Fifteenth anniversaries deserve balloons, sparklers, and immense revelry. Polish off your dancing shoes, because The Austin City Limits Music Festival turns 15 years old this Friday. For those of you who attended the first ACL Fest in 2002, you know that Zilker Park’s mega music celebration had quaint beginnings. Starting as a two-day outdoor event, the festival now spans six days and attracts over 450,000 people. Like the city of Austin, this festival has exploded with ideas, bands, and party-goers. As if a rollicking, rhythmic weekend weren’t enough to get your adrenaline pumping, here are the top five things to get excited about this year.

 

More Space, More Shade

While reverberating music and fist-pumping anthems are nothing short of euphoric, it’s always required a load of patience to survive this festival. If the claustrophobic ACL crowds create beads of sweat on your brow, you’ll have a breezier time at this year’s event. With an open layout and loads of shade, this year’s fest will flow as easily as the kayaks on Lady Bird Lake.

 

11/6/2015 Bayonne performs on the Blue Stage Friday at Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores in Austin.
11/6/2015 Bayonne performs on the Blue Stage Friday at Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores in Austin.

 

Local Love  

ACL Fest has always showcased local artists and vendors, but this year goes above and beyond. From Bayonne’s infectious electronica to Matt the Electrician’s delightfully quirky lyrics, there’s no shortage of Austin magic to go around. As if sets from Walker Lukens and Jai Malano weren’t enough, the local art vendors bring out even more of Bat City’s vibrancy. The out-of-towners won’t know what hit them. No wonder everyone wants to move here.

 

Mouthwatering Food Trucks  

Gooey cheddar cheese between two slices of sourdough bread coated in a balsamic glaze– if that doesn’t make you salivate then the warm, comforting smell wafting from Burro’s food truck will. Burro Cheese Kitchen’s sandwiches make for an epic festival feast. Top it all off with Bananarchy’s frozen, chocolate-covered bananas and you’ll have enough energy to fight your way to the front row.

 

Anderson .Paak grooves hard at the NPR Music SXSW showcase.
Anderson .Paak grooves hard at the NPR Music SXSW showcase.

 

Fresh Discoveries  

If you haven’t heard Anderson .Paak’s booty-shaking anthem “Come Down,” quit reading this article and look it up right now. Believe me, the beat is that groovy. Paak is just a few of this year’s must-see breakout artists. Classic country fans will swoon over Margo Price’s gritty Nashville sound. For those craving lyric-driven, indie pop, Margaret Glasby’s set will send you into musical heaven. For even more fresh discoveries, hang by the BMI stage. The new sounds coming from that intimate, grassy stage can rival even the biggest headliners.

 

Living Legends  

It’s not every day you get to see Ray Benson’s massive cowboy hat or one of Willie Nelson’s many bandanas. It’s tie to cross off some shows from your bucket list! No matter which weekend you go to, this year’s festival spotlights a major, legendary artist.

 

What are you most excited about for ACL Fest ’16?