Circuit of the Americas (COTA) – Austin SpeedTour
Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Circuit of the Americas 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd Austin, TX 78617
Year Opened: 2012
Vintage and American Muscle in Texas
As if to blast the stereotype of everything being bigger in Texas into flat-out appropriateness, Circuit of the Americas (often called COTA for short) in Austin provides no better example of this. Indeed, the site of the annual US Grand Prix for Formula One is also host to myriad other races throughout the year, including the Vintage Racing World Finals during the Trans-Am, as well as the SVRA SpeedTour race weekend.
Food & Beverage 3
The main grandstand features a host of food vendors serving everything from traditional sports fare to southern-inspired dishes. Being in Texas after all, the food options include Mexican and barbecue dishes, all washed down with some cold beer, if you please.
In the infield, fans can expect a great little hole-in-the-wall (only in size) café in the paddock, featuring a beautiful patio outside surrounded by trees and bushes, giving a great view of the garages and pre-staging area for most of the cars. Here you can find (when it is open) food and beverages to suit your fancy. Pizzas are $8, with a combo running $10 (including a drink), while drinks by themselves are $3 for fountain drinks and $4 for Powerade and Vitamin Water. Chicken tenders and fries are $7, deli sandwiches, hamburger baskets, and grilled chicken sandwiches are $8, and black bean burgers, deli wraps, or a trip to the salad bar are $7. On certain days there is a chef’s featured item, such as homemade meatloaf, mac-n-cheese, and a vegetable medley for $10.
That said, if you are exploring the far reaches of the facility, you may not have as many options available as you have in the main spectator areas, meaning you will have to walk a while or wait patiently for later, should the hunger bug strike. Thankfully this year, however, the track added food trucks in the fan area in the paddock to add some variety.
Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes the crowds. During fan walks on the grid for races at Circuit of the Americas, it is wall-to-wall fans hobnobbing with drivers, teams, and the cars they pilot on track. The track itself is a beautiful facility that lends itself to the fan experience – the main grandstand is shaded from the harsh Texas sun, thanks to a perfectly-placed roof over part of the seating. The same is said for most of the infield stands as well, which help make those hot afternoons a little more comfortable.
By far, the coolest thing here at Circuit of the Americas is the giant tower in the middle of the track. The observation platform in the tower is open to all fans for $20 a person, providing an elevator to view the race from over 200 feet above the action. In addition, the floors in the tower are see-through, giving you the feeling of floating on air – no other track has anything as cool as this. Be wary, however, as the tower’s elevator has been broken down of late, so you may have to hike all the way to the top using the stairway.
This is a hard topic, as the city of Austin itself (a good 15 to 20-minute drive from the Circuit of the Americas track), is a bustling city of music, incredible food, and youthful energy. It is no secret why F1 picked this city, and why the annual SXSW festival is held here every year. However, as the track is on the extreme outskirts of town, the racing can easily feel a bit detached from the city’s feel. There isn’t much right next to the track – hotels are all about 10 minutes away at least, as are any shopping and dining options fans would flock to. Thankfully, the airport is right near the track, providing for easy access to your flight in and out of Austin.
For great food, one can’t skip Salt Lick or Torchy’s Tacos. Austin is also home to the University of Texas and Zilker Park on Lady Bird Lake, and of course, a stop in Austin isn’t complete without visiting the bats under the Congress Bridge. Finally, for hotels look to Hilton Austin Airport or Holiday Inn Austin Airport as two of the better hotels that are close to Circuit of the Americas.
That good ol’ Texas comfort can be felt through the fans at the track. Sports fans can be hard to figure out, but Austin’s motorsports enthusiasts are all about the racing on the track. They know the drivers, they know the cars, and they know exactly what is happening, and are eager to cheer on their favorite drivers all weekend long. In addition, they’re generally a kind and considerate bunch, which makes a day at the races at Circuit of the Americas a family-friendly experience. The Trans-Am and SVRA race weekend features a large crowd of both racing and general automotive enthusiasts, descending upon the track in a celebration of motorsports history.
Getting to Circuit of the Americas isn’t hard, in that it isn’t hidden away. In actuality you can see it from pretty much everywhere, thanks to its giant light-up tower at night. However, the roads in and out of the track are only one or two lanes, making a big event hard to reach, thanks to the traffic, but parking is plentiful on-site.
Once at the track, getting around is easy, thanks to the various tunnels, pedestrian bridges, and signage pointing you on your way around the venue. Also, during the event there are a few fan shuttles that take you from one point to another.
Return on Investment 5
Whether you’re a race fan or not will dictate whether you feel the need to visit this new crown jewel of a race circuit, or not. However, you can definitely see why average fans would want to come – the views are spectacular all around the track, the cost of tickets and flights into Austin are generally low, and the city is a great attraction unto itself. Downtown is full of reasons to visit on its own, so adding a world-class race track to the mix makes it even better! In addition, Circuit of the Americas features great fan access, with the paddock easy to find and to navigate during race weekends.
Circuit of the America’s big tower is a modern marvel to behold, but did you know there is a world-class concert amphitheater at its base? Each year dozens of concerts are held at the track, including a performance by none other than Justin Timberlake during the 2017 F1 United States Grand Prix. Another unique feature is the bold American color scheme – all around the track’s run-off areas you can see red, white, and blue, plus stars and stripes painted designs, making not only for a photogenic track, but one that makes you feel very patriotic as well.
Patriotic Stars and Red, White, and Blue on the Track, Photo By Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Outside the track, a large inclined zip-line is available to thrill race fans with a view of the front stretch. The track has also recently added a football pitch behind the amphitheater, which is home to Austin Bold FC, giving an added reason to visit the facility. And finally, Circuit of the Americas recently debuted a brand-new go-kart facility behind the main grandstand, meaning fans can now satisfy their own need for speed.
Circuit of the Americas certainly is a gorgeous facility that lends itself to comfortable viewing of some great racing action. Furthermore, placing it next to one of the best up-and-coming cities in America was a genius move. That said, if you want somewhere young and hip to visit that is also home to a quality sports facility, definitely put Circuit of the Americas on your list.