7 iconic outdoor concert venues to visit in the US

Oh, the magic of hearing your favorite band perform under the stars

Joni Mitchell performs in concert at Gorge Amphitheatre
Dave Matthews Band has played at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington state 73 times
(Image credit: Gary Miller / Getty Images)

The band is only part of attraction at these seven open-air amphitheaters. Visitors are also drawn to these venues for their stunning views, great acoustics and storied histories.

Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California

Fireworks over the white bandshell at the Hollywood Bowl

Every Fourth of July, fireworks illuminate the sky above the Hollywood Bowl

(Image credit: Matthew Imaging / WireImage )

History has been made on this stage. It's where Frank Sinatra crooned to a crowd in 1943, The Beatles made their Los Angeles debut in 1964, The Rolling Stones rocked in 1966 and Prince jammed in 1997. Throughout the year, the Bowl hosts big-name concerts and Los Angeles Philharmonic performances, plus perennial favorites like the Fourth of July fireworks spectacular. Visitors can see the iconic white bandshell from every vantage point, but if money is no object, splurge for box seats, which have tables and are surrounded by wooden partitions. You can also preorder picnic boxes or bring your own — for dinner and a show.  

Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado

Throngs of people at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Red Rocks Amphitheatre has near perfect acoustics

(Image credit: Matt McClain / Getty Images)

At Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the scenery is as much a draw as the acts. The venue sits between two giant rock formations, Ship Rock and Creation Rock, which create dramatic views. Major performers often stop here. Arctic Monkeys, Hozier, Sting and Brandi Carlile were among the recent performers, and during the summer, events like Film on the Rocks and Yoga on the Rocks also bring crowds. The acoustics are close to perfect, and that's due to both nature and design. Benjamin Burke, a professor at the Colorado School of Mines, told Discover Magazine the stage infrastructure and surrounding rocks "really send the sound outwards to the audience. The [rock] walls essentially keep that sound in, without there being a roof where there'd have to be sound deadening."

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Gorge Amphitheater in Grant County, Washington

Thousands of people attend a concert at Gorge Amphitheatre

The Columbia River flows past the Gorge Amphitheatre

(Image credit: Suzi Pratt / WireImage)

The Gorge Amphitheatre, with its awesome views of the Columbia River, is more than just a concert venue. It's also a gathering place for nature lovers, and there's room for pretty much everyone. The amphitheater has a capacity of 27,500, with plenty of lawn seating for those who want a little more space. Dave Matthews Band has played at the Gorge 73 times, and Pearl Jam recorded its seven-disc box set "Live at the Gorge 05/06" there at the start of the band's fall 2005 tour. You can also camp at the Gorge, with levels ranging from standard (15' x 25' campsites, portable toilets and hand-washing stations) to Oasis, a more glamorous option with furnished canvas tents, 24/7 concierge service and lounge access. 

Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California

A band performs at sunset on the stage at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, California

The Greek Theater in Berkeley dates back to the early 1900s

(Image credit: Sterling Munksgard )

A concert at the Greek Theatre is an experience. This venue on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley is the longest-running outdoor amphitheater in the United States, and Joni Mitchell, the Grateful Dead and Radiohead are among the acts to have graced its stage. The Greek Revival theater is a national historic landmark and has lovely views of campus landmarks and the San Francisco skyline. There are tons of great restaurants in the area, like Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen, the East Bay Spice Company and Gordo Taqueria, but for a quick meal, snack or glass of sparkling wine at the Greek, head to the North Plaza and Terrace areas. 

Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois

The stage at Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park in Chicago

Free concerts draw crowds to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion every summer

(Image credit: Interim Archives / Getty Images)

The Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park is an eye-catcher, framed by stainless steel ribbons linked to crisscrossing steel pipes. There are 4,000 fixed seats as well as a massive Great Lawn, and the pavilion's state-of-the-art sound system was developed specifically to "mimic the acoustics of an indoor concert hall by distributing enhanced sound quality" equally over both areas, "creating the effect of reverberation." During the summer, free concerts are held twice a week, featuring a range of genres. This year, performers included Big Freedia, Stephen Marley and the Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra. 

Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland

Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys sings on stage at the Merriweather Post Pavilion

Arctic Monkeys performed at the Merriweather Post Pavilion this summer

(Image credit: Josh Sisk / For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Merriweather Post Pavilion was built with nature in mind. Another Frank Gehry design, it's tucked away in an area of parkland known as the Symphony Woods. Bands that have passed through Merriweather include Led Zeppelin, Green Day, Foo Fighters and Florence and The Machine. It was singer Jack Johnson who inspired the venue to go green: Food waste is now composted and solar panels were installed to power the house lights. The venue also has extensive food and beverage menus, with 21 beers on tap.

Moody Amphitheater in Austin, Texas

An aerial view at night of Moody Amphitheater in Austin, Texas

The Moody Amphitheater is at the center of the 11-acre Waterloo Park

(Image credit: Rick Kern / Getty Images)

The Moody Amphitheater is the hub of Waterloo Park, an 11-acre space filled with walking and biking trails and gardens. Concerts are held year-round, and 2024's lineup is already coming together, with the Austin Blues Festival set for April 27 and 28 and Tate McRae performing on July 17. The Moody Amphitheater isn't just a concert venue: Educational and cultural events and community festivals are also held on its Great Lawn. 

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