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10 Innovations Making Cities More Fun

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6. Traveling Art

A giant red ball wedged between two buildings.

The RedBall Project isn’t content with just one appearance. It’s a giant red ball that travels the globe, insisting on popping up everywhere, and where you’d least expect it. As an art project, it’s pretty great; think of it as an updated take on the traveling gnome. As an act of urban whimsy, it’s even more fantastic, because I defy you to walk past a giant red ball without finding it at least a little bit funny, even on a dreary day when everything seems to be going wrong.

7. 3D Street Painting

Chalk art of a perilous bridge over a swamp filled with alligators. People on the sidewalk play around, pretending to be on the verge of falling in.

3D artists have really come into their own with the canvas of sidewalks and streets, which provides a lot of room for serious fun, and some seriously trippy artwork. For the skilled at trompe l’oeil, it’s possible to produce paint or chalk-art pieces so vivid that people can feel like they’re standing on the edge of an abyss, confronting a monster, or walking up a flight of stairs when they’re actually standing with both feet flat on the ground in the middle of a busy city. Such art is, by nature, ephemeral, which encourages people to get out and interact with it before it’s too late.

8. Free Hugs

A person holding up a sign offering free hugs.

We all have hard days sometimes. And on those days, some of us really just want a hug. That’s what the Free Hugs campaign, which is active all over the world, is all about.  Volunteers stand around with signs offering free hugs, and anyone who needs one is welcome to take one (and, hopefully, pay it forward in the future). It’s a little way of making life better in a sometimes frustrating world, and it inspires intimate interactions with not just urban environments, but the people who inhabit them.

9. Pillow Fight Day

People having a massive pillow fight.

If you feel a little moire boisterous, Pillow Fight Day is definitely what you want. Show up at an appointed place at the scheduled time with a pillow in hand, and have at it! Referees are present to keep an eye on the action and you may find yourself making unexpected comrades in the heat of battle. You’ll be left breathless and laughing — but don’t forget to clean up before you leave, because otherwise the city employees who’ll be expected to handle the aftermath won’t have nearly as much fun as you did.

10. Guerilla Education

People collaborating at a hackerspace.

You’ll find it at spontaneous and renegade urban gardens, where people are always ready to teach newbies. Hackerspaces, where people at all levels of ability are welcome to come play and learn about robotics, computing and other technological wizardry. Coworking spaces that randomly teach writing classes, or offer instruction in tango, or vegetarian cooking, or embroidery. Rogue urban knitters who’re always happy to take a break from yarnbombing to show you how to cast on.

If you live in an urban environment, you have access to a broad pool of people with some of the most amazing skillsets in the world. Look around, and you might just find a new hobby, some new friends and a new sense of fun.

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Photo credits: James Nash, Tom Mooring, Mr. T in DC, Eva Rinaldi, Rebar, Ann Wuyts, Robert Scarth, Bill Hunt, Marcel Hauri, David Shankbone, and Mitch Altman

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5:06PM PDT on Aug 2, 2013

pretty amazing

5:12AM PDT on Jul 1, 2013


3:08PM PDT on Jun 30, 2013

Great ideas,Thanks for sharing

5:21PM PDT on Jun 23, 2013

Amazing - I had seen some of these ideas, but love the collection. Also, like decorated life-size statues (cows/salmon/herons/moose)

6:29PM PDT on Jun 19, 2013


8:12AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

Love it!

6:34AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

Thank you. Fruit trees are a good idea anywhere.

11:48PM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

super cool! Ty

2:11PM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

Great ideas... except the " free hugs" ..I would be wary of this especially with youngsters ... they need to be taught caution with hugs.

8:09AM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

love these ideas!

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