Top 25 Outdoor Music Venues in the US
Road Trip to the Best Outdoor Concert Venues
The pandemic picked a good time to slow down — everything is opening up just in time for summer music season. You know what that means: outdoor concerts! Two of our favorite words individually, and when combined, the whole is even better than the sum of its parts.
Where are you thinking of seeing shows this summer? Thinking of packing your bags and touring with your favorite bands? If you get a chance, make sure to check out the many stellar locations on this list. You’ll be glad you did.
25. Cumberland Caverns - McMinnville, TN
Photo: Michael Weintrob
Why Cumberland Caverns is One of America's Top Outdoor Venues
This venue got the bottom spot on the list because we weren’t sure if it’s technically indoors or outdoors, NOT because it isn’t mind-blowingly awesome. Located between Nashville and Chattanooga, the Caverns have been hosting concerts for over 60 years on its stalactite-surrounded stage 333 feet below the surface. It fits up 1,000 of the concertgoers who were lucky enough to get tickets to its legendary shows. In the heart of Tennessee, the Caverns hosts mostly country and bluegrass groups, with the occasional performance from curious rock, EDM, and jam bands.
On the 2021 Schedule: Diamond Rio, Sister Hazel, Paul Thorn, The Allman Betts Band, The Outlaws
24. Leader Bank Pavilion - Boston, MA
Photo: CC/Wiki Beyond My Ken
Why Leader Bank Pavilion is One of Top Outdoor Venues in the US
If you’ve driven around the Seaport District in South Boston, we're sure you noticed the large white tent and wondered what it was. We're pleased to inform you that it is a fantastic outdoor music venue, with a bustling summer schedule for you to enjoy. Opened in 1994, the 5,200 capacity venue is located near the heart of the city, making its diverse genre shows super convenient to get to.
On the 2021 Schedule: Lindsey Stirling, Counting Crows, Jazon Mraz, Harry Connick Jr., Lord Huron, Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Quinn XCII
23. Ruoff Music Center - Noblesville, IN
Why Ruoff Music Center is One of Top Outdoor Venues in the US
Formerly known as Deer Creek Music Center, Verizon Wireless Music Center, and then Klipsch Music Center, it seems fair to say that this amphitheater is, and always will be, a music center. Located in central Indiana, a short drive outside of Indianapolis, Ruoff Music Center opened its doors in 1989. It’s pavilion and giant lawn can fit over 24,000 concertgoers, making it the largest outdoor venue in the Indianapolis area. Over the years, Deer Creek (or whatever it’s called) has been a favorite place to play for the Grateful Dead and Phish, and it’s still frequented by popular bands every year.
On the 2021 Schedule: Chicago, Phish, The Black Crowes, Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon, Brad Paisley, Maroon 5, Korn & Staind, Brooks & Dunn, Jonas Brothers
22. Bethel Woods Center For The Arts - Bethel, NY
Photo Courtesy of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
Why Bethel Woods is One of the Top Outdoor Venues in the US
We're sure you’ve heard of the first music festival that was played at Bethel Woods in mid-August 1969. Bringing together acts like Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and the Grateful Dead, plus an estimated 400,000 music fans and an extraordinarily unprepared crew, Bethel Woods Center For The Arts is located on the exact grounds of the legendary Woodstock Music Festival. Today, the venue is much more prepared to handle and host live music events with its beautiful pavilion and lawn, though its capacity is closer to 15,000 guests, and tickets aren’t usually free anymore. Be sure to check out the Woodstock Museum when you visit!
21. Canandaigua Music Arts Center - Canandaigua, NY
Photo Courtesy of CMAC Events
Why CMAC is One of Top Outdoor Venues in the US
One of the many gems of Upstate New York, the Canandaigua Music Arts Center (also known as “CMAC”) is located in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of the state near Syracuse and Rochester. CMAC was opened in 1983 and its arched, shell-shaped pavilion was rebuilt and expanded in 2005. Today, between the gorgeous pavilion and the relaxed lawn, over 15,000 fans pack the center for its concert, theater, and orchestra productions. It’s a popular destination for jam bands passing through the area in addition to local stars, country groups, and plenty more!
On the 2021 Schedule: Dierks Bentley, Brandi Carlile, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Luke Combs, Harry Connick Jr., King Crimson, Jason Mraz, Collective Soul, Darius Rucker
20. Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island - Chicago, IL
Photo: Will Byington Photography
Why Huntington Bank Pavilion is One of Top Outdoor Venues in the US
Jutting out on a peninsula into Lake Michigan, this venue is a classic Midwest stop for all the biggest acts around. The pavilion first opened in 2005 with a capacity of just 8,000, but in 2013 it was expanded and reopened with a staggeringly huge capacity of over 30,000. It sits next to the heart of Chicago, with a spectacular view of the skyline from anywhere in the venue. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the good life at some of their incredible shows this season.
On the 2021 Schedule: Dave Matthews Band, Jazon Mraz, Greta Van Fleet, 311, Deftones, Alice Cooper, Goo Goo Dolls
19. Mandalay Bay Beach - Las Vegas, NV
Photo Courtesy MGM Resorts
Why Mandalay Bay Beach is One of the Top Outdoor Venues in the US
Keeping Vegas’ endless parties alive in style, Mandalay Bay Beach is the city’s largest outdoor music venue, fitting around 12,000 guests. What makes it ultra-cool is the fact that you can enjoy the venue’s reggae, EDM, and ska shows from its massive wave pool — it’s the ultimate summer pool party.
On the 2021 Schedule: Sublime, Rebelution, Iration
18. Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena - Stateline, NV
Photo Courtesy of Harveys Lake Tahoe
Why Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena is One of Top Outdoor Venues in the US
Overlooking Lake Tahoe from its southeast corner, with an incredible view of mountain peaks and the lake’s classic blue water, the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena (formerly known as Harveys Outdoor Amphitheater) is one of the US’s top destinations for outdoor summer concerts. Besides the fantastic views and music, you’ll catch a bewildering orange sunset over the lake and the mountains behind the stage. Harveys casino started hosting concerts in 1992, and the amphitheater was later moved to its current spot, where it holds around 9,000 concertgoers. Just a few hours east of Sacramento and the Bay Area, it’s the perfect excuse (in case you needed one) to spend a weekend at Lake Tahoe.
On the 2021 Schedule: Old Dominion, Roger Daltrey, Phish, Miranda Lambert, Train, Alabama, Kenny Chesney
17. Hearst Greek Theatre - Berkeley, CA
Photo: David Park/Flickr
Why Hearst Greek Theatre is One of the Top Venues in the US
The Greek Theatre, located on UC Berkeley’s campus and the site of the university’s graduation ceremony, is a destination venue for countless bands. Enjoy the spectacular views of the Bay, the iconic Greek column architecture, and the rocking music of your favorite artists. Opened in 1903 for a student theatre production, the Greek Theatre still hosts both theatre and concerts today. The 8,500 capacity venue pulls in some fantastic talent and is a top outdoor music venue.
On the 2021 Schedule: Bob Weir & Wolf Bros, The String Cheese Incident, Atmosphere
16. Merriweather Post Pavilion - Columbia, MD
Photo: Will Cox Photography
Why Merriweather Post Pavilion is One of the Top Outdoor Venues
Located in the heart of the aptly named Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion (lovingly called “MPP” by fans) was originally built for the National Symphony Orchestra and designed by famed weirdo architect Frank Gehry. It opened in 1967, with some minor updates and redesign since then, like the addition of solar panels to its huge wooden roof. It’s hosted legendary acts including Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix, and the 20,000 capacity venue continues to host an action-packed schedule each year.
15. The Pavilion at Ravinia Festival - Highland Park, IL
Photo Courtesy of Ravinia Festival
Why Ravinia is One of the Top Outdoor Venues in the US
Opening in 1904 and home to the oldest outdoor music festival in the U.S., Ravinia is located in a secluded forest just north of busy Chicago. Its peaceful park grounds are the perfect place for a fun day with the family, followed by a calming concert in the evening. Ravinia is the home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with daily performances throughout their festival all summer long. The pavilion holds a little over 3,300 guests in an intimate setting, whether it’s for a jazz, classical, rock, or pop show.
On the 2021 Schedule: Willie Nelson, Gladys Knight, Ben Folds, Counting Crows, John Legend, The Beach Boys, Collective Soul, Lady A, Train, King Crimson, Lauryn Hill
14. Saratoga Performing Arts Center - Saratoga Springs, NY
Why SPAC is One of the Top Outdoor Venues in the US
Since its opening in 1966, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (also known as “SPAC”) has hosted countless musical, theatre, and dance acts. It’s home to the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and it’s a favorite stop for huge bands — particularly, jam bands — on their tours. SPAC is located in the middle of a 2,400-acre nature park and preserve, with geysers and springs within a short hike from the 25,000 capacity venue. It’s the perfect place to spread out your picnic blanket and enjoy a show after a beautiful hike this summer.
Location: 108 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Event Calendar: via SPAC
Tickets: via SPAC
13. Ascend Amphitheater - Nashville, TN
Why Ascend Amphitheater is One of Top Outdoor Venues in the US
In the heart of downtown Nashville along the banks of the Cumberland River, the Ascend Amphitheater is one of the coolest urban outdoor music venues. Concert attendees are treated to a fantastic view of the Nashville skyline, the starry night sky, and an epic show, all at once. The facade on the stage looks like a mix of retro 1920s art deco architecture and futuristic 1980s space-age functionalism, but don’t be fooled — Ascend opened for the first time in 2015. With an intimate capacity around 7,000, there isn’t a bad place to sit in the whole amphitheater. But if you really want an ascendant experience, try to get one of the 100 spots in the VIP boxes, rising above the crowd for a spectacular view of the city and show.
On the 2021 Schedule: Jimmy Buffett, The Black Crowes, Phish, Kings of Leon, NAS, John Legend, Wilco, Modest Mouse, 3 Doors Down, John Legend, Dropkick Murphys
12. KettleHouse Amphitheater - Bonner, MT
Why KettleHouse Amphitheater is One of the Top Outdoor Venues
There are few places in Montana that aren’t breathtakingly beautiful, and the KettleHouse Amphitheater is no exception. Located just outside Missoula on the banks of the Blackfoot River, the amphitheater became an instant hit after its opening in summer 2017. It comfortably fits 4,000 concertgoers to appreciate the spectacular canyon view and how-could-an-artist-this-huge-play-a-venue-this-small? live acts simultaneously. Just so you know: yes, you can fly to Missoula, and the amphitheater is just a short 15-minute drive from the airport. See you there!
On the 2021 Schedule: Brandi Carlile, The Marshall Tucker Band, Wilco & Sleater-Kinney, Primus, Herbie Hancock, Shakey Graves, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Steve Miller Band, Billy Strings
11. Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park - Chicago, IL
Photo: Joe Hendrickson/Shutterstock
Why Millennium Park Pavilion is One of the Top Venues
Architectural revolutionary Frank Gehry strikes again, this time with huge, curved metal slabs peeled back from the stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Located in Millennium Park in the heart of Chicago — with an epic skyline view behind the stage, to boot — the 11,000 capacity venue opened in 2004 and has been hosting incredible concerts ever since, including performances from Robert Plant, Andrew Bird, Bon Iver, Wilco, The Decemberists, and countless nights with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. While the pandemic slowed their 2021 summer schedule, you can tour the venue and park for free and marvel at its architecture — it’s a must-see the next time you’re in the Windy City.
On the 2021 Schedule: Wilco & Sleater-Kinney
10. Shoreline Amphitheatre - Mountain View, CA
Photo: Uladzik Kryhin/Shutterstock
Why Shoreline Amphitheatre is One of the Top Outdoor Music Venues
Everyone thought Bill Graham, the iconic San Francisco promoter, was crazy when he built the futuristic-looking Shoreline Amphitheatre in 1986. Not only was the giant fiberglass tent unprecedented (and nobody knew what it would sound like), but Shoreline was built on the site of a massive landfill in the heart of Silicon Valley! When viewed from above, Shoreline is actually the shape of the Grateful Dead’s “stealie” logo, and after a few performances there, the Dead had figured out how to make it sound wonderful and pack its 22,000 capacity. Floods of fans still fill its giant lawn for huge shows today.
On the 2021 Schedule: The Jonas Brothers, Kiss, The Doobie Brothers, Maroon 5, Florida Georgia Line, Santana + Earth, Backstreet Boys
9. Jones Beach Theater - Wantagh, NY
Photo: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr
Why Jones Beach Theater is one of the Top Outdoor Music Venues
On the shores of Long Island overlooking Zachs Bay, the Jones Beach Theater is a fan-favorite outdoor venue for summer shows. The stage itself juts out into the bay, making it look as though performers are walking on water throughout the night. Opened in 1952 as a venue for musicals, this perfect location was later used for concerts and expanded to fit 15,000 fans. It suffered from severe flooding and structural damage during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, leading to a $20 million renovation, but it was a triumphant moment when concerts resumed for an exciting summer season in 2013. It will take more than a hurricane — or a pandemic, for that matter — to wash away Jones Beach Theater.
8. Greek Theatre - Los Angeles, CA
Photo: Michael Gordon/Shutterstock
Why the Greek Theatre (LA) is One of the Top Outdoor Venues
Not to be confused with Berkeley’s Greek Theatre, “The Greek” in L.A. is another spectacular California outdoor venue. L.A.’s Greek Theatre is situated in Griffith Park; a quiet respite near the center of the sprawling metropolis. Enjoy the park’s dozens of acres, including hiking trails, golfing, and picnic grounds. And while you’re wandering around, you may come to the clearing and discover the theatre — you’d never even know that you’re in the heart of America’s second largest city. Built in 1929 and seating nearly 6,000 guests, the Greek Theatre is a must-see, classic outdoor venue.
On the 2021 Schedule: King Crimson, Joe Bonamassa, Twenty One Pilots, Rufus Wainwright, Smokey Robinson, John Legend, Greta Van Fleet, Deftones, Barenaked Ladies, Alicia Keys, Goo Goo Dolls
7. Alpine Valley Music Theatre - East Troy, WI
Photo: Brett Bergen Photography
Why Alpine Valley is One of the Best Outdoor Music Venues
Nearly equidistant from Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and Rockford, Alpine Valley is the second largest amphitheater in the U.S., with a staggering capacity of around 37,000 guests. Over the years, Alpine Valley has been a favorite venue for huge bands, especially jam bands including the Grateful Dead and Phish, who essentially put it on the map. It has also hosted other legendary acts including Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, and Aerosmith. Over the years, it has opened and closed for shows a few times. The venue was sold to a new owner in 2017, temporarily putting a pause on concerts. It then reopened; however, due to the pandemic, the summer 2021 schedule is still quite bare. Keep an eye out for shows to come back to Alpine Valley soon!
On the 2022 Schedule: Rage Against The Machine & Run The Jewels
6. Starlight Theatre - Kansas City, MO
Photo Courtesy of Starlight Theatre
Why Starlight Theatre is One of the Top Music Venues
One of the few (and one of the largest) self-producing theatres, the Starlight Theatre has a rich history dating back nearly 100 years. Romania’s Queen Marie visited Kansas City in the 1920s, inspiring the city to build an outdoor performance venue. Construction finally began in 1949 and the theatre opened in 1950. Since then, it’s hosted a combination of Broadway musicals and concerts on the stage beneath its iconic castle-like facade. It’s become a mainstay and landmark of Kansas City, and continues to host shows for audiences up to its 8,000 capacity each summer.
On the 2021 Schedule: Jason Mraz, Bill Burr, Pitbull with Iggy Azalea, Matchbox Twenty, Barenaked Ladies, Goo Goo Dolls, Alicia Keys, The Doobie Brothers
5. Dillon Amphitheater - Dillon, CO
Why Dillon Amphitheater is one of the Top Venues
Like the KettleHouse Amphitheater, the Dillon Amphitheater is a relatively recent and remote build. Reopened after expanding and renovating in 2018, there are few venues more beautiful. The 3,600-capacity pavilion and lawn are located on the shore of Lake Dillon in the heart of Summit County, Colorado, about an hour and a half west of Denver. While you sit back and enjoy some of the biggest acts around, you’re surrounded by a spectacular 360-degree view of the Rocky Mountains, with peaks still covered in snow even in July and August. Bear in mind that if you travel from sea-level, your drinks will be twice as effective — just one perk of seeing shows in Colorado. Either way, make sure you stay hydrated, kick back and relax Colorado-style (whatever that means to you — we don’t judge), and enjoy the show.
On the 2021 Schedule: Lettuce, String Cheese Incident, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Melissa Etheridge, Trombone Shorty, Gov't Mule, Phil Lesh & Friends
4. Crosby Theatre - Santa Fe, NM
Why Crosby Theatre is One of the Top Outdoor Venues
Nestled in the Jemez and Sangre De Cristo Mountains just outside Santa Fe, the art capital of the Southwest, the Crosby Theatre boasts a spectacular view and stunning architecture. The audience seating rises like a wave to capture the sounds of the stage under its magnificent curved roof. A small, 2,000-capacity intimate venue, the Crosby has been home to the Santa Fe Opera since its opening in 1957. They don’t host many other genres, but if you’re an opera fan, there’s no better place to see your favorite plays.
On the 2021 Schedule: The Marriage of Figaro, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Lord Cries
3. Hollywood Bowl - Los Angeles, CA
Why Hollywood Bowl is One of the Top Outdoor Music Venues
No venue can match the sparkly, firework flamboyance of the Hollywood Bowl. It’s the country’s largest natural outdoor amphitheater, and since opening in the 1920s, it has become one of the most iconic outdoor venues in the U.S. Different shell designs surround the stage, providing fine-tuned acoustics and a colorful aesthetic when viewed from the expansive 18,000-capacity lawn. The venue exploded with fame when The Beatles performed there in the 1960s, and it has also showcased Fred Astaire, Tina Turner, and Aretha Franklin. Today, the Hollywood Bowl is still one of the most coveted stages for acts from around the world, and it’s also a home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Be sure to check out the free Hollywood Bowl Museum during the day when you go visit.
On the 2021 Schedule: Kamasi Washington, Ziggy Marley, Yo-Yo Ma, H.E.R., Van Morrison, Hall & Oates, Alanis Morissette, Herbie Hancock
2. Gorge Amphitheatre - George, WA
Photo: Al Case/Flickr
Why the Gorge is One of the Top Outdoor Music Venues
Sometimes it’s a good thing when a venue is in the middle-of-nowhere. The Gorge is certainly remote, but it’s situated in such a giant panorama that you’ll never hear anyone complaining about the drive. Instead, it’s the ultimate outdoor-concert destination, complete with a campground alongside the over 20,000-capacity amphitheater. Located on the brink of a — you guessed it — giant gorge, with the Columbia River flowing underneath and the Cascade Mountains majestically sitting on the horizon, countless bands have described their visits to the Gorge as being intensely spiritual. One visit to the Gorge will change your life, and you’ll want to make the trek again forever.
On the 2021 Schedule: Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, The Lumineers, Phish, Dave Matthews Band, Tame Impala, Kiss
1. Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO
Photo: Michael Weintrob
Why Red Rocks is the Top Outdoor Music Venue in the US
Story has it that indigenous tribes used the perfect natural amphitheater of Red Rocks for moonlit rituals for thousands of years. Can you blame them? Then, in the early 1900s, promoters came along and decided to formally incorporate the land into a music venue, building a stage and 10,000-capacity arena seating between the two enormous 300+ foot tall, red sandstone rocks. It opened for shows in 1941 and exploded during the 60s and 70s, beginning with the publicity brought by The Beatles’ performances. Ever since, Red Rocks has been flooded with season after season of concerts from the best bands in the world.
Locals refer to it as a “cathedral of music,” and there is a magic in the air at Red Rocks that simply can’t be found at any other venue. As the sun sets, concertgoers are treated to a breathtaking view of Denver and the surrounding plains, located on the horizon just above the stage. Everyone who’s anyone plays, or has played, at Red Rocks, and until erosion washes it away, it will forever be the greatest outdoor music venue in the U.S. And here’s a fun fact: after headlining a show at Red Rocks, performers are given a small piece of the rock to keep as a souvenir, forever reminding them of (what I assume is) one of the most incredible nights of their entire lives.
You can visit Red Rocks during the day and hike around its many trails, circling around martian-looking red rock formations. You also can visit the free museum, which is sort of like a mini Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, listing all the performers who have graced the sandstone stage.
If you only visit one venue on this list, please do us both a favor and make it Red Rocks. Staring up at the legendary rock pillars will be the capstone to your outdoor music venue pilgrimage.
On the 2021 Schedule: literally everyone, including The Avett Brothers, Caamp, Tipper, Widespread Panic, Greensky Bluegrass, Deadmau5, Brandi Carlile, Wilco & Sleater-Kinney, Wu-Tang Clan, The Black Crowes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Modest Mouse
What are Your Top Outdoor Venues in the US?
Now that you’ve explored the venues, it’s time to get out there and go see some music! What concerts are you looking forward to this summer? Did we miss any ‘secret’ venues that you love and expect to become popular over the next few years? Leave a comment below!