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Squeeze in Some Last-Minute Summer Adventure with These Cultural Landscape Guides

The Cultural Landscape Foundation wants to connect people to the places of culture around them.

Lily Pool in Chicago, IL (photo © the Cultural Landscape Foundation)

We’re nearing the end of summer, but don’t fret yet — you still have time to travel and explore a place you’ve never visited. For some last-minute summer plans close to home, Hyperallergic recommends you dive into the wonderful city guides put together by the folks at the Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), a nonprofit with a mission to simply connect people to places of culture, from museums to parks to cemeteries.

The organization defines cultural landscapes as those “that have been affected, influenced, or shaped by human involvement … Collectively, cultural landscapes are works of art, narratives of culture, and expressions of regional identity.” Over the last nearly two decades, it has put together a growing database called What’s Out There, which represents the most exhaustive online resource of cultural landscapes around North America, from architect Paolo Soleri’s Cosanti complex in Paradise Valley, Arizona, to artist Benjamin Dominguez’s magical playground of concrete sculptures in San Gabriel, California. The database currently boasts over 2,000 entries, 900 profiles of landscape designers, and 10,000 images, and you can search it by location, keyword, and landscape type. Each site entry also includes a brief history of the place that, according to TCLF spokesperson Nord Wennerstrom, has been carefully vetted.

Arborland in Milliken, CO (photo © Jay Dickman, courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation)

What might be a little more helpful, if you live in or near a big city, would be to look at TCLF’s city and regional guides, which are derived from the What’s Out There database. Last year, Hyperallergic’s Allison Meier provided an overview of the New York City one. As she noted, New Yorkers are probably familiar with many of the listed sites, from the Museum of Modern Art to Cooper Hewitt, but the guide also includes less frequented places, such as Fort Wadsworth and the Olmsted-Beil House. Other cities TCLF has compiled guides for are Washington, DC, New Orleans, Houston, Denver, Philadelphia, and Chicago; one for Indianapolis is coming soon.

While many of the cultural landscapes are located in these cities, some lie in quieter vicinities and could make for nice day trips by car or train. Just 50 miles north of Denver, for instance, is the gorgeous tree farm of Arborland, established in 1971. Nature lovers near Chicago, meanwhile, can check out the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, which also features a herbarium.

To make your hunt for an adventure close to home even more convenient, TCLF’s website has a neat tool you can access with a smartphone. The database is GPS-enabled, so all you have to do to discover a nearby site is access the foundation’s website on your device, scroll down, and click “Explore What’s Nearby” button — the database will show you all the results within a 25-mile radius of where you stand. Now be off and explore your local built landscapes!

Osaka Japanese Garden in Chicago, IL (photo courtesy Chicago Park District)
House of the Four Winds in Lake Forest, IL (photo © Lyn & Bill Redfield, courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation)
Paul Revere House in Boston, MA (photo © Tom Klein, courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation)
Castle Island in Boston, MA (photo © Tom Klein, courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation)
National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO (photo © the Cultural Landscape Foundation) 
Antioch Park in Houston, TX (photo © Tom Fox, courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation)
Rienzi House Museum in Houston, TX (photo © the Cultural Landscape Foundation)
Fort Wadsworth in New York, NY (photo © Jean Gleisner, courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation)
Olmsted-Beil House in New York, NY (photo © Jacquelyn Walsh, courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation)
Franciscan Monastery in Washington, DC (photo © the Cultural Landscape Foundation)
Spanish Steps in Washington, DC (photo © the Cultural Landscape Foundation)
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