At their worst, museums are stuffy and swarming with tourists and what's with the glowering security guards? At sculpture parks, on the other hand, you get room to roam, fresh air and touch-friendly installations. Finding them isn't much of a problem. "There are countless amazing sculpture parks and gardens out there," says Cameron Cartiere, an arts-policy lecturer at the University of London's Birkbeck College. She oversees a global list at bbk.ac.uk/sculptureparks and has personally visited more than 100. Feel like following her example? Grab a windbreaker and discover just how invigorating art can be at the sites overleaf.
Hakone Open-Air Museum
Set amid Mount Fuji's misty foothills, this sprawling yet well-manicured park hosts well over 100 sculptures, including a collection of works from Henry Moore, whose reclining bronze figures seem to be enjoying the lovely views. Among the other sculptors represented are Marta Pan, Carl Milles and Alicia Penalba. At over 70,000 square meters, the park is big enough to tire you out. But fear not, this is Japan: hot baths await your aching feet. See www.hakone-oam.or.jp.
The Wanås Foundation
Enjoy lakes, woods, fields and a medieval castle as you wander amid this southern Swedish park's 40-plus installations among them Maya Lin's large 11 Minute Line, a grass-covered earthen wall favored by grazing cows. On her last visit, Cartiere spotted a family picnicking in one of the works. And why not: Melissa Martin's Dining Room features a wooden table never mind the tree growing through it surrounded by chairs, empty window frames and beautiful forest. "Now that is visitor engagement," says Cartiere. More details at www.wanas.se.
Frederik Meijer Gardens
Despite its seven-meter height, Nina Akamu's enormous bronze horse looks at home in the rolling green hills of western Michigan. Called The American Horse, it was inspired by a never-completed work of Leonardo da Vinci's and is one of over 180 pieces in the permanent collection. Works by the likes of Auguste Rodin, Edgar Degas and Andy Goldsworthy can also be found. Masterful landscaping lets you focus, for the most part, on just one work at a time. Sculptures are also complemented by variously themed gardens that are impressive in their own right. "Those who love plants can discover sculpture and vice versa," says Cartiere. "If you happen to love both, you will be in heaven." Visit www.meijergardens.org for more.
Billy Rose Sculpture Garden
Visitors to this exquisite facility at Jerusalem's Israel Museum can sit inside a steel representation of the Hebrew word for love (ahava) and ponder its ironies as they look out upon the divided city. The piece is from American sculptor Robert Indiana, and joins works by Moore, Pablo Picasso, Emile-Antoine Bourdelle and others. The garden itself was designed by a sculptor, Isamu Noguchi, in the 1960s. Its original intent was to display the collection of famed Broadway producer Billy Rose, but over the decades the aims have expanded considerably. See www.imjnet.org.il.
Storm King Art Center
Stretching west of the Hudson River for about 200 hectares, this mammoth park is big enough to justify the tram tours. Notable works include Alexander Calder's The Arch, a fearsome structure that looks like something left behind by alien visitors, and Louise Nevelson's City on the High Mountain a piece in black steel that abstractly suggests an urban dystopia and might remind visiting Manhattanites not to hurry home. More details at www.stormking.org.