The Art of Traveling: The 11 Cities in America With the Best Street Art
Street art has undergone something of an image makeover in recent decades. What was once considered a sign of disrespect to a neighborhood is now (rightfully) celebrated as a cultural touchstone of art and identity. Best of all? It’s free: "Art for art’s sake," to quote Oscar Wilde, in the truest sense of the word. A spectacular backdrop for your selfies also makes a pretty great souvenir from your trip. Another bonus? Plane tickets might not even be necessary — you may be surprised to discover some of these flourishing artistic communities right in your very own backyard. So get ready to pound the pavement and wander down hidden passageways, and read on for the best cities in the country to visit for street art.
Houston, TX: Houston is undergoing an artistic renaissance, and it’s happening right on the streets. Take the mother-son street art pair, Donkee Boy and Donkee Mom. Only a few years ago, they found it was too hard to make a living as artists in Houston, so they moved to LA. Now, they’ve moved back to discover there are now so many murals in Houston. The city is more supportive of street artists, and its streets and buildings vibrantly reflect that payoff. Just follow the pair on Instagram for a snapshot of Houston’s thriving street art scene @donkeeboy and @donkeemom. (Photo via Alex Roman)
Reno, NV: Reno is home to one of the most underrated art scenes in the country — including the exhibits on display at the Nevada Museum of Art. Book a Public Art Tour with Art Spot Reno (motto: “More Art Everywhere”); if you're stuck at your desk, you can follow them on Instagram @ArtSpotReno to get a sense of the innovative, large-scale street art popping up on every corner. The art is consistently imaginative and boundary-pushing, which is perhaps unsurprising considering Reno is the nearest metropolis to Black Rock City, home of Burning Man. (Photo via Art Spot Reno)
Detroit, MI: It shouldn’t come as a shock that the famously resilient Music City (also known as the home of Motown) also boasts a lively and expressive street art scene. Many of the messages skew toward moral and social justice: Just check out the recent Bright Walls mural festival (or follow their Instagram @Bright_Walls). (Photo via Bright Walls)
New York City, NY: Naturally NYC would be on this list. Of the concrete jungle’s many visual attractions, we’re partial to "I Feel You Baby" in the West Village and the street murals along Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg. Another favorite comes courtesy of one of our favorite Instagrammers, Arianna Margulis of @ButLikeMaybe, who collaborated with Planned Parenthood on a mural in the East Village. The best thing about New York is that there’s always something new and exciting waiting to be painted right around the corner. It is the city that never sleeps, after all. (Photo via Ben Gabbe/Getty)
Miami, FL: The exciting street murals in Miami would suggest local artists are up "all night in the streets until the break of dawn" (if you'll forgive the Will Smith reference), and you wouldn’t be wrong. Book a trip to Miami and stay at Life House, where you can connect to other guests via opt-in social media network. (All the better to show off your latest #OOTD in front of a downtown mural.) (Photo via Joe Raedle/Getty)
Austin, TX: We all know that famous "I Love You So Much" mural that gets so much circulation on Instagram. But we’d venture that many would be surprised to realize it wasn’t in New York or LA, but Austin, Texas. The arts culture is just one of the many things that “Keep Austin Weird,” and if you also love live music and food trucks, it’s high time you book your ticket to this trendy city in Texas Hill Country ASAP. (Photo via Robin Marchant/Getty)
Los Angeles, CA: The City of Angels is another must-visit for street art, particularly in the hippie-centric neighborhood of Venice Beach (though, of course, those in the know often now claim Silver Lake as the intellectual/creative LA hotspot). This street art culture is as integral to the "LA renaissance" as Mulholland Distilling, LA’s first spirits brand established post-Prohibition. A can of spray paint (or a paintbrush) and a shot of whiskey make for an iconic pairing. (Photo via Kevork Djansezian/Getty)
Honolulu, HI: The land of double rainbows and world wonders is also home to some man-made spectacles as well — we’re talking about the street murals, of course. Art lovers should be saying aloha and mahalo to Honolulu: this city on the island of Oahu is a spot for aesthetes of all kinds to appreciate the vibrant colors and energy of the Hawaiian culture, rendered in painted form. If you doubt us, just check out the imagery associated with the POW! WOW! festival. (Photo via Education Images/UIG/Getty)
Chicago, IL: The hometown of Kanye West and Chance the Rapper is a hotbed of creativity. But the city’s output is not limited to (insanely talented) rappers. The street art murals that have popped up around the city in recent years often contain political messages as well, illustrating that the resistance is here — and painted upon your neighbors' walls. (Photo via Scott Olson/Getty)
Dallas, TX: Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes street art. Perhaps the influx of creativity in the state's street art scene is reflective of the state embracing artists more, but whatever the reason, the murals in Dallas often speak to our larger condition as a nation. When the current state of affairs is too wild for even the Wild Wild West (last Will Smith reference, we promise), then we certainly have some reflecting to do. And what better way to discuss the nation’s problems and opportunities than via art of the people, by the people, and for the people? Long may street art reign in the USA. (Photo via Martyn Goodacre/Getty)
San Francisco, CA: Among the cable cars and steep hills of San Francisco, you can find amazing street art of all kinds hidden throughout the city. You'll see rainbows in the Castro, dragons in Chinatown, worldly murals in the Mission, and so much more. Just wear good walking shoes if you're planning on art-spotting by foot; SF's hills are no joke, but the views are worth it. (Photo via Federica Grassi/Getty)
What are your favorite cities for street art? Tag us in your go-to spots on Instagram.
Katherine is a freelance writer focusing on travel, culture, lifestyle, and politics. Her work has appeared in The Week, Tasting Table, Elite Daily, POPSUGAR, and Electrify, among other publications. She's traveled to all 50 states and 40 countries, but calls New York City home. Follow along on Instagram at @katherineparkermagyar or visit her website at www.katherineparkermagyar.com.