The sun is shining, the temperatures are climbing and bands are going on their summer tours, so what better time to catch your favorite act then when they perform in some of the best outdoor concert venues in America? Outdoor concert venues let you relax in the sunshine and throw back a cold drink, all while taking in the exciting sounds of summer, and there is no shortage of places to go. From the hot summer sands of California to the muggy temperatures of the Midwest, there's a perfect venue for everyone with their own amenities and perks that attract concertgoers from all over the country.
Red Rocks Amphitheater - Morrison, Colorado
Often known as the ultimate outdoor music mecca in America, Red Rocks has been home to some of the most prolific performances in American history, including those from the likes of international phenomenons like U2, The Beatles and Sting. The amphitheater itself is a geological phenomenon as the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world and has recently been named a national historic monument. The venue is embedded in majestic mountains and stone monoliths and gives a breathtaking view of the red Colorado rocks where it derives its name from. It is located in Red Rocks Park, which has much more to offer than just music. Take a nice relaxing hike or take in the local animal and plant life before a show. Located in Morrison, Colorado, just West of Denver, the main stage consists of a large, tilted, disc-shaped rock in the background, a huge vertical rock angled outwards from stage right, several large outcrops angled outwards from stage left and a seating area for up to 9,450 people in between. A concert at Red Rocks is sure to be a memorable experience for even the most veteran concertgoer.
The Gorge Amphitheater - George, Washington
Perfectly situated over the Columbia River, the Gorge Amphitheater is considered to be one of the most premier and scenic concert venues not only in the U.S., but also in the world. It offers lawn-terrace seating and concert-friendly weather all while showcasing one of the most spectacular views of the river valley. The amphitheater seats over 20,000 and has recently come under the ownership of concert juggernaut Live Nation. It has showcased some of the best talent in the business, like Pearl Jam who recorded their enormous box set at the venue, and continues to bring in the top touring acts in the country summer after summer. Along with hosting some of the best traveling shows, their flagship festival is called Sasquatch! and takes place every May. In addition to regular parking, travelers wishing to extend their experience beyond the show can pay an additional fee for camping passes and spend the night rocking out under the stars.
Alpine Valley Music Theater - East Troy, Wisconsin
If you're looking for one of the most enjoyable outdoor concert experiences in the country, look no further than Wisconsin's Alpine Valley Music Theater. Summertime in Wisconsin means bright sun, low humidity and clean air, which makes for a great night of good music. Every major rock act in the business makes a stop through Alpine Valley in the summer, including Dave Matthews who has long considered the theater as his favorite place to play. Alpine Valley can hold up to 37,000 music lovers and features a characteristic wooden roof covering the 7,500-seat pavilion and a sprawling lawn. The seasonal venue was built in 1977 and until 1993 when the monstrous San Manuel Amphitheater was constructed in California, it was the largest amphitheater in the United States. Personal cameras are also allowed in the venue for those wishing to document their concert going experience and parking is included in the ticket price, so unless you want to upgrade to VIP, you don't have to worry about bringing the extra cash. Because the venue is located roughly equidistant between Madison, Milwaukee, Rockford, and Chicago, it draws a large regional crowd as well as others from around the country and has a summer line-up boasting Jimmy Buffet and Pearl Jam.
Nikon at Jones Beach Theater - Wantagh, New York
Located in the beautiful Jones Beach State Park area of Wantagh, New York, the Nikon at Jones Beach is a primary summer stop for every major act in the New York Metropolitan area and along with the PNC Bank Arts Center, is one of the two major outdoor arenas in the area. The stage is surrounded by the open water of New York's Great South Bay and boats passing by often stop for a quick listen on show nights. It was originally opened in 1952 as the Jones Beach Marine Theater, and had 8,200 seats to host musicals. The theater has now expanded to hold over 15,000 people and hosts a variety of musical acts including Def Leppard and Hall & Oates. While Jones Beach does allow personal cameras, it has a pretty strict no-alcohol policy except for in designated VIP areas and also doesn't allow bags or backpacks, so be sure to travel lightly. On the plus side though, there's not a bad seat in the house. If your seats are on the floor, you've got a perfect view of the show and if you're up at the top, you've got the stage, the big screens and the water to gaze at.
Merriweather Post Pavilion - Columbia, Maryland
If you're looking to visit a venue with a colorful history, there is perhaps no better place than the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead have all played at the pavilion in the past and the venue continues to attract some of the biggest names in music, especially from the indie scene. Performers this year include breakout British rockers Mumford and Sons and The Decemberists, in addition to big tours like the Vans Warped Tour. In fact, the artists themselves are such big fans of the venue that rock group Animal Collective even named their album "Meriweather Post Pavilion," solidifying its legendary status. It also provides for beautiful scenery, nestled in 40 acres of forest, right between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, making it easily accessible for many metro area music lovers. Originally built to be the home of the National Symphony Orchestra, Merriweather was designed by the renowned architect Frank Gehry, who is best known for defying architectural conventions, and the natural outdoor setting is one that can't be matched.