Getting There & Around – United States Grand Prix at COTA

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Advice on getting to Austin for the US Formula 1 Grand Prix, plus how to get to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). The next race is on October 20-22, 2017.

Images kindly supplied by Marie Misso, who attended the 2016 US Grand Prix.

Austin has one international airport, Bergstrom (airport code AUS). It’s a relatively small airport though, and many flights go through the two larger hubs in Texas, Houston (IAH) and Dallas Fort Worth (DFW). Texas is home to Southwest airlines, the world’s largest low-cost carrier, so there are plenty of domestic flights to the city on Grand Prix weekend.

Downtown Austin and the University of Texas campus area are very walkable and well serviced by the Capital Metro Austin public transit system. Circuit of the Americas (COTA) is located 15 miles (24 km) from downtown Austin. The best way to get to the track is by car (your own, a hire car or taxi) or the COTA shuttle.When making plans, be aware that Austin traffic is notorious most times of the year, but especially during major events such as F1, and getting to the track from downtown can take up to two hours! Plan accordingly and don’t forget to purchase parking passes for the track if you do take your own vehicle.

Flights from North America

All of the major US airlines service Austin, though many connect first in a bigger Texas city. Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, United and Virgin America will all get you to Austin. Example fares: New York–Austin (non-stop with Southwest in 4 hours from $300 USD), LA–Austin (1 stop with Delta in about 5 hours from $250-300 USD), Toronto – Austin (non-stop with Air Canada in 3 hours 20 min for about $600 USD.

Flights from Europe

The cheapest fares from Europe fly into Houston (IAH) or Dallas (DFW), depending on the airline. The only direct European connection to Austin is with British Airways from London. Examples fares: London–Austin (non-stop with BA in 10 hours from £900 GBP / via LAX with American Airlines from £650), Paris – Austin (from 850 with American Airlines via Dallas), Berlin – Austin (two stopovers from 600-700 / United via Newark from 800).

Flights from Australia

All flights from Australia have at least one layover on the way, though United offers the quickest connection between Sydney and Austin. Including a stop in LAX, the flight time is 19-22 hours and return fares start at $1200 AUD. Other airlines that fly from Sydney or Melbourne include Qantas, Delta, Virgin Australia and American Airlines.

Flights from rest of the world

There are no direct flights to Austin from Asia, South America or Africa. Most flights route via major U.S. hubs such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York, Chicago or Houston. The following airlines offer direct flights to Houston (IAH): from Moscow (Russia) with Singapore Airlines / from Dubai (UAE) with Emirates / from Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) or Tokyo (Japan) with United / from Beijing (China) with Air China

Getting to Austin: the American way

Another option for getting to Austin is by car. The U.S. has a large interstate highway system, and you can drive to the city from Houston in 2.5 hours, Dallas in 3 hours, or San Antonio in 1 hour. Why not hire a car and explore the region? Buses and trains are also available for budget-conscious fans. Click here for a detail interstate highway map.

How to get to Circuit of the Americas (COTA)

Shuttle: if you’re staying downtown, the COTA shuttle service is the best way to get to the track. Shuttles departs from the Austin Convention Center (plus other locations) and cost $15 return when bought online or $20 from the driver. You’ll get dropped off at the McAngus stop near the circuit, 15 minutes walk from the main entrance. For those who are unable to walk that far, another shuttle does drop you at the main entrance, but it costs $50 return. Shuttles operate from 07:00-19:00 on Friday, 07:00-midnight on Saturday and 07:00-22:00 on Sunday . Be aware that shuttle buses are as liable to get stuck in traffic as cars, so a one-way trip can take up to 2 hours at peak times. Click here for more information and to buy advance tickets.

Drive: despite the prevalence of public transportation Austin offers compared to other Texas cities, it is still very much a town built for cars, and the best way to get around is to drive. The Circuit of the Americas is located off the SH130 toll road, which you can access from downtown by taking I-35 south to highway 71 east. There are four main parking areas next to the track and a ‘park and ride’ service is also available. Taxis and ride sharing services such as Uber are worth considering (more below), though it’s a good idea to arrange your return trip from the circuit in advance to avoid delays. Click here for COTA parking and entrance maps.

Airport to the City

Austin Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) is located 12 miles (19 km) east of downtown Austin, in the approximate direction of the Circuit of the Americas. You actually pass the airport on your way from downtown Austin to COTA. The airport’s website has useful information about parking and transport between the airport and downtown. In addition, many of the larger hotels in Austin offer their own shuttle service between the airport and the hotel. Here’s some more information:

  • Buses: Capital Metro, the city’s public transportation authority, offers a MetroAirport bus that runs regularly from the city to the airport. To check its route and schedule, visit the Capital Metro Airport page. A ticket costs $1.75 USD and can be bought with exact change on board or using the Capital Metro app.
  • Shuttles: the highly-rated SuperShuttle service offers shared vans, non-stop vans and even private sedan and SUV services, depending on your budget. Reserve your trip on their website and a shuttle will be waiting to take you to your hotel or apartment when you land. Prices from $12 each way.
  • Taxis: a taxi from the airport to downtown should cost around $30. Useful numbers: Yellow cab +1 512-452-9999 / Austin Cab Company +1 512-478-2222

Austin Public Transport

In addition to the dozens of bus lines servicing most of the city, Capital Metro also operates one city train line called MetroRail. MetroRail runs Monday through Friday between Leander and downtown Austin, and from Lakeline to downtown on Saturday. See the Capital Metro website for routes and schedules.

Austin Taxis & Ride Sharing

There are plenty of taxis in Austin. Downtown, your best bet is to get one from a hotel taxi stand (or call, for example Yellow Cab, tel: 512-452-999, who also have a handy fare calculator.) Getting to COTA from downtown in a taxi should set you back around $50. Ride sharing sites Uber and Lyft no longer operate within the city limits following new ‘driver fingerprinting’ laws enacted locally; try Wingz instead.

Rent a bicycle

If you’re staying downtown, most attractions the city has to offer are within walking distance, but you can save time and see more by renting a B-cycle bike. Austin B-cycle has dozens of stations all around the city where you can pick up or drop off a bike, and rides under 30 minutes are free after you pay the initial service fee of $8 per day or $11 per month.

Any advice on getting to Circuit of the Americas? Leave a comment below!

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About the Author ()

Andrew Balfour is the Founder and Editor of He originally hails from Adelaide, where he went to his first F1 race way back in 1987. He's been resident in Europe for almost 15 years and travels regularly to F1 races around the world.

Comments (4)

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  1. Carrie says:

    Where else does the shuttle bus from the convention centre or downtown stop? I’m staying in the arboretum area and wonder what shuttle would be closest for me to get. Tjanks5

    • Editor says:

      Hi Carrie, details for this year haven’t been announced. However, last year three shuttle services were offered (no stops along the way).
      1) Downtown: Convention Center (4th and Trinity)
      2) Toney Burger Center (3200 Jones Rd.)
      3) Travis County Expo Center (7311 Decker Lane)
      Options 2 and 3 were only for Saturday and Sunday. It looks like option 3 is best for your location. More details should be available closer to the race weekend.

  2. Dean Richardson says:

    I’ll be in town for a conference so will only be able to make it race day, but what a great bit of luck. The conference is at the J.W Marriott Downtown. If I’m looking at taking the shuttle, how early do you recommend I try and get there to avoid traffic/access problems?

    • Editor says:

      Hi Dean, it depends if you want to catch the support races on Sunday morning or not. Gates open at 9am, and plenty of people will be getting there early (especially those in General Admission, without a grandstand seat). Ironically, you may be better off going a bit later after the initial crowds have died down.

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