So many music festivals, so little time…and money. If we all had unlimited capital I’m sure we would attend Austin City Limits and every music festival under the sun. However, we don’t have unlimited capital, at least I know I don’t. Life is about making hard decisions on what is worth your precious money. This article goes over all the good reasons you should attend Austin City Limits as well as the crappy things about Austin City Limits. Read it, digest it, and decide for yourself if the pros outweigh cons for Austin City Limits for you. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first and start with the cons of Austin City Limits.
Austin City Limits is a big investment, mostly for the Austin City Limits wristband and the accommodations. The three day general admission passes alone cost nearly $300 after fees. Even more expensive are the accommodations in Austin for Austin City Limits. In 2015 Austin was the 13th most expensive city in the United States for hotel prices. Thus for a big event like Austin City Limits you can expect the prices to be even worse. This sucks, but it is just how it works with Austin City Limits. The histogram above shows the hotel prices for Austin City Limits. Basically it shows you how many hotels are in each price range. The two most common price ranges are $100-$150 and $150-$200. This isn’t absurdly expensive like Coachella or Outside Lands, but it still isn’t cheap. If you get a hotel for Austin City Limits you can expect to shell out a decent amount of money on accommodations. As with most travel items the earlier you book the cheaper it will be. Hotels and houses will fill up very quickly, especially once Austin City Limits announces their lineup so don’t wait too long to book your accommodations for Austin City Limits!
Austin City Limits continue to grow in popularity every year, now even stretching over two weekends. Each weekend is popular, but if especially so if you go to the first weekend of Austin City Limits. You can fully expect lines everywhere at Austin City Limits – lines to enter ACL, lines to go to the bathroom, lines to get a beer, etc. If you really don’t like big crowds than Austin City Limits may get on your nerves fairly quickly. This isn’t exclusive to Austin City Limits, all big music festivals have big crowds. I am just letting you know before you purchase passes that you are going to be in a very crowded area all weekend at Austin City Limits.
One final note with the crowds is the fact that Austin City Limits allows you to bring in chairs. This is great as you can always have a comfortable place to sit. This is also bad as by the end of the night when ACL is at capacity you will constantly be swerving around people’s chairs. I’d actually prefer if ACL didn’t allow chairs because this is a major pain, but they do allow chairs so be aware of this going into Austin City Limits.
I don’t necessarily agree with this but it is a common argument against Austin City Limits. In recent years Austin City Limits has expanded to two weekends, each with an identical lineup. This means that Austin City Limits needs to book bands for both weekends, or they don’t get to be on the lineup. This is all fine and dandy if they can get the band to commit to both weekends, but often an artist may not want to setup camp in Austin for a two week period. If this is the case then they simply won’t participate in Austin City Limits. Many people claim that since Austin City Limits has expanded to two weekends the lineups have been watered down and gone downhill. Again, I don’t necessarily agree as I feel ACL annually has one of the best lineups in the country, but many people do think this is an issue.
Austin is a great city for many things, but public transportation certainly isn’t one of them. If you don’t stay in downtown Austin you are going to have a difficult time getting to Austin City Limits. I highly suggest booking near or within downtown if at all financially possible. Austin City Limits offers a free shuttle from Republic Square in downtown Austin that runs to ACL everyday. If you don’t stay in downtown you will need to drive or take the limited public transportation. You should note that ACL does not provide any parking at the festival so driving is sure to be abysmal. Despite the festival taking place just a couple miles from downtown Austin it is still quite an ordeal to get to Austin City Limits.
That’s enough about the negative side of Austin City Limits. Let’s turn the page now and look at all the great things about the festival.
Annually Austin City Limits has one of the best music lineups in the country. For example, in 2016 Austin City Limits had LCD Soundsystem and they didn’t even headline. LCD headlined over a dozen festivals that year but at ACL they were a sub-headliner. If you truly love music Austin City Limits is absolutely fantastic. They feature music from all genres and over 100 bands. Regardless of the type of music you are into you will find something you like. One of the best parts of Austin City Limits is discovering some new music that you hadn’t heard of before. Be sure to get to Austin City Limits early some days and check out some of the lower billed artists.
Austin is certainly known for its food, and Austin City Limits is no exception. Looking for some great BBQ? Austin City Limits will certainly let you get your fix. Every festival brags about bringing in some quality grub from the city, but Austin City Limits truly focuses on making this a big part of the festival. This is not your standard hot dogs and nachos you get at concerts – this is some of the best options are Austin restaurants and food trucks. You can see all the food offerings Austin City Limits will offer at their official website at https://www.aclfestival.com/experience/food/.
Austin City Limits has one of the best locations of any festival in the country. The only festivals that immediately come to mind with such a central location in a major city are Outside Lands, Lollapalooza and Bumbershoot. Austin City Limits takes place in Zilker Park, which is about two miles south of downtown Austin. It is a wonderful place to host a music festival with open fields of grass and beautiful views of downtown Austin. If you stay in downtown Austin you can walk (a bit of a hike), easily bike, or take a shuttle to Austin City Limits. We actually have a full article on how you can make your way down to Zilker Park for Austin City Limits. You can read the full article at http://www.eventtrk.com/events/35/austin-city-limits/19/how-you-can-get-to-austin-city-limits.
Some people may feel like Austin City Limits can get too hot, but if you are from an area facing an impending winter this can be quite nice. Austin City Limits occurs every October, right when Texas is beginning to cool off. Typically the weather will be in the 80s, occasionally getting into the 90s. So yes it is warm, but in general this is a nice opportunity to enjoy summertime one more time before winter. Of course if you hate hot weather then this would go on the con list, so decide for yourself.
I know every music festival likes to label themselves a “music and art festival”, but few festivals put as much effort towards it as Austin City Limits does. Austin City Limits has a great range of culture between its art, music, food, wine and beer. They also feature an art market which allows local and national artists sell their work directly to people attending Austin City Limits. This is a great place to snag some unique swag. You can read all about the Austin City Limits Art Market at https://www.aclfestival.com/art-market/.
Austin City Limits is one of the best-run festivals in the country. There are signs with proper directions everywhere, security and entering the festival is smooth, and the festival grounds are well organized. This may seem trivial, but I assure you many music festivals (Outside Lands) are not well organized and it makes the whole experience less enjoyable. Nothing is more frustrating than a festival being poorly run after you dropped $300+ on the tickets. You will not experience this at Austin City Limits as they do a great job putting on this party every October.
Austin City Limits, unlike many music festivals, does not have designated alcohol areas. Most festivals regulate your drinking to only specific areas. Even worse is that many of the times you can’t even see the stages from these areas! This is not an issue at Austin City Limits as they treat you like grown adults and allow you to bring a beer with you to your show.
There you have it – all the pros and cons of Austin City Limits. Hopefully this helps you determine if Austin City Limits is the festival for you. As you can see, I personally feel the pros outweigh the cons so Austin City Limits is totally worth it. However, the final decision is up to you!