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Austin City Limits Review + Festival Guide: All You Need To Know


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Editha Rodney



Welcome to the ultimate guide to the Austin City Limits Festival! Whether you’re a music lover, a festival enthusiast, or simply looking for a good time, this article has got you covered. Austin City Limits (ACL) is one of the most renowned music festivals in the United States, attracting thousands of people from all over the country. Known for its diverse lineup, vibrant atmosphere, and unique Austin charm, ACL offers an unforgettable experience that showcases the best of Texas and beyond.


Since its inception in 2002, Austin City Limits has grown into a cultural phenomenon, drawing music lovers of all genres and backgrounds. With its roots in the iconic television show, Austin City Limits has evolved into a three-day music extravaganza that takes over Zilker Park, located in the heart of Austin, Texas. The festival combines established headliners, up-and-coming artists, and local talent to create an eclectic mix that caters to every musical taste.


What sets ACL apart from other festivals is its commitment to offering a wide range of musical genres. From rock and pop to hip-hop, country, and electronic music, ACL showcases the diversity and richness of the music industry. Whether you want to dance to the beats of a DJ, sing along to your favorite band, or discover new artists, ACL has something for everyone.


Beyond the music, ACL also embraces the laid-back and vibrant atmosphere that Austin is known for. From food vendors serving mouthwatering Texan delicacies to local artisans showcasing their crafts, the festival creates an immersive experience that goes beyond the stages. With its stunning setting against the backdrop of downtown Austin and the Colorado River, ACL offers a breathtaking backdrop that adds to the magic of the event.


So get ready to put on your dancing shoes, embrace the Texan spirit, and experience the energy and excitement of the Austin City Limits Festival. In the following sections, we will delve into the history of ACL, provide an overview of the festival, discuss the lineup and performances, give you tips for attending, and highlight other attractions and activities you can enjoy during your time in Austin. Let’s dive in!


History of Austin City Limits

The history of Austin City Limits (ACL) can be traced back to the early 1970s when the television show “Austin City Limits” was first aired. The show, created by Bill Arhos, was initially conceived as a platform to showcase the diverse musical talent that Austin had to offer. The iconic music program became a staple of American television, featuring both established and emerging artists performing live on stage.


Due to the immense popularity and success of the television show, the idea of hosting a live festival under the same name was born. In 2002, the inaugural Austin City Limits Festival was held in Zilker Park, with a lineup that included the likes of Wilco, Ryan Adams, and George Strait. The festival was an instant hit, drawing music lovers from all over Texas and beyond.


Over the years, ACL has grown in scale and reputation, solidifying its position as one of the premier music festivals in the country. The festival expanded to a three-day event and now takes place over two weekends in October, allowing more fans to indulge in the incredible lineup and experience. From its humble beginnings, ACL now attracts over 450,000 attendees annually.


ACL has played a significant role in putting Austin on the map as a music destination. The festival has become synonymous with the city, showcasing its vibrant music scene and welcoming spirit. It serves as a platform not only for big-name artists but also for local talent to gain exposure and reach a wider audience.


Throughout its history, ACL has hosted a diverse range of musical acts, spanning various genres. From legendary performers like Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Willie Nelson to contemporary artists such as Childish Gambino, Arctic Monkeys, and Billie Eilish, ACL has consistently delivered an impressive and eclectic lineup that caters to different musical tastes.


In addition to the music, ACL has also made efforts to promote sustainability and social responsibility. The festival emphasizes eco-friendly practices, providing recycling stations, reusable water bottle refill stations, and encouraging attendees to use public transportation. They also promote local causes and charities, supporting the Austin community and giving back to those in need.


The legacy of Austin City Limits continues to grow as it celebrates its rich history and embraces the latest trends in music and entertainment. The festival has become a must-attend event for music enthusiasts and a cultural landmark for the city of Austin. From its inception as a television show to its embodiment as a world-class festival, Austin City Limits has remained true to its mission of showcasing the best in music and creating unforgettable experiences for all who attend.


Austin City Limits Festival Overview

The Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival is an annual music festival that takes place in Zilker Park, Austin, Texas. Known for its diverse lineup, vibrant atmosphere, and unique Austin charm, ACL offers a one-of-a-kind experience for music lovers of all ages. The festival spans two weekends in October, allowing for more fans to join in on the fun.


ACL features multiple stages spread throughout Zilker Park, providing plenty of options for attendees to explore different genres and discover new artists. From rock to pop, hip-hop to country, electronic to folk, ACL has it all. The festival’s commitment to showcasing a wide range of music sets it apart from others, offering something for everyone’s musical preferences.


Aside from the incredible music lineup, ACL creates a vibrant and immersive experience for festival-goers. Food vendors from all over Austin set up shop, serving up a variety of delicious cuisines, from traditional Texan barbecue to international favorites. The festival also boasts an Art Market, highlighting local artisans and their craftsmanship, allowing attendees to take home a piece of Austin’s creativity.


ACL is not just about the music; it’s also about creating a community atmosphere and embracing the spirit of Austin. Throughout the festival grounds, attendees can find various interactive activities, such as silent disco parties, photo booths, and fun installations. It’s a celebration of music, art, and the vibrant culture that Austin embodies.


The festival is family-friendly and welcomes attendees of all ages. ACL even has a special area called Austin Kiddie Limits, which offers kid-friendly entertainment, interactive activities, and a safe space for families to enjoy the festival together.


One of the standout features of ACL is its gorgeous setting in Zilker Park. With the stunning backdrop of downtown Austin and the Colorado River, festival-goers are treated to a breathtaking view while enjoying their favorite bands. Zilker Park provides ample space for attendees to relax on the grass, have a picnic, or simply soak up the vibrant festival atmosphere.


ACL is a well-organized festival, with amenities and services designed to enhance the overall experience. From designated water stations to charging stations for your devices, ACL has thought of everything to ensure that attendees have a comfortable and enjoyable time. Local vendors also sell festival merchandise, allowing fans to take home a piece of ACL to remember their experience.


Overall, the Austin City Limits Festival offers a unique blend of top-notch music, Texas hospitality, and a vibrant atmosphere that creates lasting memories. Whether you’re a long-time festival-goer or a first-timer, ACL provides an unforgettable experience that showcases the best of music, food, and culture that Austin has to offer.


Dates and Location

The Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival takes place over two consecutive weekends in October, offering music lovers the chance to choose the ideal dates to attend. The festival spans six days, typically falling on the first and second weekends of the month. Each weekend features the same incredible lineup, allowing attendees to experience the festival’s magic regardless of which dates they choose.


Zilker Park, located in the heart of Austin, Texas, serves as the picturesque venue for the ACL Festival. Spanning 351 acres, Zilker Park offers a beautiful and spacious setting for festival-goers to enjoy the music and activities. The park’s proximity to downtown Austin and its stunning views of the Colorado River make it a perfect location for this iconic event.


Getting to Zilker Park is convenient, with multiple transportation options available. Attendees can choose to drive and park at designated areas, though it’s worth noting that parking can be limited and crowded. Alternatively, festival-goers can take advantage of public transportation, including buses and shuttles, which provide a hassle-free way to reach the festival grounds.


If you’re visiting Austin for the ACL Festival and looking for accommodation options, there are several choices available. Depending on your preferences and budget, you can find accommodation ranging from luxury hotels to budget-friendly options in the downtown area. Many festival-goers also opt to stay in Airbnb rentals or nearby neighborhoods, taking advantage of Austin’s diverse lodging options.


It’s important to plan ahead and secure your accommodation well in advance, as October is a busy time for Austin due to the festival and other events happening around the city. By booking early, you’ll have a better chance of finding the perfect place to stay within close proximity to the festival grounds.


As with any outdoor event, it’s essential to come prepared for the weather conditions in Austin during October. The climate in Austin during the festival is typically warm but can vary, so it’s advisable to dress in layers and bring sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun. Additionally, comfortable footwear is a must, as you’ll be spending the day walking and dancing to your favorite music.


In summary, the ACL Festival takes place over two consecutive weekends in October, providing flexibility for attendees to choose their preferred dates. The festival is held at Zilker Park, a stunning location in Austin, Texas, with easy access to transportation and a range of accommodation options. By planning ahead and preparing for the weather, festival-goers can make the most of their ACL experience and enjoy the incredible music and vibrant atmosphere.


Lineup and Performances

The Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival is renowned for its diverse and impressive lineup, featuring an array of established headliners, emerging artists, and local talent. Each year, ACL carefully curates a roster of performers from various musical genres, ensuring there’s something for everyone’s taste.


The festival boasts multiple stages spread out across Zilker Park, allowing attendees to catch their favorite artists while also discovering new acts. From the Main Stage to the smaller, more intimate stages, ACL offers a range of music experiences throughout the festival grounds.


ACL has hosted some of the biggest names in the music industry, including legendary performers such as Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and Bob Dylan. These headliners bring immense star power and create unforgettable moments for the audience.


In addition to the headliners, ACL showcases a diverse mix of emerging and breakthrough artists. This provides a platform for up-and-coming talents to gain exposure and connect with a wider audience. From indie rock bands to R&B singers, hip-hop artists to alternative groups, the festival’s lineup covers a wide spectrum of musical styles and tastes.


One of the unique aspects of ACL is its focus on local talent. Austin has a vibrant music scene, and the festival celebrates this by featuring homegrown artists alongside international acts. Attending ACL gives festival-goers the opportunity to discover the next big thing in music, while also supporting the local Austin community.


Just like any music festival, ACL releases its lineup in advance, building excitement and anticipation among fans. The schedule is typically announced months before the festival takes place, giving attendees ample time to plan their itinerary and make sure they don’t miss their favorite performances.


In addition to the musical performances, ACL also offers other forms of entertainment, such as comedy shows, art installations, and interactive activities. These add to the overall festival experience and provide attendees with a well-rounded entertainment package.


Whether you’re a fan of rock, pop, hip-hop, electronic, country, or any other genre, ACL is sure to have something that piques your interest. With its diverse lineup and a mix of established and emerging artists, the festival creates memorable moments for every attendee.


It’s important to note that the lineup and performances can vary from year to year, as ACL consistently aims to bring fresh and exciting acts to the stage. Stay tuned for the announcement of the next ACL lineup, and prepare to be blown away by the incredible artists that will grace the festival’s stages.


Tips for Attending the Festival

Attending the Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival is an exhilarating experience, but it’s always helpful to have some tips to ensure you make the most of your time there. Here are some valuable tips to consider when attending ACL:

  1. Plan your schedule: Before heading to the festival, take some time to review the lineup and create a schedule of the acts you want to see. Note the performance times and stages, and plan your day accordingly. This will help you maximize your time and ensure you catch your favorite artists.
  2. Come prepared: Austin in October can bring unpredictable weather, so it’s important to dress appropriately. Check the weather forecast beforehand and bring layers, as temperatures can vary throughout the day. Don’t forget essentials like sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.
  3. Stay hydrated: It’s crucial to stay hydrated throughout the festival. ACL provides free water refill stations, so bring an empty water bottle to fill up and stay hydrated. It’s also a good idea to bring snacks or a small cooler with some food to keep your energy levels up.
  4. Bring cash and cards: Although most vendors accept credit cards, it’s always a good idea to bring some cash for smaller purchases or in case of any technical difficulties. ATMs are available at the festival grounds, but they might have long lines, so it’s best to come prepared.
  5. Stay connected: ACL offers charging stations for your devices, but they can be busy. Consider bringing a portable phone charger to ensure that you can stay connected and capture those unforgettable moments.
  6. Arrive early: To beat the crowds and secure a good spot, it’s advisable to arrive early at the festival. This will give you time to explore, grab food, and find a comfortable spot near your favorite stage.
  7. Take breaks and explore: While the main focus is the music, don’t forget to take breaks and explore everything the festival has to offer. Check out the Art Market, indulge in delicious food from the variety of vendors, and take part in the interactive activities scattered throughout the grounds.
  8. Be respectful: As with any large event, it’s important to be considerate of those around you. Be mindful of noise levels, dispose of trash in designated bins, and respect the festival staff and volunteers who work hard to make ACL an amazing experience for everyone.
  9. Stay safe: ACL places a strong emphasis on the safety and well-being of attendees. Familiarize yourself with the festival’s safety guidelines and emergency procedures. Keep an eye on your belongings and be aware of your surroundings to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
  10. Enjoy the moment: Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun and immerse yourself in the incredible music and atmosphere. Take the time to truly enjoy the performances, make new friends, and create lasting memories during your time at ACL.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your Austin City Limits Festival experience and ensure that you have an unforgettable weekend filled with music, entertainment, and Texas hospitality.


Transportation and Accommodation

When attending the Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival, it’s essential to plan for transportation and accommodation to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here are some tips to help you navigate these aspects:




1. Public Transportation: Consider taking advantage of public transportation options, such as buses and shuttles, to get to Zilker Park. ACL provides shuttle services from various locations in Austin, making it convenient for festival-goers to reach the venue. Check the festival’s website for information on routes and schedules.


2. Ridesharing: Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are popular options for getting to and from the festival. It’s advisable to arrange your ride in advance or be prepared for possible surge pricing during peak festival hours.


3. Bicycles: If you’re staying within a reasonable distance from Zilker Park, consider using a bicycle to get to the festival. Austin has a bike-friendly infrastructure, and ACL provides bike parking areas for attendees.


4. Driving and Parking: If you choose to drive, be prepared for heavy traffic and limited parking near the festival grounds. It’s recommended to carpool with friends or use designated parking areas outside of the park and take a shuttle bus into the festival.




1. Hotels: Austin offers a wide range of hotels to suit different budgets and preferences. Downtown Austin is a popular area to stay in due to its proximity to the festival. However, keep in mind that prices and availability can be high during the festival dates, so it’s advisable to book accommodation well in advance.


2. Airbnb and Vacation Rentals: Consider booking an Airbnb or vacation rental near Zilker Park or in neighborhoods close to the festival. This option often provides a more relaxed and homey environment and can be a more economical choice for groups or those looking for extra space.


3. Neighborhoods: Explore neighborhoods near Zilker Park, such as Barton Hills and South Lamar, for more affordable accommodation options. These areas are within walking distance or a short ride from the festival grounds.


4. Camping: If you enjoy the outdoors, consider camping in designated campgrounds near Austin. ACL offers campsite packages for attendees who want to immerse themselves fully in the festival experience. Be sure to check the festival’s website for information on available campgrounds and amenities.


Whatever accommodation option you choose, make sure to book in advance, as availability can be limited, especially as the festival dates approach. It’s also a good idea to check for any special promotions or packages that ACL or the accommodation providers may offer.


By planning your transportation and accommodation in advance, you’ll have a stress-free and enjoyable experience at the Austin City Limits Festival. Whether you choose to take public transportation, rideshare, bike, or drive, and opt for a hotel, vacation rental, or camping, ensuring a smooth journey and comfortable stay will enhance your overall festival experience.


Food and Drink Options

When attending the Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival, you can expect a wide variety of food and drink options to satisfy your taste buds. ACL goes beyond the typical festival food by offering a diverse range of culinary choices from local vendors and food trucks. Here are some highlights of the food and drink options available:




1. Texas BBQ: Indulge in authentic Texas barbecue, a staple of Texan cuisine. From juicy smoked brisket to tender ribs and sausages, you’ll find mouthwatering options from local BBQ joints and vendors at ACL.


2. International Cuisine: ACL boasts a global culinary experience, featuring food vendors serving cuisine from around the world. From Mexican tacos and Thai curry to Indian samosas and Mediterranean falafel, there’s something to satisfy every craving.


3. Vegetarian and Vegan Options: For those with dietary restrictions or preferences, ACL offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan food options. Look out for vendors specializing in plant-based dishes, including vegan burgers, salads, smoothies, and much more.


4. Local Delicacies: Austin is known for its food scene, and ACL doesn’t disappoint. You’ll find local delicacies such as breakfast tacos, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, decadent desserts, and creative fusion dishes that showcase the city’s unique culinary identity.




1. Craft Beer: Texas is home to many renowned craft breweries, and ACL features a wide selection of craft beers on offer. From hoppy IPAs to smooth stouts and refreshing lagers, beer enthusiasts can enjoy local and regional brews.


2. Cocktails and Spirits: Quench your thirst with a variety of cocktails and spirits available at the festival. From classic margaritas to creative mixed drinks using local ingredients, there’s a drink for every preference.


3. Non-Alcoholic Beverages: ACL offers a range of non-alcoholic beverages for those who prefer not to drink alcohol. Options include refreshing lemonades, iced teas, fruit smoothies, and gourmet coffee to keep you hydrated and energized throughout the festival.


ACL also emphasizes environmentally-friendly practices, including the use of compostable and recyclable materials. Be sure to dispose of waste in the appropriate bins to help maintain the festival’s eco-friendly initiatives.


It’s important to note that ACL operates on a cashless system, where attendees can make purchases using a cashless wristband. Top up your wristband with funds ahead of time to ensure seamless transactions throughout the festival grounds. However, it’s always a good idea to bring some cash for smaller purchases or as a backup option.


Overall, the Austin City Limits Festival provides a culinary adventure, allowing you to explore the flavors of Austin and beyond. With a diverse range of food and drink options, ACL ensures that attendees are well-fed and satisfied as they enjoy the incredible music and vibrant atmosphere.


Other Attractions and Activities

While the music is the main event at the Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival, there are plenty of other attractions and activities to enhance your festival experience. From art installations to interactive experiences, ACL offers a range of engaging activities for attendees to enjoy between sets. Here are some highlights of the other attractions and activities at ACL:


Art Installations:


ACL showcases a variety of art installations throughout the festival grounds, adding to the vibrant and creative atmosphere. These installations range from large-scale sculptures to interactive art pieces that allow attendees to engage with the artistic creations. Take the time to explore and appreciate the creativity and talent on display.


Austin Eats:


The festival hosts a dedicated area called Austin Eats, where you can savor the flavors of Austin’s renowned food scene. Featuring a curated selection of local restaurants and food vendors, Austin Eats offers a diverse range of culinary delights, including both traditional and innovative dishes. It’s a fantastic opportunity to sample the best of Austin’s renowned cuisine.


ACL Cares:


ACL is committed to giving back to the community and promoting social initiatives. Through ACL Cares, festival-goers can learn about various local and national causes, nonprofit organizations, and community projects. Engage with these initiatives and find out how you can make a positive impact in the world.


Silent Disco:


The Silent Disco is a unique experience offered at ACL, where festival-goers don headphones and dance to music played by DJs. With multiple channels to choose from, you can switch between different genres and have your own private dance party. It’s a fun and immersive way to discover new music and join in on the dance craze.


Austin Kiddie Limits:


ACL is a family-friendly festival, and Austin Kiddie Limits is a designated area for kids to enjoy age-appropriate entertainment and activities. From interactive games to arts and crafts, face painting, and musical performances, kids can have a memorable time while parents enjoy the festival atmosphere.


Zilker Park:


Located in the heart of Austin, Zilker Park offers a beautiful backdrop for the ACL Festival. Take some time to explore the park, beyond the festival stages. Enjoy a peaceful walk along the trails, have a picnic on the grassy fields, or simply take in the stunning views of downtown Austin and the Colorado River.


Austin City Limits Merchandise:


ACL offers an extensive range of festival merchandise for attendees to take home as a memento of their experience. From t-shirts and hats to posters and accessories, you can find unique items to commemorate your time at the festival. Support the festival by purchasing official ACL merchandise.


Austin City Limits Music Archive:


ACL has a rich history, and the festival has created an extensive music archive, documenting past performances and preserving the legacy of the event. Take some time to explore the archive and immerse yourself in the incredible performances and memories that have been captured over the years.


These are just a few of the many attractions and activities available at the Austin City Limits Festival. Embrace the festival’s spirit of creativity, community, and discovery as you immerse yourself in the music, art, and unique experiences that ACL has to offer.



The Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival is a must-attend event for music lovers and festival enthusiasts alike. With its rich history, diverse lineup, vibrant atmosphere, and unique Austin charm, ACL offers an unforgettable experience that showcases the best of Texas and beyond.


From its humble beginnings as a television show to its evolution into a world-class music festival, ACL has remained true to its mission of bringing together established and emerging artists across various genres. The festival’s commitment to showcasing local talent, promoting sustainability, and providing a wide range of food and drink options further adds to its appeal.


Attending ACL requires some planning, from securing transportation and accommodation to creating a schedule and exploring the various attractions and activities offered. It’s important to come prepared and ready to immerse yourself in the music, art, and vibrant culture that defines ACL.


Whether you’re dancing to your favorite band, discovering new artists, or indulging in Austin’s renowned food scene, ACL offers a truly immersive experience. The festival’s stunning setting in Zilker Park, alongside the backdrop of downtown Austin and the Colorado River, adds to the magical ambiance and creates a picturesque environment for festival-goers to enjoy.


As you navigate through the stages, food vendors, art installations, and interactive experiences, remember to embrace the Austin spirit of hospitality and respect. Be kind to fellow attendees, support local vendors, and contribute to the festival’s eco-friendly initiatives.


In conclusion, the Austin City Limits Festival is an extraordinary event that showcases the best of music, art, and culture in Austin. It’s a celebration of creativity, community, and discovery, offering unforgettable moments and connections. Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor to Austin, ACL provides an experience that will leave you with lasting memories and a desire to return year after year.