February 14, 2018


Austin City Limits Music Festival: 2018 Survival Guide

Gary Miller/FilmMagic
Gary Miller/FilmMagic

Did you get a ticket to Austin City Limits 2018? Well...good job, because this is one of the best festivals in the country. And if it weren't for us, you would have to spend a ton of your valuable time figuring out what hotels are best to stay at and how you should pack for the best weekend of your life. 

But we are here for you – so we've already gotten a guide together about all this important stuff. This is your ACL Fest survival guide, with all the info you need to stay safe and have a great time. You’re welcome for that, Internet.

First things first: If you haven't gotten tickets yet, they're available on the ACL Festival website. The festival is two weekends long (Oct. 2-7 and Oct. 12-14), so you've got two opportunities to get out to Texas for this one. 


Take A Plane
Check out the major discount sites – Kayak will compare results to a few others like Priceline and usually has a good rundown of prices – and make sure you get to it on the double! We're getting perilously close to the festival and prices will only skyrocket from here.

You Should Use the Free Shuttle
Starting at 10am each day, you can catch a shuttle to Zilker Park (that's where the festival is, guys) from Republic Square (the ACL Fest site says you board at the corner of 4th & Guadalupe) in Austin's downtown area. There will also be shuttles to take you back to Republic Square at the end of the night, but don't dilly-dally too long – the last shuttle leaves the festival grounds at 11 pm. 

You Shouldn't Use Your Car
There’s no parking at Zilker Park during ACL Fest and parking is discouraged in neighborhoods close by out of respect for residents. In fast, they're even closing down some of the streets near the park because of residential concerns. 

If you really need to take a car, though, there is designated parking at One Texas Center; it'll run you $10 on Saturday and Sunday and is almost a mile and a half away from the festival. There's also parking at the Palmer Event Center, which is about a mile away from Zilker Park. Check out a map over here. The shuttle will not stop at either of these locations, so be ready to walk – both before and after your long day.  

There's a special area for taxis to drop people off near ACL Festival's entrance and exit. There are going to be tons of people there, though – obviously – so be prepared to fight off the masses to actually hail a cab. You can't use Uber or Lyft in Austin, but Ride Austin is the go-to an alternative for hailing down rides. 

Depending on exactly where you're staying, you're probably over a mile away from Zilker Park. If you're in downtown, you might be up to 2.5 miles away. It might not be that bad in the morning, but you'll want to plan ahead to avoid a long walk back after an exhausting day of watching awesome music. The ACL Fest website notes a "hike and bike" trail meant for festival-goers which will have extra lighting for maximum safety. 

ACL Festival recommends biking; and we think it's a good idea too. The festival grounds have plenty of bike racks, so just bring a lock. It'll be quicker to move around when you're near the festival grounds compared to being locked in traffic in a car or taxi, so that's a big plus. Here are a few bike rental places near Zilker Park:


Lots of festivals have campsites on the grounds, but Austin City Limits Fest is not one of them. You have a few options for lodging, though. We've listed some hotels below for you, but hotels for ACL Fest can be booked up to a year in advance because of its massive draw. If you haven't booked yet, make sure you get moving fast. You can use the festival's hotel-finder right here if you're slacking and haven't booked yet. 

Hostels are an alternative to normal hotels, but be prepared to walk into anything. It will be anything but a normal experience and you'll most likely be bunking with strangers. If you're prepared to go that route – or just waited too long and have no other choice – here are a couple hostels in the area:

  • Firehouse Hostel – 2.2 miles away
    605 Brazos St.
    Austin, TX 78701
  • HI Austin – 3.3 miles away
    2200 South Lakeshore Blvd.
    Austin, TX 78741

There are campsites in Austin for those who just really want to camp out for a festival. Be warned: they're not the absolute closes to Zilker Park. Make sure you've got you're travel plans lined up.

Alternative Lodging
is a popular site where people list extra bedrooms or entire apartments for short-term rentals. There are currently listings for both ACL Fest weekends, so check it out if you're looking for something that feels a little closer to home. You can also find some pretty great deals on there and meet interesting people this way.

Couch Surfing pretty similar to Air BNB, except you're guaranteed to be hanging out with other people. On Air BNB, it's possible to find a hotel-esque situation, but with Couch Surfing you'll literally be crashing in someone's extra space. Austin is a famously laid-back town, though, known well for a spirit of good music and good people, so check it out if you're into the idea.

Make sure you do the most obvious thing here – send out a Facebook status and a tweet asking your followers if they have any leads on places to stay in Austin. None of us know every single Facebook friend we have, so maybe you'll stumble upon your solution that way!

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Yeah, Austin is a cool city – and a trendy one at that, because of how entrenched it is in the breaking of new music – but it's also in Texas. Which means the weather is a pain at times. For example, the week leading up to the first weekend of ACL Fest is going to see a high of 86 degrees – plus, last year it got pretty chilly at night (into the low 60s). You'll need a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, and T-shirts and jackets alike...regardless of how annoying it'll be to stuff into your suitcase. Here are some more tips:

  • Backpack – This should be a no-brainer – you'll want to bring things with you (see our suggested list below!) and you'll be able to stuff all your new band merch in here as well. 
  • Two pairs of comfortable shoes - No flip-flops, okay? Besides that basic tip, just make sure your shoes are broken in. This is no time to debut your brand-new Dr. Martens and end up with blisters galore.
  • Shorts – Because of that nearly-90-degree high we mentioned.
  • Bathing suit –  Or something along these lines. Barton Springs runs right through the festival grounds.
  • Watch – Save your phone's battery by checking the time on one of those actual watch things.
  • Extra socks – If it rains and your socks get wet...you'll thank us for this tip.
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Very punk denim jackets with patches

There's a bag check at ACL Fest, so don't be shy about loading up a backpack. You can always drop it off and just go back and forth to it as needed. Below are our suggestions of what to bring, but scope out the official list of allowed and prohibited items if you're feeling wary about a specific item.

  • Water – You are allowed two unopened plastic bottles, plus a refillable bottle / water backpack. 
  • Cash and Credit Card – The food at ACL can be bought with cash, credit, debit, and ACL Cashless payments. Merch may be a different story so bring some cash just in case your favorite band or vendor isn't accepting cards.
  • Sunscreen – Just not spray sunscreen (which is prohibited).
  • Poncho – Because don't be the guy with the umbrella.
  • Hand sanitizer – Germs are bad.
  • Phone charger – Without a doubt, your phone will die one of the three days. It's absolutely guaranteed. You'll be searching for cell service and LTE all day.
  • Bug spray
  • Earplugs
Erika Goldring / Getty Images
Erika Goldring / Getty Images


Make a Plan
Get the festival guide as soon as you get through the gate and make your game plan for the day. If you’re with a group and want to meet up during the day, agree on a common meeting place for each stage and for the end of the night. Don't expect to rely on your phone, since without fail, it’ll either be dead or without service. ACL’s not huge, so you should be able to move from stage to stage quickly, but still take walking time into consideration.

Break Your Plan
Festivals are about adventure and discovery, so don’t treat your plan like a class schedule. See the sets you want to even if your friends aren’t as jazzed about them. If you’re walking past a band you don’t know, but dig the sound, stop and listen. Just go with the flow.

Avoid the Hottest Time of the Day
If you can’t stand the heat, go later in the day. You might miss out on discovering some new bands, but you’ll have loads more energy going into the night.

Drink Water Constantly 
Passing out is the opposite of fun. As is nursing a brutal headache, taking a trip in an ambulance, etc. Hit up the three water filling stations in between sets to avoid a medical emergency.

Eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner 
When it’s hot, eating can feel like a chore, but with constant walking and standing, you’ll need all the energy you can get. ACL has a wide variety of food options including a local farmer’s market. Greasy food will suck the life out of you, so stock up on the light and healthy.

Don’t Overdo the Booze 
Yes, beer and live music are an excellent pair, but pace yourself. Nothing kills the fun like a massive hangover. And how bummed will you be if you don’t even remember the best set of the weekend?

Prepare for the Worst (Just In Case)
Make sure your name, e-mail address and phone number are in your wallet in an obvious place. Consider putting labels on your phone and camera too. Nice people return these items all the time, so make it easy for them to find you.

Live in the Moment 
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, iPhones – they’re hardwired into our lives now. But concerts are always better when you’re absorbed in the experience, so let your social network wait. And let’s be honest: You’re never going to watch those phone videos again anyway.

Got any festival tips of your own? Add them in the comments below!