By Natalie Harms
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 weekend, April 11-14, the cars are rolling through downtown along with tons of great beer, food and approximately 75% of Houston residents.
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, 7 to 11 p.m., Hermann Square at City Hall, $30 in advance, $35 at the door). Dress outrageously — you know, match the cars — and enjoy food and drinks from Pico’s, music and the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the cars.
- For the main event: 32nd Annual Houston Art Car Parade (Saturday, 2 p.m., Free). The big shebang: 250 cars traveling into downtown, starting at Bagby and Dallas, then left on Smith, four blocks until another left on Walker, then a final left back on Bagby before taking a right on Lamar.
- 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!
- To keep the party rolling: Houston Art Car Parade after party (Saturday, from 4 to 8 pm, at St. Arnold’s Brewery) Cars make their way to the brewery at 5:30 pm.
- 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.
Here's what you need to know before you go:
- 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!
- Bring cash. You won’t need it at every vendor, but it might be faster.
- Get a beer. And, dare I suggest, an ArtCar IPA from Saint Arnold’s? Bonus points if you find the Saint Arnold art car.
- 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. There is $10 parking at 1100 Smith Street. Also, Lyft has $5 off for new and existing riders. Use the code “ARTCAR”.
- MetroRail instead. Ride to either the Bell St, Main Street Square, or Central Station stops and walk a few blocks northwest to Smith Street to catch the parade.
- Bring your friends. Cars, no matter how artsy, are only so entertaining. Bring your buds and stay a while.
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Art Car Parade weekend STARTS TODAY! 🎉🚗🎨 We have a whole guide to the festivities (link in our profile) — and we’ll be on @cw39houston at 7:15 am to give you our tips and recommendations. Are you going to any of the @houartcarparade events? Tag a bud you wanna bring with!