Circuit of the Americas
Only a short jaunt from downtown Austin, getting to and from the US Grand Prix at COTA should be easy. And it is—at least in theory. There are many ways to get to the circuit and few connections to make. But all too often the local roads strain with the volume of traffic. Fans usually enjoy only minor delays going to the track, but post-race it could be time to break out the Travel Scrabble and settle in for a long wait.
The state capital of Texas, Austin is located about 250km northwest of Houston, 130km northeast of San Antonio and 330km south of Dallas.
Most F1 fans coming to Austin, from the US and abroad, touch down at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport (AUS). From here, taxis, rideshare, and buses are available to get to your hotel or the circuit.
Cap Metro runs the MetroAirport shuttle service that ferries passengers to several pick-up/drop-off points in Austin. It costs $1.75 wherever you’re going and there’s no surcharge for luggage. You’ll need to have exact change to buy a pass on the bus or use the CapMetro app (available for Apple and Android).
There are 12 stops in locations downtown, UT, the Capitol and Riverside Drive. Buses run every 15 minutes and you can expect it to take about 35 minutes to reach downtown Austin. Follow the Cap Metro signs beyond the baggage claim on the ground floor that leads to the blue neon guitar-shaped bus stop.
For onward travel from either hub, as well as many other North American cities, Megabus provides low-cost transport to Austin.
Kiwi.com lets you search for the lowest-cost flights and shows you route combinations that often don’t show up on other search engines. If you miss a connecting flight due to a delay the Kiwi guarantee means you can take the next available flight at no extra cost.
The Circuit of the Americas is located about 25km southeast of Austin city centre, and 15km from Austin Airport. Most visitors opt to drive or take a shuttle bus.
Recent improvements to infrastructure have gone a long way to improve the often glacial flow of traffic. Roads were widened ahead of the 2022 race and shuttle buses now use dedicated lanes.
If you plan to come straight from the airport, you can fly in early and go straight to your grandstand. There’s no luggage storage at COTA though and large baggage (over 12X12X20 inches in volume) won’t be allowed past security. If flying out Sunday night, make it a late flight to allow yourself time to clear the gridlock.
There are more than a dozen car hire companies at the airport as well as car sharing programs throughout Austin so whether you’re bringing your own car or not you can get around by car on your trip as well as drive to and from the Grand Prix.
Car hire in the city will only set you back about $30 a day but keep in mind that parking at the circuit doesn’t come cheap. The alternative to hiring a car is car sharing. Charged on an hourly or daily rate, it works by using an app to find and unlock a nearby car and return it when you’re done. Companies such as ZipCar operate in Austin.
In Austin, about the only thing steeper than the run-up to turn 1 is the cost of parking at COTA. That’s especially true if you decide to park at the circuit’s official on-site parking lots. These are within easy walking distance of the entrance gates, so you won’t need to make any extra connections. They are also the most popular parking lots and tickets sell out fast.
A less expensive alternative is off-site parking at the COTA Park and ride lot. Park and ride locations 2-3 miles from the entrance, are less expensive but leave you at the mercy of the shuttle buses which ferry fans back and forth to the gates. This is a free service for off-site parking pass holders but these buses have a history of being poorly organised.
Parking passes are available for individual days or for the full weekend. Official parking tickets do sell out and should be booked in advance. If you haven’t pre-ordered a parking pass you won’t be able to buy one on the day.
If you’re unable to get your parking booked in time there are other options. Keep reading to find out about unofficial parking options near the track and the COTA shuttle bus which provides parking at the terminals.
All cars parking on-site require a pre-purchased parking pass for admittance onto COTA Blvd. Depending on your parking lot, there are recommended directions to arrive at COTA for the US Grand Prix.
Lots A, B, C, D, T
Lots E, F, G, H, K
Lots L, M, and N
Park-N-Ride Lot (Lot Q)
As well as COTA’s official parking, there are some privately run parking lots. Many are within a mile or less from the circuit entrance and further away ones usually provide a shuttle bus. These are often cheaper than the official car parks and generally suffer less congestion after the race. Passes can be purchased on the day or in some cases in advance. Just keep in mind that without an official parking pass, access to Circuit of the Americas Blvd. will be restricted.
One such unofficial parking lot is Austin Race Parking. They’re a 1200 space car park off Elroy Road that’s about a 5 minute walk to COTA’s turn 11 entrance. Single day and weekend parking passes are available for purchase through their website.
To get to COTA, F1 fans can avail of one of the shuttle buses operated by the Grand Prix organisers to and from the circuit.
There are three routes. One from downtown Austin has optional parking nearby for an extra charge. Two suburban routes; one from the east (Travis County Expo Center) and one from the west (Barton Creek Square Mall) include free on-site parking.
The drop-off and pick-up points at COTA for the suburban routes are McAngus Lot. This is about a 10-15-minute walk away from the Grand Plaza gate or a short tram ride away. Most of the buses on these routes are air-conditioned.
If you want to skip that walk, the more expensive downtown route terminates at the COTA Grand Plaza entrance. From here you can go straight through the gates to your grandstand. This route offers a more comfortable arrival in luxury, climate-controlled coaches.
Shuttle buses normally commence 1 hour before gates open and the last buses leave for COTA at 6:30pm on Friday and Saturday and 2pm on Sunday. Leaving the circuit, the shuttle buses continue to run for about an hour after the concerts on Friday and Saturday, and according to demand after the race.
Return tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday are available here.
Only shuttle buses and vehicles with parking passes will be able to access McAngus Road and COTA Blvd. so Del Valle High School parking lot is the designated pick-up and drop-off point for taxis and rideshares. At 3.5 miles from the circuit, you can complete your trip on a free shuttle bus (no booking required).
Getting an Uber or Lyft between the airport and downtown Austin should set you back about $20. Rides from downtown to COTA are usually in the $25-30 range, though during busy periods on a Grand Prix weekend this can peak at up to $40.
Taxis in Austin start at $2.50 for the first 165 metres or 1/6 of a mile and every subsequent unit of the same distance after that is $0.40. The maximum number of passengers a taxi will take is four. In some parts of downtown Austin you won’t be able to hail a cab in the street so arrange one by phone if you plan to go to the airport or the Grand Prix.
Trips starting at the airport have a minimum charge of $13.10, and to get downtown will be about $35-40. To get from downtown to the circuit you can expect to pay $45-50. All taxis accept credit cards.
|Austin Cab Company||+1 512 478-2222|
|Yellow Cab||+1 512 452-9999|
Perfect if you’re looking for a cost effective, sustainable way to get around Austin when you’re not at the track, companies Lime and Bird offer a range of 2-wheeled electric vehicles. CapMetro, Austin’s public transportation provider, also provides MetroBike. This works in a similar way and includes e-bikes and standard push bikes.
I’m Danny, an incurable Formula 1 fan for over 30 years and founder of The F1 Spectator. My aim is to inform and inspire, arming you with helpful tips and advice for your next F1 trip.