This year’s new Barton Springs West gate at the Austin City Limits Music Festival helped make for smoother and shorter entry times for early arrivals via the park’s main entry point on Barton Springs Road. But there’s long been another gate on the northwest end of Zilker Park, so we checked out the Lady Bird entrance as Weekend Two began on Friday morning.
This appears to be the easiest, fastest, and chill-est way into the grounds, at least in the early hours. Last Friday, we saw crowds of a few hundred at the main Barton Springs East gate, with a smaller grouping of around 100-200 at the new Barton Springs West entrance. For weekend two at the Lady Bird entrance, probably 50 to 60 early arrivals got in quickly with no visible problems.
Within a few seconds of the “Star Wars” theme blasting from the park’s P.A. at precisely 11 a.m., per longstanding ACL Fest tradition, everyone from the Lady Bird entrance was in the park. If the moment lacked the mad-dash drama that sometimes occurs at the main gate, with superfans of the night’s headliner dashing toward the park’s biggest stage, there was a zen-like calm in watching most of the festgoers stroll into the park, in no big hurry but just happy to be here.
Getting there from that side of the park is a little tricky, as the best access point is the pedestrian footbridge across Lady Bird Lake near Austin High School. There’s also an unmarked fork in the path right after crossing the footbridge: Bear right to get to the festival, as the left path leads only to the Hike & Bike Trail with no fest access.
Those who’ve figured out how to come in early from that direction, instead of the more popular Barton Springs Road walk-in, seem to like the alternative route. Among them were Michael Sosa and Jessica Sosa, an Austin couple who were attending their fourth or fifth ACL Fest. They’re psyched for headliners Jay Z on Friday and Red Hot Chili Peppers on Saturday, but they like to come early to see some bands they might not already know.
“The early part of the day is really good for music discovery,” Michael offered. Jessica concurred, saying that they often wander from stage to stage in the afternoon “and see what catches our ear.”
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