Over the weekend, I took a road trip with three girlfriends down to Austin, TX for the Austin City Limits (ACL) music festival. We loaded into the car on Friday morning for the drive, with only one pit-stop in mind: The Czech Stop in West, Texas, for the best kolaches ever. This was my first music festival experience and it was exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time.
DAY 1: FRIDAY
Our first stop was our hotel to reset after our drive, change into festival clothes, and get some lunch. My personal style is not bohemian in the least, so packing for a music festival was a challenge; luckily, adding a headband to any outfit is an easy way to look festival-ready.
When we arrived at Zilker Park, just south of downtown Austin, we were overwhelmed with all of the things to coin the festival grounds. We quickly got in the short line for a photo in the ACL Fest picture frame; later in the weekend the wait time for a photo was about an hour!
We started mapping out which shows we wanted to see that day; there are 6 stages to choose from, and most of them have shows playing simultaneously. It can be so hard to choose which shows to see- you want to hear music you’re familiar with, but some of my favorite shows were by bands I had never heard of!
This was my first music festival and I really had no idea what to expect; these photos show how many people were even just at one of the many stages! Groups used flags, or blow up dinosaurs taped to a pole like my friends did, to stay together or to navigate the large crowd and find each other. “Look for the dino!” was a frequent text message sent over the weekend!
At the end of day 1, I had seen shows by Tame Impala, Flosstradamus, Disclosure, and Foo Fighters. My favorite was the EDM remixes from Flosstradamus it was a nonstop dance party!! The last show of the night is over around 10pm, at which time, all of the festival-goers hustle to the shuttles that run back into downtown Austin or to catch an Uber or taxi back to their hotel or next destination. Leaving Zilker Park was always the least fun part of the day, mainly because we were herded like cattle to the shuttle lines. After day one of the festival, I knew what to expect and could really prepare well for the rest of the weekend; things like additional phone battery, comfortable shoes, and communicating your schedule to friends prior to entering the cell phone dead zone at the park were all helpful!
DAY 2: SATURDAY
After a long day one of the festival, we slept in on Saturday with plans to eat brunch downtown before hopping on the shuttle to Zilker Park. During my last road trip to Austin, I ate at Annie’s Cafe, and this was the perfect excuse to visit again! Brunch is by far the best meal of the day, so I was more than thrilled that we were going to be brunching every single day of the weekend! Annie’s didn’t disappoint and we left fueled up for the long day of music ahead.
My day two outfit was pretty simple, I wanted to be comfortable and was anticipating doing a lot of jumping at some of the shows that night, namely: DeadMau5 and Drake! The chambray wrapped around my waist double as a blanket to sit on in the grass!
Y’all, it was so hot outside. But don’t worry- I found a way to keep cool. Luckily, we were allowed to bring our own water bottles into the park and visit “filling stations” to get filtered water for free.
The sea of people behind me at shows always amazed me; when you walk up to a stage, there’s already a crowd forming for the next show, but then you look behind you and see how many people have arrived after you and all you can see is the unending mass of faces. It makes you feel so small! I loved turning strangers into friends at each show- asking people to take pictures, sharing phone chargers, dancing together, it was so fun!
We tried to take pictures at “golden hour” every evening in Zilker Park and loved asking other groups of girls to take our photos then becoming friends with them! We met people from all over the country that came just to experience ACL.
Austin is known for its food trucks and ACL was the perfect place for Austin’s favorite restaurants and food trucks to serve the masses. I had Saltlick BBQ for dinner Saturday and it was so good! At every location within the park, you can hear amazing music playing; standing in line for food wasn’t ever unbearable because you could hear a show going on while you waited!
If we couldn’t decide which show to go to, we would just take pictures. That’s always a good backup. At the end of each night, we would “meet at the moon,” which was a huge illuminated balloon in the middle of the park. Well, everyone else made the moon their meeting point too, so we always celebrated when we were reunited with our whole group. Saturday night after the Drake show ended, we hopped on the shuttle and walked to Sixth St. in downtown Austin, where we discovered that Lisa’s wallet was gone. Womp womb. Not a great way to end the day, but then we got ice cream, so it was okay.
DAY 3: SUNDAY
Again, I was so happy to sleep in and then eat my favorite meal: brunch! Each morning in the hotel was a hilarious round of “what are you wearing?” and “are you washing your hair?” Getting ready with other girls is always fun! We ate brunch at Magnolia Cafe before walking to ACL on the third day. My outfit was pretty simple- headbands and a peace sign completed my festival vibe. So many peace signs this weekend.
By the third day of the festival, we were all tired of walking and standing, so we tried to sit under trees during a lot of the shows. These fringe booties turned out to be super comfortable when I wore them to San Francisco last month, so I knew I could walk in them all day without a problem.
Again, a photoshoot during golden hour, complete with jumping pics and selfies, of course. At this point, we all wanted to see different shows, so I knew we would have to split up at some point during the night. Lisa and I ran to get dinner (a milkshake- oops!) and caught the last 30 minutes of “Griz,” which turned out to be an amazing show!! Then we caught the tail end at “Of Monsters and Men” before running all the way across the park again to see Nero. I left Nero by myself to catch the last few minutes of Hozier across the park then ran back to Nero to meet Lisa and see The Weekend. We left The Weekend to see the end of The Strokes all the way across the park… again. So basically we power walked 10 miles. BUT it was worth it! The energy at ACL is electric and trumps all of the negatives: heat, smoke being blown in your face, tired feet…all of it.
DAY 4: MONDAY
Day 4 doesn’t exist; the festival ended Sunday, but why rush home? We slept in on Monday and got brunch (of course) before heading back to Dallas. We ate at Kerbey Lane, a popular Austin restaurant (the best fluffy pancakes!) and took more selfies. I’m still amazed at the timing of our activities on Monday; remember Lisa’s lost wallet? Well, she got a call right after brunch that it was waiting for her at the ACL lost & found- amazing! We drove back to downtown for one last trip to Zilker Park before leaving town and driving back to Dallas. I dozed in and out most of the way home, only waking up for our mandatory stop at The Czech Stop for a kolache. We all talked about what we were going to do when we got home and all of us included some form of nap + foot massage combo.
What a weekend! If it sounds like a weekend of crazy, running around in the heat with zero plans, that’s because it was. But I would do it again! More than just a bunch of concerts, it was a weekend adventure of memories with good friends. I might just be a music festival convert now. ACL, I will see you again.