ACL Fest is quickly approaching, and there are lots of things you should know about it before you attend. Knowing what’s allowed at the festival, your transportation options (those pedi cabs are AWESOME), the best hotels to stay at during ACL Fest, picking your cute festival outfit, etc. are just as crucial as knowing the artist lineup. That’s why we're here to give you some insider tips about ACL fest. Whether you’re new to this music festival or you haven’t ever missed a year, taking some time to read these tips for ACL Festival can help you get the best time possible in Zilker Park.
Top 10 Tips For ACL Festival
1. Get To Know The Basics of ACL Fest
If you’re traveling to Austin for the ACL fest, get to know the basics of when and where the festival happens. It's simple stuff, sure, but it’s definitely worth it to look at a map of the city and see where you’ll be in relation to everything else, like downtown Austin, Franklin Barbecue, etc.
Austin City Limits festival is held at Zilker Park every October. So, starting in September, expect some portions of the park and nearby roads to be closed for preparation.
(However, other nearby parts like the Zilker Playscape, Barton Springs Pool, Zilker Botanical Garden, and Austin Nature and Science Center will be open before and during the event.)
Even though it’s just a 3-day fest, the musical event typically includes 11 days of venue setup, two consecutive weekends for the main event, and almost a week to remove the many stages, tents, porta-potties, etc. The Parks and Recreation Department also does a one-week post-event maintenance. It’s a HUGE event in Austin!
2. Pick The Best Transportations Options to Use for ACL Fest
Alright, here’s a good thing to take advantage of: the festival offers a free shuttle for every festival goer. (Check out the official Austin City Limits page for more information). If the shuttle details aren’t posted yet just go back a few days before the main event.
If you don’t want to use their shuttles, then your next best option is a ride share like uber or lyft (there’s an official drop-off/pick-up spot, but the corner of Barton Springs and South Lamar is the best “unofficial” spot to have your uber driver drop you off.
I really suggest not trying to bring your own car. There’s no parking at Zilker Park for ACL Festival goers, and the nearby business parking lots will charge A LOT for a spot. And it’s really hard to get out at the end of the night.
However, if you absolutely must drive, ACL Fest has partnered with Pavemint app. Nearby businesses well their parking spaces to festival goers. You can reserve one of those spots in advance.
If you want to get in some extra steps, you can definitely walk to the festival from hotels near ACL Fest.
There will be tons of Pedi cabs offering lifts, and it might be worth it to spend the $40 or so to save a mile of walking. You’ll be on your feet all day at the festival.
3. Always Observe the Austin City Limits Guide & Rules
Before you attend ACL fest you should check all the official rules. Make sure you’re aware of what things are allowed and which are NOT allowed to bring inside the event venue.
For example: don’t try to bring your DSLR camera, other cameras with interchangeable lenses, or any video equipment. Even selfie sticks, tripods, and monopods are prohibited.
Of COURSE you want to capture all the moments inside, but just be sure to bring a smart phone and no big cameras.
4. ACL Fest is Strict About the Bag Policy
All bags will be searched before you enter Zilker Park. To avoid any inconvenience, the very best tip of ACL fest is honestly just to leave your bag at home. (You can connect your credit card to your wristband, slip your phone and a small battery pack in your pocket, and carry a water bottle.)
However, if you really want to bring a bag into ACL Fest, follow the bag policy. All bags must only measure 6X9 or smaller. If it's bigger than that, it needs to be 12" x 12" x 6" or smaller and should be made entirely of clear plastic, vinyl, or PVC. Small purses, tote bags, and drawstrings are all allowed but big backpacks and other multi-pocket bags won’t be able to come into the festival.
5. Skip the Main Zilker Park Entrances
This is something that every ACL Fest veteran knows, so here it is for all the newbies: you have three options for where to enter Zilker park. There’s the Barton Springs East entrance, the Barton Springs West entrance, and the Lady Bird Lake Entrance. All of the entrances are always crowded, but the one that consistently has the shortest lines is the Lady Bird Lake Entrance.
If you want to save some time on your entrance, drop by Austin High School, walk a little bit further (across the Mopac pedestrian bridge - you’ll walk over the lake) and use the Lady Bird Lake entrance. Compared to other Zilker entrances, this line is much shorter. You can also exit here!
6. Pick Some Comfortable Music Festival Attire
When it comes to Austin City Limits Music Festival attire, you should always go for comfort. Sure, you want to look cute (and you will!), but Austin is still hot in October, and the 3-day passes mean literally dozens of hours on your feet throughout the weekend.
Opt for cute, breathable clothes. Comfy shoes paired with crop tops, shorts, or short dresses are all great options. And then accessorize like crazy. Here's a guide on what to wear to ACL Festival.
Remember that you'll spend most of your time standing and walking back and forth from stage to stage (and the park is HUGE!) so make sure to wear a pair of comfortable shoes instead of hot boots, flimsy sandals, or heels.
Also, be ready for mud and dirt all over the area. You probably don’t want to wear your favorite pair of shoes or those adorable bright white boots or sneakers as they’ll definitely get covered in dirt. Since it’s a crowded place and everyone gets hyped once the music starts, prepared for your shoes to taking a beating.
7. Get To Zilker Park Early Before the Festival Starts
A lot of people don’t get there until about 4-5 pm, but there are some great (smaller) artists in the early hours!
You can stand really close to the small stages for a more intimate performance. And then just lounge/nap in the grassy areas of the park if you need a rest in the middle of the day. be there at 3 P.M,
If you are going to arrive later in the day for the big headliners, remember the lines at the entrances might be even more crowded at this time, so add additional time for that. Don’t show up 30 minutes before your favorite artist begins - you’ll most likely miss some or all of their performance.
8. Plan Ahead For Porta Potties
The porta potties at the ACL festival are honestly pretty clean and well maintained, but with tens of thousands of people using them, they’re going to get a bit gross by the end of the day.
Bring a little bit of toilet paper (or snag some from the porta potties at the beginning of the day before they’ve run out and keep it in your pocket), or just try to seek out the very farthest porta potty. Yep, seems pretty simple…but most people just go the closest ones, so those get gross the fastest while the few on the ends of the row are a bit cleaner and well stocked.
9. Definitely Bring Your Own Water Bottle
Of course, outside food and drinks are not allowed. (There are local Austin food vendors inside where you can buy food to eat, and although it’s $$$, it’s a really good representation of Austin’s restaurant scene.)
However, you definitely SHOULD bring your own refillable water bottle. There are a few water refilling stations located all over the park so you can get lots of FREE water (the water they sell at the park is pricey) and stay really hydrated.
You’ll be thanking yourself by day 3!
10. Consider Bringing a Portable Chair or Blanket
There’s a certain crowd that wants to stand the whole time (under 30, maybe?) and there’s a certain crowd that loves securing a permanent “home” for the day with a blanket, a few portable chairs, and supplies like sunscreen water bottles, and hats. Both are great ways to experience the festival…just decide who you are!
If you want to bring a blanket and chairs to the festival, you’ll need to be there early-ish to secure one of the coveted shady spots at Zilker Park.
And sure, it’s a bit of a hassle to carry chairs, but there are so many lightweight ones/backpack styles available now, so it’s truly not that much of an issue. Definitely worth it if you want to pace yourself for the 3-day weekend.