desert First Weekend, the city hosts its El Paseo Art Walk on the first Friday of each month from November to May. From 4 pm to 7 pm, fifteen art galleries participate in the walk with exhibit openings, artist receptions, and other events. The Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert also participates in the event by offering free admission from 4 pm to 9 pm.
Oakland Art Murmur
The San Francisco Bay may have a place called Treasure Island, but the real riches lie across the water in Oakland where the Oakland Art Murmur hosts free art walks and tours that are sure to fit any schedule. The first Friday of each month is dedicated to an evening gallery walk from 6 pm to 9 pm, when galleries and mixed-use venues open their doors to the public to host artist receptions. Not a night person? Similar strolls are held each Saturday afternoon from 1 pm to 5 pm with artist talks, lectures, and other cultural programs all on the agenda. Also available on every third Saturday are artist-led tours of three to five galleries, with each stop featuring short presentations from curators and artists. The tours, which run from 2 pm to 4 pm, are all themed; past tour themes have included “Art as Activism,” “Young Expressions in Art,” and “Photography as an Art Form.”
Napa Art Walk
Cheers are certainly in order for Napa Valley’s world-renowned wineries and wine tours, but a toast should also be made for Napa’s artistic tastes. Unlike art walks in other California cities, the Napa Art Walk goes outside gallery walls to focus on public art in the outdoor space. For the current exhibition, a jury of art professionals selected 14 sculptures from 14 artists, though it’s the city’s residents that get the final word as they are encouraged to vote online for their favorite to receive the People’s Choice Award. But the best vote is the one made with a wallet; all the sculptures are available for sale, with 10 percent of the proceeds going towards future Napa Art Walk exhibitions. To better research a prospective purchase or to simply learn more about the sculptures, download the Otocast app to hear an audio tour.