Has anyone tried to attend Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas with their children? Located in the Live Music Capital of The World (fun fact: Austin, Texas has more live music venues per capita than anywhere else in the nation) Austin City Limits Music Festival is a 2 weekend, 8 stage, 130 band music festival.
This past weekend I was able to attend my very first ACL Fest and I brought along my five year old. It was an interesting experience, one I won’t forget and one I know he won’t forget because he has been talking about it since Sunday.
Austin City Limits Musical Festival is a two weekend, three day music extravaganza, held in Zilker Park, in Austin, Texas. ACL has music ranging from rock, indie, country, folk, electronic, and hip-hop. Originally the festival began as a one weekend event produced by the Austin-based company C3 Presents, which also produces Lollapalooza. In 2012, Austin City Council members voted to allow Austin City Limits Music Festival to expand to two consecutive weekends which began in 2013. This year the music fest has eight stages where various acts preform, including big names such as The Foo Fighters, Drake, deadmau5, Nero, Dwight Yoakam, and The Weeknd.
If you are traveling from out of town or out of state, C3 Presents and ACL makes it easy to find local hotels and transportation to and from the fest. Ticket packages sold on the ACL website have all inclusive packages, which include air fair, hotel accommodations (at some of the nicest hotels in Austin), and tickets to the event.
If you are a parent and worried about what to do with your children while you attend the festival, you can always get a babysitter or leave them with family and attend the festival without your children. Or the other alternative is to take them out there and let them enjoy the fest! Children under the age of 10 and younger will be admitted free of charge with a pass-holding adult.
ACL offers Austin Kiddie Limits which runs parallel to ACL Festival in its own secure are at Zilker Park. Austin Kiddie Limits opens at 11 AM and closes at 5PM each day of the festival and creates an awesome environment in which parents and adults can enjoy family friendly music, participate in a drum circle, and make crafts. All this is almost secluded and in its own world. Upon entering the Austin Kiddie Limits there is a member of the production crew making sure that everyone who enters is either a family, someone with kids, and from what I am assuming keeping people who could be drunk out of the kids area.Tips for Surviving ACL with Kids.
After paying for your tickets, getting your travel arrangement settled, and planning out what bands you’d like to see. Get a few things ready for your kids.
Bring a backpack to store all the items you are going to be bringing with you. Along with using it to carry everything you have, it doubles as a pillow and a seat saver. Put your backpack down and establish your area under the shade and let the little ones run around while you enjoy a lemonade or beer in the shade. you are going to pack quite a few things so having a spacious backpack is essential and completely necessary if you are going to survive ACL with kids.
2. Water bottles
Bring an empty water bottle for each member of the family. Camelback has a few refilling stations around the festival and lets face it it’s Texas, it’s going to be hot at some point of the day. With your little ones running around the Kiddie Limits are they are bound to get thirsty. Having a full bottle of water will be their saving grace.
3. Travel-size essentials
Put together a few travel-size essentials for you and your kids. Ours included: baby wipes, antibacterial wipes, sunscreen, band aids, allergy medicine, and some tissues. A few of these we did not use, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also, if you purchase the travel-size, size of each of these products it will not take up too much space in your backpack.
4. A blanket
Think of ACL Music Festival as an all day picnic out at Zilker Park. Bring a blanket to lay out in shade and use your backpack to anchor it down. It happens to rain and forget your poncho, your blanket can double as a family poncho.
A few years ago, it rained so much during the ACL weekend, it ended up looking like Woodstock in the 60’s. Bring a small rain poncho, nothing fancy, something you can fold up and tuck away just in case it does decide to drizzle.
6. Comfy shoes
If you want to be brave and wear stylish shoes, be our guest, but our number one advice would be to wear comfy shoes. My five year old put on some Nike tennis shoes the first day and the second day he wore his high top chucks. Whatever shoe you are most comfortable in and that you can walk endlessly in, wear those. This what my son wore to this years festival.
Bring a light weight stroller for the younger ones, so they can take a siesta and relax. My five year old is too grown up for a stroller and insisted on walking everywhere with me and did just that. If you have an older kid that can walk on their own, just warn them that there will be walking, lots of walking. Also, you can use the stroller as shade for you little to sit under and as an anchor to hold your blanket down. Little Red Wagons are not allowed so leave those at home.
8. A personalized Flag
Cell phone service can be iffy with so many people in one concentrated area and if you are by a stage you probably won’t be able to hear anything anyway. During our time out this past weekend we saw hundreds of different flags and most all unique. Many people prefer to carry a flag instead of countless calls of “Where are you now?” If you can see the flag that’s where you can meet your party and if you have older kids that want to walk around by themselves a flag will be great for them to spot, when it’s time to head out.
9. Extra battery for your phone
If you have the opportunity bring a back up for your phone battery. If not invest in one of those extra battery packs you can quick charge your phone with. Within the park there are multiple charging stations but from what I observed they were constantly packed and the only time there was no real line was in the early hours of the festival.
Bring cash! Bring cash for food and souvenirs. Most places do accept credit cards but why run the risk of losing a card, bring some cash for food or activate your cashless option on your bracelet. Cashless is now an option that links your wristband with a certain amount of funds that can be used with most vendors at the festival.
Traveling to Zilker Park
If you can’t find a ride to and from the festival grounds, ACL has partnered with CapMetro to offer a free shuttle service from Downtown Austin to Zilker Park. Starting at 10:00am each day and ending at 11:00pm each day, CapMetro provides FREE shuttle service to and from Republic Square on 4th and Guadalupe. This was the best thing for us because we live in North Austin and took the Metro Rail from the Howard Station to the Downtown Station, walked a few blocks and took the shuttle to and from each day of the festival. The best part of the shuttle is that it drops you off about 30 feet from the Barton Springs entrance and you do not have to worry about parking or making sure you lock your bike in a sea of thousands of bikes. There is enough room on the shuttle for the stroller if you decide to bring one. Luckily, all the hotels that have partnered with the fest have shuttle and most have drop off service if you ask nicely.
Of course there are the other options: Uber, Lyft, a cab and getting someone to drop you off. If you don’t mind paying a higher fair due to traffic and want a more personalized way to get there, use one of these services. There is a designated Uber drop off right across the Stephan F. Austin bridge and dedicated cab pick ups and drop offs for your convenience as well.
Inside Festival Grounds
Tag-A-Kid Registration. First things first we needed to get registered just in case we get separated. Each child that is registered is given a wristband that is linked to the parents wristband and if your child gets lost or separated from you a festival worker will check their wristband and either call or text you and let you know where to pick find your child.
When you get to the stage you want set up your blanket and relax. Let the kids run around and have some fun on the park grounds. If you are headed the Austin Kiddie Limits, there are tons of things to do within a smaller area and go ahead and allow the kids to run around. There is always a person up front making sure everyone entering and exiting is with someone and not alone.
Enjoy some great food. Check out all the food here: http://www.aclfestival.com/experience/food/
Buy some souvenirs.
And most importantly, HAVE FUN! It might get hot, you might be tired afterwards but the smile on my sons face after looking at pictures and videos we took is priceless and totally worth it.
For more information about tickets and the ACL Fest visit here. For more coverage and artist interviews please visit TexasDadBlog.com.
Thanks to all the artists, crew member, bus drivers, emergency personnel, and everyone who makes this event happen.