For those in a position to splurge while attending ACL Fest, there are a couple of luxe options to enhance the experience. It’s not like everyone else doesn’t enjoy the festival, but VIP and Platinum attendees have some very sweet perks. From unlimited access to exclusive lounges to dedicated Festival entrance lane at main entrances, catered meals and signature cocktails, the VIP Grove and Platinum Lounge are the way to go if you have $1,200 or $3,600, respectively, burning a hole in your pocket.
Between band sets, Platinum attendees enjoy a relaxed shaded spot serving craft beer, champagne, wine, and various culinary offerings. If they choose to stay in the lounge, they can hang out on the shaded deck for an elevated view of the American Express main stage, but those who venture into the fest have access to up-close, prime viewing areas in front of five stages and on-stage viewing at the two main stages, capacity permitting. And because walking around is just so tedious, they have golf cart transportation between the Platinum Festival entrances, the lounge, and front-of-stage viewing areas.
VIP wristband holders don’t quite have all that, but they still have a lovely VIP Grove with private bars, shaded seating, and a large covered deck with a view of the American Express main stage. Located next to the T-Mobile stage and within earshot of American Express, music never lacks at VIP Grove. However, it is advisable that you enjoy electronic dance music because that will be the soundtrack to most of your day. Thankfully, there are plenty fun activations and libations to help.
Throughout the day, you can snack on munchies from local vendors like Interstellar BBQ, Mexican specialties from El Chilito, and the famous Frito pies from Ranch 616 – a festival staple. Teo Gelato is on hand dishing scoops of their award-winning frozen treats, and Central Market, the iconic Texas grocery store that just celebrated its first 25 years, serves a lunch and dinner buffet from 12 to 2 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. with a different theme each time – Mediterranean, Mexican, Barbecue, and more.
For those seeking healthy, non-alcoholic drinks, GT’s Kombucha and Bai have cute activations, the first with a serene Indian-inspired lounge complete with drapes and incense, and the latter featuring fun photo ops and bottles of many of their popular flavors.
For the rest of us, the adult libation activations are over the top. Hendrick’s Gin has a two-story set-up with actors in Victorian costumes interacting with the crowd, and five kinds of refreshing cocktails such as the Blueberry Lemonade – Hendrick’s Gin, lemon juice, blueberry green tea syrup, garnished with a mint sprig and blueberries. Flor de Caña, Nicaragua’s premium rum, offers cocktails like the Flor Fashioned – Flor De Caña 12-year, simple syrup, chocolate bitters and orange peel.
Since this is Austin after all, Tito’s Vodka is also present with a mobile airstream bar, as well as Don Julio serving margaritas. But the Monkey Shoulder Porta-Party speakeasy takes the cake. Look for the orange port-a-potty and enter into a secret lounge and patio complete with live DJs, whisky cocktails and fun photo ops.
Those without a VIP wristband can see another Hendrick’s Gin installation at Republic Square while they wait for the ACL shuttle. The installation, entitled “Fantastical Botanical,” was created by Austin artist Monique Capanelli of Articulture Designs, and is up through Oct. 14. Once at the park, they have access to various activations at the American Express Experience, featuring all-local Austin- based small businesses, including shopping a curated selection of LPs at the Waterloo Records store pop-up, grabbing a fresh juice at the JuiceLand bar, and getting an airbrushed tattoo from local Austin artist Michael Williams of Resurrection Tattoo.
The American Express Card Member Lounge, located on the second level of the American Express Experience and available only to AMEX cardholders, features a rooftop bar and with lounge seating, panoramic views of the American Express Stage and a refresh station with milk + honey spa products.
“American Express has a long-standing history of championing small businesses,” says Brandy Sanders, Vice President, Global Entertainment Partnerships & Experiences, American Express. “We were able to incorporate many local, Austin small businesses into our American Express Experience that are not only authentic to the city, but that also resonate with festival-goers.” When card members leave the festival, they can also get a special gift at the Austin locations of two of the local partners – Waterloo Records and milk + honey- when they make a purchase with their American Express Card.
If you decide to go all out on your ACL Festival experience, you can feel good about it since a portion of your purchase goes to Austin Parks Foundation, which benefits more than 300 public parks, trails, and green spaces in the Capital City.