How to Survive ACL Music Festival
Alongside SXSW, the Austin City Limits Music Festival aka ACL is one of the most exciting fall events to take place in Austin. The event spans over two weekends in Zilker Park during the month of October.
However, this 3-Day long festival can take it's toll. Here are our tips to surviving ACL unscathed.
1. Don't drive. We mention this during SXSW as well. However, we aren't kidding around this time. There will NOT be parking at Zilker Park. In fact, the roads will actually be blocked off for those entering and exiting the festival. Some of the restaurants on Barton Springs rent out parking spaces. However, you have to claim these months in advance. Your best bets are to take the free shuttle, bike or have a friend drop you off. You can use ride-hailing companies like Fasten,Wingz, Uber, Lyft or GetMe. However, be aware that you might have to walk until you get out of a surge zone making your trip more expensive. The free ACL shuttle line might be long, but it does move and is a good option. It picks up from Republic Square Park downtown at the corner of 4th and Guadalupe streets starting at 10:30 AM (and make their final return from the park at 11 PM each day of the festival). For your convenience, we've got a list of Bike Rentals under Things to Do.
2. Be prepared for the weather. It always rains one of the weekends- and strangely happens to normally be Weekend Two. Regardless, check the weather each morning and dress appropriately. It might be good to pack that poncho/rainjacket just in case. Umbrellas are great, but beware of other festival-goers. You might actually block someone else's view or get them wet. If rain is in the forecast, be prepared to deal with some mud. And don't forget your sunscreen on the sunny days!
3. Plan an agenda. Check out the lineups by day and plan your day. The ACL Music Festival Official App allows you to build a customized schedule to save for quick reference. There is a possibility that some of your favorite acts are playing at the same time. You might have to split the time between the two. Do allow yourself to check out a few artists you don't know. There are a couple stages that are dedicated completely to artists like these. If you want to be at the front for a certain artist, plan to camp out at that stage all day. Remember, you can leave the venue and return up to 3 times. Just make sure to plan accordingly.
4. Have an alternate plan for meeting friends. Do not count on that cell phone in your hand. It is completely unreliable once you enter through those gates. Service will be spotty and phones will die. Do bring some back-up battery packs and your charging cord just in case. Samsung often has a little charging station for their Androids and a couple outlets for other phone users. Your best bet is to pick a spot and time to meet up in case of separation. Major props to the friend groups that make creative flags or other things to carry along to make them noticeable in a crowd. We've seen pinatas on sticks and inflatable pool toys before so the sky's the limit.
5. Eat Local and Bring Your Own Waterbottle. The food at ACL is often unique. Why? It is almost always local establishments in Austin aside from a few tents that are recognizable names from other festivals. Be sure to check out these local eats even if it costs you. Austin is a foodie city after all. There are refill water stations situated around the festival. It will save you a few dollars to bring your own bottle.
6. Attend an ACL Late Night Show. The party does not end when the festival closes at 10 pm. Some of the awesome venues around town open their doors for ACL artists to play "after hours." These shows often sell out fast and so it's important to buy tickets as soon as possible. These are some of the best ways to see those artists you missed while another artist was on stage at the same time.
7. Don't have a ticket? Rent a kayak. Some of the canoe & kayak rental locations off Lady Bird Lake offer tours during the last shows of the evening. These are wonderful for experiencing the two headliner stages in a new & exciting way. This option might not work when all the stages are operating during the day.
8. Be sure to check the ACL website's festival information. There is nothing worse than showing up to the venue to find you can't enter due to a prohibited item on your person. Be sure to check #5 on the ACLwebsite's information list. You may be surprised that your selfie stick, professional cameras and that aerosol sunscreen are among some of the prohibited items. It's better to leave that stuff at home than to have to turn around and miss your favorite artist. You are allowed blankets and collapsible chairs. However if you bring in those items inside, do respect the no chair/blanket zone.
Road Closure & Parking Information:
These road closures will begin the Friday before and end the Monday after the event. Swipe right to see a map of these closures and downtown parking options.
- Barton Springs Road at Sterzing Street
- Mopac Frontage Road at Columbus Drive
- Stratford Drive at Nature Center Drive
Many people have often utilized the surrounding neighborhoods for parking. Signage about restricted parking areas will be added in the weeks before the festival and are valid once installed. No street parking will be allowed within Rollingswood city limits. They will be issuing parking permits for residents.
Box Office Hours (Bring a valid photo ID. Box Office is located across from Barton Springs entrance):
Friday 10/6 - Sunday 10/8 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM
Friday 10/13 - Sunday 10/15 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM
Note there is also a Pre-Festival Box Office at the Yeti Flagship Store for will call wristband pick up on Wednesday & Thursday before each festival weekend. Visit the ACL Festival Information page for more details.