ACL: know before you go

The Austin City Limits Music Festival, usually referred to as ACL, is coming up soon. And really, Austin deserves some semblance of fun after this horrendous fire-infused, rain-free, 100+-degrees-for-way-too-many-days-in-a-row summer. After attending ACL last year just a few days after I’d arrived to Austin from New York City and successfully having a blast, I decided to get tickets for this year’s festival, as well. Acts taking the stage at ACL 2011 include Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Coldplay, Alison Krauss, Nas, Cee Lo, Bright Eyes, TV On The Radio, Death From Above 1979, and, of course, just like every other festival out there, many more.

So why does this festival matter to traveling folks? Well, because over 70,000 people attend the festival every day. And they’re not all Austinites. They travel from all over the globe to be a part of this festival. Indeed, ACL is a travel destination for many. And with that, I present you, your handy Know Before You Go list for ACL.

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  • Austin City Limits. Austin City Limits Music Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, September 16-18. The festival takes place annually in Zilker Park, Austin, Texas.
  • Tickets. All 3-day tickets are now sold out. And, unfortunately, day passes for Friday and Saturday are sold out. But wait! You can still attend. On Sunday. You can hurry and grab your Sunday pass and still catch acts like Arcade Fire, Social Distorion, Death From Above 1979, Broken Social Scene, The Walkmen, and more.
  • Food. The food at ACL is phenomenal, especially when you consider that this is a festival and festivals (until the recent warmly welcomed changing atmosphere of festivals) usually sell hot dogs, popcorn, and ice cream. Austin has a diverse food scene and many of the restauranteurs make their mark in the ACL Food Court. Some of my favorites are Tiff’s Treats, P. Terry’s, Amy’s Ice Cream, and The Salt Lick, but check out this link for a full list of food vendors.
  • Art. ACL boasts a pretty decent Art Market within the festival grounds. Check out this link for the full list of artists.
  • Alcohol. You’re not allowed to bring in alcohol. If you want to drink, you’re going to have to drink what they’re selling inside.
  • Pets. I’m disappointed too, but no, you may not bring your pets to ACL.
  • Re-Entry. Here’s how it works: You exchange your 3-day ticket for a wristband. You need to wear your wristband to enter the festival. As long as you’re wearing your wristband, you can come and go as you please. Unfortunately, if you only have a single day ticket, you won’t receive a wristband and, therefore, you won’t be allowed re-entry.
  • Transportation. If you’re looking to not drive to and from ACL, there are, of course, other options. ACL (and Austin, in general) is bike friendly. There are not only bike racks at each entrance of the festival, but there is also a bike shop at each entrance of the festival. If you need parts or repair, you can stop by Mellow Johnny’s Bike Station. If you’re within walking distance, walk! It’s not the fasted mode of transportation, but it’s certainly good for the body and mind. You can also ride the free shuttle from Republic Square (4th & Guadalupe) to ACL. The shuttles begin at 10am and their last round is at 11pm. Taxis are another good option and they’ll be around for the flagging.
  • Parking. There is absolutely no parking available on the grounds of the festival. None. So here is what you do if you’re driving. Park at One Texas Center (here’s a map). The parking there is free after 5pm on Friday, September 16th and $10 on Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th. It’s a pretty easy walk over to the festival from the garage. You can also park in town. We found reliable spots on West 6th last year and walked from there.
  • Activities. Photo Booths, car giveaways, and filtered water fill-ups are a few of the few things non-music ACL has going on. That’s right. I said ‘a few of the few’ for a reason: there’s not much non-music stuff going on at ACL, especially not compared to festivals like Bonnaroo.

ADVICE: ACL is crowded, but it’s fun. But keep the crowded thing in mind. Plan accordingly. If you have anxiety and think you may need to bring your medication, I suggest you do. It’s also going to be hot. HOT. Very hot. Prepare for the heat and sun in every way you know how. I saw a girl passed out cold last year from what I bet was drug or alcohol related, but the heat certainly didn’t help. Don’t let that be you this year. Prepare.

THINGS TO BRING & NOT TO BRING: The powers that be behind the curtains of ACL have put together a helpful list of things you can bring and things you cannot bring right here.

THINGS PROVIDED: Most of the things you need are within ACL… food, drinks, water fill-ups, medics, etc. But check the ACL website to make sure you have a comprehensive understanding of the festival before you arrive.

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