What You Need to Know Before Attending Austin City Limits

austin texas landscapeAustin City Limits is one of the biggest music festivals of the year and is produced by the people who created Lollapalooza. This year, the festival will be October 4-6 and 11-13 at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, featuring headliners like Guns n’ Roses, Mumford and Sons, Childish Gambino, and Cardi B. If those names aren’t inspiring you, never fear, there will be 130 artists and bands performing at ACL. The two-weekend festival boasts a variety of musical genres that appeal to all generations and types of music lovers. Almost everyone will find performances that are just to their taste.

Attending any music festival is daunting as there are plenty of details to think about. What’s the lodging situation? What do I need to bring, and what can I buy there? What kind of ticket should I buy? Lucky for you, we’re spelling out all the details below, so you can focus on creating the perfect weekend performance schedule.

Getting to Austin

Getting to Austin is a breeze. You can fly directly into Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, which is located just five miles from downtown and only 15 minutes from Zilker Park. You can rent a car (which we don’t recommend for ACL, but more on that later) or take a ride-sharing service to the park.

Once you’re in Austin, the hard work is over. Zilker Park, where the festival takes place, is just a few minutes from downtown and you have a few different options to get there. There is no parking at Zilker Park, which is why we don’t recommend getting a rental, but there are free shuttles from downtown. You can board at Republic Square Park at the corner of 4th and Guadalupe streets and you’ll be dropped off on Barton Springs Road outside the Barton Springs West Entrance. These shuttles run both ways, so you can get on and off in the same place when you’re done for the day.

If you’d prefer to use a ride-sharing app, Austin City Limits is partnering with Uber this year. Look for the designated pick-up and drop-off points that make it easy to get to Zilker Park. You can also bike, ride an electric scooter, or walk. For more specific information about limited parking passes, ADA parking, and road closures, check out the ACL website.

There are three entrances to the festival: Barton Springs East Entrance, off of Barton Springs Road, Barton Springs West Entrance, off of Barton Springs Road, and Lady Bird Lake Entrance, off of Stratford Drive. A complete map of the property is located here.

Hotels for Austin City Limits

Festival-goers can find plenty of options for lodging in Austin close to Zilker Park or the downtown shuttle that will make getting to the festival easy. To make sure you get a great deal in the best location, use Roomkey’s map search to find hotels in the area you want. You can lock in a rate at loyalty-member pricing, which might make up for splurging on VIP tickets. You can also use our Price Alert tool to compare prices at different hotels in the area.  

Below are a few of our favorite hotels in the downtown area, all of which are less than 15 minutes from Zilker Park by car. Or, you can browse all of our partner hotels in Austin.

  • Hyatt Place Austin Downtown is just three blocks from the historic 6th Street District, home to hundreds of bars and restaurants and some of Austin’s best nightlife.
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton Austin Downtown South Congress is a five-minute drive from Zilker Park and situated close to Lady Bird Lake and Congress Bridge, where you can view North America’s largest bat colony take flight nightly (trust us, it’s cool).
  • Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt is located on the trendy Rainey Street, home to unique bars and restaurants. The hotel also has a rooftop pool where you can relax after a day in the Texas heat.
  • Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown – University is pet-friendly in case your furry friend is making the trip to ACL with you. It’s also across the street from the famous Stubb’s BBQ. We highly recommend their Sunday Gospel Brunch if you can squeeze it into your festival schedule.
  • Element Austin Downtown is a modern hotel that joined the Austin skyline in 2017. Its urban rooftop bar, Upstairs at Caroline, will make for the perfect place to hang between performances.

Which Austin City Limits Ticket Is Right for You?

There are a few different options for your ACL tickets: General Admission, GA+, VIP, and Platinum. All these options are available in 1-Day and 3-Day options, and you are allowed to use multiple 1-Day tickets over a weekend. For example, if you’re planning to attend Saturday and Sunday, but not Friday, you could buy two 1-Day tickets. After you’ve decided whether you want 1-Day or 3-Day tickets, you can pick a tier.

  • General Admission gives you access to all shows, food options, and merch.
  • GA+ adds in a private, shaded lounge with air-conditioned restrooms, complimentary water and soft drinks, and a full-service bar.
  • VIP gives you access to the VIP grove with private bars, shaded seating, and free catered meals as well as a shaded viewing deck for the main stage and a dedicated entrance to the festival.
  • Platinum gives you access to the Platinum Lounge with special drink and food options; elevated, shaded viewing of the main stage; dedicated viewing areas at five stages; on-stage viewing of two main stages; and golf cart transportation.

You can view all ticket information here, but be prepared to buy quickly. Some ticket options are already sold out, and others are selling quickly. You can also purchase tickets through ACL’s certified resale program.

Some Other Things to Consider

Once you’ve bought your ticket, planned your lodging, and booked your travel, you’re set to go. Here are just a few more things to keep in mind as you pack for your trip.

You can find complete information about Austin City Limits here, including a full list of allowed and prohibited items you should definitely look over before you arrive. Some items that are not allowed in the park to note:

  • Bag size may not exceed 14” x 11” x 5” (35cm x 28cm x 12cm), or 30 linear inches (75cm) in total, and must have no more than one singular pocket or opening. Backpacks and bags with multiple pockets are prohibited.
  • All e-cigarettes and vaping products are banned. You can’t bring any liquid into the park with you, including water.
  • All aerosol cans are banned (make sure your sunscreen doesn’t violate this!).
  • Professional cameras (DSLRs) are not allowed.

To make sure you have a fun, safe, and comfortable weekend, bring the following items with you (all are on the approved list and recommended by ACL):

  • Sunscreen
  • Chairs or a blanket to sit on
  • A rain poncho (umbrellas are not allowed in the park)
  • A mobile charger for your phone
  • An empty, reusable container (not made of glass) to fill with water
  • Hand sanitizer

Some other things to remember:

  • Re-entry: You are allowed to exit and re-enter the park, but only up to three times per day.
  • Security: You will have to go through security, likely including some wait time, every time you enter the park. Be sure to leave enough time for this!
  • Food and drink: There will be food and drink for sale inside the festival grounds. Some vendors accept credit card, and some are cash only. ACL also has a cashless wristband option that all vendors accept. There will be ATMs inside the park.
  • Cell service: Unfortunately due to the crowds, cell service is almost guaranteed to be spotty. Keep that in mind while making plans to meet up with friends, or separating. It might work, but have a plan B!
  • Dress: Closed-toed shoes are highly recommended to prevent stomped-on toes, and be sure to dress in layers. Austin in October is famous for crisp mornings that lead to scorching afternoons.

Exploring Austin

Unlike other festivals like Coachella, ACL is slim on the activities as it focuses entirely on the performers. If you’re interested in more to do, you’re not out of luck—there’s plenty to do in Austin.

A few of our favorite spots to hit up when you’re not at the festival include: swimming at Barton Springs, The Contemporary Austin for art, Chuy’s for TexMex (ask for the jalapeño ranch dip), and Rainey Street for trendy bars and great eats after a long day in the sun. For a larger list of things to do in Austin, check out Do512’s Austin Bucket List.

While at ACL, remember to Keep Austin Weird and embrace all that the Texas capital has to offer. If you still need to book accommodations for one (or both!) weekends, visit roomkey.com to view our partner hotels in the Austin area. We make it easy to compare low loyalty member rates from hotels around the world and when you find the perfect one, we’ll take you directly to the hotel’s website to secure your room, rate, and loyalty points too.