Experience Music like Never Before: Top Outdoor Amphitheaters

by Chad Hultz

Discovering the perfect spot for an unforgettable music experience starts with finding the best outdoor amphitheaters in the US. This article showcases some of the top amphitheaters, each renowned for its unique history, breathtaking ambiance, and capacity to host significant performances. From the iconic spaces of The Greek Theatre in Berkeley to the historic stages of the Hollywood Bowl in California and the scenic beauty of the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington, these venues redefine the concert experience, combining the thrill of live music with the beauty of the outdoors.

Whether it's the acoustic excellence, star-studded performance histories, or the sheer visual spectacle each venue offers, our curated list promises to guide enthusiasts towards experiencing music like never before, amidst the most scenic backdrops nature has to offer.

The Gorge Amphitheatre, George, Washington

Nestled in the heart of George, Washington, the Gorge Amphitheatre offers an unparalleled concert experience, thanks to its impressive natural acoustics and stunning views of the river gorge. With a seating capacity of 27,500, this venue is not only one of the most scenic concert locations worldwide but also a hub for major musical events. Managed by Live Nation, the Gorge Amphitheatre hosts a variety of performances ranging from electronic music festivals to rock concerts.

Upcoming Events and Venue Features:

• Major Acts: Look forward to seeing artists like ILLENIUM, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and ODESZA.

• Festivals: Events such as Beyond Wonderland and Watershed Festival highlight the venue's versatility.

• Amenities: Enhance your experience with options like VIP club access, T-Mobile Fast Lane, and on-site rentals for lawn chairs and blankets.

Visitor Information:

• Accessibility: The venue offers accessible seating and designated parking for physically challenged patrons.

• Entry Requirements: All ages are welcome, with children under 2 years enjoying free admission to general lawn seating.

• Permitted Items: Guests may bring empty plastic drinking water containers and a factory-sealed water bottle (20 oz. max).

This venue's commitment to providing a memorable and comfortable viewing experience is evident in its thoughtful amenities and inclusive policies, ensuring that every concert-goer enjoys their time at one of the best outdoor amphitheaters in the US.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Colorado

Red Rocks Amphitheatre, nestled in Morrison, Colorado, is not just any concert venue; it's a historical monument surrounded by stunning geological formations. The amphitheater, flanked by the iconic Ship Rock and Creation Rock, offers an open-air concert experience like no other, with a seating capacity of 9,525 and situated at an impressive elevation of 6,450 feet. This venue has been making musical history since the early 1900s, with its first recorded concert dating back to 1906.

Key Historical Milestones:

• 1906: John Brisben Walker initiated the first-ever concert, marking the beginning of Red Rocks as a sought-after music venue.

• 1941: Official opening of the amphitheater, featuring the Denver Junior Symphony Orchestra.

• 1964: Hosted The Beatles, one of the earliest rock-and-roll performances at the venue.

Unique Features and Acoustics:

• Natural Acoustics: The amphitheater is renowned worldwide for its superb natural acoustics, thanks to its unique geological features.

• Construction: Built between 1936 and 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the construction involved meticulous labor, removing 25,000 cubic yards of rock and using 90,000 square feet of flagstone.

This venue not only offers a breathtaking backdrop but also a rich history, making it a premier destination for concert-goers and history enthusiasts alike.

Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, California

The Hollywood Bowl, an iconic amphitheater located at 2301 N. Highland Ave. in Los Angeles, California, has been captivating audiences since 1922 as the summer residence of the LA Philharmonic. With a seating capacity of 18,000, this venue is not only famous for its historical concerts but also for its vibrant and diverse lineup that spans various genres from classical music to jazz and rock.

Upcoming 2024 Season Highlights:

• Forever Summer Series: A mix of performances including the 60th Birthday Celebration for Maynard James Keenan featuring Primus, Puscifer, and A Perfect Circle on April 20.

• Comedy Gold: Netflix is a Joke festival presents a lineup of top comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin Hart, and Trevor Noah, spanning from May 1 to May 11.

• Musical Celebrations: Don't miss the 30th Anniversary of Disney’s The Lion King with a live-to-film concert event on May 24 and 25, and performances by James Taylor and Sarah McLachlan at the end of May.

• Jazz Enthusiasts' Delight: The Hollywood Bowl Jazz Festival scheduled for June 15-16.

Visitor Experience Enhancements:

• Create Your Own Package: Customize your experience by selecting three or more concerts to attend throughout the season.

• Transportation Options: Enhance your visit with convenient transportation solutions like the Hollywood Bowl Park and Ride and Shuttle services.

This venue continues to offer a rich tapestry of cultural experiences, making it a must-visit destination for music lovers and concert-goers looking for an unforgettable outdoor music experience.

The Greek Theatre, Berkeley, California

Nestled within the prestigious University of California, Berkeley, the Greek Theatre, also known as the William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre, stands as a testament to classical architecture inspired by the ancient Greek theatre of Epidaurus. Built in 1903, this 8,500-seat amphitheater not only enhances Berkeley's cultural landscape but also mirrors its academic vigor, earning it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Historical and Cultural Significance:

• Notable Events: From its inaugural performance of Aristophanes’ “The Birds” in 1903 to hosting influential figures like President Theodore Roosevelt and the Dalai Lama, the Greek Theatre has been a pivotal venue for both entertainment and intellectual discourse.

• Iconic Performances: The venue became a hub for iconic 1960s artists such as The Grateful Dead, who graced the stage 29 times, alongside legends like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

Sustainability and Viewing Experience:

• Green Initiatives: Committed to environmental stewardship, the theatre implements a venue-wide composting program and uses recycled products.

• Scenic Views: Attendees enjoy panoramic views of the UC Berkeley campus, the San Francisco Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge, enhancing the overall experience of any event.

This amphitheater not only offers a rich historical context but also serves as a modern-day venue for a variety of performances, making it a cornerstone of Berkeley's identity as the "Athens of the West."

Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Maryland

Nestled amid the enchanting 40-acre Symphony Woods in Columbia, Maryland, the Merriweather Post Pavilion stands as a premier destination for music lovers. Named after the cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, this venue boasts a seating capacity of 15,000 and offers a magical woodland setting that enhances every performance.

Upcoming Events at Merriweather Post Pavilion:

• April to August Highlights: Enjoy a diverse lineup including Tank and the Bangas (April 21), the M3 Rock Festival (May 4-5), Hozier's Unreal Unearth Tour (May 17), and the Capital Jazz Fest (June 7-9). Noteworthy performances continue with artists like Maggie Rogers (June 16), Bert Kreischer (June 21), and the iconic Alanis Morissette (June 29).

• Late Summer to Fall: The season extends with performances from Dierks Bentley (August 8), Thirty Seconds To Mars (August 15), and a special appearance by New Kids On The Block (August 17). The All Things Go Music Festival caps off the summer on September 28-29, featuring a vibrant mix of artists including Hozier and Maren Morris.

Venue Features and Visitor Information:

• Amenities: Patrons can enjoy extensive facilities including food and beverage options, merchandise outlets, and a loyalty program. The adjacent Chrysalis adds to the venue's charm.

• General Rules: For a smooth experience, remember no glass bottles or coolers are allowed. Guests may bring a factory-sealed water bottle and personal food items in a clear bag. Small personal umbrellas, blankets, and low-backed lawn chairs enhance comfort during events.

• Box Office: Open seasonally with varying hours, located at 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, reachable at 410.715.5550.

Merriweather Post Pavilion not only offers a robust concert schedule but also ensures a comprehensive and enjoyable visitor experience, making it a must-visit for anyone seeking the best in outdoor musical entertainment.

Alpine Valley Music Theatre, East Troy, Wisconsin

Alpine Valley Music Theatre, nestled in East Troy, Wisconsin, is a renowned 37,000-capacity amphitheater that has drawn music enthusiasts since its inception in 1977. Known for its expansive lawn and covered pavilion seating, this venue is strategically located to attract audiences from major cities like Madison, Milwaukee, Rockford, and Chicago.

Venue Highlights:

• Capacity: Features a 7,500-seat pavilion with a unique wooden roof and an extensive lawn area accommodating an additional 29,500 guests.

• Historic Performances: Has hosted a plethora of legendary acts including The Rolling Stones, Phish, and the memorable inaugural concert by Boz Scaggs.

Facilities and Services:

• Amenities: Offers a paved plaza for vendors, a first aid building, and multiple entry gates enhancing visitor convenience.

• Accessibility: Fully wheelchair accessible with a variety of ticket options including popular general admission lawn tickets.

Upcoming events for 2024 are particularly exciting, featuring performances by Dave Matthews Band and Noah Kahan, promising unforgettable experiences for concert-goers at one of the top outdoor amphitheaters in the US.

Embarking on a musical journey across the United States reveals a mosaic of outdoor amphitheaters, each with its own character, history, and natural beauty, offering music aficionados a unique and unforgettable experience. From the grandeur of the Gorge Amphitheatre to the historic charm of the Greek Theatre, these venues serve not just as places to see live performances but as destinations where music, nature, and history converge to create truly extraordinary moments. The guide has explored the essence of what makes each location special, not only through their acoustic excellence and star-studded performances but also by highlighting their commitment to providing an inclusive and enjoyable experience for all attendees.

The significance of these amphitheaters extends beyond their architectural marvels and event line-ups, touching the hearts of those who visit them and leaving lasting memories. These venues are a testament to the power of music in bringing people together, against the backdrop of some of the country's most breathtaking landscapes. As we close this exploration, it's clear that the allure of these amphitheaters isn't just in the concerts they host but in the collective experience they offer - a harmonious blend of sound, setting, and spirit that continues to draw crowds year after year. For anyone seeking to immerse themselves in the live music scene, these outdoor amphitheaters promise not just a performance, but an adventure.