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7 Sculpture Gardens Within Driving Distance of DC

Not ready to go inside a museum? You can enjoy art in the great outdoors on a day or overnight trip to one of these artful destinations.

Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center. Photograph courtesy of Joann Foltz.

The lingering uncertainty about Covid closures makes building a trip around a museum visit tricky, even as the country starts to reopen. But what if the museum itself is outdoors?

The District and its nearby suburbs are home to a handful of world-class sculpture gardens—Glenstone, the Hirsh­horn Sculpture Garden, the Kreeger Museum, and the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. As it happens, there are also beautiful sculpture gardens a bit farther afield, destinations for a day trip or a weekend getaway. Here are seven.

Photograph courtesy of Baltimore Museum of Art.

Baltimore Museum of Art

Two terraced gardens in the middle of Baltimore offer more than 30 modern sculptures by masters of the form, including Auguste Rodin, Joan Miró, Isamu Noguchi, and Alexander Calder. Distance from DC: 43 miles.

AnnMarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center

Its first artwork was a bronze tribute to Chesapeake oyster-tongers. Nearly 30 years later, the Southern Maryland garden is home to pieces from the Hirshhorn and the National Gallery of Art. Distance from DC: 60 miles.

Ladew Topiary Gardens. Photograph courtesy of Helen Norman.

Ladew Topiary Gardens

More than 100 shrub sculptures (à la Edward Scissorhands)—trees shaped as seahorses, birds, and men in top hats—adorn this 50-year-old public garden in Monkton, Maryland. Tour gardens of irises, roses, azaleas, water lilies, and more. Distance from DC: 70 miles.

Glen Burnie Gardens

The seven-acre gardens at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Virginia, feature a series of “rooms”—including a water garden, a rose garden, and a statue garden full of Greek and Roman figures. There are also a handful of contemporary works in the spring garden. Distance from DC: 76 miles.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The monument you’ll encounter here will be unlike any other in Richmond. Kehinde Wiley’s 27-foot-tall “Rumors of War,” created in response to the city’s Confederate statues, puts a young Black man in Nikes and ripped jeans on a stone pedestal, proudly atop a bronze horse. Distance from DC: 105 miles.

“Crying Giant.” Photograph courtesy of Delaware Art Museum.

Delaware Art Museum

The DelArt collection of abstract metalworks in Wilmington includes a relatable standout: Tom Otterness’s larger-than-life “Crying Giant” with his head in his hands. After touring the art, you can explore the medieval-inspired labyrinth. Distance from DC: 113 miles.

Sperlak Gallery & Sculpture Gardens

This part-nature-sanctuary/part-farm is New Jersey sculptor Stan Sperlak’s unique artist’s studio. Walk through three miles of trails in Goshen and look for hidden gems such as a magical window made of cedar branches. Distance from DC: 173 miles.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the AnnMarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center is located in Southern Maryland, not the Eastern Shore.

This article appears in the July 2021 issue of Washingtonian.

Rosa is a senior editor at Bitch Magazine. She’s written for Washingtonian and Smithsonian magazine.