6 Tips To Make Austin City Limits Music Festival Kid Friendly

ACL Fest is all Austin, from the wide range of eclectic music, the plethora of gourmet food choices, the full gamut of humanity, and the good natured charm that we all love here in Texas. Since moving to Austin we have made the Austin City Limits Music Festival a tradition, not only for my husband and myself, but also our entire family. We make the splurge and buy the three-day passes (which are now required) and make a true weekend of it. Why do we do it? For one, we don’t get to see enough live music, even when living in the Live Music Capital of the World. Too often we say we are going to head down to Stubbs or Antone’s to check out a show, but life with three kids makes that difficult.

Secondly, and this is another thing that should be no surprise to those who love Austin, we go for the food. Like Austin itself, the Austin City Limits Music Festival gathers some of the greatest chefs this city has to offer, and we have more than most, so that you are not only in the middle of an amazing concert experience, but you’re also enjoying a world-class meal. But most importantly, it’s great to be a part of something big and be surrounded by humanity, all enjoying their own genre of music, in their own way.


Sounds great, right? So why bring our kids each year? My husband and I love live music and want our kids to appreciate it as well. We also feel it is important for them to celebrate diversity, not only in music, but in people. The kicker is that they also allow children age 10 and under in for FREE with a paid adult. Thus, there’s no excuse for not making at least part of ACL Fest a family outing!

If you are going to get ready to grab the kiddos and head down to Zilker Park in October here are some tips to make it a more fun experience for you and the kids.

1. Bring your Stroller - The stroller is a pain, I know, but it is worth it! Bring your jogging stroller – don’t have one? Post something on Facebook, or on a message board. Someone has one and they will likely let you borrow it. One year we borrowed a double Bob stroller, both of our kids at the time napped (while Blues Traveler crooned onstage) which allowed us a little extra time to see more acts. Strollers help your little ones stay protected from the sun (or rain), and it’s a storage area for the blanket, snacks, raincoats, collapsible chairs, and more. And since strollers don’t do well in big crowds, it will keep you out of range from the really loud speakers. We have never been close enough to a stage to need ear plugs for the kids. There will be times when you are stuck with your stroller, crowds moving through a tight spot. You might curse me at that time, but be patient and let the crowd move along. I have felt that my kids are much safer in the stroller than if I was gripping onto a hand in a crowded space. Plus, when it starts to pour all of a sudden and you have raincoats stored way, you’ll come back and thank me.

2. Go Early- Gates open at 11am, take advantage. Especially on Friday since this is the quietest day at the festival. But any day is good in the morning for the kids. Even as the crowds come in, you can always find open space to spread out a blanket for a picnic and dance party. And it is possible to bring the kids down for the morning/early afternoon, then swing back home and drop them off with a trusted caregiver and go back to ACL to enjoy the evening acts.

3. Keep Moving- When you aren’t waiting for a certain act, walk around and explore all that is ACL. You never know what will capture your child’s eye. The shopping areas provide great entertainment for little ones to see everything. Last year when walking over to the food area my kids started jamming out to a Gospel Band, we stopped, danced and had a blast!

4. Bathroom Breaks- Yes you have to use Porta-Potties. I have boys so I will admit I have a little advantage here. You want to keep the kiddos hydrated, especially in the hot Austin sun, but that will mean lots of potty breaks. Kiddie Limits area has bathrooms (see below) and at any of the bathroom areas, the front ones start to have lines, but if you walk further into the bathroom areas you will find less of a line. Party goers don’t want to miss hearing their favorite song so they stay close to the edge. Parents, usually we need to find a potty fast so take the extra time to check all the potties for shorter lines, usually you’ll be glad you did! And don’t forget the hand sanitizer!

5. Cell Phones Don’t Work- Now everyone’s got different plans and providers but with the sheer amount of people Tweeting, checking in, posting, and streaming there is only so much bandwidth to go around. Every time I’ve been to ACL, I’ve been frustrated with my service. We take for granted that we can call or text these days, it can be really difficult at ACL so have a back up plan. If you can make your phone a hot-spot even for the day or weekend, do it. It will help text messages or other chat functions get through. Also it’s good to set a meeting spot at each place you go. You’ll move around a lot and it’s a big area so having just one meeting spot doesn’t make sense. Then, if you take one child to the bathroom you can find your spouse/partner/friends later on. Many will bring large balloons and tie them to their backpack or stroller – which is another great way to find someone in the crowds.

6. ACL Kiddie Limits- I’ve saved the best for last! Your kids will want to spend all day here. The Kiddie Limits area has just one entrance/exit. It’s truly an oasis within ACL. My boys LOVE the rock star hair station (mohawks and spray color is free), they also enjoy the instruments that are there for kids to explore and play. There are numerous craft activities as well as a stage with kid appropriate musicians. And here is where all the kiddos are encouraged to get up there and dance! With the Kiddie Limits area, there are potties that most people don’t know about so usually shorter bathroom lines (shhh.... don’t go telling everyone!). And if you have a baby on board, Nurturme, an Austin based baby food company, will be back this year with a tent equipped with clean, private diaper changing stations and breast feeding spots.

The best advice I could give would say to just do it! ACL Festival is a wonderful way to create memories as a family. We have melted in the sun, been drenched in the rain and exhausted, but we look forward to it again every year. I’ll be there on Sunday of the first weekend with my entire crew, hope to see you there!


About the author: Regan Flaherty is a mom first and then wears many other hats; one being the founder of MetroMoms Austin and manager of all their events & promotions. MetroMoms is a professional events program (not a member-based group) that hosts events for moms from pregnancy through preschool. The events are fun, fabulous and one-of-a-kind. These events bring trendsetter, career woman, stay-at-home and think-outside-the-juice-box moms together to experience sensational events, meet new friends, or catch up with old ones — all without worry, hassle or stress. Our events have style, originality and pizzazz. We define a "MetroMom" as a woman who loves life, believes that it only gets better with kids and that you do not lose your sense of self or style by becoming a mom. Our motto is "Enjoying Motherhood Every Step Of The Way™." We believe that there is a MetroMom in every mom.

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