We often think about vacations as dreamy, “just because” self indulgences, but science has found that they are more necessary for our health than we might realize. In fact, taking a reprieve from your everyday life can have major impacts on your health, happiness, productivity, and even boost your creativity.

Researchers at the University of California found that resort and meditation vacations affected study participants in immediate and biological ways; the “vacation effect” as they call it, altered gene expression, boosted immune systems, and helped nullify people’s participant’s stress response, even after they returned home. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist who studies positivity, has also found that feelings of happiness (like the kind we get when taking some time off) can foster our creative energy, too. “Positive emotions, like love, joy, and gratitude, promote new and creative actions, ideas, and social bonds,” she writes.

 It makes sense to reframe vacations as a way to refuel productivity, happiness, and our creativity. While any reprieve is good for our brains and bodies, today we are highlighting vacation destinations that are especially good for those searching for some creative inspiration and rejuvenation.

West Palm Beach

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Miami gets a lot of buzz, but if you’re looking for a relaxing, beachside getaway in the U.S. that nourishes your creative spirit, West Palm Beach is worth a visit. The small town is in the midst of a “street art revolution” and  artwork — including huge murals, statues, and installations — that’s been commissioned by living artists can be found on every corner.

“Our goal is to eradicate the misconception that ‘street art’ is bad by exposing new viewers to the varied gifted artists that this city envelops,” the city states on its webpage. “Some of the most prolific artists in Palm Beach County will not be found in upscale galleries; so to make their voices heard, they seek to turn bland local walls into entrancing masterpieces. Our mission is to give them both a platform and an audience.”

West Palm Beach has certainly accomplished that goal. And in addition to bold murals and installations that inspire both residents and out-of-towners on the daily, it’s a hub for boutique artist galleries, designers, and makers. 

Joshua Tree, California  

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Let’s venture to somewhere that falls on the exact opposite side of the landscape spectrum: Joshua Tree, California. It’s impossible not to get wrapped up in the magic of the warm and dusty Mojave Desert, especially in a place like Joshua Tree with its cartoonish boulders and clusters of funky “trees” after which the city’s named.

The destination lures in creative types from all over the world — people who are eager to scramble atop the iconic rocks and mingle with bountiful cholla in Joshua Tree National Park, people who crave first-hand visions of our sparkling Milky Way, people who arrive simply to see some of the wackiest art installations in the country

Even the accommodations are notably creative: The Joshua Tree Inn & Motel looks like a movie set from the ‘70s, and the AirBnB options are filled with remodeled Airstreams, artist lofts, and wacky desert domes.

Silverton, Oregon

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You probably know Portland well, but today we’re honing in on one of Oregon’s lesser-known towns, Silverton. It’s located just north of Salem and about an hour south of Portland, and has a very humble population of about 10,000. We’re included it on this list for several reasons. 

First, because it’s tucked away from the noisy hubbub of the state’s biggest cities. Its lush landscapes offers a quiet reprieve and to help you “get away from it all” and really zero in on your creative endeavors. (In fact, it’s located next to Oregon’s largest state park.) 

Second, notable artists have pressed their thumb into the Silverton scape. For example, Frank Lloyd Wright built his Gordon House there, which has since been turned into a museum that the public can tour, and the town is rich with murals painted by local artists David McDonald and Homer Davenport. In short: if you’re seeking that PNW vibe — but more chill — Silverton is the place to go. It’s been described asa destination that “values artists but still knows how to leave them alone.”

Indianapolis, Indiana

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It’s home to the Indy 500 speedway, but that’s not Indianapolis’ only claim to fame. The second you step off your plane and into the airport — which features rotating art installations from living artists — you’ll discover that this is a city that proudly shines a light on creators. 

Though it’s only the 12th largest city in the United States, Indianapolis boasts more public artworks and monuments compared to any other city in the country aside from Washington, D.C. It’s also home to countless art galleries and museums (many of which are free), not limited to the famed Eiteljorg, Indianapolis Artsgarden, Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (imoca), and the Newfields Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA).

Indianapolis also takes it First Fridays very seriously, with niche art hubs located throughout the city’s neighborhoods. People inspired by the “unpolished” and Dada-esque approach will be enamored by Fountain Square, those with “refined” taste will enjoy the scene in downtown Indy (hit up Mass Ave), and those who really appreciate the social aspect, Victorian architecture, and perhaps a bit of spooky history, will dig Irvington.

Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Those craving a creative boost of the cranial variety ought to consider booking a flight to Cambridge, Massachusetts. It’s perhaps most well-known for its array of prestigious colleges — including Harvard University, The Longy School of Music of Bard College, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) — each of which pull a steady stream of innovators and artists into the city. At any given time of the year there are also plenty of live musical and artistic performances, world-class art exhibits, and hands-on workshops and lectures that visitors and locals can participate in. 

The Harvard campus boasts four unique museums, including the Harvard Museum of Natural History and a trio that makes up the Harvard Art Museums, which features work by world-known artists Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, Auguste Rodin, and Jackson Pollock among others. Additional notable museums include the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art, The MIT Museum, and The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

And if you find you need more to absorb? Boston, with its  history, art, museums, and architecture is only 15 minutes away. If you’re headed that direction, don’t miss the beautiful  Isabella Gardner Museum, one of the most uniquely-curated collections of art in the country.

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Wherever you choose to meander — even if it’s your own backyard — remember that taking some time for yourself is one of the best ways to refuel your creative spirit, so get out and enjoy!

Ready to follow your joy wherever it leads? Tyson Wheatley’s Skillshare Originals class Mobile Photography Basics for Instagram Success will teach you how to snap gorgeous pictures along the way.

Written by:

Wendy Rose Gould