Austin has a legendary music scene. Nearly every night of the week, you can find nationally famous, locally famous, or soon-to-be-famous bands playing at our incredible live music venues. And Austin hosts several nationally renowned events that bring major musical acts — as well as hundreds of thousands of fans — flocking to the city. By far, the two biggest events of the year are SXSW Austin and the Austin City Limits Festival.
While SXSW celebrates artists of all kinds (including music, film, television, comedy, and tech), Austin City Limits (ACL) is all about the music.
This music fest rolls in once a year to rock this city. And whether you’re an Austin local or an out-of-town music lover, attending the ACL music festival is a bucket-list-worthy event.
We’ll share all the essential festival details and let you know how to get tickets.
What Is the Austin City Limits Festival?
The Austin City Limits Festival is a music festival, featuring a diverse lineup of artists from across multiple musical genres. Whether you like rap, hip-hop, pop, rock, country, or polka music (okay, NOT polka music, but you get the idea), you can turn up at the festival and find your anthem.
The ACL music festival is organized by Austin City Limits — the PBS show produced by KLRU-TV in Austin and the longest-running music series in TV history. Each year, the festival features more than 130 artists performing on up to nine stages. Past artists have included Guns N’ Roses, The Cure, Tame Impala, and Billie Eilish to name a few.
ACL’s organizers also host music festivals in Sydney, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand — called the Sydney City Limits Festival and Auckland City Limits Festival, respectively. But, the Austin City Limits Music Festival is the original, and it still attracts music lovers from all over Texas and the United States. The ACL fest hosts more than 200,000 guests annually, so Austin will feel a little crowded while the festival is going on.
In addition to musical performances, the festival features kid’s programming — dubbed Austin Kiddie Limits — for children eight and under. There are also food courts and food trucks, plus multiple bars serving mixed drinks, wine, and local brews. A variety of vendors are on-site, often hosting giveaways, and there are merch tents in case you want to rock an ACL t-shirt or hat.
When Is the Austin City Limits Festival?
The Austin City Limits Festival takes place during two weekends in October of each year. Each weekend acts like its own three-day-long event, running from Friday through Sunday. Most people who come into town for the festival will choose to either attend weekend one or weekend two. While some of the most dedicated music lovers attend both weekends, the weekends are ticked separately.
Most years, Austin’s boiling hot summer weather cools off by the ACL music festival‘s scheduled dates. October offers some of the most temperate weather of the year, making this outdoor event pleasantly warm to slightly cool. It’s rarely too hot or too cold during the ACL fest, so it’s an enjoyable outdoor experience for performers and audience members alike.
Where Does the Austin City Limits Festival Take Place?
The Austin City Limits Music Festival is hosted in Zilker Park. Located just across the Colorado River from Downtown, Zilker is one of the best parks in Austin.
The festival grounds typically include the section of the park that’s encircled by Lou Neff Road. The grounds are to the east of Stratford Drive, and to the north and south of Barton Springs Road. Barton Springs Road is closed during the festival.
Large sections of the park close for the event, including the volleyball courts, Rock Island, and several off-leash dog areas. But for locals who aren’t attending the festival, the Barton Springs Pool stays open, as does the Zilker Park Botanical Garden, the nature preserve, the Austin Nature and Science Center, and the majority of recreational areas located on the south and west sides of the park.
For anyone trying to drive to the event, you won’t want to drive directly to Zilker Park. There’s no event parking in the park itself. Some businesses in the neighborhood offer paid parking spots in their business lots, but you’ll find the best parking options in Downtown Austin.
Most years, the event offers a shuttle from locations around Downtown. For the current year’s festival, Austin City Limits will post up-to-date information on the ACL Festival website about getting to the event and taking shuttles.
For Austinites looking to avoid the traffic around Zilker Park during the Austin City Limits Festival, you’ll need to take Lamar Boulevard, the MoPac Expressway, or Cesar Chavez Street.
How Can You Get Tickets?
Festival tickets go up for sale starting as early as December of the previous year. While the festival sometimes sells out, this doesn’t usually happen until a day or two before the event. So, if you’re a local, you can make a last minute decision to attend.
However, ticket prices usually go up as the event draws near, and if you book your ticket in advance, you can take advantage of layaway plans that allow you to put a small amount of money down and pay off the balance of your tickets later.
ACL prioritizes three-day ticket sales — these tickets give you access to an entire weekend of the festival, rather than just one day. When you purchase your three-day tickets, you’ll have to decide whether you want to attend weekend one or weekend two. If you want to attend both weekends, you’ll need to buy two sets of tickets.
Often if you purchase your tickets in advance, the entire weekend schedule won’t be available yet. As artists confirm the weekend they’ll be playing, the Austin City Limits Festival will add [W1] for weekend one and [W2] for weekend two next to the artist’s name on their festival lineup. But if you’re determined to see a specific artist, you may need to wait until closer to the event for the full schedule to be released, which could cause you to miss out on layaway deals.
One-day tickets go on sale closer to the event — as long as the entire event doesn’t sell out ahead of time in weekend ticket sales. Both weekend-long tickets and one-day tickets are available in a variety of tiers, including general admission (GA), GA+, VIP, and Platinum tickets.
GA tickets start at around $180 for single-day tickets, and just over $300 for three-day tickets. Prices go up from there with higher tiers giving you access to things like better restrooms and free soft drinks at the GA+ tier, and free food and alcohol at the VIP and Platinum tiers. Children eight years and younger get in for free.
If you’re coming from out of town, the ACL Festival website also offers hotel packages that include a three-night stay in one of downtown Austin’s best hotels, plus your three-day ticket for the weekend of your choice. To get one of these packages, you’ll need to book from the festival tickets page, not from the ACL hotels page — booking from the hotels page will only include your room, not your event tickets.
Have Unlimited Fun at the Austin City Limits Festival
The Austin City Limits Festival is a music lover‘s dream weekend. Organized by the legendary PBS music series of the same name, this event rolls into town every October and takes over Zilker Park, filling it with nine stages and hundreds of musical acts.
If you want to spend a weekend — or two — head-banging, dancing, or singing-along with your favorite bands, head to aclfestival.com to get your tickets. Book your tickets sooner, rather than later, to get the best prices.