What to Know Heading Into ACL Fest

Forecast calls for vaccine cards, clear bags, mask areas, and rain

Photo by Jana Birchum

After a virtual edition in 2020, Zilker Park awaits the in-person return of Austin City Limits Music Festival, October 1-3 and 8-10. Local ACL promoters C3 Presents, also behind Lollapalooza, set similar safety requirements of vaccination proof or negative COVID-19 tests at their Illinois festival in July. Chicago health officials later determined the festival was not a superspreader event. In August, the organizers offered free one-day ACL tickets to the first 1,000 people to sign up for a local vaccination drive.

ACL Fest kicks off a busy season of delayed area music gatherings including Kerrville Folk Festival, Utopia, Old Settler's, and Levitation. The weekend also marks the notable return of a music festival to local public property following the summer cancellations of Downtown's Pecan Street Festival and Bat Fest, both due to denial of city special event permits. Keep up with incoming ACL news at austinchronicle.com/acl.

COVID-19 Code

On Sept. 21, ACL announced approval from the city of Austin on its safety guidelines – also dispelling inaccurate rumors that the festival would require testing across the board. Attendees must show a completed vaccination card or a printed copy of a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within 72 hours. Fully vaccinated fest-ers will not need to test. ACL organizers also ask that those who have tested positive or been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days do not attend.

Print Out

Fans will not be allowed to show vaccination or testing status on their phones. The fest guidelines state: "Each day, bring a printed copy of your negative COVID-19 test, vaccine card, or vaccine record." If you lost your vaccine card, the FAQ recommends getting a COVID-19 test. Results must include your name and date of the test, so at-home tests won't qualify.

Mask Up

Masks will be required in specific areas of the fest, including shuttle buses, entrance lines, crowd areas closest to the stages, and indoor spaces like the merch store. Free masks will be available at the gates.


After a few shake-ups, the final cast of poster-toppers reads – Miley Cyrus, George Strait, Billie Eilish, Rüfüs Du Sol, Duran Duran, and Tyler, the Creator. The latter artist subbed for DaBaby, who many festivals dropped in August following a controversy over homophobic comments. Duran Duran replaced Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks, who canceled fall tour dates citing COVID-19 concerns. Earlier this month, Tanya Tucker also dropped out of weekend one due to a healing hip injury and safety considerations.

Clear Bags Only

Like sporting events, ACL implements a clear bag policy. Specifically, small clutches and fanny packs 4.5" x 5.5" or smaller "do not need to be clear, but can have no more than one pocket." Bigger purses, totes, and drawstring bags must be made of fully clear plastic and no larger than 12" x 12" x 6". Hydration packs are allowed; backpacks aren't.


Upon much-awaited posting in May, weekend passes sold out the day of, in record time. On Monday morning, a limited release of more tickets from the fest ran $300 for the weekend and $135 daily. On the secondary market, StubHub currently lists weekend passes starting around $200, while daily wristbands are more reflective of standard pricing, except Sunday, which has plenty of tickets going for around $100, despite having arguably the best daily music lineup.


Weather reports, as of press time, project high chances of thunderstorms on Friday and Saturday and rain on Sunday. For those who've been ACLing for a dozen years, the forecast triggers flashbacks to ACL Fest 2009, when heavy rains, combined with heavy foot traffic, resulted in Zilker becoming a veritable mud pit. Only after a weekend of attendees losing their shoes in the muck – and some festers sliding around it – did the public realize that the Great Lawn had been partially comprised of Dillo Dirt, a locally made compost that includes "treated sewage sludge." It might be wise to order some galoshes now.


The festival's kid-friendly zone, Austin Kiddie Limits, takes a year off with promises to return next year. (Children under 10 are still admitted free of charge with a ticket-holding adult, and a negative test or vaccination card is required for all attendees age 3 and older.) Waterloo Records won't set up their popular tent. The store shared on social media: "Needless to say we are bummed. We've had our mini record store and autograph signings at every other ACL."

Beyond Zilker

Austin City Limits Radio broadcasts live from the Long Center with a few choice lineup selections. With no ACL tickets required for entry, the event – Oct. 8 and 9 from 9am-1pm (rescheduled from week one because of weather concerns) – requires just a $5 donation to HAAM for entry. Rescheduled lineup details to come.

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