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Austin City Limits WITHOUT Kids: A Five Point Plan

Austin City Limits Music Festival

I posted last week about how Sparkles and I will attend Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) this Saturday and our ten-point plan for fun. Today I’ll share my five-point plan for Friday, when I’ll go without my kids.

If you are a parent, you might be thinking that ACL isn’t for you, with ACL’s three long days of music and the $200 price tag. If you add the cost of food and a babysitter, you might need to dip into the kids’ college fund to pay for it all.

But for me, as a Mom with small kids, ACL has been a great resource. I don’t get to see live music as much as I did before kids. I miss being there and I miss live music as a way to learn about new bands. With ACL, it’s as if all the music managers of the world got together and said, OK, Mom, this is for you – a ton of bands of all different genres on one day in the same place with good food and decent weather (well, since the festival moved to October). For a few years when my girls were really little, the bands I saw at ACL were the bands I listened to all year long. And if you go for only one day, and make a trade of some kind for babysitting, it is a pretty good value.

Live Music is different when you are a Mom, most things are. Here is how I’m going to do it when I go this Friday. Maybe these ideas will help, if you are going too.

(Ticket Info: If you don’t have a ticket yet, tickets are available on Craig’s List or StubHub. Check out the ACL website for festival details.)

1. Pack and Dress Well. I’ll pack pretty much the same as I will when I go with kids, a small backpack with sunscreen, an unopened water bottle (unopened is a festival rule), wipes, camera, wallet (you need cash for many vendors), a cell phone and a blanket. (Yes, I’ll bring wipes, even though I won’t have my kids. They are pretty handy.) I’ll wear a hat and comfortable shoes. I’ll tell you sometime about my first ACL and how I wore cute sandals that didn’t hold up to multiple treks across the 46 acre park and landed me in the first aid station for band aids and how that was a little embarrassing.

2. Make a Tiny Schedule. The schedule can be overwhelming. For one thing, there are more than 125 bands. For another, I don’t know who these people are. It’s not hard to learn about them, you can play songs and get bios quickly on the ACL Schedule or Lineup pages and you can listen to Texas Music Matters’ ACL preview show. But, sometimes I’m walking around my house and I see the cat has thrown up and I think, “I don’t have time to clean that right now” and I really don’t. On most days, I don’t have hours to pour over data and evaluate exactly the right personal schedule to optimize my potential listening pleasure. So I’m not going to do it. I’ll look ask around and do a Facebook post and maybe read a little.  I’ll end up with a few bands I want to see, then in-between I’ll see what someone else wants to see or walk around and stop when something sounds good. Sometimes shade influences me, the BMI and Zilker stages have the best shade.

3. Get Connected. I’ve had bad luck with my cell phone at ACL in the past, but I imagine by now the technology folks have made it possible for 75,000 people in one park to text all at the same time. I’ll use the Group Text iPhone app to make texting easier and the official ACL app for info and updates. The festival map will include locations for wireless and charging stations.

4. Eat Something New. The ACL food vendors are local businesses and the menus range from the everyday hamburgers and pizza to the pretty unusual, like rabbit and rattlesnake sausage. The same way ACL is a good place to find new music, I like to find new restaurants too. I might try Judges’ Hill Restaurant’s Pulled Puerco Pibil Sandwiches w/ Jicama Coleslaw & House Made Pickles and Daily Juice’s Blueberry Lemonade. I know for sure I’m going to try Coolhaus‘ choose your cookie+choose your ice cream idea, probably with the Chocolate Chip Cookie and the Dirty Mint Chip Ice Cream.

5. See (and Maybe Buy) Art. I’m developing more of a feel for art, mostly through my kids (see AustinKidsDraw.com), but more for myself, a little bit at a time. The ACL art vendors are mostly affordable and cover many types of mostly accessible art including paintings, clothes, jewelry and accessories. Most of the vendors are Austin-based and the goods are more unique than you would find in a typical store.

Please share or tweet this post if you found it fun or helpful! I’ll check-in with y’all next week and let you know how the two days went.


Austin City Limits With Kids: A Ten Point Plan

Austin City Limits Music FestivalHere at Growing Up Austin, we talk about grown-up live music in kid-friendly venues year-round at AustinKidsDance.com. But I have never tried Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) with my kids and I don’t even especially recommend it as a kid-friendly festival. This might be due to my hazy memories of near heat stroke when the festival was in 100 degree weather for several years in a row, when I would drink gallons of water and never need to pee because by body was sweating so much. But, I have nearly fully recovered now and the festival has since moved to October, so it is time to reconsider.

Sparkles and I are going to ACL next Saturday. Here is our plan. Maybe these ideas will help, if you are going with your kids too.

(Ticket Info: Kids 10 and under are free with a paying adult. If you don’t have a ticket yet, tickets are available on Craig’s List or StubHub. Check out the ACL website for details.)

1. Bring One Kid Per Adult, Each Kid Preferably At Least Five-Years-Old, In Sneakers. I’m the only adult, so I’m bringing only one kid. For me, a One Kid Per Adult ratio is more fun and less work. Also, I’m bringing the 5-year-old, not the toddler.  Babies are immobile and manageable and five-year-olds have a reasonable attention span and ability to reason. I’m not ready to try ACL with a toddler. The festival grounds are 46 acres big, so there is lot of walking and we’ll need practical shoes.

2. Pack Light. I’m bringing a backpack with sunscreen, 2 unopened water bottles (unopened is a festival rule), wipes, camera, wallet (you need cash for many vendors) and a cell phone. I’m also bringing a blanket instead of chairs or a stroller (wagons are not allowed), so we’ll be more mobile.

3. Arrive Early. My kids don’t let me sleep late anyway, so we’ll head out early and beat the crowds for parking and shuttle buses.

4. Tag Your Kid. We’ll do this first, so if we get separated later, festival staff can help us get reconnected.

5. Ditch the Schedule. If you were a big music fan when you were young and childless, then this might be difficult. But it I try to get Sparkles to follow a specific schedule of bands she might not like, it won’t go very well.

That sounds like all work, when is the fun going to start? Here it is…

6. Check Out Austin Kiddie Limits. This is a space built with kids in mind. There is the music stage with kids’ bands, but there is so much more: a sandy beach, video kareoke, drum workshops, action painting, a theater project, hair coloring and temporary tattoos.

7. Check Out Grown-up Music. This is our non-schedule approach – we are going to walk around and stay when something sounds good. It isn’t completely random, we’ll spend more time walking around the stages that are more kid-friendly. The Zilker Stage has gospel music, seating and shade and the BMI stage is small enough so you can see the bands up close without fighting crowds. We’ll avoid the largest stages, AMD and Bud Light, because people tend to stand and kids can’t see, unless you are far away from the stage.

8. Eat Something Fun. ACL does a great job of having local, interesting, tasty food vendors. They are more adult-friendly (crispy artichokes, spinach and mushroom pie, jalapeno brisket tacos) than kid-friendly sometimes, but they have pizza, hamburgers and lemonade too. I’m going to see if Sparkles will try something new, she probably will, if she can have Amy’s Ice Cream for dessert.

9. Dance. Sparkles dances in circles with her arms wide open, mixing in jumping, gymnastics and ballet moves. She is really fun to watch. I’ll dance with her too, in that way that is crazy fun but I hope doesn’t show up on YouTube.

10. Leave Early. Leaving early will not be easy. I will have gotten the ticket and arrived at the venue, then left on purpose, before seeing Jack White. You should hear me singing in my car to Jack White’s Love Interrupted, even though I’m happily married and this is quite possibly the most disturbing love song ever written. But Sparkles doesn’t have the stamina for an all-day music festival and the huge crowds in the dark would be hard to navigate. That is how it is with families some times. You can have it all, but not all at the same time and leaving early is better than not going at all.  The good news is that we will get to avoid the super long lines for shuttle buses at the end of the day and we’ll get some much-needed sleep.

Please share or tweet this post if you found it fun or helpful! Stay tuned for my post next week about Austin City Limits WITHOUT Kids and a five point plan for grown-up fun.


ACL Wrap-up from Austin Kiddie Limits

Abrakadoodle

Buttercup playing Abrakadoodle’s Art+Play Game

I know I went all nuts on y’all and said I was NOT going to bring my kids to ACL this year. I stick by what I said, that there are easier ways to see live music with your kids, but if you have an adult ticket anyway, and you have really great in-laws in town who can pick the kids up about mid-afternoon, then why not?

ACL’s Austin Kiddie Limits has kids activities like rock-star hairdos, temporary tattoos, video karaoke and different ways to get messy with paint. That is Buttercup above, at the Abrakadoodle art+play activity, which might just be the art+play at her next birthday party.

Growing Up Austin

Me and Sparkles Being Like Monsters (at least one of us)

We learned a lot at the Rosetta Stone booth, where we took this picture. (Heather, the photographer, said, “Be like a monster!” and Sparkles left me hanging!)

Rosetta Stone at ACL? Aren’t they the folks who do language lessons on CD in big yellow boxes for $500? And, do CDs still exist? Well, I talked with Jonathan Mudd, Director of Global Communications and Paul Weaver, Senior Director of Product Content at Rosetta Stone. They said Rosetta Stone still makes the CDs in the big yellow boxes, but they also make mobile apps for kids and adults. They are leveraging the language theory and speech recognition engine that they have perfected over the years and merged that with the latest in mobile technology and game design.

Their first offering for kids is “Kids Lingo Letter Sounds” which helps English-speaking kids ages 4-5-years-old learn Spanish. Cute characters tell a story and the kids speak Spanish to move the action along. My kids like that they get to talk, they don’t just passively watch the screen. I like that it is based on a story, so it keeps their attention. Both our girls either are now, or have been, in Spanish immersion classes at their elementary school. Now they can practice what they learn at school by playing a game. The game does need more words and it would be good to have options for other ages. Hopefully that will come in time. For now, Sparkles and Buttercup have both given it a thumbs-up!

But what about us grown-ups? Rosetta also has a number of Travel apps for any age, so you can practice transportation, restaurant and “Donde esta el bano? when you are on a trip. Since it will be a while (maybe when the kids are grown?) before I can learn all of Spanish, this is a fun place to start.

The music at Austin Kiddie Limits was pretty good and I doesn’t usually like music made for kids. My favorites were Tim and the Space Cadets with Mother Falcon and Play Date. There was also shade and lots of room for dancing, which is pretty sweet.

That’s all for this year from Austin Kiddie Limits. Stay tuned for a few more posts, the last of the Parenting Advice from ACL Musicians series, and an overall ACL wrap-up.