Favorite Public Art Spots in California

AAA Members share historic murals and gorgeous sculptures scattered throughout the state.

A mural covers the multi-story women's building in San Francisco's Mission District.
A mural covers the Women's Building community center in San Francisco.
Melissa Barnes

San Francisco has several amazing murals including Coit Tower’s socialist realist art from the 1930s and the “scandalous” murals of Rincon Center that were considered so un-American that legislators tried to have them removed in the 1950s and ’60s. San Francisco City Guides has free walking tours of all of these murals.” —Audrey West

“With a population of 325 and a size of less than three square miles, Sand City has over 50 colorful murals, created throughout the town since 2020. The third weekend in August, Sand City hosts the annual West End Celebration, which features over 100 local artists. It’s a family-friendly event, with live music on four stages, food, and open studio tours from local artists. Afterwards, you can go to the beach!” —Emily Nicholl

“The city of Berkeley abounds with public art, and some of the most amazing ones are located on the University of California, Berkeley campus. The school even offers a Campus Public Art and Architecture Map. Among the many treasures are statues, sculptures, and elaborate columns on historic buildings. Off campus, the city showcases framed artworks in public buildings as well as outdoor installations such as painted murals on Telegraph Avenue.” —Alfred Jay Spielmann 


“The city of Sunnyvale has over 150 public art pieces throughout the city. To make it easy for people to find each piece, Sunnyvale has an online walking tour map that shows the art by location in each section of the city. There are many inventive and intriguing pieces; something for everyone to appreciate.” —Joan Decesare

“The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California is marvelous. There are amazing Rodin sculptures inside, including The Gates of Hell and Burghers of Calais, and other Rodins outside are lit up at night. Collections change periodically, so there’s often something new to see.” —Sharilyn Parmeter

Midtown Sacramento is full of colorful, artistic expression. Murals and public art pieces by local and well known international artists adorn the streets and alleys. Guided tours and self-guided maps are the perfect way to discover this vibrant art scene, and a 10-day festival, Wide Open Walls, is held almost every September.” —Karen Migliori

Tourists climb the moasic stairs at 16th and Moraga in San Francisco's Golden Gate Heights neighborhood.
Find mosaic stairs across San Francisco, like this staircase at 16th and Moraga.
Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz / Shutterstock

“I highly recommend visiting the San Francisco Mission District murals and the San Francisco staircases, which both provide so many beautiful art pieces. The Mission District murals—famous for their vibrant colors and variety of subjects and themes, including social inclusiveness, community concerns, and economic and environmental justice—are spread throughout the unique neighborhood, which also has great shops and restaurants. There are also many beautiful, tiled staircases worth seeing. They’re not only functional and artistically beautiful, but a great way to [see] stunning views and unique parts of the city.” —Katie Petcavich

“I love walking by this poignant mural of a boy and three birds, painted by artist Elio Mercado, which is visible from 40th Street and Emery Street in Emeryville. This mural was a part of the 2022 Sea Walls Artists for Oceans mural festival that transformed blank walls across the city to encourage ocean stewardship." —Taryn Walker

You can visit a collection of Greg Brown’s trompe l’oeillart in downtown Palo Alto. A walking tour down University Avenue and its cross streets is the best way to see them.” —Carol Gilbert 

“The best place in the West to experience public art is Sculpterra Winery in Paso Robles, California. Sculpterra has very nice wines, fine art, and a multimillion-dollar sculpture garden that greets you upon arrival. It is truly remarkable.” —July P. Ratley