With summer in full-swing, it’s time to think about road tripping to some of the nation’s most amazing outdoor concert venues. From East Coast to West, America has some excellent outdoor spots for live music. While we are partial to our locally renowned and legendary Klipsch Music Center, here are 10 additional unreal outdoor concert venues every live music fan should visit at least once.
Location: Morrison, CO
Summer ‘14 Highlights: John Butler Trio, Lionel Richie, James Taylor, Nas, Widespread Panic, Sarah McLachlan
The outdoor amphitheatre, where concerts and movies play all summer, is just one amazing feature of Red Rocks Park. Located in the Rocky Mountains a few miles west of Denver, the park takes its name from the red rock formations surrounding it. The amphitheatre itself is surrounded by the rocks, giving the space unique natural acoustics in a picturesque environment.
Location: University of California - Berkeley
Summer ‘14 Highlights: Sarah McLachlan, Jurassic 5, Counting Crows, John Legend, Dave Matthews Band
This venue looks like what its name suggests: A classic, ancient Greek outdoor theatre. Don’t come expecting Oedipus Rex, though. Everyone who’s anyone in the music world has played “the Greek” in Berkeley in the last 20 years. From R.E.M. and Elvis Costello to the Grateful Dead and Pearl Jam, the Berkeley attracts the biggest acts in rock.
Location: Saratoga, CA
Summer ‘14 Highlights: Jill Scott, Maxwell, Joan Baez and the Indigo Girls, Steely Dan, Boyz II Men
Big rock acts are great, but if want a smaller, more intimate venue with artists who are a little more “roll” than “rock”, check out the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA. Come for the wine and stay for the music, or come for the music and enjoy the wine. Either way, the Mountain Winery will give you a mellow concert with a more sophisticated vibe.
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Summer ‘14 Highlights: 36th Annual Jazz Festival, Pharrell Williams, the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra, Gloria Estefan, Motley Crue and Alice Cooper
From high culture to hair bands, the Hollywood Bowl is a classic venue that’s got it all. As long as you’re in California checking out the Berkeley Greek and the Mountain Winery, you should make a road trip south to visit the Hollywood Bowl. Regardless of the night or your musical tastes, you’ll find something to tickle your fancy.
Location: Kansas City, MO
Summer ‘14 Highlights: The Fray, Chicago and REO Speedwagon, Willie Nelson, Journey and the Steve Miller Band, Pat Benatar and Rick Springfield
In the Midwest, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better outdoor concert venue than the Kansas City Starlight Theatre. In addition to current and classic rock acts, the Starlight Theatre holds Broadway shows and a myriad of other events.
Location: East Troy, WI
Summer ‘14 Highlights: Wiz Khalifa, Jeezy, KISS, Def Leppard, Jimmy Buffet
Before 1993, Alpine Valley Music Theatre in Wisconsin was the biggest outdoor venue in the United States. While that's no longer the case, it remains a classic in stadium rock and outdoor concerts. Since 1977, the Chicago-area amphitheatre has been host to some of the most important names in rock ‘n roll, including the Rolling Stones, Guns ‘n Roses, Aerosmith, and, more recently, Coldplay.
7. The Ravinia
Location: Chicago, IL
Summer ‘14 Highlights: Maxwell, John Legend, OneRepublic, Hall & Oates, American Idol Live
Located in the green space of Chicago’s North Shore, the Ravinia is one of the best-loved outdoor venues in the Chicago area. Besides hosting pop stars of various genres like those listed above, the Ravinia is also home to high culture acts, including theatrical productions, pianists, choral orchestras, and jazz artists.
Location: Columbia, MD
Summer ‘14 Highlights: Jack Johnson, David Gray, Fall Out Boy and Paramore, Beck, Phish, ZZ Top
We’ve looked in the West and the Midwest, now let's head over to the East Coast, starting with the Merriweather Post Pavillion. Since its establishment in 1967, the Merriweather has hosted some legendary acts -- Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Who, and Janis Joplin to name a few. Today, the venue continues to host rock’s A-list acts.
Location: Wantagh, NY
Summer ‘14 Highlights: OneRepublic, Lionel Richie and CeeLo Green, Boston with The Band and Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, the Beach Boys, Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden
Long Island’s Jones Beach has long been a getaway spot for New Yorkers. In 1952, the addition of the outdoor theatre and concert venue made it even more popular. In 1991, the venue was renovated and expanded; in 1998, it was expanded again to its current size. A few years ago, Superstorm Sandy tried to take down the amphitheatre, but it's the kind of beloved landmark that won't be taken down so easily. The venue’s owner, LiveNation, spent more than $20 million repairing the venue; today it’s back to being one of the most important concert venues in the NYC metropolitan area.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Summer ‘14 Highlights: The Temptations, Goo Goo Dolls with Plain White T’s, Gipsy Kings, Boyz II Men and En Vogue
We can’t end our tour of the country’s best outdoor concert venues without visiting the Deep South. Although Chastain Park is technically “Delta Classic Chastain Park Amphitheatre,” to locals it’s still just “Chastain.” It started in 1933 as North Fulton Park, and has gradually grown over the years to its current incarnation. As the premiere outdoor concert venue in the Atlanta area, Chastain Park hosts all the biggest pop acts, along with sophisticated and unique concerts. For instance, this summer’s schedule will include U2 -- as interpreted and performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Thoughts on our “top ten” list of outdoor music venues? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.