The Hip Mom’s Guide to ACL With Kids

ACL with kids

Five years ago, I was attending Austin City Limits with a friend. As we sipped our beers, he noticed an ex-girlfriend who was in the VIP section with her toddler. As we stood there talking, a girl wearing a shirt that said “b*** don’t kill my vibe” walked up to us and asked if she could play with the toddler. As she offered her babysitting services to my friend’s ex-girlfriend, it became clear she was rolling on something a bit stronger than beer. It was then, in my mid-twenties, long before babies were on the brain, that I vowed never to take my child (if I should ever have one) to a music festival.

Here I am, newly 30 with a two-year-old, planning to take my toddler to ACL.  

With a line up including Jay-Z, Chance the Rapper, Ryan Adams, Solange, and The Gorillaz, this year’s Austin City Limits is not to be missed…even if you swear you have nothing to wear that is decently cool and you have to bring a toddler that often acts like they are attached to your body. You could ship the kids off to the grandparents for the weekend, hire a babysitter, or…raise them up to be true Austin kiddos and bring them with you. ACL may not be the day drinking music bonanza it was before kids, but there’s no reason to leave the littles out of the fun! 

The Deets about ACL with Kids

Each adult ticket admits up to two children under the age of 10 for free. This means you don’t have to pay for an extra ticket or a baby sitter! The fest even makes a family entrance available until 7 PM to the right of the Barton Springs East entrance. You’ll find three stroller friendly lanes at the main gates. 

If your kiddo can’t be confined to a stroller or you don’t want to lug it around the crowd but you’re also worried they’ll run off, ACL has a Tag-a-Kid booth. You can register your child with ACL so in the case that you get separated, your child will be returned as quickly as possible. 

Austin Kiddie Limits

Though festivals are pretty kid friendly these days, there are few festivals that actually encourage kids. At ACL, kids get their own area with activities, snacks, and kids music. This year, the Austin Kiddie Limits area includes a drum workshop and hip hop workshop. School of Rock, The Okee Dokee Brothers, The Barton Hills Choir, and more will grace the Austin Kiddie Limits stage during both weekends and a special guest is promised during weekend two! 

Kid Friendly Bands

If you plan to attend with the kids but don’t want to spend the whole time in the Austin Kiddie Limits area there are plenty of bands the whole family will enjoy before 8PM.

Friday:

Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness – Time travel back to your emo teen years with the lead singer of Something Corporate, who is now a cool dad himself. 

The Band of Heathens – Local Austin band with a poppy rock n’ roll sound you’ll get stuck in your head in the best way and clap along to with your kiddos.

Valerie June – Unique rock-twinged blues that feels as though it’s from the 70’s. She sings powerfully and slays on guitar while shining (both literally and figuratively) on stage.

Saturday:

Angel Olsen – “Folk indie rock” doesn’t do her justice, voice like the angels of country, sound of an ever distant future.

The Black Angels – Austin psych-rock legends to remind you of the days you used to keep Austin weird. 

Cut Copy – Before there was Calvin Harris…there was Cut Copy.

Sunday:

Deap Vally – The baddest babes in rock n’ roll and the coolest band on the line up you may not have heard of.

Bibi Bourelly – Known for writing Rhianna’s hits, her own unique R&B sound will be a hit very soon.

The Growlers – California psychedelic surf rock you can’t help but move your hips to.

Tips and Tricks

  • Get there early! There are so many great bands at ACL, if you get there early your kids can run around free before the crowds arrive.
  • Bring headphones to block out the sound for your kiddos. You’ll save their hearing and look like a pro music fest mama. We love Baby Banz!
  • Wear your baby if they’re little enough. It’s easier than a stroller allowing you to move through the crowds and keeps them close.
  • If your rollin’ with a stroller, make it a jogging one in case you need to run anyone down in the crowd to get through. 
  • Leave before the headliners or get a babysitter! I know, I know, just because we have kids doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to do life like we used to. Between the crowds and the traffic, getting out of the fest is tough. Stay for one Solange or Ryan Adams song and call it a night.
  • Pay extra for parking. Parking in Zilker is a nightmare during ACL and you don’t want to be carrying your tired kids from one side of town to the other. Spend the money you didn’t have to spend on their ticket or a babysitter on parking.

Though my back doesn’t allow me to stand as long as I used to, or wear as cute of shoes, I love experiencing music festivals through my kiddo’s eyes. She allows me to forget about the outfits I wish I could still wear and the days I loved to be in the very front row for the headliner. Instead, I can lean back on a blanket and watch her dance to the music we love. Plus, with Solange and Jay-Z both playing on the same day, I can try to get her to make friends with Blue Ivy so I can become mom friends with Beyonce. See you in Zilker Park mamas! 

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