If you like music – and that includes any kind of music – a trip to the Austin City Limits Music Festival is a must-do.
The event is held over two weekends each fall. Since the first festival in 2002, it’s been held in Zilker Park across the river from downtown Austin. The festival utilizes eight stages with continual music from noon until 10 p.m. each day.
Musicians have varied from Drake to Mumford & Sons, or Billie Eliish to Sir Paul McCartney. It’s a great way to discover up-and-coming artists and enjoy some classic performances.
Getting there is quite simple, and since driving is discouraged there are plenty of other options. It’s a short ride from most hotels and the festival has a special drop-off for Uber, Lyft and taxis. It’s also fairly easy to take a scooter or rent a bike from one of many B-cycle stations downtown. Austin’s public bus system passes the park, or there’s a free shuttle service from Republic Square.
Five tips for the first-time visitor:
- Bring water and a blanket or collapsable chairs. Even in October the Texas heat can be strong and you’ll want a place to sit. Water bottles must be empty or sealed when you enter. There are several water filling stations in the park.
- Watch the website for the lineup each day. Keep track of which bands you want to see and schedule your time so you won’t miss your favorites.
- Take a break. The 350 acre Zilker Park isn’t far from downtown Austin, so step away from the music at some point to enjoy the many nearby restaurants or just enjoy the park. Rent a bike, rent a kayak or dip in the nearby springs. Even better, don’t miss the two non-musical areas in the park to get a breather from the crowd. The art market has local and national artisans just steps away from the music. ACL Eats Food Court with three dozen different vendors is known for allowing exclusively Texas eateries.
- Use the wristband. Your wristband is required as an event ticket but can also be linked to your credit card for easy purchases like lockers, food and merchandise.
- Check out the ACL Late Night shows. The music doesn’t stop when the festival day ends. Smaller venues surrounding the park host performers after the concerts have finished.
Where to stay:
With about 450,000 people attending each year, reserving a room well in advance is a good idea. Staying within the downtown area means lots of dining and entertainment opportunities. But you also may be paying a higher rate.
The Driskill (a Hyatt property) might be the oldest operating hotel in Austin, but it doesn’t lack luxury. It’s located right in the heart of shops and restaurants in the downtown area.
Around the corner, The Line Austin is a stylish new hotel with excellent service and comfortable rooms.
Consider staying in Barton Springs, where Zilker Park is located. There are several hotel options, and while they’re not in the heart of Austin they’re convenient for walking to the festival.
2021 Dates and times:
The 2021 festival will be held October 1-3 and 8-10. The festival begins each Friday at noon and 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Each evening the bands wrap up at 10 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for an entire weekend or individual days.
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