The time has finally come, Austin City Limits fans. Try to contain your excitement—there is still lots of prep work to be done.
Festival crews began setting up in the park last week, giving hope and excitement to ticket holders. With just a few days left until the festival's post-COVID debut, use those jitters to plan out the best possible festival season.
Whether it's your first time or you're an ACL veteran, here are a few tips to keep in mind while you prepare for the music.
Don't miss a beat:
What to bring
First things first, put on that wristband before leaving the house so there's no chance of losing it. Also, just as important as your wristband to get in, all attendees must show a negative COVID-19 test obtained within 72 hours of entering the festival. Fully vaccinated attendees may show proof of vaccination instead of a negative test.
Now to the fun stuff.
Pack light. I repeat, PACK LIGHT because you're going to be doing a lot of walking and moving around. That said, there are a few light creature comforts that will make the sizzling sun bearable, starting with a seat: a foldable chair, picnic blanket, whatever, but you'll want to have a place to camp out while waiting in-between sets or enjoying a bite to eat.
If you bring nothing else, make sure you bring a reusable water bottle. Hydration is crucial and water refills are free at ACL, with stations to fill you up all over the park, so save your money on plastic bottles by bringing one.
Sunscreen is a must, especially if you're planning on making it through a full weekend. Lather up but remember that it's not in an aerosol container and weighs less than 3.4 ounces. It's always good to have a bandana on hand, you never know when you might need one, but you can always grab a freebie from festival vendors.
Expect your battery life to be drained from posting on social media and trying to find friends in the crowd. Do not forget a cell phone charger. This year ACL will have antennas through MatSing, which means the typical WiFi challenge will be partially alleviated. You can pack it all in a one-pocket fanny pack, which doesn't have to be clear if it's smaller than 4.5" x 5.5" or any clear bag smaller than 12" x 12" x 6."
What NOT to bring
The ACL gods have spoken and they said no coolers, glass containers or hammocks are allowed. You can bring in a point and shoot camera but ACL prohibits anything with a detachable lens—in fact, the festival prohibits all professional photo and video equipment.If it's illegal, it is probably prohibited. ACL is not allowing any e-cigarettes or vape devices, outside drinks, tents, spiked jewelry, fireworks, bicycles, pets, umbrellas and selfie sticks are all prohibited. Read the full list of illegal items here.
How to get there
Trying to park at Zilker or anywhere close to the park will leave you disappointed—unless you purchase a third-party parking pass, such as at Chuy's on Barton Springs for $100-weekend parking—so it's probably best to nail down another mode of transport because streets nearby will be blocked off.
More likely than not, you'll still have to do some walking if you take an Uber, which partnered with ACL as the official rideshare app. Drivers have designated pick-up and drop-off zones that are often a trek away from the action. Plus, with high demand comes high prices, so you'll need to factor it into your ACL budget. When you're ready to head home, you won't be able to call an Uber until you pass the river, South Lamar Boulevard or the Frontage Road.
Depending on where you're coming from, it may be best to park downtown and shuttle over to Zilker Park. ACL has historically held free, quick and easy shuttles that pick up attendees, bus them all the way to the Barton Springs West entrance and drops them off at the end of the day. You can catch the shuttle at Republic Square Park downtown starting at noon on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. CapMetro also has bus routes around the city that run to Zilker Park, like MetroRapid Route 803.
Biking and walking 🚲
You won't be able to take your bike inside the festival but bike parking is available on Stratford Drive after crossing the Mopac Pedestrian Bridge and on Toomey Road at Sterzing Street and on Azie Morton Road.
How to survive the heat
(Roger Ho for ACL)
You're going to sweat, so make peace with that. Luckily, this year's forecast is calling for relatively mild temperatures. Now that that's out of the way, you can stay cool by dressing light, staying hydrated and giving yourself time to rest in the shade, which is where all the "must-brings" come in handy. Keep attire light and breathable, a hat or a bandana to keep the hair out of your eyes and a pair of sunglasses on hand. (Pssst… Don't miss our ACL style guide!) Make sure to take breaks and explore the air-conditioned areas of the park—the merch store and beer hall offer respite from the sweaty exterior.
What to eat
Like every year, ACL is bringing in only local restaurants, so you know you'll be eating well. Prepare yourself for a mark-up while you're there—there are plenty of restaurants around the Zilker area and on Barton Springs Road that you can sneak out to if you don't want to pay festival prices.
If you are going to eat at ACL, this is a great time to try something new because you can visit Torchy's any ol' time. Why not try Taco Bronco or Tamale Addiction if you're in the mood for Mexican food? It wouldn't be Texas if The Original Black's Barbecue or Micklethwait Barbecue weren't on the list, it wouldn't be trendy if you couldn't get a bodega-inspired snack from Wicky's Walkup, and it wouldn't be greasy festival food if you couldn't get a mac and cheese stuffed grilled cheese from Burro.
For your sweet tooth, Skull & Cakebones serves spooky sweets just in time for fall, Lick Honest Ice Creams creates creamy masterpieces with local and organic ingredients or if you're trying to stay mobile, pick up a handheld pie from Tiny Pies.
How to maximize your time
Don't go into the festival blindsided, lest you miss shows that are important to you. The first step in enjoying the festival to its fullest is by familiarizing yourself with the artists—a big part of ACL is discovering new favorites and up-and-coming musicians. This year, almost 20 local artists are performing and the worst feeling is discovering an artist that you could have seen at ACL.
Next, map out which artists you want to see with ACL's daily schedules. Though ACL has yet to unveil its new version of the app, previous versions allow you to schedule reminders for shows you wanted to see.
Don't forget to download the app prior to the festival—ACL can alert guests of set changes, weather and festival news in real-time.
Who to see
Miley Cyrus brought Billy Idol to the stage at this year's Lollapalooza. (Charles Reagan for Lollaplooza)
Miley Cyrus brought out special guest Billy Idol during her Lollapalooza set to perform their duet "Night Crawling," so ACL guests might get a two-for-one. Tyler, The Creator, took the Lollapalooza set with a theatrical performance that relives his past eras. The queen of Hot Girl Summer, Megan Thee Stallion, successfully got the entire crowd on their feet. It's important to keep in mind that some of these artists might be nearing retirement, like George Strait, so seize the opportunity to catch rare acts live.
There are some local treasures you don't want to miss—Black Pumas, of course, a band that needs no introduction and has its own holiday in Austin; Dayglow, an indie-pop project put on by frontman Sloan Struble; Nané, a thoroughly-Austin band formed from UT students Ian Green and Daniel Sahad, Dayglow drummer Brady Knippa and Black Pumas keyboardist JaRon Marshall; and Sir Woman, a solo project by Wild Child singer Kelsey Wilson.
Ultimately, who you decide to see is up to you but know that you won't regret branching out. You may not love every new band you see but you're bound to find at least one new jam. From the biggest stages, Honda and Lady Bird, to the smallest BMI and VRBO stages, there is a show to enjoy on all of them.
The festival will be here before we know it!
Why pay full price when you have next-to-new Austin fashion at your fingertips? Thrift shopping is nearly as ubiquitous to Austin as live music and food trucks, but it can be hard to get your foot in the thrifting door.
No need to fear: we've got a complete guide to the smorgasbord of Austin thrift shops right here.
Best bang for your buck
Goodwill Bins, 6505 Burleson Rd.
If you're pinched for cash or looking for adventure, head to the Goodwill bins for the cheapest options on the market. At $1.49 a pound, it's easy to walk away with 10 or more items for less than $10. This is where the unselected items at Goodwill stores lay to rest, so there can be slim pickings. But that makes it that much sweeter when you find a designer item, tag intact. Come ready to be assertive—each time new bins are brought out, it's prime real estate, and a crowd quickly gathers around the new picks.
Thrift Land, 512 W. Stassney Ln., Ste. 107A
For anything from 99-cent T-shirts to brand-new designer leather pants, head to Thrift Land in South Austin. The store has been around since 1985 and has a huge variety of men's and women's clothing, home decor and even books and furniture. Every section is color-coded, so come with a desired color scheme in mind. Bring cash as well—the store is cash-only, but there is an ATM inside just in case you forget.
Thrift land is packed with outfits for activities from business meetings to a girl's night out. (Claire Partain/Austonia)
Thrift Town, 5726 Menchaca Rd.
Thrift Town shares a strip with a Goodwill, but the store consistently brings better style and lower prices to the table. Thrift Town's slightly trendier cousin, Thrift Land, is also conveniently located nearby in South Austin. There aren't as many home furnishings as Thrift Land, but they more than make up for it with with mannequins serving as style inspo above the aisles and plenty of business-casual clothing appropriate for any workplace meeting.
Thrift Town employees regularly outfit mannequins with their favorite picks. (Thrift Town/ Facebook)
Salvation Army, 4216 S. Congress Ave.
While you can find nearly anything at Salvation Army, which is famous for its half-off days, you can find high-quality used furniture—and a healthy selection of it—without breaking out the piggy bank. Plus, if you need to rid yourself of extra furniture, the Salvation Army will come to pick up items directly from your house so you can spare yourself the sweat. Donations and support go to those in need—the non-profit organization donates 82 cents on every dollar to services that help the less fortunate. While the Salvation Army does not help move furniture to homes, several services like Easymove and Dolly will help you get it where it needs to go.
Far Out Home Furnishings, 1500 W. Ben White Blvd.
This vintage, upcycled and knick-knack emporium is so filled with upcycled goodies and eclectic art pieces that they have a dedicated "Funkyard" to house it all. This garage-sale-like thrift shop carries used fashion, indoor and outdoor furniture, musical instruments, jewelry, frames and whatever else your heart desires, so long as you have the stamina to find it. The store offers an online tour and regularly updates its inventory, so you'll have an idea of what's in store before you head over.
Pavement Austin, 611 S. Lamar Blvd.
Flaunting a colorful exterior to match the sprawling, eccentric interior, Pavement has a carefully curated selection of clothing for the modern fashionista. Filled with a mixture of new, used and vintage fashion and accessories, Pavement caters to all aesthetics at both of its Austin locations. With clothes for all bodies, Pavement sets itself apart by hand-selecting the items it puts on the sales floor instead of relying on brand or release year, so you will likely find something for everyone.
Flamingo Vintage Pound, 2915 Guadelupe St.
Flamingo is the cutting-edge of thrift fashion, but don't take our word for it: influencer and former Texas State student Wisdom Kaye, who has racked up 6 million TikTok followers for his keen fashion sense, has been known to frequent it. Inside is a hodgepodge of eccentric Austin fashion. Find vintage Harley Davidson tees or funky bell-bottom pants in the store's curated sections. Come here looking for discounted fashion-forward items instead of extra-low prices. Flamingo is significantly more pricey than the Goodwill bins, but it still follows a discounted pay-by-the-pound model.
St. Vincent de Paul, 901 West Braker Ln.
An Austin favorite, this donation-based store known simply as "Vinny's" comes with all the trappings of a Goodwill or Salvation Army but with a more curated selection. Look for trendy clothing, wood furniture or eclectic jewelry at this North Austin thrift shop.
Passport Vintage, 2217 S. 1st St.
Looking for quality vintage denim? With over 20,000 Instagram followers, Passport Vintage has established itself as a vital storefront for tasteful shoppers. It's not the cheapest, however—come here if you're willing to pay near-new prices for authentic vintage items. Aside from its Instagram, the store also has a website and a brick-and-mortar store open seven days a week.
Ballin' on a budget
Uptown Cheapskate, 3005B S. Lamar Blvd.
If you love name-brand clothing but don't love draining your bank account, Uptown Cheapskate is the place to shop. The store has brought upcycling to the mainstream by buying and selling clothes brought in by customers, meaning you can shop for less and even make a quick buck while you're there. Clothes are chosen with a few criteria in mind: brand, date they were released and condition, so you may not sell everything you bring in, but you will walk out with something that was on boutique racks just a few months before.
Plato's Closet, 5400 Brodie Ln., Ste. 240
Fulfill your Instagram influencer fantasies without breaking the bank at Plato's Closet, the classic name-brand thrift store chain. It doesn't take much sifting to find Lululemon, Zara, Madewell and even high-fashion designer items within the curated store. Come with a bag of your old clothes, too, if you trust your fashion sense—they'll give you a couple bucks for whatever they like from your wardrobe.
Buffalo Exchange, 2904 Guadelupe St.
Buffalo Exchange has a reputation that precedes it as the premier designer thrift destination. Located just across the street from Flamingo, Buffalo Exchange is stocked with items straight from the closets of trendy University of Texas students living nearby. Grab an entire Gen Z outfit—from flame-shaped sunglasses to embroidered cowboy boots—and have change to spare. In our experience, the pants section has some of the best quality items on the thrifting market.
Uncommon Objects, 1602 Fortview Rd.
Uncommon Objects doesn't sell clothes, but it does sell used items from yesteryear. Down the eerie, cluttered aisles, you're likely to find old objects that confuse, delight, inspire and fright, but seeing that every item is used, it is thrifting in its own right. There's no true way to know what you'll find in the self-proclaimed "antiques Mecca" but a few staples include dolls, paintings, statues, skeletons, photos and old appliances. Whatever you take home, it will probably be older than you.
Supporting a good cause
Austin Pets Alive!, 1156 W. Cesar Chavez St. (multiple locations)
With three locations across Austin, all net proceeds go to the puppy-loving, no-kill Austin Pets Alive! Shelter. The boutique-style thrifts are a great place to find clothes for everybody, and you can donate your old items to help animals. Plus, if you're an APA! foster parent, you can enjoy 20% off every time you shop.
Treasure City Thrift, 2142 E. 7th St.
With the motto "solidarity not charity," Treasure City Thrift is a Black-owned shop that claims to be "the most affordable thrift store in Austin." The shop prides itself on educating the public on zero waste practices, inspiring art and creativity, making needed goods available for people who need them most and making monthly donations to the Really Really Free Market. You're likely to see a pop-up market outside the brightly-painted pink building when you visit and you might just catch the monthly 25-cent sale.
For the fashion challenged
Thrifted Feels ATX, 12700 Hill Country Blvd., Ste. G-125
Do you struggle to put together something fashionable in the morning? Ever wish you could just have someone do your shopping for you? Thrifted Feels ATX would love to be that personal shopper for you. A tried and true shopaholic, owner Dominique Kirven resells clothes that fit her personal aesthetic so you can fake it until you make it. She describes her style as nature-inspired with Earthy tones and textures, though there is always room for a little statement. You know what they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
Feathers Boutique Vintage, 1700B S. Congress Ave.
This vintage consignment shop has a brick-and-mortar storefront, but it's also got a fully-functional site and ships its items around the world. Since 2005, the shop has curated quality vintage items with an extra Austin flair. From bandanas and scarves to quality jeans, Feathers has a little bit of something for everyone.
Elephant Paths, Depop and Instagram pop-ups
More shoppers than ever are using their thrift expertise to create their own curated online shops. If you don't have the free time to head to your favorite shop, head to Instagram or Depop for pop-up thrift shops galore, including Elephant Paths, one of Austin's newest online stores. Austinite Aysia Jackson resells her favorite thrifted items for exceptionally low prices. Check her site for colorful jackets and blazers, go-to skirts and more as she continues to build up her inventory.
Half a mile long, lined with more than 20 bars, Rainey Street's entertainment district bustles as a large part of Austin's nightlife scene every weekend. With themed bars, a food truck park and an excitable atmosphere, it's no wonder why.
In 1885, Rainey Street sprung up as a quaint residential neighborhood with many of its turn-of-the-century homes still standing today. Over 130 years later, Rainey Street is reliably busy every weekend and one of the booziest streets in the city.
Whether you're looking for a fruity frozen cocktail, a full meal or an ice-cold beer, you can find it all on Rainey Street.
Best overall drinks: Half Step, 75 1/2 Rainey Street
Half Step's old fashioned cocktail is celebrated among visitors. (Half Step/Instagram)
This tiny bar has a huge patio to sprawl out on and it is serving up high-quality cocktails that are made with love. Choose from elevated classics like the draft Paloma and old-fashioned or a tantalizing take on yacht club punch made with absinthe. There will probably be live music playing when you get there and you can get a snack at Little Lucy's Mini Donuts, parked right nearby.
Most elaborate drinks: The Tipsy Alchemist, 70 Rainey Street
The Strawberry Tea Fizz is made with lemon, strawberry reduction, gin and topped with a rose. (Tipsy Alchemist/Instagram)
This elevated cocktail bar makes drinks with science while you observe Rainey Street from above. With an upscale yet wacky atmosphere, The Tipsy Alchemist serves different drinks that push the boundaries of physics, travel through a tube across the entire bar, are made with liquid nitrogen and come in a coconut.
Most "Austin" atmosphere: Javelina, 69 Rainey Street
Javelina was started by four Austinites who wanted to create an ice house, dance hall and beer joint. (Javelina)
This bar's unique fare is something the four local founders call "Hill Country Soul," so suffice to say the menu is savory and hearty. Just about anyone would feel more like a local after dining on some green chile pork fries or a cornflake-crusted chicken sandwich paired with a Hill Country lemonade. You can also get a meal until 1:30 a.m. here, later than any other kitchen on the street. Keep an eye out for the live music, drag queen brunches and burger specials that keep this bar weird.
Best overall atmosphere: G'Raj Mahal, 73 Rainey Street
G'Raj Mahal imports many of their furnishings directly from India. (G'Raj Mahal/Instagram)
This warm, colorful atmosphere will make you want to stay all night. Though the restaurant serves upscale Austin-inspired authentic Indian, and specifically Goan, food, Texas' signature Southern hospitality is not lost. Either outdoors or on the spacious patio, you can enjoy a traditional saag paneer or nutty korma made with free-range and grass-fed proteins while you people-watch or enjoy the full bar menu. As the restaurant says, they welcome you to "Sit and Namaste a While."
Best food truck: Little Lucy’s Mini Donuts, 75 1/2 Rainey St
Try the "Poodle," "Schnauzer" or " Maltese" flavors. (Little Lucy's/Instagram)
You've had donuts before, maybe even ones with creative names and fancy ingredients, but they don't compare to the donuts you get when you go to Little Lucy's. These mini donuts—just a little larger than a golf ball—are fried then doused in a luxuriously-flavored flavored sugar while still hot and fresh. We recommend the "Schnauzer," which are pistachio, lavender and vanilla flavored, or the "Maltese" Italian cream cake. I can already smell the donuts cooking 🤤
Best lunch and dinner: Emmer & Rye, 51 Rainey Street inside SkyHouse
The blackened grapefruit panna cotta is topped with beet bubbles and benne seed shoyu streusel. (Emmer & Rye/Instagram)
While this restaurant is some of the very best on Rainey Street, this is not the place to go to end your night. This menu changes with the season and the famer's harvest, meaning you're likely to try something new each time you visit. You have two options when you dine in at Emmer & Rye, stick to the menu or forget it and get the off the menu option, which comes out with a variety of dishes meant to be shared. You can also order specials off carts that travel around the dining room during the meal. Be prepared to shell out but enjoy it when you do!
Best tap beer selection: Banger's Sausage House and Beer Garden, 79 Rainey Street
Banger's has an ever-rotating selection of brews on tap. (Banger's Sausage House and Beer Garden)
You're going to be hard-pressed to find anything but beer at Banger's Sausage House but you will find more than 80 types on draft. In addition to the vast lineup of beers from all over the country, plus a few domestic choices, dozens of brews come straight from the capital of Texas. If that's not enough, the bar also has a pretty expansive food menu.
Best specials: Idle Hands, 85 Rainey Street
Idle Hands has tropical drinks on deck, plus a healthy selection of beer and wine. (Idle Hands)
In addition to the fruity cocktails, full menu and tropical atmosphere, Idle Hands offers a new special Monday-Thursday. Time your visit right and you can get $10 draft cocktails, 50% off a Cubano sandwich or a $4 slice of cheesecake while you relax on one of the bar's swinging wicker chairs. If those specials don't tickle you, keep an eye on the bar's Instagram, where it announces specials like Paella Night or free oysters for early guests.
Best brunch: Anthem, 91 Rainey Street
With Asian barbecue brisket and curry potatoes are the stars of the brisket breakfast tacos. (Anthem/Instagram)
If you're looking for a break from the classic eggs benedict and pancakes, Anthem has you covered with it's umami-filled brunch menu. Branch out with Thai doughnuts topped with yuzu icing, basil and black sesame seeds or a more traditional JFC biscuits & gravy with sriracha hot honey and shoyu gravy. The main menu is filled with plenty of Asian-inspired bites, so there's reason to visit anytime. You can still get your mimosa or Michelada but brunch is only served on Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Best place to dance: Augustine, 86 Rainey Street
With a spacious front patio, indoor space and plenty of room in the backyard, Augustine is "a little classy, a whole lot of groovy," with plenty of room to get down. With a colorful cocktail menu, great photo ops and a glowing green sign, it's impossible to miss this bar.
Where to park:
You might be able to find street parking if you visit Rainey Street between Monday-Wednesday, but don't count on it. Rainey Street does have an attached gravel parking lot but costs tend to be expensive, like $10-20 per hour type expensive, so the best option is to walk, Uber or branch out to one of the many options that will be cheaper to park.
You can try your luck with the many street parking options around Austin or get free parking at...
- 742 Interstate 35 Frontage Road
- Triangle Park and Ride, 4600 Guadalupe Street
- Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River Street (only free on Sundays)
You might just have to do a little walking!
$5 or less
Finding parking for a small fee is very doable if you're willing to do some scouting.
- Hyatt Regency Austin, 208 Barton Springs Road ($4)
- N Interstate 35 Frontage Road / E. 6th St ($5)
- 801 Trinity Street ($5)
- 1501 E. 6th St ($5)
$10 or less
This category gives you the most options while still saving a little bit of cash for Rainey.
- 604 Driskill St. ($10)
- 314 East Cesar Chavez St. ($8)
- One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road ($8)
- 707 East 7th St. ($10)
- AMLI Downtown Garage, 201 Lavaca St. ($6)
- 419 East 7th St. ($10)
- 313 East 7th St. ($10)
- 717 Red River St. ($6)
- 108 West Gibson St. ($6)
Where to stay:
(Hotel Van Zandt)
If you're trying to stay walking distance from Rainey Street, you have options across the board.
In the two-star range, Rainey is home to some eclectic hostels. The Heirloom Lounge and Rusty Railway Hostel is a colorful homage to old Austin, not just another "hipster hostel," offers $3 breakfast buffets and regular movie nights. With a cafe and bar onsite, Native Hostel is an upscale hostel tucked away inside an 1890s railroader hotel. Though you'll be sharing a room with four to six people, the luxurious furnishings will make you feel cozy and you might even make some new friends.
For a guaranteed private room, you'll need to move to the three star range. Homewood Suites has rooms from around $140-$200 and sits along I-35, right behind Rainey Street, so you won't even have to Uber. Just a little further away is the Holiday Inn, sitting further South on IH-35, but is still a very comfortable walk to Rainey Street. You can stay there for cheaper too: around $90-$175.
If you can swing it, Austin has some luxurious hotels to lay your head for the night. Four-star hotel Locale Austin offers fully-furnished apartments to stay in, so you'll feel right at home, and comes complete with expansive views of the city. Hotel Van Zandt has been named "#1 Hotel in Texas" by Condé Nast and you can enjoy the downstairs restaurant Geraldine's for a fancy meal, or have them bring it to you as part of the 24/7 room service. Both hotels are just a stone's throw away, sitting right beside Rainey.
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