I may be biased, as Austin City Limits (ACL) was my first music festival, but after attending a dozen different events over the last decade it remains my favorite. I first attended the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2004 right before I turned 18, and then got to go back in 2013. Both experiences made me fall in love with the festival and the city itself.
ACL blends everything you look for in a major music festival and the soul of the City of Austin, the live music capitol of the world.
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Enjoy the Local Cuisine At The Festival
While more and more festivals are focusing on bringing in high quality and often local food, no one does it as well as Austin. You’ll find the city’s top BBQ, tacos, and a little of everything else within the festival gates. It is great to pig out on the amazing meals you can find throughout Austin without missing any of the festival itself. I’d recommend eating at least one good meal a day in the festival, the prices aren’t cheap but are consistent on what you’d get at the actual locations and they keep the quality up.
Check Out The Small Stages
Not that you should skip your favorite acts on the main stages, but Austin City Limits does an amazing job curating talent you probably haven’t heard of yet. Many of the artists I discovered on the small stages at ACL are now my favorite bands. At the same time, it is nice to get up close and personal with some of the acts, without being squished by the crowds.
One of my favorite music festival tricks is listening to a playlist of all the artists a couple weeks before going, you’ll stumble across acts you’ve never heard of so you can put them on your schedule to see.
I’ve been to festivals in the desert that have broken 106, but I still think 95 with 85% humidity at Austin City Limits is one of my hottest experiences ever. Especially if you’re like me and come from somewhere dry instead of humid be sure to be prepared. Wear light layers, find spots in the shade, bring a lot of sunblock and hydrate. Either bring your own reusable water bottle or buy the festival one (a great souvenir) and you can refill it for free throughout the festival.
Pick At Least One Late Night Show
Another thing Austin City Limits does better than any festival I’ve been to yet is their late night shows. The artist playing the festival, big and small, have much smaller shows hosted in venues around the city. Austin can pull this off better than most since there are so many high quality, but small, venues to use just over the bridge from the festival. In 2013, my sister and I saw Eric Church at Stubbs BBQ with only a few hundred people. It is hands down the best show I’ve ever been to. Make sure to take a look at the lineup of late-night show and pick someone you’d love to see in a more intimate setting.
Enjoy & Don’t Forget to Explore Austin
The best thing about Austin City Limits is joining tens of thousands of people for an amazing weekend enjoying great music, great food and just plain having fun. Enjoy the festival and don’t forget to get out and explore Austin, whether it is exploring nature, more of the food or the downtown, make sure to not miss out. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Austin if you’re in need of ideas. Looking for more music festival tips, take a look at mine.
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