Located near the tiny town of Elroy, 14 miles southeast of downtown Austin, Circuit of the Americas race track has transformed the rural area into a global hotspot. F1 is the most glamorous of all racing sports, with well-heeled fans from Dubai to Mexico City. Every Formula 1 race is accompanied by glitzy, invitation-only parties at the track and in downtown Austin. Racing fans who are not related to Saudi royalty may not get invited to all of the parties, but they can still enjoy the action on the track.
The World Comes to Austin
For the annual Grand Prix race, as many as 40,000 fans arrive in Austin from other countries. People from Mexico and Canada make up a large part of the international crowd, but fans from Spain, Italy, England and South America also flock to Austin for the race.
What Locals Say
Sticker shock is the most frequent complaint from Austinites. Everything is expensive, including parking, food, and drinks. The facilities themselves earn high praise, and the traffic management has been excellent, even though the main road leading to the track has only two lanes.
What’s Special About the Track?
Home to the prestigious Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) track is the first in the U.S. to be built from the ground up specifically for the Grand Prix race. The track’s elevation change of 133 feet challenges the drivers and gives fans a number of different vantage points. The best view is from the 251-foot observation tower. Designed by Miró Rivera Architects, the iconic tower features bright red tubes covering one side of the tower and rising up over the top to form a canopy.
Other Events Held at COTA
In addition to Formula 1 events, the track hosts other types of races, including MotoGP competitions, X Games, vintage car races and even human-powered running events.
Music fans can see big-name acts, ranging from Pitbull to Sting, at the track’s 5,200-seat amphitheater. Some of the performances are after-race concerts, but the venue also presents shows on non-race days.
The most ostentatious way to get to the track is by helicopter. For a nice chunk of change, you can get a ride from downtown through Alamo Helicopters. For those who may be a little more budget-conscious, there’s also a $5 shuttle bus that picks up at the corner of 4th and Trinity downtown, near the Austin Convention Center.
A series of ownership changes in 2017 may mean significant changes to the types of races and other events that occur at COTA. As of now, the F1 races are secured for the next couple of years, but speculation is rampant about what may occur in 2020 and beyond.
Circuit of the Americas
9201 Circuit of the Americas Boulevard, Austin, TX 78617