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The California desert offers wide-open spaces and intriguing landscapes, enticing you to get in your car and head towards the unknown—there's so much to embrace on your desert road trip: obscure rock formations, sand dunes, Joshua trees, lizards...did we forget to mention art?
Art in the California desert isn't your typical display of paintings and sculptures. Rather, it's much like the desert itself—extraordinarily surreal and awaiting your arrival. There's a certain mysticism felt when discovering bizarre, thought-provoking art in the desert. Whether it's the quirkiness of the artwork or the striking desertscape serving as the backdrop, you're in for a unique artistic treat. You'll definitely want to add the six most interesting California desert art to add to your to-do list.
1. Cabazon Dinosaurs
Location: 50770 Seminole Drive, Cabazon
The world-famous Cabazon Dinosaurs have been witnessed by all in one way or another. These dinos made appearances in everything from music videos to the 1980s comedy hits Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and The Wizard. If you've visited Palm Springs, there's a good chance that you've spotted these magnificent creatures on your drive.
So, why were these dinosaurs put there in the first place? The desert dinosaurs of Cabazon were built almost 60 years ago by sculptor Claude K. Bell. He spent almost two decades and a whopping (at the time) $300,000 to create a rather noticeable attraction to allure customers to his Wheel Inn Restaurant.
The dinosaurs are free to admire from afar; however, if you'd like to venture into "the belly of the beast"—a.k.a. Dinny the Dinosaur—that comes at a small price, but it's well worth it. So, if you're feeling gutsy, head to the gift shop located inside the giant dinosaur. Desert devourers, feast on delicious dinosaur-themed ice cream before wandering on the outdoor dinosaur trail.
2. Glass Outhouse Art Gallery
Location: 77575 Twentynine Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms
With the town of Twentynine Palms just several miles away from Cabazon, the Glass Outhouse Art Gallery is another worthwhile stop. You'll be in awe when visiting the unusual art display at a former rabbit farm. The gallery was created in a refurbished rabbit barn by artist and owner Laurel Seidl in 2009. Despite its secluded and almost undiscoverable location, the Glass Outhouse attracts artists and tourists from across the country.
On the first Saturday of each month, an event is held to celebrate the new artworks on display. The pieces are showcased for approximately one month before the next display of works takes over. Many visitors describe the barn and surrounding desert landscape as a part of the art show. Bring your camera and snap a few shots of the obscure art display.
3. Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch
Location: 24266 National Trails Highway, Oro Grande
Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, located off of historic Route 66, perfectly showcases the desert’s free spirit and eccentric feel. The locale features large metal pipes with bottles hanging from all sides, creating tree-like art sculptures—definitely one of California's most mysterious attractions. The forest of bottles and pipes is a bit overwhelming, but trust us: You'll be amazed by the time and effort dedicated to creating this masterpiece. It's definitely the type of place where visitors are encouraged to spend time exploring and divulging in the creation.
4. Anza-Borrego Sculptures
Location: 786 Palm Canyon Drive
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the Golden State’s largest state park and is bound to be one of the best experiences you'll have in the California desert. Something more than the desert views and the wildflowers is attracting visitors to Anza-Borrego: The state park is overrun with humongous metal sculptures popping out of nowhere, adding a sense of adventure to your trip.
Galleta Meadows currently features over 130 carefully crafted metal sculptures. This concept of placing large sculptures in the middle of nowhere was invented by Galleta Meadows Estate owner Dennis Avery. With the help of Ricardo Breceda, Avery’s vision came to life. The various animals demand attention with their commanding presence in the barren desert. Scorpions, grasshoppers, mammoths, camels, sloths, dinosaurs, horses, and turtles are just a small sample of the creatures you'll spot here. Definitely check out the majestic Sea Dragon. Stretching 15 feet tall and 350 feet wide, the dragon is the biggest sculpture in size—it actually spans across the road—so you can't miss it. To understand the meaning of the dragon, inspect it close up.
The true adventure lies in finding these sculptures scattered across the desert. So pack your bags, and make your way to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for one of the most interesting scavenger hunts in the desert.
5. Oasis Of Murals
Location: Twentynine Palms
Head to one of California's most remote regions to discover more desert art. North of Joshua Tree National Park (one of the best state parks for every interest), in the middle of the Mojave Desert, you'll find Oasis of Murals in Twentynine Palms. The first murals were created in 1994 by a local Merchants Committee, which then became the nonprofit Action Council in 1995. In 2014, the number of murals increased to 26, all of which illustrate the history of Twentynine Palms and the magnificent Mojave Desert. You can see colorful depictions of the town’s Gold Rush days, desert wildflowers, and local wildlife as well as tributes to the U.S. Armed Forces. After admiring the artistic walls, stop the Jelly Donut shop for a chocolate-glazed donut and a date shake.
6. The International Banana Museum
Location: 98775 CA-111, Mecca
Talk about going bananas! The Salton Sea is home to many eccentric sights and unique adventures, and the International Banana Museum is right at the top of the list. Located near the north shore of the Salton Sea, visitors will find a one-room museum display dedicated to everything yellow and banana.
If you're driving in the region, you can't miss the eye-catching banana car sitting right outside along with a giant banana welcoming you. As soon as you set foot in this interesting establishment, you will be amazed by all the banana items around you. (Who thought so many could possibly exist?) From banana couches and banana artwork to yellow wigs and hats, the quirky items here pay tribute to America's favorite fruit. Before you leave his mini-museum, make sure to stop by the Banana Bar and try one of the many banana-themed delicacies.
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