Budget Travel | Top 10 Affordable, Up-and-Coming Destinations to…

Budget Travel | Top 10 Affordable, Up-and-Coming Destinations to…

Take a vacation that inspires creativity and imagination, and celebrates artistic skills and ingenuity. These fun exhibits and showings around the country are a great way to explore local culture or add an educational element to your next vacation.
Check out street art in San Francisco, California
A mural in progress in San Francisco – courtesy of the San Francisco Travel Association
Street art has a long history in San Francisco that dates back to the 1800s and has played an important part in the city’s art scene, culture, and political activism. Nestled amidst the eclectic neighborhoods and bustling streets of San Francisco lies a treasure trove of vibrant murals, thought-provoking graffiti, and captivating street art installations. From the colorful alleys of the Mission District to the iconic walls of Balmy Alley, San Francisco’s diverse neighborhoods serve as an ever-evolving canvas for local and international artists alike.
Drag queen, party impresario, activist, and philanthropist Juanita MORE! is one of San Francisco’s most beloved residents, so much so that she’s been celebrated with over half a dozen different street murals throughout the city. Juanita MORE!’s murals can be found in neighborhoods including in SoMa (Elliott C. Nathan’s Loads of Love at the Powerhouse), the Castro (by J. Manuel Carmona, outside Unionmade), Polk Gulch (Serge Gay Jnr’s creation on the exterior of Lush Lounge at Fern and Polk streets), Steiner Street at Grove (by J. Manuel Carmona and Guilherme Lemes Cardoso e Silva) and also outside the revived Love Shack by SPARC at 502 14th St., in the Mission (again by Gay Jnr.).
The Polk Gulch neighborhood is known for its vibrant tapestry of street art and testifies to the city’s rich cultural history. Once hailed as San Francisco’s ‘first LGBTQIA+ neighborhood’ with a thriving scene from the 1950s to the late 1970s, before the Castro neighborhood claimed the spotlight. Among the latest additions to its artistic landscape is a captivating piece by Serge Gay Jnr, located on the corner of Post Street and Larkin Street.
Renowned San Francisco artist, Amos Goldbaum, has recently decorated the public garden walkway in Bernal Heights with one of his iconic murals. Titled “City in a Garden,” Goldbaum’s masterpiece spans 13 panels and was crafted in just over a month. The mural showcases stencil-like depictions of the city’s iconic landscape, adding a touch of vibrant creativity to the neighborhood’s scenery.
Murals first appeared along Balmy Alley in the mid-1980s as a poignant expression of outrage over human rights violations and political corruption in Central America. Today, the themes depicted have evolved to include broader societal issues such as gentrification and government injustice. The Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts is just a few blocks away for those seeking additional arts and culture when visiting San Francisco. Alongside its impressive collection of exhibits, it offers several theatre, music, and dance workshops.
Kick off the summer in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Sunset in Virginia Beach by Daniel Halseth – Unsplash
The summer travel season is just around the corner, and Virginia Beach is poised to welcome visitors to its sunny shoreline with a packed opening weekend of festivals to suit a variety of entertainment themes. A pair of brand-new events build on the destination’s arts and music scene paired with the return of a top international action sports competition and a spotlight on the city’s patriotic personality. Add some sizzle to a summer vacation plan with a visit to enjoy any, or all, of the events planned for the first weekend in June.
Outdoor street-corner sculptures that dot the primary corridors of Virginia Beach’s ViBe District add color and creativity to the walkable arts community. A group of 15 artists will live paint all the neighborhood identifiers during the inaugural festival weekend (May 30-June 2, 2024), and an interactive and family-friendly community mural invites all visitors to contribute to its design. Shop a vibrant community of artisans, crafters and restaurants that add to the appeal of the free, new event just steps from the beach.
Additionally, three other festivals are happening the same weekend — so be sure to hit up all the entertainment while in town. Virginia Beach will be jammin’ as a new, seaside festival spotlights reggae music, food and culture. Gates open daily at noon for the Point Break Reggae Festival (June 1 & 2, 2024) with more than 20 concerts headlined by Grammy-nominated Rebelution and alternative rock band Sublime plus performances by Steel Pulse, Stephen Marley and Wiz Khalifa. General admission tickets and travel packages are on sale now.
More than 500 athletes from eight countries bring their skills back to the beach when the nation’s premier adventure sports competition returns this summer, JACKALOPE. Adrenaline rushes fuel competitors and spectators alike with mind-blowing exhibitions in street and vert skateboarding, bouldering, freestyle motocross, BASE jumping and skimboarding. This free event held at 31st Street Park and on oceanfront courses is a perfect match for thrill seekers this summer. Hotel and VIP viewing packages plus a series of ticketed athlete-led workshops are available now.
Finally, there’s the USO Experience, May 30 – June 2. Virginia Beach is home to four military installations and thousands of U.S. military servicemembers, and the city celebrates their service with a series of live concerts and informational exhibits in the 17th and 24th Street Parks on the oceanfront.
Visit a hidden gem museum in Raleigh, North Carolina
Skyline of Raleigh, North Carolina by TJ Wallace – Unsplash
Where can you find one of North America’s largest museum art parks, a collection of 30 Rodin sculptures and one of only two permanent Judaic art displays in the country? Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina, offers all of this and more.
The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) may not have the fame of the Louvre or the name recognition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it is undeniably a hidden gem in the art world, welcoming more than one million visitors to its campus in 2023. Nestled in Raleigh, N.C., this international art museum is home to a collection of 4,353 artworks from around the globe. With its diverse exhibitions and exquisite displays, it is a destination that deserves recognition and exploration. The idea for the Museum traces back to the establishment of the North Carolina State Art Society in 1924, with a mission to generate support for a state-funded art museum. An ambitious mission at the time, the Museum received funding from the North Carolina General Assembly in 1947, becoming the first state-funded art museum in the nation.
Today the NCMA showcases an impressive collection that spans over 5,000 years of artistic history. The permanent collection, The People’s Collection, was fully re-installed in 2022 to share a more inclusive art historical narrative and to re-imagine a more dynamic experience of the arts through newly conceived geographic and thematic galleries. Notable changes include joining Egyptian art with African art, interactive and accessible digital labels and community voices, which invited citizens throughout North Carolina to respond to objects in the collection in conversation with labels written by museum curators. The People’s Collection includes works by renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe, El Anatsui and Yayoi Kusama, among many others. Remarkably, public admission to The People’s Collection is always free.
The Museum’s Rodin collection of 30 sculptures is the most extensive Rodin collection between Philadelphia and the West Coast and is always on view inside the West Building and outdoors in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Court and Garden. The Museum is also celebrating its 40th year of Judaic art and has a gallery devoted to historic ceremonial Jewish objects. This collection is one of only two permanent Judaic art displays in an American art museum.
One of the distinctive features of NCMA is its stunning outdoor park, filled with sculptures and installations that surprise and delight. As one of North America’s largest museum art parks, the 164-acre campus provides a serene and immersive experience where art and nature intertwine. Visitors can bike or stroll along 4.7 miles of trails, marvel at outdoor artworks, native plants and wildlife and enjoy live music in the Museum’s amphitheater. The Museum Park has been transformed over the last 40 years with the goals of stewardship and sustainability in mind. An ever-evolving space, current projects focus on stream restoration, stormwater management and connectivity.
Consciousness is supported and spearheaded by NCMA’s Director, Valerie Hillings, who took on the role in 2018. Hillings previously worked in various senior positions at the Guggenheim and its partner institutions, curating more than 15 exhibitions on four continents. She is the ninth director of the Museum and the first woman in this role. With a strong leadership and curatorial background, Hillings initiated the reimagining of The People’s Collection in 2022, lifting diverse curatorial voices and enhancing the Museum’s accessibility features.
In addition to its permanent collection and outdoor park, the Museum hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions catering to diverse artistic interests. Current exhibitions include To Take Shape and Meaning: Form and Design in Contemporary American Indian Art. Upcoming exhibitions include Venice and the Ottoman Empire, The Time is Always Now: Artists Reframe the Black Figure and the sell-out annual floral art installation Art In Bloom, which returns every March. The NCMA also offers educational programs, lectures, workshops, markets and performing arts and film events that engage visitors and community members of all ages and foster a deeper appreciation for the arts. Museum programs engaged over 220,000 people across all 100 North Carolina counties, reflecting collaborations with over 415 partners for 797 programs in 2023.
Whether you are an art or history enthusiast or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, the North Carolina Museum of Art is a destination worth adding to your bucket list. From its expansive collection to its beautiful outdoor park, this hidden gem offers a rich and immersive journey through the world of art.
Encounter Mesoamerican sculptures in Illinois
Fernando Ramirez Founder and President of MCCD with an artist from Mexico – courtesy of MCCD / DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau
Mexican Cultural Center DuPage (MCCD) in coordination with Meztli Mexico and in partnership with the College of DuPage Public Art Project (COD) and the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) is proud to announce an exciting new project: “Olmec Trails: Culture and Legacy.” This new outdoor exhibit featuring hand-painted large-scale renditions of iconic Mesoamerican sculptures will be displayed this summer throughout DuPage County in an expansive exhibition highlighting the culture of the ancient Olmec civilization in a fresh and accessible way.
The colossal stone heads, crafted by the Olmecs between 1400 BCE to 400 BCE, originated in the southern part of Veracruz, Mexico, the cultural heart of this early Mesoamerican civilization. Each multi-ton sculpture, chiseled from a single stone using primitive tools, reflected the Olmecs’ artistic prowess and their significant influence on subsequent Mesoamerican cultures. Today, these iconic heads are celebrated globally as prime examples of pre-Columbian art and adorn various museums and public spaces. Notably, the Olmecs, Mesoamerica’s earliest civilization, left enduring legacies, including the precursor to sports like basketball and soccer.
“Olmec Trails” pays tribute to the indigenous roots of Mexican heritage as well as brings attention to the importance of public art by showcasing the immense talent and creativity of more than 30 contemporary artists from across North America. The artwork will connect spectators to these one-of-a-kind works in a healthy and enjoyable outdoor setting with both physical and mental benefits. Installations will be located numerous sites throughout DuPage County including the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, campus of COD, National Museum of Mexican Art and the City of West Chicago. The project is looking to partner in additional host cities. For more information visit
The creation of the works for this exciting international exhibition is already underway and will be completed in June of 2024. Artists in Mexico have begun painting some of the Olmec head sculptures and 18 international artists will arrive in May to paint on-site at two locations in DuPage County: the MCCD, 103 W. Washington St. in The City of West Chicago, Ill. and the MAC, 425 Fawell Blvd. on the campus of COD in Glen Ellyn, Ill. Installations and openings at the MCCD, COD and various forest preserves will begin June 1.
The exhibition will be celebrated throughout the summer with a variety of events including the Olmec Trails Family Fiesta Kick-Off Party at the MAC’s Lakeside Pavilion June 30. More information about events, sponsorship opportunities and exhibition updates will be available at
Support for “Olmec Trails: Culture and Legacy” is provided in part by the Mexican Cultural Center DuPage, College of DuPage, the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau, Illinois Office of Tourism and the National Museum of Mexican Art. Artist support is provided in part by Meztli Mexico and the Mexican Cultural Arts Alliance.

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