Note: This post has been updated with 2023 Art Car Parade information.
five-minute google search confirmed what I have always believed: Houston is home to the first* and the largest* art car parade — and art car museum, for that matter. Facts aside, it’s also the coolest thing ever, in my opinion.
*I hope you, unlike my high school teachers, allow sourcing from Wikipedia.
This year, the Art Car festivities have already commenced, and you can see art cars around Houston from April 8-16, 2023.
Here’s how the weekend will go:
- For the people who can’t make it out to the show: Main Street Drag (Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., all over Houston), visits schools and nursing homes around town.
- For the savvy pre-party partiers: Sneak Peek at Discovery Green (Thursday, 6 to 10 pm, 1500 McKinney St., free), fun party before the crazy crowds — live music, food trucks, etc.
- For a wild night out: Legendary Art Car Ball (Friday, 6 to 11 p.m., The Orange Show HQ, 5000 Gulf Fwy, $40 tickets). Dress outrageously — you know, match the cars — and enjoy food and drinks, music and the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the cars.
- For if you wanna see the cars, but skip the crowd: The Lineup Party (Saturday, 11 am, Allen Parkway @ Heiner St.). My FAVORITE thing to do. Get to see the cars, avoid the crowds, listen to music, eat food, and more!
- For the main event: 35nd Annual Houston Art Car Parade (Saturday, 2 p.m., Free). The parade officially begins at the intersection of Dallas and Bagby Streets (on Allen Parkway) heading into Downtown before circling City Hall and heading outbound onto Allen Parkway out of Downtown until dispersing at Waugh Drive.
- To find out the winners: The Houston Art Car Parade Awards Ceremony (Sunday, 11 a.m., free) Less cars, but less crowds. $15,000 in prize money!
Now that you know the when and I assume you get the why… let’s talk about what you need to know before you go try to hitch a ride in a convertible that doubles as a masterpiece.
- Go early. My favorite part of the parade is before it even starts. All the cars line up and are just sitting there, waiting for you to photograph them and…. TOUCH THEM. OK, well some of them you will really wanna touch. But make sure it’s OK with the artist. Last year, we got there at 1:30 and I remember rushing to get there because I was already seeing people post on social media and I had FOMO!
- Opt for VIP. The parade is completely free, but if you want the VIP experience, you get front-row seats, and all the sips and bites you can ever want for $175. Level up here.
- Get a beer. And, dare I suggest, an ArtCar IPA from Saint Arnold’s? Bonus points if you find the Saint Arnold art car.
- Skip bringing your pet. Technically animals aren’t allowed (and neither is outside booze). I’ve seen both of these rules broken, but I recommend following them!
- Bring chairs if you plan on posting up. Secure a front-row spot and pop a squat so that you don’t miss a thing.
- Don’t BYO Car. Really don’t recommend parking downtown during the parade, but you will for sure have garages and lots to choose from. Just… there will be 250 extra cars involved in the process, so be weary of where you leave your non-art car. Try Alto with code “ITSNOTHOU10” and get $10 off your first two rides!
- Bring your friends. Cars, no matter how artsy, are only so entertaining. Bring your buds and stay a while.
See ya out there!