Experience all the excitement of Circuit of The Americas after dark

COTA isn’t just for racing. After the sun sets, it takes on a whole new life

By day Circuit of The Americas (COTA) has all the adrenaline and excitement you could need, whether you’re watching the Formula One United States Grand Prix or trying your hand at karting on the world-famous track. But at night, after the sun goes down, the course takes on a whole new life of its own, with live music and sunset sports that make the most of the track after dark. 

Buy your tickets to the Formula One United States Grand Prix here

At the heart of COTA at night is its open air festival stage, the Austin360 Amphitheater, which has room for up to 14,000 spectators and is situated in the very centre of the track. Headlining the Formula One United States Grand Prix weekend is Imagine Dragons on the Friday night, after the practice laps, and P!ink on the Saturday night, after the qualifiers. Even better, any ticket package you purchase, from Single Day passes to VIP Hospitality passes, comes with admission to see P!nk and Imagine Dragons in the Austin360 Amphitheater as standard. And if you can’t make it to the Grand Prix weekend, you can still make the most of Circuit of The Americas’s live music offering throughout the autumn, as the music stage also plays host to international stars like Bastille, The National and Ben Folds, plus many more. 

Buy your tickets to watch P!nk and Imagine Dragons here

circuit of the americas

Music aside, if getting active is more your thing then the track also plays host to Bike Nights, where cyclists are invited to try out the circuit’s 20 challenging turns for themselves on two wheels, rather than four. Pedalling along the track as the sun goes down behind the grandstands is a rather spectacular experience.

If you’re more of a spectator than a participant, then use your visit to Austin to get acquainted with Austin Bold FC, the city’s local football club. Based at COTA, the team has its very own 5,036-seat stadium, which is the first soccer-specific pitch to be built in central Texas. Throughout September, you can watch the Bolds take on the likes of the Las Vegas Lights FC and Sacramento Republic FC at home at Circuit of The Americas.

Buy your tickets to Austin Bold FC here

Although temperatures in Austin hardly ever drop below zero, and it rarely snows, that doesn’t mean winter visitors have to miss out on all the Christmas fun. This December Circuit of The Americas will light up after dark with its Winter Wonderland, complete with a bright festive lights, a skating rink, Santa’s workshop and a petting zoo. There’ll also be plenty of Austin’s famous street food trucks, plus a live music stage, fairground rides and a Chinese lantern display.

You can buy your tickets to Winter Wonderland here 

And Austin after dark is pretty special too

The city may be buzzing during the day with its street food trucks, cultural festivals and numerous opportunities to get outside and enjoy the city’s green spaces, but Austin at night is just as vibrant. Here’s why you should put off going to bed for an hour or two when visiting the city.

It has incredible sunsets

Circuit of The Americas

Everything is bigger in Texas, as the saying goes. And this includes its sunsets. One of Austin’s nicknames is the ‘City of the Violet Crown’, due to how its sky and surrounding hills to the west turn a particular, bewitching shade of purple when the sun goes down. Attributed to the ‘Belt of Venus’ atmospheric phenomenon, the violet light gets stronger in the autumn and winter months, meaning this is the perfect time to visit to experience it in its full effect. For the best view, hike up Mount Bonnell to the west of Austin, along the Colorado River. Austinians have been climbing this mountain since the city was founded to watch the sunset and take in the views over the city.

Its bats are well worth a visit

A renovation project back in 1980 turned Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge into an ideal bat cave, attracting around 100,000 Mexican Free-Tailed bats to take it up as their home. Sunset is when they come pouring out of their perches under the bridge, cascading east in their thousands to resume their nightly activities. Visitors and residents alike pack the pavements each night to watch this amazing display, so if you want to be sure of a good view head to the Statesman Bat Observation Center, next to the bridge. 

And Austin’s live music is second to none

Of course, music is central to Austin’s heart and soul, and it’s where many small bands have been pitched into the limelight – it’s not called the ‘live music capital of the world’ for nothing. Whether you’re searching for rock ‘n’ roll’s next big thing, or just want to catch a flavour of the local talent, you’re really spoilt for choice in Austin. Even grocery stores and coffee shops often have live music playing, as well as the usual bars, clubs and concert halls. Topping the list of best places to hear live music after dark in Austin is The Paramount, a hundred years’ old theatre that hosts big names in its opulent auditorium. The Continental Club is just as famous, although slightly more low-key, and hosts country and swing bands downstairs, and live jazz in its upstairs gallery. Meanwhile Hole In The Wall is the best place to catch up-and-coming local acts on their home turf.

Its nightlife is also hard to beat

Lit up as it is by its moonlight towers – the only surviving structures of this kind in the world, which have illuminated the city since 1894 – it makes sense that Austin’s nightlife is rather special. If you’re looking for a quiet drink before catching some music and dancing, then under-the-radar Garage and local favourite Nickel City will quench your thirst for cocktails with their well-mixed libations. Beer lovers, rejoice: breweries and craft beer abound in Austin. The Yard (above) is a one stop destination housing craft breweries, tasting rooms and shops. Live Oak Brewing Company and Real Ale Brewing Co, meanwhile, offer brewery tours and tap rooms to taste their local beers there and then.

And don’t forget Hallowe’en

Of course, you can’t talk about visiting Austin in the autumn without mentioning Hallowe’en. Like the rest of America, it’s pretty much a national holiday here – but Austin puts its own spin on things. If you’re there over Hallowe’en, then pop down to east Austin bar Craftsman from 27-21 October for a dedicated scary cocktail menu with drinks made with surprising – and terrifying – garnishes. Austin’s long history also means the city has plenty of creepy tales and strange events to its name, meaning a ghost tour of the city is essential over the Hallowe’en weekend. Or, if film’s your thing, then the Austin Film Society is hosting its Eyeslicer Hallowe’en Tour, an evening of short films and documentaries guaranteed to get the blood pumping. Finally, given Austin’s closeness with Mexico, the Dias de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival is big news in the city. Head to the Mexic-Arte Museum on 26 October for the city’s largest party, which has a parade, traditional Mexican food, local artists, live music and performances throughout the day. 

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