The COTA Tower is not just a landmark that soars high above the Texas circuit, it’s also an observation deck providing the most incredible view of Circuit of the Americas. If you get your timing right you can even be up there for the start of an F1, MotoGP or Nascar race.
This article provides information about the COTA Tower and how to get yourself the best and cheapest view going on race weekend.
How tall is the COTA tower?
The COTA Tower is 76.5 meters / 251 feet tall at its highest, the equivalent of 25 stories.
The observation deck sits at 70 meters / 230 feet tall, 22 stories above the ground.
Where is the tower?
The COTA tower is located on the outside of the circuit at turns 16, 17 and 18 (which is actually the inside of the right-hand corner). It’s pretty close to the edge of the track so the top of the observation deck almost hangs over the circuit, but not quite. Probably just as well to avoid people dropping things on the track mid-race!
It’s most easily accessed from the Grand Plaza entrance gate. See our full guide to COTA entrances for more info on the best places to enter the circuit.
It sits directly above the Germania Amphitheatre which usually hosts the Sunday evening Austin F1 concert after the Grand Prix has finished.
Getting to the top
The COTA Tower has an external staircase with 419 steps that wraps itself around the tower’s core. Being on the outside of the tower you also get a view as you’re going up or down the stairs.
For those of you not thrilled by the idea of climbing that many stairs, the COTA tower has a high-speed elevator. It has just two exits, the ground floor and the observation deck, and takes less than a minute to go from one to the other.
COTA tower observation deck
The observation deck at the top of the tower has open sides. Obviously there are railings to keep you safe, but looking above these gives you a completely unobstructed view of the circuit.
For those brave enough there’s also a few glass floor panels. Standing on these and looking down gives you a view directly beneath the tower of the apex of Turn 17.
View from the top
Being 230 feet off the ground the view from the top of the COTA tower observation deck is stunning. With the exception of a big chunk of the start / finish straight which is blocked by the pit garages you can just about see the whole circuit. No where else at COTA, not even any of the grandstands or hospitality areas, gives you a view with so much circuit coverage.
Check out the 360 degree image below.
Being so high does mean the cars are a little small, but still big enough to be able to keep up with what’s going on. You can walk around 75% of the perimeter of the observation deck so you can get a truly panoramic view.
The area of Texas where Circuit of the Americas is built is pretty flat. On a clear day you can see over 20 miles in each direction from the top of the tower. Interestingly the high vantage point does flatten out the circuit a lot, even the steeply banked Turn 1 looks pretty level.
The video below gives a great example of the view from the top of the tower during the F1.
COTA tower access during F1
During the 2022 F1 weekend COTA Tower access cost $35 per person for 15 minutes on the observation deck. There was also a more expensive option for a skip-the-line ticket with a glass of champagne waiting for you at the top which cost $48 each. Tickets for either package can’t be bought in advance, they are purchased at the base of the tower.
If you’re heading to the F1 at COTA, check out our Austin F1 dress code guide for some tips on what to wear.
McLaren were also running a promotion last year; anyone with the Google Chrome app installed on their phone could turn up at the tower at a certain time, show the app and get free tower access. Keep an eye on their social media channels for the same this year as again they’re sponsored by Google.
15 minutes is the official time limit stated for each person’s visit up the tower but the reality is that this is only loosely enforced. If you’re up there in between sessions on Friday or Saturday you can probably stretch your visit to 20 or 30 minutes, maybe longer.
Only when it gets busy at the top of the tower are you likely to be moved on at the 15 minute limit, but if you’re friendly to the staff working there you can probably extend your stay.
When you do leave, taking a slow descent down the staircase means you can prolong you viewing time even more.
At peak times there can be a pretty big wait to get up the tower, but it’s well worth it. Access is available during all major F1 sessions including the race itself. If you get lucky and timings work out you can actually be up there for the race start, just like this Redditer did, which has to be the coolest way to see the action.
Tower access during other events
At the MotoGP or Nascar you can also go up the tower, but the options or ticket packages will be a little different.
During COTA Bike Night tower access after dark is included. Going up there after the sun sets is a whole different experience, allowing you to see the lights of Austin in the distance and peer down in to the darkness below.
Tower Club hospitality
For the last few years COTA have offered a Tower Club shared hospitality package during the F1. This was held in a private tent at the base of the tower and guests would pay extra for food, drink and a ‘VIP’ experience.
For this year the Tower Club doesn’t seem to be a hospitality option. Check out our guide to all other COTA hospitality to see some of the other VIP experiences at the F1.
Have you got the melons for it?
Ross Chastain, Nascar winner in the Cup, Xfinity and Truck series, is renowned for a couple of things. The first is his incredible last-lap wall-ride overtake in 2022.
The second is smashing a watermelon after every race victory. He’s Florida born and from a long line of watermelon farmers, so it’s become Ross’ tradition to smash one on the start / finish line every time he notches up another win.
At the 2023 EchoPark Nascar Cup series event at COTA he took his melon smashing one step further. To commemorate the 1 year anniversary of his 2022 Circuit of the Americas Nascar win, he climbed to the top of the COTA Tower and launched a watermelon over 230 feet to the ground below. Smashing effort.