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Everything you need to know about ACL Fest, including COVID rules

The time has come to fest once more.

Austin City Limits Music Festival has returned to the city with an in-person event. Especially with the coronavirus pandemic ongoing (and Austin in the highest level of risk-based safety guidelines as of this writing), you probably have questions. We talked to ACL Fest organizers and found the answers.

Find complete coverage before, during and after the festival at austin360.com.

When is ACL Fest 2021? 

The festival runs over two weekends, Oct. 1-3 and 8-10, in Zilker Park. Music starts as early as 11:45 a.m. and runs as late as 10 p.m., depending on the day. 

Who’s playing Austin City Limits? 

That’s a big question. This year’s ACL headliners are Miley Cyrus, George Strait, Billie Eilish, Rüfüs Du Sol, Duran Duran and Tyler, the Creator. Other big names include Megan Thee Stallion, Black Pumas, Phoebe Bridgers, Machine Gun Kelly, Bleachers, Doja Cat, Modest Mouse, Jack Harlow, Erykah Badu, St. Vincent and Leann Rimes. (And of course, Asleep at the Wheel will be there, as they have been every year.) You can find our critics’ picks at austin360.com and the full lineup at aclfestival.com

The ACL lineup:Who should I see at ACL Fest 2021? Austin360's official guide to the lineup

Do I need to be vaccinated or get a COVID-19 test to go to ACL Festival? 

Yes, one or the other. Previously announced plans to require printed copies of either a negative COVID-19 test or proof of full vaccination at the gates still stand.   

COVID-19 tests must be performed within 72 hours of the event. Test results must include your name, the date of test and the negative test result, which means a picture of a home test isn't going to cut it. Fully vaccinated fest-goers will not need a COVID-19 test.  

According to the Austin Center for Events, which issues special events permits, these plans have been reviewed and approved by Austin Public Health. 

More:City approves updated ACL 2021 safety plans which include stage front mask zones

Lulu Ayala and Manuel Cadriel poses for a classic Austin City Limits Music Festival frame picture at Zilker Park on Oct. 12, 2019.

Will I need to wear a face mask at ACL Fest? 

In accordance with new special events guidelines announced by the city on Aug. 27, masks will be required in areas of Zilker Park where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. Expect to wear a mask on festival shuttle buses, in entrance lines and in the thick of the crowd close to stages. Masks will also be required to enter the fest's on-site merchandise store. Free masks will be available at each entry gate.  

More:Here's what we know about ACL Music Festival's event permit, COVID-19 policy, ticket exchanges and more

How do I get to ACL Fest? 

If you’re new to all this, know that there’s not parking at Zilker Park or in the neighborhood around it. So, you have a few options. There are complimentary shuttles that board at Republic Square Park downtown, which drop you off outside the west entrance to the park. The shuttle picks you up at the same place for the return trip.  

There will be bicycle and scooter parking areas near the grounds, and Cap Metro has some bus routes that go near the festival. There also will be ride-hailing app and taxi drop-off points near the festival. 

Long story short, you’ll likely have to walk at least a little bit. 

How can I get through the gates at ACL Fest? 

At the entrance, staff will review your COVID-19 test or vaccination document. You’ll also go through a security screening, including a magnetometer and a bag check, before you scan your official wristband. If you don’t have a bag, you can use a dedicated no-bag lane.

There's a whole list of prohibited items listed on the ACL website that you'll want to review. One to note: Your sunscreen must be in a non-aerosol container and no bigger than 3.4 ounces.

Peak entry times are between 3 to 5 p.m. daily, if you want to beat the rush. 

What’s the bag policy at the Austin City Limits Festival? 

ACL Fest has a new bag policy: In most cases, it has to be fully clear. No bags larger than 1 foot by 1 foot by 6 inches will be allowed. Sorry, no backpacks or bags with multiple pockets; think tote- or drawstring-style bags. Small clutch purses and fanny packs that are 4 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches or smaller do not need to be clear, but they can have only one pocket.  

Hydration packs are allowed and do not need to be clear, but they have to empty. Review the guidelines on ACL’s website. 

Can I still bring a chair to ACL Fest? 

Yes. The chair zone areas of the park will be the same as usual. 

Is ACL Fest adding any other COVID-19 safety protocols? 

There will be more hand sanitizer stations, and the fest says cleaning crews will do “frequent cleanings” in high-touch areas like bathrooms. 

Will I be able to refill my water bottle at ACL Fest?  

Yep. The refill stations will remain the same as usual, and they'll be touchless. Make sure you bring that bottle without any liquid in it before going through the gate check.

Will any ACL Fest sets be livestreamed?   

No. (You got spoiled in 2020.) 

What’s going to be in the place of Austin Kiddie Limits, since that’s not happening this year? 

The Bonus Tracks stage will use some of that space, but it’s also just going to be shaded room to hang out. The festival plans to bring Austin Kiddie Limits back for 2022.

A lot of your favorite features will be back in 2021, though: the beer hall, the ACL Fest picture frame and the ACL Eats food court.

Can I still get Austin City Limits tickets? 

When three-day passes to ACL Festival went on sale back in May, they sold out in record time. The same thing happened a week later when the festival released single-day tickets.

But short answer, yes, if you really want them. The festival has a verified reselling platform run through Ticketmaster

Who should I see at ACL Fest 2021?:Austin360's official guide to the lineup

What if I test positive for COVID-19 or I have to quarantine? Is the ticket exchange my only refund option? 

Fest-goers are asked to take a fan health pledge stating that they will not attend ACL Fest within 14 days of a positive COVID-19 test; exposure to someone who has tested positive; or if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19. 

If you test positive for COVID-19, you can submit a refund request at contact.frontgatetickets.com. There's a section on the form where you can attach a copy of your positive test results. 

If you are within the 14-day isolation window following a confirmed exposure, you are also eligible for a refund. Festival organizers ask that you send a detailed description of your circumstances, your order number and ticket details to info@aclfestival.com.