You may remember that ACL was part of my 2017 festival bonanza! It was my first time in Texas and a complete blast. Shout out to one of my best festival friends, Megan, for taking me along for the ride (it was actual mutual peer pressure).
Fast forward to late this summer. The husband and I were sitting around, in a rut, when an ad for ACL popped up. Five minutes later we had decided to make the trek to Texas. Fortunately, through friends in a band, we ended up with guest artist passes and set off for an amazing Weekend 1 in Austin.
In both 2017 and 2018, it was significantly cheaper to fly into San Antonio and drive (via rental car) to Austin. There is also the added benefit of being able to do a little exploring, and to stop at The Salt Lick in Driftwood for delicious brisket on the way. We flew in Thursday – ate bbq and headed to Rainey Street to hit a few bars for dinner and drinks. We attempted to see the bats (this is all anyone would tell me about Austin before I went the first time) – but were unsuccessful. We headed back to the room to relax and get ready for Day 1!
For those who haven’t been to ACL or are more accustomed to camping festivals, getting in takes a little more work. There are shuttle buses, just a short walk from most of the downtown hotels (and tons of awesome free goodies to pick up from festy brands at the bus stop). After a few minutes on an air-conditioned bus, you arrive at Zilker Park. There are tons of other ways to get there, including ride share, biking or walking – but the official bus is both free and easy (at least on the way in).
We always try and check out a little bit of everything, but there were must sees for both of us on the day 1 line. We saw: lovelytheband, BORNS, Jungle, Khalid, Bishop Briggs, and the beginning of Paul McCartney. As well as bits and pieces of several others.
lovelytheband is/was one of my favorites (above) and I am a huge fan of the BMI stage. If you are lucky enough to get in the lounge behind, there are not only snacks, nice bathrooms and delicious free drinks – there are also photos of all the bands on the rise that have played the stage in the past. It is cozy and fun and probably my favorite part of ACL. The bands are very chill, and often say hi/hang out in the cool area behind the stage. Also there was a taco happy hour (need I say more). The small size of the stage gives you a more intimate festival setting.
Day one also brought delicious food and some exploring of the various areas and side stages we had access to.
One of the awesome things about ACL (and Lolla too) is that the festival ends relatively early, giving you time to explore the city and nightlife afterwards. Both cities also have amazing after shows. See my post about Lolla to hear more about the amazing Grouplove after show Megan an I attended in 2017. These shows give you an opportunity to explore some great local venues and it is kind of a cool thing to spend the day at the fest and join up with fellow festivalgoers at the after shows. Since we were late planning this trip, we didn’t do an after show – but headed back to the hotel by way of Sixth Street.
Day two was a hot one. I took a selfie with the Bai fruit juice guy to get a fan and Minh got grumpy as the day went on. But free drinks, another delicious hamburger and shaved ice (or water ice as the call it in Philly) saved the day.
Alice Merton, The Wombats, Justice and Chvrches were our big hits of the day. I once again spent a lot of my favorite time watching smaller bands at the BMI stage – including a group that had backup dancers who donned president masks and did a routine they had been practicing behind the stage. We had both been excited about Nelly, but my one complaint about ACL is that they have put a big act on HomeAway stage both times I have been there and it has been impossible to get close enough due to the way the crowd moves to hear anything or even remotely see. We were unable to cross over to the other side or even to get to the back of the crowd because of the way it is set up facing the other stage.
We made the best of it and got an extra drink and snack and made our way to Justice early.
Day 2 also saw weather play a role in opening the gates late and persistent warnings on signs around the park. We felt like it was all handled very well, with early warnings provided before festival attendees even started making their way to the park.
Sunday we went for some of the early bands, but had already seen Arctic Monkeys twice. I did some amazing fest shopping in the huge tent – where I scored a yeti cup and an awesome tank. After that, it was time for me to toss the vacation choices to the husband. We walked home after Day 2 – and I can’t say whether that was better or worse. I hate the bus lines and all the chaos, so I appreciated it, but it was definitely a longer walk than we expected.
We spent the next two days exploring Austin and Waco. With trips to the Zoo, downtown, using motorized scooters, checking out some unique stops and a candy store.
We went to Waco for the sole purpose of visiting The Silos (fixer upper fans). It was beautiful, but packed. We walked over to the Dr. Pepper Museum and had lunch at Hecho en Waco before heading back to Austin. Minor rental car panic on the way home when the warning lights started coming on.
On our last day in Texas, we head back to San Antonio. We walked around downtown, visited the Alamo and had lunch at Fuddruckers before heading to the airport. Continuing with my burger theme, I had a frito pie burger – surprisingly delicious.
My takeaways from ACL the second time around:
- Amazing food
- Easy transport into the festival (less easy on the way out)
- The vibe is great (more families, normal people, fewer bros)
- We both left wanting to move to Texas
- This is probably my favorite festival over all
- My only negative is the sound bleed and crowd issue at HomeAway stage
I’ve included a few of my favorite pictures. Happy to answer questions or give further info if anyone is interested.