Austin’s graffiti park, officially called the HOPE Outdoor Gallery, definitely adds to Austin’s reputation for being totally cool and totally weird. The gallery started when graffiti artists began tagging an abandoned development project from the 80’s. It eventually became a full-on art installation when the owners of the property partnered with HOPE to make it a space where graffiti artists could freely do their thing.
HOPE, Helping Other People Everywhere, is an organization that uses art and music to raise awareness for various groups and issues. I know what you’re thinking; graffiti isn’t usually synonymous with socially-conscious efforts. but leave it to Austin to change that. Technically, you’re supposed to have permission to add your own art, but from what I saw, you really just need to have a spray can and a creative spark.
The first time I visited the park was on a sunny Sunday afternoon and found it swarming with people. There were families, couples, teens, skateboarders, and several photo and video shoots going on. It was all a bit overwhelming, but still a super interesting and fun experience. However, I wanted to experience this unique place free of the crowds and clusters of angsty teens. So I went again on a Friday around noon and found it much less populated. If you’re not into wading through a sea of onlookers, it seems like weekdays are your best bet.
Staying true with the grungy, artsy vibe, the park is in a state of disarray and, surprise surprise, it smells pretty strongly of spray paint. There’s free street parking, but it’s super cramped. So if parallel parking on a tiny, pedestrian-filled street in a spot that your car will barely fit into isn’t your jam, I’d recommend parking somewhere nearby and just walking over.
While you’re there, make sure to (carefully) climb to the top of the park and check out the views of the city and the castle – ya, there’s a freakin castle at the top. Taking a picture in the “free hugs” window with the monster is also a must do!
And, if you’re lucky, you might catch an artist doing their thing. It’s also required that you take a photo of you spraypainting something beautiful and creative. Or if you’re like me, just pose with a random can you found on the ground and pretend that you’re a badass…just think of all the Instagram likes!
This really was one of the most unique places we’ve seen in Austin. In fact, we enjoyed this place so much that we decided to come back on a weekday to do a quick drone flyover:
Pro tip: check for wet paint before you sit or lean on anything. Speaking from a friend’s experience… Just kidding, it was me who sat in wet paint.
I’d also recommend stopping by more than once because the artwork is always changing. Almost everything I’d seen on my first trip was partially or completely covered up by my second visit just days later.
All in all, you can’t beat a free outdoor art gallery with some of the best photo ops in Austin! If you’re in the area, you’ve got to check out the HOPE gallery. You definitely won’t be disappointed! Just be sure and ditch the crowds by going early on a weekday.
This article was written by Allison from The Endless Adventure. She and her husband, Eric, have traded in their steady paychecks and permanent home for a life of travel and adventure! They produce a daily vlog of their journey on their YouTube Channel, and post useful tips and fun travel stories on their blog.