Heading to Austin City Limits for the first time? First, I suggest you read our Austin City Limits 101 Article, which goes over all the basic information you need to know about Austin City Limits. This article isn’t going to go over the same, generic information about Austin City Limits. This is our insider tips page, things I wish I had known before going to Austin City Limits for the first time. Think of this as passing of information/pro tips to the next generation of Austin City Limits first timers. I hope after reading this and our Austin City Limits 101 Article you are absolutely, positively 100% ready to head off to Austin City Limits and have a blast.
What are important essentials? They include all the items that are easy to forget, but can be crucial to enjoying yourself at Austin City Limits. For example, don't forget cheap sunglasses (do you really want to risk losing your $300 designer shades after a few drinks?). Also important if it's hot, a hydration pack and chapstick (if you're single and attending, bright red skin and chapped lips won't help your game). Do you find liquid courage helps your game at events like Austin City Limits, but you're trying to party on a budget, then you may want to consider these plastic flasks. For the full list see our Austin City Limits Essentials Article.
There are a lot of people at Austin City Limits, enough that you are likely to have really crappy service. One thing I always advise in times like these is to timestamp your texts. Don’t say “Meet at the entrance”, say “Meet at entrance – 9:30”. Sometimes texts come through at later times and you don’t want to confuse your friends.
First off, there is no parking at Zilker Park, where Austin City Limits takes place. Some people drive to the neighboring towns, park and walk over to Austin City Limits. While you can likely get away with this it is a dick move – don’t do this. Just take the shuttle from downtown, bike or find another way to ACL. Want more detailed advice on how to get to Austin City Limits, read our ACL Transportation Article.
Everyone plans for how they are getting to Austin City Limits but often neglect to plan for how they are going to get home. Keep in mind that Austin has recently banned both Uber and Lyft so these are not options. This is primarily why I like biking to Austin City Limits: you don’t need to wait on anyone or jam into a packed shuttle and you come come and go as you please. Regardless of what you choose, know how you are getting home from Austin City Limits before you get there.
Your shoes will be trashed by the end of the three day weekend. They will be covered in dirt, booze, sweat, etc. Just make sure they are comfortable and you are willing to get whatever you wear dirty.
You will get separated from your group. You could go to the bathroom and drunkenly not be able to find your way back. You could split away and head off to different shows. You could just get lost. Whatever the reason is for your splitting off from the group you should have a designated meetup spot so everyone knows where you will be meeting at the end of the night.
If you are hell bent on getting a great spot for an artist you will want to show up a show before if the artist you want to see is fairly well known. Once the previous show ends a lot of people will leave and you will be able to move up a good amount. You can’t expect to show up five minutes before a big show and get a good spot. You need to show up early!
Don’t forget to eat. It’s easy to get caught up in all the action and going from show to show but be sure to make some time to eat. Austin City Limits brings in some of the best local eats to Austin City Limits so there are plenty of goodies to be had. Of course if you are ballin’ on a budget you can find cheaper food before going to Austin City Limits, but if you aren’t broke I really suggest trying some of the food at ACL. The festival really tries to provide great food beyond the standard carnival grub such as hot dogs and burgers.
Yes, you should make a plan and have a general idea of what artists you want to see and know where they are playing. However, don’t schedule your entire Austin City Limits weekend down to the minute. Shit is going to happen and you won’t fully stick to your plan. That’s perfectly OK, part of the fun with Austin City Limits is just ending up where you end up. Don’t be a schedule Nazi.
I pretty much recommend getting the official app for every music festival and Austin City Limits is no different. The official Austin City Limits app is really nifty and let’s you see who is playing where. This is great as it’s pretty hard to fully memorize this. The app has other nice features such as a festival map and other nice features too. Download it!
Austin City Limits offers lockers on site and they are worth every penny. It’s great for storing the aforementioned poncho, the free water bottles you are allowed to bring in, any Austin City Limits swag you purchase, your sunglasses at night, and anything else you bring with you to the festival. You already sprung for the Austin City Limits tickets and hotel accommodations: don’t be cheap and skip out on the locker. It’s a lifesaver.
I believe Austin City Limits is one of the only festivals that lets you bring a lawn chair. Personally I find this things annoying and extremely cluttering, but if you want to sit and enjoy the shows you have that option at Austin CIty Limits. We have recommendations for all your sitting options in our Austin City Limits Essentials Article.
Got tips that I haven’t included here? I’d love for you to let me know and I will add them here. I want this list to be all-inclusive to give Austin City Limits rookies the best possible list of survival tips. If you have stuff to add let me know at Shawn@EventTrk.com.