A classic question when it comes to Austin City Limits is which passes are the best to get for the festival. If you are unaware, Austin City Limits offers several different levels of passes. This is pretty common in the music festival business and Austin City Limits is no exception. Currently Austin City Limits offers three different levels of passes: general admission, VIP and platinum. As you can guess, Austin City Limits charges you more for each upgrade of pass in return for extra perks. This article will first go into the differences between the passes for Austin City Limits and then weigh in on if they are worth it for your Austin City Limits experience.
Austin City Limits general admission passes, in my opinion, are some of the most reasonably priced festival passes in the country. You get well over 100 acts for under $300. In a landscape where festival passes continue to skyrocket in price ACL does an amazing job of giving a great lineup at an affordable price. For ACL 2017 the GA passes are $255 ($240 on early bird) and give you the following perks:
The first upgrade passes Austin City Limits offers is the VIP passes. If you buy Austin City Limits VIP passes you get the following perks:
Austin City Limits VIP passes give you all the benefits above and access to everything you get with the general admission passes. Note that in 2017 these passes are a whopping $845 more than the general admission passes - that's a lot of value they need to make up!
The top passes offered by Austin City Limits are the platinum passes. If you buy Austin City Limits platinum passes you get the following perks:
Again, if you get the Austin City Limits platinum passes you also get access to everything the general admission and VIP passholders get. These passes are over 3X the price of VIP and $3,345 more than the GA. Holy cow! Obviously these are targeting a pretty limited audience, but if you have the money they obviously offer you a ton of perks.
Obviously a lot of this is going to depend on your budget. If money is no object than sure, the VIP or platinum passes are worth it because why not? For the rest of us mortals it really depends on you, and your monetary situation. Let’s take a look at both of the upgraded passes Austin City Limits offers individual.
Summary of Pros of Austin City Limits VIP:
Summary of Cons of Austin City Limits VIP:
The Austin City Limits VIP passes are going to cost you nearly $800 extra, which is a substantial amount. This is a high upcharge for VIP, most other festivals charge about twice as much for VIP. Austin City Limits is charging over three times the cost for VIP passes, so they need to offer you a lot to make it worthwhile. Ultimately the perks above need to be worth $800 to you to justify buying the Austin City Limits VIP passes. Let’s go through some of these perks that need to justify $800.
With Austin City Limits VIP the main perk is you get access to the VIP Grove. Before I go on note that the VIP grove does NOT have views of any of the Austin City Limits stages. What you will find inside the VIP Grove is gourmet happy hour with special guest chefs each day, complimentary catered food, some complementary booze (beer, wine, some cocktails), and shade. A lot of these perks are pretty nice and will cut down on your Austin City Limits bill. For example, all this free grub you can get all day is money you won’t be spending on food. The same can be said for alcohol, as booze at Austin City Limits is not cheap (not as bad as some other festivals but still jacked up). I’d also say to not underestimate how nice the shaded areas can be. Despite Austin City Limits occurring October it can still get quite hot and humid. Having a shaded area with cushioned seats can be a Godsend on a long Austin City Limits day. The unfortunate part is you can’t see the music during this time so you are missing shows. Still, I wouldn’t underestimate how nice this can be. The final thing I will discuss is the air-conditioned bathrooms. If you have ever been to a music festival you know the bathrooms can become like a warzone in the general admission area. The VIP bathrooms for Austin City Limits are much nicer and you will never wait in a long line to use the restroom.
In summary, there are a lot of nice perks for Austin City Limits. All that said, are they worth it? For me, they are not. When I attend a music festival like Austin City Limits, my priority is the music. With the Austin City Limits VIP passes you cannot see the stage, so if you want to take advantage of the VIP area you are sacrificing seeing the music. If you could see the bands from the VIP area I would say pull the trigger, but for me this is a deal breaker. All the free food, booze and shade in the world isn’t worth it to me to miss the music. You are essentially paying an extra $800 for access to a special VIP area with food, booze and AC'd bathrooms - that's it. It is a nice area to rest between shows and to take an afternoon break, but it's not $800 nice. The big thing that would eventually sway me to be for the ACL VIP passes would be if they add VIP viewing areas like most music festivals have.
Summary of Pros of Austin City Limits Platinum Pass:
Summary of Cons of Austin City Limits Platinum Pass:
The Austin City Limits Platinum passes to me have two categories of perks: ones that are nice but I could definitely live without and those that actually provide some serious value. Let's first discuss those that are nice, but not really necessary. These include the dedicated festival entry, dedicated golf cart transportation, platinum shuttle service to Zilker park, AC'd restrooms, WiFi, complimentary locker, and festival gift bag. Yes, all of these are sweet. Yes, all of these will make your ACL experience better. Yes, I wish I had them all. That said, the pass is $3,300 more than a GA pass - these are throw in perks that are great, but you are really buying the Platinum pass at ACL for the other perks. Take for example the platinum shuttle: definitely cool, but ACL offers a free public shuttle to ACL as well. It's great you get a less crowded version of it, but this isn't going to sway me to purchase an ACL Platinum pass.
So let’s look at the other perks that are meaningful: free food, booze and special viewing areas of Austin City Limits. The food and booze over the weekend will definitely save you some money. Most drinks at Austin City Limits are between $6-103 dollars, and food dishes are about the same. Still, even if we wanted to be pretty aggressive this is going to run you about $200 a day perhaps. A man can only consume so much at Austin City Limits, and you don’t want to have to go home early for overindulging. I like this perk, and definitely would take advantage of it, but it can only eat away at that $3,300 price tag so much.
So now it comes down to the special viewing areas. There’s no denying it: the special viewing areas are an awesome perk for Austin City Limits. There is a reason Austin City Limits only gives this to the platinum passes and not the VIP. If you’ve ever been to a music festival you know the stages get extremely busy and if you want an awesome spot for a certain act you often need to set up camp early in the day and slowly move up. With the platinum passes you can get an awesome view at the private area for either of the main stages at Austin City Limits. This is nice as you don’t need to camp out, but also really nice if you have short people in your group where it may be difficult for them to see. You also just won’t be as packed in like sardines like you would be in the Austin City Limits GA area. Is this perk worth several thousand dollars? If you have the money then sure, but for most people it won't be. Ultimately the platinum passes are great perks, but incredibly expensive. I’d love the private viewing area, but it’s just not worth an extra $3,300 over general admission passes. Booking a platinum pass at ACL is definitely going to set you up for a luxurious weekend, one that you will almost definitely have a great time at. For me though it's still not worth it - I'd rather go to 10 other festivals GA than go to ACL on a platinum pass.
Obviously I have given my opinion: Austin City Limits VIP is too expensive given the only VIP area you get doesn’t have views of the stage and the platinum passes are just too expensive period. So I advise on just getting general admission passes. This is just my opinion though. I asked some friends and looked up reviews of both passes online and here are the points most generally made by people who have gotten the upgraded passes.
Reasons people are pro upgraded passes for Austin City Limits
Reasons people are against upgraded passes for Austin City Limits
The Austin City Limits VIP and Platinum Passes are some of the most expensive upgraded passes across all music festivals. If you have the spare cash they offer some nice benefits, but the passes definitely aren’t needed to have a great time at Austin City Limits. Choose whatever pass is best for you - hopefully this article has helped you make a decision. Me? I'm going general admission to Austin City Limits.