Skip to main content

Austin City Limits: Live Music Without the Mud

Get into the groove in style at urban music festivals.

Just thinking about an outdoor music festival probably leaves you longing for a hot bath.

Don't feel old -- you're not alone. The traditional Woodstock music festival experience loses its luster once your wild college days have been supplanted by a job, kids and a mortgage.

Besides, does live music really sound better when you're caked in mud and swatting mosquitoes while miles away from civilization?

Growing out of this phase doesn't mean you have to swap out the music you love for milquetoasty selections. You can still enjoy a few days taking in great performances, entertainment and food at urban music festivals -- and spend the night in a comfy bed instead of a stale sleeping bag on wet ground.

Urban music festivals have actually been around for decades. Rhode Island's Newport Jazz Festival has been running since 1954, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, perhaps the standard-bearer of the adult-friendly concert events, has been held since 1970.

There are options all over the country -- the

Aspen Jazz Festival, held in Snowmass, Colo., over Labor Day;

Vegoose on Halloween weekend in Las Vegas; the springtime

Langerado near Miami, Fla.; and of course, the well-known

Montreal Jazz Festival, held every July, and

South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin, Texas' early-spring music, film and media festival.

Coming up this weekend, however, is the

Austin City Limits (ACL) music festival, which I will be attending from Sept.14-16. Sponsored by the classic music television program of the same name on


, ACL is a three-day event offering an eclectic mix of rock, electronica, blues, American roots and jazz music. It's a great opportunity to explore the city if you missed SXSW this time around.

Austin's Music Scene

Few other festivals offer a better mix of daytime performances, sophisticated nightlife and exclusive hotel options than ACL. Centrally located in Austin's downtown

Zilker Park, this year's festival will host over 130 performers -- from Bob Dylan to Wilco, Arcade Fire, The White Stripes and Lucinda Williams -- as well as several evening after-parties in the city's seemingly countless music venues.

If you've had your fill of music after a day, however, you can always head back to your hotel to relax and refresh.


Driskill Hotel (rates from $315 a night), built in 1886, boasts both Romanesque and art deco decor in its plush rooms. The downtown

Four Seasons ($315 a night) offers a tranquil lakeside oasis, conveniently close to the entertainment district. To satisfy your funkier side, grab a room at the bungalow-style

Hotel San Jose ($150 a night) or the kitschy

Austin Motel ($95 a night), both a short distance from downtown on Congress Avenue.

Once you've had a chance to unwind, it's time to uncover Austin's myriad eating and drinking destinations.

Pass the Ribs

No Texas town is complete without lip-smacking Mexican food and outstanding barbecue. Austin is no exception.

Satisfying south-of-the-border meals can be yours at Sol y La Luna (1224 S. Congress), just south of downtown, or at the centrally located

Manuel's, both of which offer fresh, authentic and inexpensive fare. To satisfy a barbecue craving, check out the

Iron Works BBQ. The offerings are fairly straightforward -- juicy brisket, beef ribs and smoked pork loin and turkey -- but you won't go away hungry.

These local favorites are by no means the only flavors to be found in Austin.

For the more sophisticated palate, try sushi at the stylish

Uchi, which holds its own with the best spots on both coasts, or Italian at

Vespaio or the always popular La Traviata (314 Congress Ave.).

As the home of the sprawling University of Texas at Austin, the city has drinking destinations for a wide range of tastes and preferences. If you're feeling a bit wistful for those college days, stroll down the bustling main strip on 6th Street. Or for a more refined experience, head east to

Club Deville (900 Red River St.), thought by many to be the best lounge in Austin.

With options like these, you'll be pleased that you decided to experience music in style at an urban festival like ACL. Tune in next week for my festival recap.

Enjoy the Good Life? Email us with what you'd like to see in future articles.