- By Pam LeBlanc
Ramble through Austin by bicycle and you’ll discover a mural around nearly every corner.
Most locals already know about the “I Love You So Much” art on the side of Jo’s Coffee at 1300 S. Congress St. and the “Hi, How Are You” piece featuring a bug-eyed bullfrog at Guadalupe and 21st streets. Maybe you’ve seen the “Greetings From Austin” vintage postcard-inspired wall art at 1720 S. First St., or the wall-sized likenesses of Willie Nelson and Mr. Rogers on South Congress Avenue.
INTERACTIVE MAP: The best murals in Austin you don’t already know about
But do you know about the wasabi murals? Or the “You Are Awesome” raccoon? We couldn’t get to all of them — Austin’s ablaze with awe-inspiring street art — but we picked some of our favorites here. The best way to view them? On two wheels, of course. And fueled by breakfast tacos.
1. Santa Elena Canyon (1401 E. Seventh St.). The famous high-walled canyon at Big Bend National Park makes an appearance on the side of the headquarters building of Kammok, an Austin-based company that makes camping hammocks and other outdoor gear. Aglow in shades of salmon, purple and maize, it’ll make you yearn for the prickly, wide-open spaces of West Texas. “It’s this idea of go forth and explore, be inspired,” says Haley Robison, CEO of Kammok. “We felt like the canyon would really help ignite curiosity about the wonders that exist in Texas.”
2. “You Sweeten My Day” (Shady Lane at East Fifth Street). Need a happiness jolt in your day? This mural — featuring an anthropomorphic cup and an accompanying dish filled with packets of sweetener — might be just your cup of tea. The contrast against a dilapidated and abandoned East Austin warehouse makes it sparkle all the more.
3. “Puppy Love” (2015 E. Riverside Drive). Who can resist puppy love? We heart the giant red design that adorns the front of Mud Puppies, an Austin dog washing and boarding facility, and it’s perfect for posing with four-legged or two-legged companions. As a bonus, enjoy the oversized paintings of begging and playing dogs that are just adjacent.
4. “Wasabi” (Fourth Street between Onion and Comal streets and north side of Sixth Street at Interstate 35 southbound access road). Just so you know, that bright green glob isn’t guacamole, it’s a sinus-clearing dollop of wasabi, and we found two versions of it — one on a roll-down garage door behind a chain-link fence surrounding an old warehouse on Fourth Street, and another on the side of a tan brick building along Interstate 35. Pucker up, my friend.
5. Funky cat (north side of Sixth Street at Interstate 35 southbound access road). Don’t miss this kicked-back, funky black cat wearing a bow tie. He’s groovy.
6. Sixth Street (south side of Sixth Street at Interstate 35 southbound access road). The “Welcome to Historic Sixth Street” mural also faces the access road. For big fun, stand beneath the “Don’t Mess With Texas” part of the sign, blocking out the word Texas with your own smug mug.
7. Creatures (1500 E. Sixth St.). We’re not sure what to call the crazy turquoise, white and black beings on the side of Volstead, a nightclub, but apparently they belong here. How do we know? One’s saying “A” while the other’s saying “TX.” Clearly, they’re from Austin.
8. Texas landscape (1511 E. Sixth St.). After you’ve finished that plate of migas at Cisco’s, take a gander at the expansive murals surrounding this classic greasy spoon, frequented by politicians including Lyndon Johnson, Bob Bullock and Bill Clements. We found a bony horse, mariachis, chickens, a pint-sized cowboy, a windmill, flying pigs and more.
9. “You’re My Butter Half” (2000 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.). What goes better with a slice of nutritionally vacant white bread than a fat pat of butter? Nothing. That’s why you should head to this mural on the side of the United Way of Greater Austin building for a smoochy selfie with your sweetie.
10. Raccoon (3018 N. Lamar Blvd.). The five-toed, mask-wearing bandit in this mural, partly hidden on the side of the Renner Project building alongside an entrance to the Shoal Creek hike and bike trail, is right: “You Are Awesome.” But you already knew that, didn’t you?
11. La Loteria (1600 E. Cesar Chavez St.). Community members fumed when South by Southwest officials painted over the mural depicting the popular Mexican card game that had covered this wall since the 1980s to make way for artwork related to the event. They made up for it, though, restoring the original mural, which now also features the singer Selena, in 2015. While you’re there, grab a cup of coffee or some new bike parts from Flat Track Coffee and Cycle East.
12. Dogs and cats (2400 E. Cesar Chavez St.). We love the big Siamese cat that fluffs up the east side of the Corner Vet offices. Not a cat person? A sweet black Lab’s got you covered on the south-facing wall. Good kitty. Good dog.
13. Date night (west side of Guadalupe Street between Second and Third streets). A pale-skinned woman in the perfect little black dress whispers sweet nothings into her lipstick-smeared date’s ear on this charming mural that brightens the inside of a parking garage.
14. “Hello!” (1102 W. Koenig Lane). Well hello there, good lookin’. In one scripted word, painted in white against a smudgy palette of soft colors, we’re drawn in, intrigued, captivated. This one’s worth the drive out of downtown. Plus, we still can’t figure out the meaning of the back half of a jetliner.