The Austin City Limits Festival, the live-music extravaganza that takes over Zilker Park for two weekends every fall, now appears to be the city’s most-attended event. According to a January Austin Business Journal article, its official attendance in 2017 was 450,000, squeaking past SXSW, which had 421,900.
It’s unclear if the latter number includes the hordes of SXSW attendees lacking official credentials, who contribute significantly to the downtown crowds during that festival, but the essential point remains: A whole bunch of people will be in Zilker Park Friday, October 5-Sunday, October 7, and again the next weekend.
While it’s unlikely that the traffic nightmares around the festival and several surrounding areas will be completely abated anytime soon, expanded transit options and festival organizers have combined to make getting there and back less of a headache—and, hopefully, lessened the irritation involved for non-attendees/average citizens to avoid the whole mess while going about their business. The following information should be helpful for groups.
Street closure and trail maps
Street closures around the festival have a kind of hierarchy, depending on the kind of vehicle. The map above shows different areas for taxi, shuttle bus, dockless vehicle, B-cycle, and pedicab access, stands, and parking, as well as pick-up/dropoff zones for private vehicles. There are also maps of access routes and parking for adjacent neighborhoods.
There are also routes for pedestrians and bicycles (and scooters, presumably) to get to the fest.
Note: There is no parking at Zilker Park for the ACL Festival.
Okay, hopefully you’re convinced not to drive your car to the festival. There are so many better options.
Complimentary official festival shuttle buses
ACL-provided buses pickup/dropoff stops are at Republic Square Park (Fourth and Guadalupe streets) and the Barton Springs West Entrance of the festival. They start at Republic Square at 10:30 a.m. and make their final return trip at 11 p.m. every festival day.
If you want to skip the shuttle, the MetroRapid Route 803 will get you closest to the Barton Springs East Entrance.
Bicycles and electric scooters
Scooters and bicycles, dockless and otherwise, will have free/mandatory parking on designated lots at Toomey Road and Sterzing Street adjacent to Weber Fields and a space on Azie Morton (formerly Robert E. Lee) Road across from the festival’s Barton Springs East Entrance.
It’s unclear if there will be the bicycle valets and/or if people with personal bikes will have places to lock their bikes closer to the festival entrances, as has been the case in past. However, dockless-vehicle users will get discount codes and other sponsored giveaways when they end their rides in the above-designated lots.
There is a separate Austin B-Cycle station at Barton Springs Road and Sterzing Street, the same general area of the above lots.
[For the uninitiated: Car2Go is a sort of on-the-fly car rental business that operate on the same model as those of dockless vehicles such as scooters or bikes. Car2Go customers find one of its tiny Mercedes-Benz(os) where the last driver left it (via its app or just by spotting one) and, unless it’s reserved, rent it on the spot via the app. (You can also reserve cars via the app.) When you’ve reached your destination, you park in an authorized space (also explained on the app), end your rental, and leave the car for the next person.]
As in past years, Car2Go will have an ACL drop zone near the fest at the new Carpenter Hotel, which will have dedicated, free parking for Car2Go users. Members will be able to pick up and drop off cars at the lot throughout the festival. The lot will be staffed 10 a.m.-6 p.m. although members arriving after 6 p.m. will still be allowed to park onsite.
If you are not already a member and want to use the service, you need to sign up at car2go.com or through the official car2go app with your driver’s license before the fest. Your registration will be processed within 1-2 business days.
Pedicab drivers are licensed and regulated by the city and usually negotiate a price before takeoff or charge by the block. To get to the festival in one, you’ll need to flag one down, probably in the downtown area. Getting back by pedicab is easier; there’s a staging area for them in the festival area.
Traditional taxi services in Austin are in high demand during the festival. There is a stand on the festival grounds as well as designated drop-off zones. If you want a cab to take you to the festival, you might need to call and reserve one. There are four companies: Yellow Cab Austin, (512) 452-9999; Lone Star Cab, (512) 836-4900; Austin Cab Company, (512) 478-2222; and Austin Taxi Co-op, (512) 333-5555
Ride Austin is the local, nonprofit ride-hailing app, available along with Lyft and Uber. All ride-hailing vehicles will have three pick-up/drop-off points (all designated on the festival map):
- Wallingwood Drive at the MoPac frontage road
- Stephen F. Austin/Veterans Drive
- Lee Barton Drive
ACL Fest has partnered with Uber; the team will provide providing access to dedicated pick-up and drop off points and “exclusive surprises” for Uber riders. Visit Uber’s ACL Music Festival page for more information on that.
Not to be outdone, Lyft will offer $1 off rides. Festival-goers can also drop by the Lyft Lounge located outside the Zilkr [yep] on the Park condominiums and take a picture with the Lyft VW Bus as well as grab swag, additional ride discounts, and more.