It’s almost here! Tens of thousands of music fans will soon flock to Zilker Park for the 15th anniversary of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. This will be our sixth year covering ACL, and we want to share what we’ve learned with you so you can have your best fest yet.
Your Ultimate Guide to the 2016 ACL Music Festival
Over 150 bands, ranging from hip hop to pop to country to gospel and everything in between, playing on 8 stages over 3 days. We’re going to tell you what’s new this year and give you suggestions on what to wear, what to bring, how to get there and much, much more.
What’s New at ACL Fest This Year
The ACL Fest organizers have made some changes this year to improve the overall experience. Here’s what you can look forward to this year:
- Austin Kiddie Limits, which is a special area of the festival designed with the youngest fans in mind, is relocating to the shaded, southeast corner of Zilker. Festivalgoers can enter through a new Family Friendly Entrance, which will be located off Barton Springs, in between the Barton Springs entrance and Robert E. Lee Road. Families can still enter at both main gates via the stroller-friendly family lanes. Families can still take advantage of Tag-a-Kid, an RFID-enabled wristband for children. If a child is separated from a parent, Tag-a-Kid provides a reliable and fast way to reunite them.
- Improved restrooms! This year, every restroom in the park will be upgraded to environmentally friendly, flushable toilets.
- More shade and changes to improve crowd flow. The Rock Island Stage has been relocated to help festivalgoers more easily get from stage to stage, and new spaces at Rock Island and in the southeast end of Zilker will give fans more space to relax. New amenities include the Miller Lite Game Hall and Wine Down, ACL’s new wine bar. Added shade and picnic tables will be added near ACL Eats and the Barton Springs Beer Hall.
- More ways to stay cool and comfortable. Organizers have added more hydration stations providing free water and misting stations throughout the park. If you forget to bring sunscreen, ponchos, socks, eye drops, allergy medicine or other necessities, you can head to The Bodegas.
- Air conditioned shopping. The ACL Festival store will be indoors, in case you need to take a break from the music and enjoy the air conditioning.
- More perks for Platinum Ticketholders. The Platinum Lounge, which is air conditioned, has been moved to the shady southeast end of Zilker Park, with direct access to the VIP Grove. Platinum ticket holders can skip the lines at the main gate and enter through the Platinum Entrance on Barton Springs. Lunch and dinner will be prepared daily by celebrity chefs and Platinum ticket holders can enjoy special wine tastings. Complimentary lockers, complete with phone charging, are available to hold your belongings while you take advantage of exclusive viewing areas in front of stages. Platinum tickets are still available, and can be purchased online here.
- Feast Under the Stars will take place between Weekend One and Two. Feast Under the Stars is a locally sourced five-course meal, prepared by six award-winning chefs on Thursday, October 6 at Zilker. This event will feature wine pairings for each course, while chefs talk about the dishes they have prepared. Tickets are limited and available now here.
What To Wear To ACL Fest
A few weeks before the festival, I start thinking about what to wear. Although technically, ACL takes place during the fall, as us Austinites know, it can still get very warm at Zilker during the day. That means I usually wear:
- a lightweight, sleeveless or short sleeved shirt
- shorts (since there is sitting and shorts are just more practical for me)
- comfortable, closed toed shoes (I’ve worn flip flops, but then you risk your feet getting stepped on or getting muddy)
I take a look at H&M and area thrift stores to see if I can find any fun tops and accessories. Although I generally choose comfort over fashion, plenty of people opt for fashion (this is why I bought a romper for ACL but never actually wore it). Honestly, anything goes at ACL, so it’s a great time to go outside of your comfort zone or wear that outfit that you’ve never had a chance to wear before. My main goal, quite honestly, is to make sure I don’t stick out as the 40-year-old mom I am. For a sampling of what folks plan to be wearing, you can search Pinterest for ACL fashion.
What To Bring To ACL Fest
The challenge is always making sure you’ll have most of what you’ll need without worrying about having to carry your things around all day. After going to the Fest for seven years, here’s what we make sure to bring along:
- your wristband (duh!) which is already registered for ACL Cashless, the easiest way to pay for anything once you are inside the park (and which you won’t want to stand in line to do once you are inside)
- fully-charged phone with a portable charger (there are charging stations in the park, but who wants to spend precious time away from the music?)
- an insulated, reusable water bottle (you must bring this into the park empty, but you can fill it up at hydration stations located throughout the park)
- small bag
- fan (for those sets when you are staring into the blazing sun)
- lightweight rain jacket/poncho, which you can put on if and when it gets cooler when the sun goes down and which you can also sit on instead of lugging around a chair
- a printed list of who you want to see, so you don’t have to drain your phone battery looking at the app
- a koozie
- your ID, a credit card and some cash (just in case – we’re moms after all!)
- things you might need, such as lip balm, a bandana, nail file, deodorant, tissues, Wet Ones and a few extra hair rubber bands
Getting To ACL Fest
Quite honestly, getting to and from ACL is quite possibly the least fun part of the whole weekend. If you can, find friends or significant others to drop you off and pick you up at Stephen F. Austin Drive, at the north end of the Mopac footbridge. If this doesn’t work out for you, you may want to ask around to see if any friends will let you park in their driveway who live nearby. If that doesn’t work, the free shuttles run to and from Republic Square Park. See more on the Information page.
Kids At ACL
Austin Kiddie Limits is a special area, just for kids and their grown-ups, which is open 11am until 7pm both weekends of ACL. Kiddie Limits is full of fun things for kids to do, plus a dedicated stage featuring amazing musicians. Don’t forget that kids 10 and under get into ACL Festival free with parents (limit two children per ticketed adult). As mentioned above, AKL has a new family-friendly entrance this year off Barton Springs. Some families choose to stay inside Kiddie Limits the whole weekend, while others divide and conquer – one parent stays with the kids while the other goes to hear a band, and then the parents switch. Some parents bring kids early in the day and have a friend or family member pick them up and do the rest of the day without kids. I’ve even had friends fly in grandparents to hang out with kids for the weekend so the parents can have a kid-free festival. It can take some extra planning, but many families do ACL altogether.
- Remember life before cell phones? Keep that in mind when you are trying to arrange your meetups. With a gazillion people trying to connect with each other, texts can sometimes arrive hours later. So you may want to go old school and take a look at the map and figure out your game plan.
- Ticketholders can exit and re-enter the festival up to 3 times a day.
- Strollers, blankets, portable chairs are regular sized umbrellas are allowed.
- Aerosol sunscreen, coolers, glass, selfie sticks, skateboards, smoking and wagons are not allowed.
- ACL Eats, the festival food court, gets better every year. Get a preview of all the vendors here. Consider eating at off hours to avoid long lines.
- 3-Day and 1-Day locker rental is available to store items and keep your phone charged, as well as a complimentary chair check.
- Enjoy yourself! Enjoy being in the Live Music Capital of the World, listening to some great artists with thousands upon thousands of your new BFFs.
Anything else we haven’t covered?
Stay tuned for our continuing coverage of ACL, including Weekend One and Weekend Two picks, band features and more!