Austin City Limits Music Festival is coming up on October 6-8 and October 13-15 in Zilker Park. We LOVE this awesome 3-day Fest for the amazing music, the great local food trucks, eclectic vendors and some of the best people-watching ever. If you’re planning to take the entire family along, we’re here to help you plan for a smooth experience.

Our pals at Homeaway know a thing or two about maxing out the best of the Fest and enjoy time with the family, and we’re happy to have them present this Guide with us.

Family-friendly fun awaits at ACL 2017! Photo credit: Ismael Quintanilla

–> Take the kids for FREE! First up, take note that kids ages 10 and under get in FREE with adults who have wristbands! (2 kids per adult)

–> Get to Know Austin Kiddie Limits: The festival organizers go to great lengths to make sure kids have some music and activities geared just for them in the Austin Kiddie Limits section of Zilker Park. Kiddie Limits will keep everyone in your group happy — providing a respite from festival crowds, plenty of hands-on fun for the little ones, and a great place for moms and dads to take a break.

Kiddie Limits is open from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. each day, both weekends. Within Austin Kiddie Limits, you’ll find plenty of activities for kids as well as a stage with a solid lineup of children’s performers who were hand-picked to get the kids dancing. Click here for the full lineup. (Check back on this Austin Kiddie Limits webpage for a full list of special 2017 activities to come.)

For nursing moms, you can head to the Family Services space to change baby’s diapers, breast feed or have privacy to use a breast pump in a small, private room within the Kiddie Limits area.

HomeAway at Austin Kiddie Limits: Be sure to stop by the HomeAway area where young music fans will get to experience a truly life-size coloring book, a vacation-themed coloring activity and photo op. Post your photos there with #HomeAway for a chance to win passes to HomeAway’s special backstage area. And be sure to pick up a free, souvenir coloring book for the kids to take home!

Chillin’ at Austin Kiddie Limits. Photo credit: Ismael Quintanilla

–> Plan Your Schedule in Advance: We all know that it’s really hard to “wing it” with toddlers in tow. ACL Fest can be pretty overwhelming and crowded, and almost impossible to run from stage to stage without a game plan. Know the Schedule before you arrive. What bands are most important for you to see? It’s great to prioritize your must-see list so that you can make sure the kids have had time for potty breaks and food before you ask them to be cooperative when it’s time to see your favorite musicians.

–> Get to Know the Lay of the Land: Be sure to study the Festival Map before you arrive so you know the layout of the park. Look for water filling stations, bathrooms, where to track down snacks in the ACL Eats area. And take note of the best photo op spots like this one:

HomeAway in the Park – Giveaways & Photo Ops: HomeAway is offering a unique vantage point for the best photo op of the festival with a vacation rental…turned upside down. Snap your pics in this upside down house just on the north side of Rock Island. Post your photo on social with #HomeAway for a chance to win passes for you and the entire family to get special access to the backstage area behind the HomeAway stage where you can chill in the shade with a cool beverage, get free snacks and tons of HomeAway swag.

HomeAway backstage. Photo credit: Travis Sandoval

–> Plan How You’ll Come & Go: Think through your game plan for getting to Zilker. You can’t park at the park, but there are drop-off areas, pedi-cabs, and plenty ways to get to and from. On the ACL Fest website you can find details about all of the Transportation Options, including the FREE shuttle service at Republic Square on 4th and Guadalupe. You can also click here for a map listing the downtown parking garages. Take note of the dedicated Family Friendly Entrance on Barton Springs (closes at 7 p.m. daily). There will also be stroller-friendly lanes at both main entrances.

–> Take Advantage of the Tag-a-Kid Service: When you arrive in the park, be sure to stop by the booth where you can register your children and receive a wristband. In the instance that a child gets lost, this will be a good way to reunite you. This booth is also a great place to identify as a meeting place in the off-chance that you get separated from each other.

–> Pack Smart:
Be sure to review this list of Allowed & Prohibited Items on the ACL Fest website. It may feel like you’re bringing a lot of stuff with you when you attend the Fest with kids, but you want to be sure you’ve got all that your kids will need. Here’s what we suggest:

  • two factory-sealed plastic bottles of water — This is what’s allowed in per person, and free water refilling stations are all around the park for you to use. It’s going to be hot out there, and you all want to stay hydrated.
  • strollers — Even if your kid is starting to out-grow the stroller, keep in mind that there is a lot of walking. And they will get tired. Plus, the strollers can help you carry all your stuff around. (Take note though that red wagons are not allowed)
  • sunscreen (aerosol sprays are not allowed)
  • hats
  • antibacterial wipes
  • tissues
  • blanket — To sit on or as a sun cover over the stroller during baby’s nap
  • mini first aid — You never know when a boo boo will happen
  • plastic poncho — If it happens to rain, you’ll be prepared. Otherwise you can use it as something to sit on.
  • ear plugs or sound-blocking headphones — In case the sound gets to be too much for the kids (or you)
  • stuff that might make it more fun for kids, such as inflatable beach ball or glow sticks for when the sun sets.
  • paper schedule — You’ll find that the mobile website is very helpful, but if you keep glancing at your phone, your battery might wear out fast. But if it does, there are charging stations in the park.
  • Patience. For real. While you can totally be that cool parent with the kids at a festival, you’re likely going to need to call upon your most inner chill vibes to relax. If/when the kids get tired, hungry, cranky, just go with the flow. Enjoy the experience together. Know that you won’t get to see ALL the bands or rage like a college kid. But you can still have an awesome time!

Photo credit: Photo credit: Ismael Quintanilla

Looking for more info about Austin City Limits Music Festival? Visit their website, Facebook page and follow on Twitter for all the latest updates.

For more info about HomeAway, visit their website, and stay tuned to their Facebook page for updates on special ACL giveaways.

* Cover photo by Katrina Barber