The 411 on ACL 2013

ACL 2013 preview 

The wait is finally over. The Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) is almost here -- well, at least, Weekend One. Once again, our fair city will play host to over 100 bands on 8 stages, which will draw tens of thousands of visitors to the Live Music Capitol of the World. We've listened to all the bands playing the Festival and you might already notice that we've been churning out band profiles and we will continue to do so leading up to ACL. We're hoping to showcase the great talent outside of the festival headliners and highlight some of the local acts you can catch either at or outside of ACL.

 Here are some tips, whether you are a first-timer or ACL veteran, and whether you are taking the kids or leaving them with family or friends:

Download the app. It's no surprise that the ACL app is the place to keep your schedule handy and share it with friends. You can also use the app to discover new bands and listen to their music. It's nice that the app also will soon have the festival map to help everyone spend time listening to music instead of wondering where X stage is. While we are on the subject of phones, you'll probably want to use yours sparingly to conserve battery life (there are charging stations, but who wants to spend all weekend there, right?) Don't count on being able to use your phone for much communication during the day since calls, texts and Facebook posts often appear hours later than intended.

Do your homework. There are ACL playlists popping up all over the place, but the iHeartRadio Austin City Limits Radio has been a great way for me to familiarize myself with the bands which are playing. It's nice that you can play it on your desktop while you are working or on your phone when you are out and about.

My most comfortable outfit for ACL: a Gap tank top, jeans and sneakers which didn't look like running shoes.
My most comfortable outfit for ACL: a Gap tank top, jeans and sneakers which didn't look like running shoes.
What to wear (and what not to wear). I am by no means a fashionista, but ACL is a great excuse to go out and get some new duds. That said, practicality always trumps fashion for me. The challenge (at least for me) is not to wear something that screams MOM (you know, because I really could be some of these performers' mom!) I've found that tank tops work well for me and that I can do either shorts or jeans. Footwear is a huge consideration, because of course you are walking what seems like miles, and the grass at Zilker gets muddy in spots even in the best conditions (so farewell, my beloved flip flops -- see you next week!) So, be prepared for your shoes to not be in great shape after 3 days. I might try some cute accessories to bring my outfit into 2013. 

As you can tell, my ensemble is still a work in progress. The weather is doing that is-it-summer-or-fall back and forth, which also makes planning a little more challenging.

ACL capitol 

What to bring. This answer obviously depends on whether you are attending with adults or with children. 

Here's the official list of allowed and prohibited items. If you are attending sans children, I'd recommend bringing:
  • a backpack of some sort (being handsfree is nice and easier to get through crowds than with a handbag)
  • an empty aluminum water bottle (to fill up at the CamelBak stations) and two factory-sealed 1L water bottles (put in the freezer so they will be cold as long as possible)
  • hand sanitizer (I don't use this normally, but it's nice to have at something like ACL)
  • sunscreen (PSA: aerosol sunscreens are not permitted)
  • sunglasses
  • plenty of cash for food and drinks
  • one mini-Kleenex pack per day (as back-up TP and for other small clean-up jobs)
  • a bandana which can serve multiple purposes and doesn't take up much room
  • a lightweight rain poncho/windbreaker which you can put on the ground to sit on
If you do have the kids, definitely add in a lightweight, yet easy to maneuver stroller for the littles (no red wagons are allowed) and ear protection (I ordered these off Amazon after SXSW for my kiddo). On the not allowed list are pets, food (although you can usually bring in some kids' snacks), coolers and large umbrellas. Many people do pick up inexpensive folding chairs at Academy, but they are bulky to carry around and limit where you can be, so I leave mine at home.

  ACL bikes 

Getting there and getting around once you are there. Transportation is arguably the biggest pain of ACL. Parking in the neighborhoods around Zilker is strongly discouraged. Unless you have a friend with space in his or her driveway, your best bet is to see if you can find someone to pick you up and drop you off near Austin High. Another great option is to bike it to Zilker. Once you are actually inside of the festival gates, it can be surprisingly hard to get from one band to another in a timely fashion. For that reason, I try to make sure I have a "plan B" band, just in case there is a bottleneck in the crowds. It's too early to say whether moving to two weekends will mean things seem any less crowded inside the gates. The earlier you arrive, the easier it is to get around Zilker.

  ACL kiddie limits 

To bring kids, or not to bring kids? This is a question I've heard many parents I know asking. As you probably know, kids ages 10 and under get in ACL free with a ticket-holding adult. Austin Kiddie Limits is open from 11am-4:30pm daily and has tons of family-friendly activities. ACLWithKids.com has some great posts from moms who have been there and done that and are even willing to do it again!

The way I look at it is this: if you bring your kids to Blues on the Green, South by Southwest or other big festivals here in Austin, you will probably enjoy ACL. If you are really looking for this to be your big weekend to see live music and spend time with other adults (and if you have the childcare), then it's probably wise to divide and conquer with your partner, friends or family. I also know plenty of parents who are bringing their kids for a few hours and then sending them home so they can take in their favorite bands without having to worry about snacks, noise and negotiating port-a-potties with little ones.

Have a fun-filled Festival! If you want even more ACL, hop on over to Pinterest where we have pinned TONS of ACL-related goodies.

Are there any other burning questions you have about ACL? Any tips to share?

A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole Basham uses her 7-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau's words, her mission is to "suck out all the marrow of life", or in her son's words, to cultivate in him a love of "advenchers."

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