When the first Austin City Limits Festival was held in 2002, organizers expected a turnout of only 25,000 people. Roughly double that projected number showed up. And with that, a new Austin tradition was born.
What started as a festival to showcase the local bands and national headliners tied to the “Austin City Limits” television show has grown into one of the most exciting music festivals in the world. This two-weekend festival brings downtown Austin’s Zilker Park to life with mouthwatering food, music, and exciting activities. Who’s your favorite artist? Are they in this year’s lineup?
Where to Stay for Austin City Limits
If you’re planning on attending ACL, why not skip booking a cramped hotel room in favor of an Austin vacation rental in one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods? Get even more neighborhood ideas from our complete Austin travel guide. Without further ado, here are the five most convenient places to stay close to all the festival action.
When it comes to finding the best place to stay close to Austin City Limits, it’s hard to beat the convenience of a vacation rental located in the Zilker neighborhood, just across the lake from downtown. It’s one of the more popular neighborhoods among real estate buffs, and it’s home to a mix of small single-family homes and ultra-modern new construction. Best of all, a vacation rental here puts you within walking distance of Zilker Park, where the festival is held, and Barton Creek Greenbelt, where you can hike, bike, and get in touch with nature during your downtime.
Favorite Local Spots: Get an excellent cup of coffee at Medici Roasting. Check out some of the best Tex Mex in town at Chuy’s. We love their burritos! And finally, grab a nightcap at the High Ball. They’ve also got great karaoke on the weekends!
The Zilker neighborhood offers quiet surroundings and easy access to the festival, but staying downtown puts you within steps of all the action in Austin. Grab a bite to eat at restaurants like Koriente or Moonshine, sip cocktails at bars like Peche or Midnight Cowboy, and see shows at theaters like the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz or Violet Crown. From eateries to comedy clubs to shops and boutiques, you’ll find it all downtown. Plus, you’ll be just a short ride away from Zilker Park.
Favorite Local Spots: Your best bet for a morning coffee downtown is Houndstooth Coffee. Dinner is at Red Ash. Grab a tasty woodfired pizza or a delicious plate of pasta. And from there, be sure to hit the Roosevelt Room for your nightcap.
South Congress (SoCo)
The SoCo neighborhood is popular among visitors and locals looking for a laid-back atmosphere, in addition to a variety of things to do, see, and eat. SoCo is known for its artsy vibe and great eateries like Bouldin Creek Cafe. To experience the neighborhood’s artistic side, head to First Street, where there are plenty of galleries, studios, and public art, including the “Greetings from Austin” mural.
Favorite Local Spots: Grab some morning joe at Jo’s. Head into Otoko for an authentic sushi experience. With only 12 seats, you might have to wait a bit, but it’s worth it! After your sushi, head over to Little Drinks Lounge for a tasty adult beverage.
This neighborhood is part of what many locals call “Old West Austin.” It’s known for its gorgeous homes, lush greenery, and throwbacks like Nau’s Enfield Drug, a classic soda fountain, diner, and drugstore hybrid. The luscious lemon ricotta pancakes at the Josephine House are also popular, as is the speakeasy vibe at Winflo Osteria. Looking for galleries? Check out Artworks or Wally Workman Gallery.
Favorite local spots: Clarksville has a killer coffee scene. The competition is stiff, but we know that Galaxy Cafe is up to challenge. Check them out for some caffeinated goodness. It’s also a great option for breakfast and they sell off-sale beer and wine, too! Dive into some seafood at Clark’s Oyster Bar. And head over to Dive Bar & Lounge for last-call. Don’t let the name fool you — this place is actually pretty fancy!
Located just north of the University of Texas campus, this idyllic neighborhood boasts charming bungalows, manicured landscapes, and restaurants like Wheatsville Co-Op and Hyde Park Bar & Grill. This historic neighborhood also offers a few gems, like Workhorse Bar, which is a perfect spot for gathering with friends and grabbing a few drinks before or after the festival.
Favorite Local Spots: Grab the first cup of the day at Flightpath Coffeehouse, a local joint that’s been keeping the Hyde Park area caffeinated for almost three decades! For lunch and dinner, hit Hyde Park Bar & Grill. They’re serving up some creative takes on Americana classics. And end the night at DrinkWell, where you can try a Costa Brava for a smokey take on a classic refresher.
Things to Do Near the Festival
Austin has a reputation for having some of the most mouthwatering barbecue in the country, so you should definitely take time out of your trip to stop by one of the city’s famous BBQ joints. Aside from that, here are a few other activities in the area.
Sit Back and Relax at Shady Grove
Shady Grove is less a short stroll away from Zilker Park — less than 10 minutes to be exact. In the summertime, they host the longest-running live music series in Austin called “Unplugged at the Grove.” You may even get the chance to catch a movie at Shady Grove’s Starlight Theater, where they play old-school classic films under the stars. Plus, the establishment offers ACL 3 Day Parking Passes for festival-goers, so you can park your car there and grab a bite at Shady Grove before heading over to the festival.
Pro Traveler Tip: This place boasts one of the most attended happy hours in the area, and for the music festival, it gets even rowdier. Get there between 3 and 6 for some drink specials and shenanigans.
Rent a Kayak, Canoe, or SUP on Lady Bird Lake
Rowing Dock at the northern tip of Zilker Park provides rentals of all kinds to explore Austin on water. You have the option to rent regular kayaks, fishing kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards. They also host full moon paddles.
Pro Traveler Tip: Take a downtown tour of Austin… from a kayak! Live Love Paddle offers this amazing experience, and it is truly awesome.
Hit a Couple Rounds at Peter Pan Mini-Golf
On a sunny day during your trip, you can walk over to Peter Pan Mini Golf, less than a 15 minute walk from Zilker Park. The vibrant golf course has been around since 1946 and is obviously kid-friendly, but the best part about this spot is that it is BYOB. If you’re looking for some ways to make your trip a bit more kid-friendly, check out these fun things to do in Austin with the whole family!
Pro Traveler Tip: 18-holes takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and ticket sales close an hour before closing time. We love to suggest that people play the full 36-hole course offered at Peter Pan Mini Golf. In order to do so, be sure you arrive a couple of hours before they close.
Cool Off at Barton Springs Pool
Last but not least, while you’re already in the Zilker Park area, you might as well visit Barton Springs Pool located inside the park. The pool is three acres in size and gets its water from underground springs. Even on a chilly day, the water is naturally warm at an average temperature between 68 to 70 degrees. The pool is normally open to the public from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., and non-resident admission fees cost $9 for adults, $5 for kids ages 12 to 17, and $4 for kids 11 and under. Little ones under 1-year-old swim for free!
Pro Traveler Tip: Right next to the pool is the Austin Nature & Science Center. You’ve got to check this place out. Bring a towel and dry yourself off before heading through the center. You won’t regret it!
A Playlist for the Pregame
No matter where you plan to get hyped up for the festival, we have exactly what you need to set the mood right. Here’s a VacationRenter playlist made up of 55 tracks from artists in this year’s lineup — ordered from the first day to the last.
Head to Austin City Limits
There are tons of great neighborhoods in Austin all offering different feels and styles. From the food to the cocktails, your choice on where to stay and what to do is important So let us help you choose your perfect home or condo for the festivities and make sure you’re close to all the action! Let’s get the party started. Allow us to help you find an affordable rental near Austin City Limits Music Festival now! Plan your Austin City Limits getaway today with VacationRenter!