The 4th annual Friends of McKinney Falls 5K will support McKinney Falls State Park. Registration includes park entry, after-race celebration, plantable seed medal, and a chance to win prizes donated by Gossamer Gear.

Photo courtesy of COTA

Leave the driving to the pros during COTA F1 weekend with this shuttle info

Get In

Going to Formula 1 weekend October 21-23 at Circuit of The Americas? If so, you're in for a heck of a good time with Green Day, Ed Sheeran, and even famed fictional NASCAR superstar Ricky Bobby all set to appear.

But stars won't be the only thing competing for your attention. To help Circuit of The Americas celebrate its 10th year of Formula 1 at the track, fans can indulge in free birthday cake and take a dip in the Museum of Ice Cream’s 50-foot sprinkle pool.

There's also plenty of off-track entertainment, ranging from live ice sculpting to axe throwing to lucha libre wrestling. Pick out a temporary (or permanent!) tattoo before posing for pics with such famous cars as the Batmobile, Bumblebee, a DeLorean, and Ghostbusters' Ecto-1.

If that all sounds great, remember that hundreds of thousands of other folks think so too. Be smart and plan your race weekend transportation now.

Unless you already have a parking pass, shuttles are the quickest and easiest way to get to and from COTA.

Shuttle buses will conveniently pick up guests from various spots throughout Austin and drop them off at dedicated areas at COTA reserved exclusively for buses.

Tickets for the three different shuttle options start at $35 and are on sale now, though space is limited. Pick up locations include:

  • Downtown (Trinity St./Waterloo Park)
  • Travis County Expo Center
  • Barton Creek Square Mall

Round-trip price: $130 for a three-day weekend pass or $45 a day with advance purchase
Same-day: $55 per person, per day

Get the party started and roll right up to the Grand Plaza in style. Primarily comprised of luxury motor coaches, this shuttle route is the closest available drop-off point to the Circuit entrance. The Waterloo Park shuttle hub is the only shuttle with direct drop-off and pick-up at the Grand Plaza Gates. Park your car for $20 a day at the garages between Trinity and San Jacinto.

Travis County Expo Center
Round-trip price: $100 for a three-day weekend pass or $35 a day with advance purchase
Same-day: $45 per person, per day

Located near the intersections of Hwy. 290/US 183 and the 130 Tollway, the Travis County Expo Center shuttle hub is a free parking lot with service in primarily air-conditioned school buses. Please enter and exit this facility at Gate 1, located off Decker Lane.

Barton Creek Square Mall (Saturday and Sunday only)
Round trip price: $45 per day with advance purchase
Same-day: $55 per person, per day

Located near the intersection of Loop 1 and Hwy. 360 (Capital of Texas Highway), the Barton Creek Square Mall shuttle hub is a free parking lot with a mix of air-conditioned school buses and motor coaches. Shuttle pick-up and drop-off is located near JCPenny. This hub is not available on Friday of race weekend.

If Uber or Lyft is your plan, be prepared. Rideshare patrons will be dropped off and picked up at Del Valle High School, where they will then take a shuttle to the McAngus Lot. The walk to the rideshare lot is approximately 15-20 minutes and wait times can be very long. Surge pricing tends to be exceptionally high.

Photo courtesy of COTA

Keep the driving on the track.

For more information on shuttles and to book your tickets, click here.

To ensure the safety of its guests, COTA suggests buying shuttle passes directly from its site instead of purchasing a parking pass for an unauthorized parking lot near the race track.

Photo by Jonathan Weiner

Superstars Green Day and Ed Sheeran will speed into Austin for Formula 1 weekend

F1 Returns

Formula 1 is returning to Circuit of The Americas this October, bringing with it two multi Grammy Award-winning acts.

On March 29, COTA announced the event's global headliners will be five-time Grammy winner Green Day, kicking things off on Friday, October 21, with singer-songwriter and four-time Grammy winner Ed Sheeran performing on Saturday, October 22.

In addition to Green Day and Ed Sheeran, F1 weekend will feature a lineup of more than 20 bands on the Germania Insurance Super Stage.

Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix weekend, which runs October 21-23, 2022, has already sold out of reserved seat and general admission tickets for the weekend due to extraordinary demand. But good news for fans of F1, Green Day, and Ed Sheeran: COTA will release a limited number of single-day GA tickets this week.

“These superstar performers are for the fans, as the tickets are already almost sold out. We want the United States Grand Prix to be the greatest sports and entertainment event, along with the best ticket value, in the world,” says Bobby Epstein, COTA chairman. “With 20 other bands, these headliners round out a spectacular weekend festival of racing, music, camping and fun.”

Friday General Admission tickets ($59) and Saturday General Admission tickets ($129) will go on sale Wednesday, March 30, at 10 am at circuitoftheamericas.com/f1/tickets.

On Friday, visitors can watch their favorite drivers take on COTA’s legendary 3.41-mile track for initial practice laps before heading to the Germania Insurance Super Stage to experience Green Day’s electrifying performance. Saturday GA tickets will provide access to the Formula 1 qualifying races before Sheeran takes the stage in the evening.

All reserved seat and general admission tickets include access to the Germania Insurance Super Stage Festival Lawn for the concert, but super-fans of Green Day and Sheeran can purchase concert ticket upgrades, featuring add-ons allowing access to stand in front of the stage on the track itself.

Green Day will kick off the weekend of musical performances on Friday, October 21.

Photo by Jonathan Weiner
Green Day will kick off the weekend of musical performances on Friday, October 21.

NASCAR speeds back into Austin with full weekend of racing and sideshow fun

Fast times at COTA

Buckle up, Austin. NASCAR, the speediest American spectacle on four wheels, is burning rubber back to the Circuit of The Americas March 25-27 for a three-day extravaganza that promises to get your motor running.

Following last May’s inaugural NASCAR weekend at the COTA, the stock-car racing organization is heading full throttle to Austin, with this year’s power-fueled racing triple-header, featuring all three racing divisions, being joined by a sideshow of off-track entertainment festivities aimed at giving fans even more exhilarating experiences.

We’ve got the full rundown of thrilling events below. But first, let’s talk speed.

While this year’s NASCAR event at Circuit of The Americas will surely be less of a deluge than last year’s Cup Series race (which was red flagged for rain with 14 laps to go, giving lead driver Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car the win), it’s not the only difference fans can expect.

For the 2022 season, NASCAR has rolled out its Next Gen car package for the top-echelon Cup Series, intended to level the playing field and make for more democratic racing. Though racing teams are still working out some kinks, NASCAR Cup Series drivers are taking it all in stride.

“The car does look really awesome,” Ty Dillon, driver of the No. 42 Petty GMS Motorsports car, tells CultureMap. “Across the board with the new car, I’ve really enjoyed it. I think it’s been a great racing product. I think the fans agree, too.”

The 20-turn, 3.41-mile COTA track also presents its own challenges, and as home of the first road course race of the season, it’s bound to confound some race teams as they navigate a track that’s only been part of the NASCAR circuit for a year, and with a brand-new car. But that’s not keeping these speed demon drivers from buzzing with anticipation to return to Austin’s world-class racetrack.

“I am so excited to go to this race. I’ve been preparing for it a couple weeks out,” says Dillon, who hails from a legendary family that’s considered NASCAR royalty. “Last year, going to the racetrack, I was blown away by how amazing and beautiful the facility was. … To me, it’s one of the top-notch venues you can go and experience a racetrack. … Categorically, road courses are my favorite.”

For Dillon, who just joined the hallowed Petty GMS Motorsports team this season, there’s plenty to prove and live up to, but he remains unscathed and exuberant about the chance to go above and beyond expectations at the COTA.

“Getting to drive the No. 42 … there’s so much history there,” Dillon tells CultureMap. “Petty GMS is headed in the right direction. … The leaders of our group are going to give us the right cars and everything that we need to go succeed. It’s just a matter of us putting it out there on the track.”

For the full schedule of events during NASCAR’s upcoming triple-header weekend at Circuit of the Americas — which will include the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and the headlining NASCAR Cup Series races — visit the COTA website.

Adding to the overall rip-roaring experience at the COTA during NASCAR weekend are tons of new amusement and entertainment festivities to rev fans up.

As the COTA folks put it, “While the NASCAR drivers will remain the unparalleled ringmasters of the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix triple-header weekend at Circuit of The Americas … fans should prepare for an invasion of entertainment acts that will provide a circus-like atmosphere to the festivities.”

Here’s the rundown of off-track experiences racing into COTA during NASCAR weekend:

Great American High Dive Show
Grand Plaza Stadium
March 26, 10:05 am and 11:20 am
March 27, 11:05 am, 12:45 pm, 2 pm
Featuring a team of Olympic-caliber national and world champion divers, this act includes the dramatic human torch fire dive, thrilling high dives from an 80-foot platform, an All-American show, and a hilarious costumed clown diving act.

The Rocketman Valencia
Reflection Pond
March 26, 10 am and 11:30 am
March 27, 10:30 am, noon, 2 pm
This human cannonball will launch from a giant cannon at more than 55 mph, reach heights of over 65 feet, and travel into a safety net some 165 feet away.

Swifty Swine Pig Races
Grand Plaza Stadium
March 26, 9:15 am and 10:55 am
March 27, 10:15 am, 11:55 am, 1:10 pm
Porker thoroughbreds will race at 15 mph around a 150-foot oval track. Bonus swine: Swifty the world-record-chasing swimming pig will make a splashy appearance.

Canine Stars
Grand Plaza Stadium
March 26, 9:40 am, 11:45 am, 2:45 pm
March 27, 10:40 am and 12:20 pm
Highlighted on America’s Got Talent last season, Canine Stars features a world-class team of dog trainers and their adopted dogs from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, The Netherlands, and South Korea showcasing their athletic ability and extreme discipline.

Circus Picnic
Grand Plaza Stadium and Main Grandstands
March 26, 9 am-noon
March 27, 10 am-2 pm
The COTA grounds give way to a festive circus atmosphere with various entertainers, including fire breathers and stilt walkers.

Robert Castillo’s Freestyle BMX team
Outside Turn 19
March 26, 9:30 am, 11 am, 2:30 pm
March 27, 10:15 am, noon, 1:30 pm
Nationally recognized extreme-action-sports athletes will perform an array of thrilling BMX stunts.

Color Cartel
Turn 12
March 26, 8 am-noon
March 27, 10 am-1:30 pm at Turn 12 and on pit lane
Graffiti artists APSE and Iva will bring their bold and creative style to the racetrack with their special artistic talents.

Full Steel Combat
Grand Plaza Stadium
March 26, 10:30 am and 2:15 pm
March 27, 11:30 am and 1:35 pm
Take a step way back in time as steel-clad medieval soldiers take part in a tournament that features individual duels with axes, swords, shields and maces, team combat, and a grand melee in which it is everyone for themselves.

Smacking Axes
Turn 12 and the Amphitheater
March 26, 9 am-noon at Turn 12 and 6:30-9:30 pm at the Amphitheater
March 27, 10 am-2 pm at Turn 12
This is an interactive display that will allow fans to throw axes at targets. A master ax smacker will be on hand to help fans with proper technique.

Mobile Escape Room Texas
Turn 12
March 26, 9 am-noon
March 27, 10 am-2 pm
This interactive experience requires players to use teamwork and communication skills to find clues and solve complex puzzles inside a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled adventure trailer.

After-Party at The Amp
The Amphitheater
March 26, 6:30 pm
Following the conclusion of on-track action on Saturday, the venue will host After-Party at The Amp featuring the tribute rock band Hairball. The event will begin with a Q&A session with NASCAR Cup Series drivers and a special guest, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin. Hairball will hit the stage at 7:30 pm for a two-hour concert.

Front-stretch stage
March 27, 12:45 pm
Midland, the Grammy Award-nominated band from Dripping Springs will perform a one-hour concert prior to the start of the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix NASCAR Cup Series race.

Tickets for the three-day extravaganza of NASCAR at COTA are available here.

Austin's world-class racetrack is revving up for NASCAR weekend.

Austin's world-class racetrack is revving up for NASCAR weekend.

Former Texas Sen. Kirk Watson wants to return as mayor of Austin

Familiar face

Kirk Watson, who was mayor of Austin more than 20 years ago and is former state senator, once again wants to lead the Capital City.

Watson, a Democrat who’s an attorney, announced Tuesday, February 22 that he has joined the mayoral race.

“Austin is special, but we’re facing a lot of challenges ahead. By working together, we can create transformational change that doesn’t leave anyone behind,” Watson tweeted.

In an email announcing his mayoral candidacy, Watson spelled out priorities such as:

  • Tackling the rise in Austin’s cost of living.
  • Taking on homelessness.
  • Combating systemic racism.
  • Improving public safety.
  • Beefing up transportation.
  • Managing the city’s success.

“I’m running for mayor because there’s more to do. I want to ensure that our city effectively addresses the range of issues that will define our future,” Watson says in the email. “Austin should be thinking big. We should be setting and achieving aspirational goals. And we should be able to do those things while still providing basic day-to-day services.”

“With optimistic, common-sense leadership — leadership with a proven track record of success — we can assure that Austin seizes the enormous opportunities on its horizon and enhances the life of every Austinite,” he adds.

Other announced candidates for mayor of Austin include state Rep. Celia Israel, a Democrat; Jennifer Virden, a conservative who’s a real estate broker and former Austin City Council candidate; and Erica Nix, a “body-positivity ambassador” and former Austin City Council candidate. Potential challengers include Austin City Council member Kathy Tovo and personal-injury attorney Adam Loewy.

The winner of this November’s nonpartisan mayoral contest will succeed Steve Adler, who’s prohibited from running for a third four-year term.

Watson served as mayor of Austin from 1997 to 2001, a period highlighted the devastating dot-com bust. During that time, “he won praise for bringing different political sides together around transformative environmental and economic development initiatives,” according to an official Watson bio.

Watson went on to become the 2002 Democratic nominee for Texas attorney general but lost to Republican Greg Abbott, who’s now the governor.

From 2007 to 2020, Watson represented Bastrop County and parts of Travis County in the state Senate. Perhaps his most notable achievement as a senator was spearheading the effort to build the $436 million medical school at the University of Texas.

“After an unprecedented show of support by local voters, the Dell Medical School became the first medical school in nearly 50 years to be built from the ground up at a top-tier research university,” the official bio notes.

In 2020, Watson became the founding dean of the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston. However, he left that post in 2021. Watson’s departure from the university raised speculation that he was gearing up to seek yet another term as mayor of Austin.

At the time, Watson denied he was preparing to run for office. Rather, according to The Texas Tribune, the COVID-19 pandemic and a year of remote work had “changed his perspective on and enthusiasm for the job.”

Courtesy of Circuit of the Americas

Austin’s COTA officially motors forward with 5 more years of Formula 1

Off to the races

The fastest event on four wheels — and the highest-grossing weekend event in Austin — is putting the pedal to the metal, guaranteeing it will speed down the road to the Capital City for years to come.

On Friday, February 18, Circuit of The Americas, the world-class racetrack in East Austin, announced it has inked a deal with Formula 1, the world’s premier motorsport racing series, that will continue bringing the F1 United States Grand Prix to Austin through 2026.

The announcement comes a month ahead of the start of F1’s 2022 season, which revs up in Bahrain on March 18. The racing series will return to the COTA October 21-23 for the U.S. Grand Prix, though it won’t be the only U.S. race this year; in May, the series will also speed to Miami for race weekend.

“We are thrilled to be announcing the extension with the Circuit of The Americas ahead of the exciting new 2022 season. I want to thank the promoter for their ongoing dedication and enthusiasm for Formula 1, where together, we are continuing to grow the excitement around our sport in the U.S. following the huge success of Netflix [show Drive to Survive], the work of ESPN, and the incredible season we had in 2021,” says Stefano Domenicali, president and CEO of F1. “Austin is a great city, and the track is a favorite for all the drivers, and we cannot wait to be back in October for more action and entertainment.”

The heart-pumping racing extravaganza returned to COTA in 2021 after a pandemic pause in 2020.

The 2021 F1 United States Grand Prix brought a record-breaking crowd to Austin, which witnessed the ever-exhilarating battle between Mercedes driver and seven-time F1 drivers champion Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull phenom Max Verstappen. Verstappen took the win in the Austin race, foreshadowing his eventual drivers’ championship win, however controversial, for the 2021 season.

COTA’s newly announced five-year extension with F1 is definitely a boon for Austin, as well as the racetrack, which has hosted F1 racing since 2012 and has seen crowds for the local event grow by nearly four times since that inaugural race.

F1 provides an estimated $392 million economic impact for Austin — more than South By Southwest or the Austin City Limits Music Festival — and, according to COTA, the racetrack itself brings in an estimated $5 billion for the Austin community each year.

In addition to the F1 U.S. Grand Prix, COTA also hosts a variety of other events, from holiday experiences like its popular Peppermint Parkway and local Bike Nights to MotoGP, NASCAR racing, last year’s first-ever visit from the W Series, and tons of music and entertainment acts.

Upcoming events at COTA include NASCAR March 25-27 (including a performance from Grammy Award-nominated Dripping Springs-based band Midland on Sunday, March 27) and MotoGP April 8-10, all culminating in the fastest race in the world when F1 visits COTA in October.

“The Formula 1 United States Grand Prix has become one of the biggest and greatest events in the world. We are extremely proud it has found a home in Texas at Circuit of The Americas and are grateful to the millions of fans who visited us over our first decade,” says Bobby Epstein, founding partner of COTA, in a release.

“We knew Austin, along with our neighbors in San Antonio and beyond, would be welcoming hosts, and they proved it,” Epstein continues. “Thanks to everyone in the Formula 1 community for supporting our endeavors and rewarding our hard work. We are glad to have renewed our commitments and look forward to many more years of world championship racing, entertainment, and fun.”

To learn more about the F1 United States Grand Prix at COTA October 21-23 and to sign up to be notified when tickets go on sale, visit thecircuit.com/f1.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Affluent Austin suburb boasts one of the biggest holiday budgets, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Affluent Austin suburb cashes in with one of the biggest holiday budgets in the U.S. Cedar Park boasts a jolly big holiday budget of $2,855 per person this year — the 14th highest in the U.S.

2. Acclaimed Hill Country winery pours onto list of the world's 100 best for 2022. The celebrated vineyard near Fredericksburg just uncorked a coveted spot on an exclusive list.

3. Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort. The Billion Dollar Buyer scooped up one of only six hotels in the U.S. with the Forbes Triple Five-Star rating.

4. 100-plus comedians set to make Austin laugh in Moontower's 2023 festival lineup. Trevor Noah is one of Moontower's exciting 2023 headliners.

5. Renovated UT Austin museum set to reopen in 2023 with exciting new exhibits. The Texas Memorial Museum will reopen in fall 2023 with new exhibits.

New self-guided tour showcases iconic Fort Worth Stockyards' many Hollywood ties

Tinseltown in Cowtown

A new self-guided tour showcasing the Fort Worth Stockyards’ many star-studded appearances in cinema throughout the years recently debuted in time for the 16th annual Lone Star Film Festival, which took place earlier this month in the Stockyards for the first time.

Called Stars of the Stockyards, the eight-stop, go-at-your-own pace walking tour guides folks to famous film sites where celebrities have stepped foot in front of Hollywood cameras. Visitors to the Stockyards can access the PDF tour map on their smart phones via QR codes (no app required) posted throughout the district, namely at hotels and tour kiosks.

"The Stockyards is a historic and celebrated destination for many reasons, but one that may be lesser known is its popularity as a filming location for some of our favorite movies and TV series," said Ethan Cartwright, VP of marketing for Stockyards Heritage Development Co.

The tour and corresponding QR codes are a permanent addition to the district, he said.

Stops on the map include the iconic White Elephant Saloon, a hotbed for Hollywood performances including several by legendary actor and martial artist Chuck Norris in the longtime TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger when the watering hole was portrayed as the fictional CD Bar. The White Elephant was also graced by country music superstar Tim McGraw and Academy Award-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton for their appearances in Paramount Plus’ hit series 1883.

Also in 1883 and featured on the tour is Hookers Grill, hidden in the less flashy West side of Exchange Ave. The burger shack transformed into a gambling den in the show called The Texas House of Liquor & Sport. It’s the only building in the Stockyards that preserved the façade constructed by 1883’s production team. During operating hours, customers can order at the outdoor burger window and dine at patio tables within the two-story structure.

Cowtown Coliseum is marked on the map for its appearances in the 1983 film Tough Enough, where actor Dennis Quaid played an amateur boxer. It’s also the home of the final rodeo scene in the 1992 movie Pure Country starring country music legend George Strait.

Billy Bob’s Texas, the Stockyards Hotel, and even unassuming historic cattle pens also make the list on the tour, along with notations for the Texas Trail of Fame, which features more than 240 bronze markers honoring contributors for preserving and perpetuating the Western way of life.

Veteran actors Sam Elliot and Robert Duvall, both stars in the megahit TV series Yellowstone, are among the most recent Texas Trail of Fame inductees.

For more information and to get started on the tour, go here.

Favorite Austin burger chain joins local music nonprofit for $50,000 grant campaign

Musical Tastes

In Austin, the bell of the ball is the rockstar. Black Fret, a nonprofit that creates gigs and organizes funding for local musicians, makes sure these rock stars get their spotlight at the annual Black Fret Ball, now in its ninth year, and this time with some unexpected help from a burger bar.

Staff at Hopdoddy Burger Bar (a local favorite for lovers of toppings) got to nominate their favorite artists from across the country for a total of $50,000 in grants, an initiative called “Tuned In.” The restaurant asked guests to vote on favorites and landed on a group of nine final artists, including one from Austin.

Bonnie Whitmore, an Austinite, a singer, and a bassist, makes nostalgic country and Americana with bold, feminist themes. Although her candid tone matches that of the pop stars taking over the industry from their bedrooms, she’s been an active member of the music industry for more than 20 years.

Other Texas musicians made the final nine: Gold Fighter, from Dallas, leans back into the good old days of pop punk; Piñata Protest, from San Antonio, also plays pop punk while moving the needle more into Tejano traditions; and Will Van Horn, from Houston, makes the pedal steel languidly cool and a little psychedelic. (Listeners may recognize Van Horn’s work in records by the unique and popular Houston trio Khruangbin.)

The Black Fret Ball is returning for its first in-person year since 2019, on Saturday, December 3 at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. The fundraiser will distribute grants totaling $250,000 to 20 local artists, with performances from all but two. The 2022 class of musicians includes Whitmore, rap duo Blackillac, blues guitarist Buffalo Nichols, R&B singer Mélat, and one of Austin’s most frequently booked and buzzed about bands, Quentin and the Past Lives.

Black Fret members ($750 annually) are invited to join the ball at 6 pm. See the local lineup at hopdoddy.com.