Review of: The Houston Art Car Parade | Kids Out and About Houston <

Review of: The Houston Art Car Parade

sssIt's a Sight to See!

If anyone tells you they didn't go to the Houston Art Car Parade because "I saw the pictures from last year," you know they are missing out.

You HAVE to experience the Houston Art Car Parade in person!

It is a unique, and uniquely Houston, event that everyone from tots to teens to adult-type folks should experience. It's also the largest free public event in all of Houston.

So what exactly is it?


The Houston Art Car Parade is the largest art car parade in the world! It's put on by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art and has been strutting it's stuff since 1988 when the road show included 40 cars and 2,000 viewers. In 2013, the parade topped 315,000 attendees and almost 300 cars.

You probably already know that the Orange Show presents the Orange Show Monument, the Beer Can House, and the Smither Park development. Their mission is to preserve, promote and document visionary art environments, provide opportunities for the expression of personal artistic vision and create a community where that expression is valued.

What Else is There?

Of course their major event each year is around the Houston Art Car Parade. But its much more than a parade. Here's a rundown of the Art Car activities:

  • sssFestivities start the Thursday before with the Main Street Drag - "Bringing the Parade to the People".  So if you can't get to the parade on Saturday, you can still preview the cars on Thursday as they can be seen on streets around town and at varous elementary schools.  
  • Thursday evening brings the Sneak Peek at Discovery Green, another free way to see the cars and meet the artists.  It's an awesome family-friendly evening of live music, kids activities, and of course ART CARS!
  • The Art Car Ball Friday evening is the place to see and be seen "Where the Cars are Stars!" Crazy costumes rule and all vie for attention.
  • Parade day morning, there's plenty to do at the Starting Line Party and Summer Fest Stage which mark the beginning of the day's festivities. Visit the Family Fun Zone, then select your spot for the official Houston Art Car Parade!
  • Of course the Art Car Parade Awards Ceremony & Brunch the following day are for all Art Car Artists and their families.


Get There Early...

You will want to bring your camera, your lawn chairs or blanket and pick yourself out a prime spot along the parade route early on....perhaps near the Summer Fest Stage. There you'll hear great bands, be delighted by food and other vendors, and people-watch before you car-watch. Visitors are encouraged to wear outrageous costumes, and many do! This isn't a "let's get there just in time for the lllparade to start" type of event. Portable restrooms and ATMs are available along the route for your convenience. 

As they say....there's something for everyone at the Houston Art Car Parade. Your kids will love making their own art cars at the Family Fun Zone Mini Art Car Workshop presented by City Artworks. They'll also enjoy other activities from the Houston Public Library, and they can listen to music, play games, and have tons of fun courtesy of Radio Disney. 


VIPit Party Experience

sssYou can enhance your experience by getting a fabulous VIPit Party Pass.  Let me tell you, it is worth every penny! The VIPit Party is held at the Houston Heritage Society grounds (Bagby & Allen) at the East end turn-around of the parade route so you get the benefit of viewing the cars coming and going. It not only has the best view of the entire parade, it has included FREE:

  • Gourmet Food and drink from ten local restaurants (like Fuddruckers, Whole Foods, Line & Lariat, The Cajun Stop, and more!) Another reason to get there early.
  • lllA variety of adult beverages 
  • Shaded bleacher seating perfect for picture-taking so no one's in your way
  • Live parade commentary on art car artists as they pass (think Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade)
  • Family activities
  • Free parking
  • Swag-bags! You'll have to go next year to see for yourself Laughing
Did I say it was worth it? It definitely was. Plus you're supporting the arts in Houston, and who doesn't love that?

Art Car 101


What is an art car? It's a masterpiece of beauty created by....well, just about anybody.  First, you take an old car (or sometimes not so old) and you dream up a concept. Then you get your friends and family involved to help you put it together. Voila! You have an art car.  

I observed several art car types during the parade: permanently altered vehicles, temporary art cars (which transform back to normal after the parade), paint-enhanced vehicles, object-enhanced vehicles, people-enhanced vehicles, and even non-car vehicles (lawn mowers, bikes, golf carts, and lllreclining chairs). The stunning variety is what makes the art car parade so darn fun to watch.

Who can make an art car? You, yes YOU, can! Art cars are made by artists, students young and old, non-profit organizations, businesses and your neighbors. It just takes a vehicle (on wheels) and your imagination.

Whether you are an observer or participant, the Houston Art Car Parade is a MUST-SEE every year. Mark it on your calendar, pile your family in the car, and experience the art!