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Things to know about Austin’s 4th of July celebration

Going to the fireworks? Read this first.

Big fireworks blasts over lake in Austin Austin Symphony/Facebook

Updated June 28, 2019

Yes, celebrating Fourth of July on Thursday is weird. But that shouldn’t make the city’s official celebration, the H-E-B Austin Symphony July 4th Concert and Fireworks and less spectacular—or popular. The traditional celebration takes place on Vic Mathias Shores (formerly known as Auditorium Shores) on the south side of Lady Bird Lake (formerly known as Town Lake) and has in recent years drawn crowds of 100,000 or more.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of that celebration, though, here are a few, more general things you might want to know about July 4th in Austin:

  • It is illegal to possess, use, or sell fireworks within the City of Austin.
  • Many pets are lost during Fourth of July festivities. you lose a pet, check with the Austin Animal Center. Don’t take animals to fireworks celebrations, and make sure they have a secure place to hang out and no ways to escape home if you leave them at home when fireworks are expected.
  • An Austin Police Department “no refusal” weekend will be in effect 10 a.m.-5 a.m. every day from July 4 through July 10. During those times, police officers can get a warrant for a blood test for drivers they believe to be intoxicated if those drivers refuse a breathalyzer test. But there’s no reason for that—see the “Get Home Safe” section below.
  • Looking for places to eat or drink before, during, or after the celebrations? Eater Austin has you covered.
  • Looking for great places to watch? We mapped them.

H-E-B Austin Symphony July 4th Concert and Fireworks event

Basics

The event is free and open to the public. It takes place at Vic Mathias/Auditorium Shores on the south shore of Lady Bird/Town Lake just west of the South First Street Bridge. The Austin Symphony begins at 8:30 p.m. Fireworks start at 9:30 p.m.

What to leave at home (prohibited items)

Here is the city’s list of prohibited items for the event:

  • No glass or Styrofoam. Food and beverage vendors will be on site.
  • No alcohol is allowed on the site.
  • Swimming in Lady Bird Lake is prohibited.
  • Smoking and vaping is prohibited in city of Austin parks and is a Class C misdemeanor.
  • Drones are prohibited at the event per FAA regulations.
  • E-Z Up style or pop-up canopies/tents are prohibited.
  • Pets are not allowed (cannons and fireworks create severe stress for animals).
  • Vending at the park site without a permit carries a $200 minimum fine and is a Class C misdemeanor.
  • Grilling is prohibited at the event site.
  • No personal fireworks on site, including sparklers.
What to bring (suggestions and precautions)

As is always a good idea, be sensible about the sun and heat: stay hydrated, use sunscreen (and bug spray if you need it), wear appropriate outdoor footwear and clothing—including a hat or other items that help shade you from the sun.

Of course, when the music starts and the lights go down, you won’t need to worry about the sun exposure so much. However, you are allowed to bring personal umbrellas and folding chairs with attached canopies, since you’ll likely be scoping out a good spot well before then.

Bring a flashlight/bike light if you plan to use the hike-and-bike trail (though the flashlight app on most phones will probably also work if you’re walking).

Getting there

Even if you’re not driving (an excellent idea), it will be helpful to look at our list and map of July 4th road closures before planning your trip.

Also good ideas for getting there:

  • Take a Capital Metro bus. Here’s where to plan your trip.
  • Bike, walk, or some combination. Here’s the city’s trail directory—but see closures below.
  • Take a dockless bike or scooter. The southwest corner of Riverside Drive and South First Street will be reserved for drop off. Remember that motorized vehicles are prohibited on city hike-and-bike trails.
Trail and lake closures
  • The lower portion of the Hike & Bike Trail on the north side of Lady Bird Lake (between the Seaholm intake structure and South First Street) will be closed at 10 a.m. The upper sidewalk along Cesar Chavez will remain open.
  • Lady Bird Lake will be closed to all watercraft between 8 p.m. and midnight from South First Street to the railroad trestle bridge.
Parking

ADA parking will be by permit at the Palmer Event Center garage on a first-come, first- served basis. Entrance is from the south via Barton Springs Road Cap Metro buses are also ADA compliant and will be providing service to the site.

If you must drive and don’t need ADA parking, try to park downtown, north of the lake. There is expected to be extensive congestion in and around Lamar Boulevard, Barton Springs Road, and Riverside Drive.

Free parking is available at the state garages A, B, F, and G; at Lot 18 on Trinity Street between 13th and 17th streets near Waterloo Park; and at state lots on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at Trinity and at Brazos streets.

Remember that there is no parking on Sixth Street between Red River and Brazos streets between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., Thursday through Sunday. The Austin Police Department will tow vehicles from this area.

Here is a map of downtown parking spots and some suggested paid parking lots:

  • Convention Center garages: $8, noon to midnight.
  • City Hall Garage: $15, noon to midnight.

Parking along rights-of-way and medians, blocking private drives and lots, and utilizing “Not Permitted” areas may subject you to fines, ticketing and/or towing at your own expense. In addition, parking on green spaces and parkland is prohibited. Parking is prohibited on and along Cesar Chavez, as well as on all parkland.

To park south of the river, you can try:

  • Hyatt Regency Austin, 208 Barton Springs Road: $5 per hour up to five hours. Anything over five hours is at the $23 daily rate.
  • One Texas Center: $10, noon to midnight.
  • Palmer Events Center Garage: $10, noon to midnight.

Get home safe

There are many ways to go to and fro without driving if you’re drinking on the holiday (or any other time). The following is excerpted from the city’s transportation department site.

Phone a friend or designate a sober driver before going out.

Remember, the best and responsible thing you can do to keep yourself and others safe is to plan ahead before heading out for the night.

Bus-Capital Metro
  • Night Owl
  • Capital Metro’s Night Owl bus routes run from midnight to 3 a.m. with service from the 6th Street entertainment district to the City’s most popular late night destinations. One dollar gets you on board and $2 will get you 24 hours of unlimited rides. UT students ride free with valid school ID and ACC students ride with the Green Pass.
  • E-bus
  • The E-Bus is a late night service that picks up passengers from UT, West Campus, and Riverside areas and provides a safe alternative to driving to and from Austin’s entertainment district during weekend evenings (Thursday - Saturday from 8:30 p.m. - 3:00 a.m.). UT students, faculty, and staff may ride the E-Bus at no charge. If you are not a UT student, you may ride the E-Bus by paying a $1 fare. It is recommended you purchase a round-trip day pass for $2 upon boarding.
  • View Capital Metro’s full schedule and service maps online. Capital Metro also offers a Guaranteed Ride Home Program. The program is based on an annual membership, where members can rely on Capital Metro for a guaranteed ride home if they have an emergency that causes the member to miss their bus or train. Learn more here: Guaranteed Ride Home Program.
Designated Driving Service
Electric Low Speed Vehicles
Limos/Charter Services (there are many—click to view full list)

Park Downtown Overnight

The City has more than 3,000 parking spaces on the street in Downtown Austin (I-35 to Lamar Boulevard, and Lady Bird Lake to 10th Street) where people can leave their cars parked overnight. The parking meters in Downtown Austin have yellow “Next Day” buttons that allow people to buy meter time for the next day. What happens if you forget to buy time for the next day and leave your car overnight? The Austin Transportation Department will not tow vehicles for being left overnight, within a legal parking space.

The City’s Transportation team coordinated with our Downtown parking management groups (both private and public) to provide you this map of overnight parking options.

I-35 Parking Lot

Austin residents and visitors have another weekend overnight parking option in the parking lot under I-35 between 6th and 8th Streets. Parking meters at the I-35 lot are enforced Monday through Saturday, 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Parking is $7 a night Monday through Thursday and $8 a night Friday and Saturday. Parking is free on Sunday. Cars that are left in the lot from 3 to 5 a.m. Monday through Friday morning may be towed due to routine cleaning.

Responsible Ride Home - Parking Ticket Waiver Program

If you get a parking ticket but made the responsible decision of taking a taxi or bus home, we’ll waive the ticket! Bring your ticket and receipt from your ride with a taxi, bus, or transportation network company (or “ride-hailing service”), into our office with a completed Ticket Waiver Form (PDF). Meters are not enforced on Sundays.

Pedicabs (there are many—click to view full list)
Taxis
Transportation Network Companies (TNCs, also known as “ride-hail apps”)
Free sober rides

If you’re celebrating somewhere other than city parks, where it’s illegal to have alcohol—like a bar or a party—be sure to take all the normal precautions to avoid drunken/altered driving. As on New Year’s Eve, these include a free sober rides program provided law firm Sutliffe and Stout: Between 5 p.m. July 4 and 10 a.m. July 5, the firm will reimburse (via PayPal) the first 1,000 riders who request it for one taxi and ride-hailing trip costing up to $30 in Austin. There are rules, including available service areas and being of drinking age; see their website for the full list.

Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Lake Trail, Austin, TX 78704

Vic Mathias Shores

900 West Riverside Dr., Austin, TX