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That time of year is coming again— that’s right, the Austin City Limits Music Festival (known by most as simply ACL) is just around the corner. The two-weekend music festival draws in visitors from all around the world every year to Austin, Texas with their impressive lineup of iconic performers and up-and-coming bands. Music festivals are incredibly fun experiences that introduce people to new music and let them jam out with their old favorites. Check out this ultimate survival guide for ACL to maximize your weekend experience and have the time of your life.
Parking and Transportation
First thing first— getting to the festival. If traffic and parking wasn’t a nightmare already in Austin, the problem gets exponentially worse when it comes to ACL weekend. Whether you’re an Austin resident or visiting from out of town, you’ll probably want to keep your car at home or hotel if possible. There is no parking available around festival grounds, and many nearby neighborhoods will not be open for street parking.
Opt for alternative transportation like the city bus, rideshare services, scooters, or bicycles. Services like B-Cycle and scooters will have convenient docking stations located nearby. If you are coming from Downtown, ACL offers a free Downtown Shuttle that takes off from the Republic Square bus stop, located at 4th and Guadalupe streets. The shuttle will drop you off outside off the Barton Springs West Entrance on Barton Springs Road.
What’s Allowed...and Not Allowed
Don’t be that person that gets turned away or has to throw away a perfectly good backpack because they didn’t read the rules. (Remember, you just can’t go put your bag back in the car; it was likely an ordeal to get here.) Make sure you have a good idea of what you’re allowed to bring before you start packing your bag. Here’s a list of items that are allowed:
- Small purses, totes, and drawstring bags (not exceeding 14” x 11” x 5” or 30 linear inches) that have no more than one pocket. Backpacks and multi-pocket bags are NOT allowed.
- Sheets, towels, and blankets
- Cameras (basic point and shoots, no fancy DSLRs, folks)
- GoPros (without accessories)
- Sunscreen and bug spray that aren’t aerosols
- Totems, flags, and rage sticks under 12 ft. tall
- Individual collapsible chairs
- Hydration packs (however they must be empty upon arrival)
The following items are prohibited at the festival:
- Vape pens or e-cigs, drugs, or any drug paraphernalia
- Tents or canopies
- Pets (except service animals)
- Inflatable furniture
- Professional audio or camera equipment
- Outside food or drink
- Coolers (exceptions made for prescribed medication that must be kept cool)
To see both of these lists in their entirety, be sure to check out ACL’s official website.
Austin City Limits isn’t just for college students— families are welcome too! At ACL, children under the age of 10 get in for free when accompanied by a ticket holding adult. There’s even a special area called Austin Kiddie Limits that has tunes suitable for young ears and fun activities like arts and crafts. If you plan on bringing your little ones, the festival has made it easier by dedicating a special entrance for families. You’ll also find a Tag-a-Kid kiosk by this entrance, where you can register your kids with the festival in case of separation.
Make a Plan with Friends
If you go with a group, make sure you make a game plan for meeting up at the end of the day. Even if your cell phone battery manages to last through the day, service can be spotty due to heavy network strain with the massive crowd. If you separate throughout the day, pick a location to meet after the last act (or whenever you all decide to call it a day).
Prepare for the Sun
Don’t let the October date fool you; it’s not fall in Texas quite yet. Temperatures can still be in the 90s by the time October rolls around. Pack yourself into a crowd of thousands of sweaty people, and you’ve got a pressure cooker situation going on. Being outside all day in the blistering heat can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and painful sunburns if you aren’t careful. Take precautions to avoid the sun’s harmful effects.
- Always wear sunscreen that SPF 30 or higher
- Wear a cap or hat that shields direct rays from the face
- Protect the eyes with sunglasses that block harmful UV rays
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Bring your own water bottle (which you can refill for free at filling stations). You’ll be more inclined to drink the water you need if you’re not having to dish out money for bottles or canned water every time you get thirsty.
- If you can, seek shade between acts to cool off
Of course, there’s always a chance for a freak cold front. Texas weather is unpredictable! Before packing for the weekend, check up on Austin weather to bring the appropriate clothing.
Don’t forget to enjoy Austin while you are there! The wacky city has a lot to offer, from the famous Barton Springs Pool to mouth-watering barbeque. Take advantage of some of the other fun activities that the city has to offer to create an authentic, Austin City Limits Music Festival experience.