As the warm months draw near, it’s that carefree time to enrich ourselves in an annual right of summer – outdoor shows. Visiting our favorite ampitheaters, sheds, or parks to experience live music in the great outdoors, is a fine day or night spent. Although the dark arenas of winters past provide an engulfing sound, there is just something dramatic and inspiring about the experience of an outdoor show, not to mention a days worth of tailgating that comes with the ticket price.
Glide has chosen our Top 10 U.S. outdoor venues(stadiums not included) in the medium to large capacity seating ranks. We’ve made our decisions based on the qualities of ambience, mystique, environment, sight, location, history and most importantly – sound. Whether your show of choice is Lollapalooza, Ozzfest, Pearl Jam, Phish, The Dead, Jimmy Buffett, Aerosmith, R.E.M. or Britney Spears; we believe these venues are simply the best.
1. The Gorge
George, WashingtonCapacity - 20,000
With perhaps the most dramatic physical surroundings of any outdoor venue, The Gorge is almost a mini Grand Canyon. Nestled along the Columbia River in central Washington state, this destination is a surreal natural experience; put together with the unobstructed views, open air seating, natural stands and onsite camping. When the sun sets behind the stage over the river in the early evening with your favorite band playing, you’ll surely say to yourself –"it doesn't get any better than this." The now annual Sasquatch! Festival at the Gorge, gives nearby Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival a run for its eclectic offerings.
2. Red Rocks Ampitheatre
Capacity – 9,240
Located 30 minutes outside of Denver in the Rocky Mountain foothills, Red Rocks has been serving up pristine acoustics for decades. Originally known as the Garden of Angels, this geologically formed open air Ampitheatre provides a panoramic view of the Mile High City, alongside a geological wonderland consisting of two, three hundred-foot monoliths that ensure an untarnished sound wave. The venue has lent it’s name to an array of legendary performances; a place where U2 played it’s famous 1983 Red Rocsk gig, that later became the rainy concert film Under A Blood Red Sky.
3. Verizon Wireless Music Center
Noblesville, IndianaCapacity - 18,244
Build it and they will come. Not even a harsh recent corporate name change can dent the experience of visiting this field of dreams huddled in the cornfields of central Indiana. Now in it’s 16th season, the venue formally known as Deer Creek, is quickly becoming a destination of legend, as it's most favorably experienced on multiple night concert runs, when you can partake in the widespread camping experience that comfortably creates a society of its own. Deer Creek also seems to bring out the best in show from the legion of grand acts who make this a regular stop on their summer tour schedule.
4. Shoreline Ampitheatre
Mountain View, California
Capacity – 22,000
Hailed as the biggest and most beautiful tent in the world, Shoreline was opened in 1986 under the direction of Bill Graham Presents. Often referred to as the Grateful Dead’s "home, " due to their vast amount of performances played here in the last nine years of their thirty year run. This big top venue sports a generous lawn section with great sight lines, that never make you feel far from the stage. Home to Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit shows, Shoreline holds a Bay Area mystique that reflects in the area’s psychedelic hey day, despite its foundation in the urban sprawl of Silicon Valley.
5. Alpine Valley Music Theatre
East Troy, WisconsinCapacity – 35,000
With an enormous lawn section, Alpine Valley, sitting proud in dairy country, is high on volume – musically and capacity. With a freestanding band shell, you can view the stage obstruction free within the large picnic friendly lawn; which despite its size, fails to create an overwhelmingly remote force. Located close to Chicago and Milwaukee, Alpine Valley sports a rolling hill setting that feels genuinely off the beaten path, alongside a typically down home relaxed vibe.
6. Greek Theater
Capacity – 8,000
In an area where every building is named after a telecom company, the Greek Theater is a trusty throwback venue. With its classic marble pillars in the backdrop, the Greek sports a cozy vibe, residing next to lush trees and an open sky. The oval shaped theater supports a roomy floor with tier seats proudly rising to the occasion. The acoustics are always impeccable, making this landmark on the University of California campus a memorable and inspiring concert experience.
7. The Backyard
Capacity – 5,000
Established in 1993, the Backyard is a natural open-air amphitheater in the heart of one of the country’s most musically rich cities. Under the shade of ancient live oaks, the "yard" sports fine acoustics alongside a cozy vibe, that lives up to its namesake. Hosting many big name acts within its relatively small surroundings, along with a fair amount of general admission performances; this Texas favorite helps create a carefree and non- restrictive fun atmosphere.
8. Coors Ampitheatre
Chula Vista, CaliforniaCapacity - 20,000
Although just miles from the Mexico border, Coors or Chula Vista as it’s been known amongst concert goers is the epitome of Southern California coolness. A nearby ocean breeze, great sunsets, friendly staff and plenty of laid back karma greet concert goers. With 10,000 reserved seats and 10,000 on a fine looking landscaped lawn; Coors provides for excellent sound with an unobstructed open air lay out, that makes one wonder why every concert can't be outside.
9. Starlight Theatre
Kansas City, MissouriCapacity – 7,900
Broadway musicals under the summer sky? That’s right, the Starlight Theatre is the largest outdoor venue of its kind, showcasing a variety of the performing arts and a full array of summer rock concerts. Although it holds an uncanny family ambience, being right next to the KC Zoo and snug within in the city’s Swope Park, the fifty plus year old Starlight provides substance and maturity. With just seats and no lawn, the venue hosts ideal sound opportunities and gracious sight lines.
10. Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Saratoga Springs, New York
Capacity – 20,000
Located in the heart of Spa State Park in upstate New York, "SPAC" is a gentle green ampitheater that hosts an abundance of rock, ballet and opera shows, along with the annual Freihofer’s Jazz Festival. Although the pavilion provides for an abundance of splendid seats, the lawn holds a blind view of the stage. However the giant video screens and top-notch sound make any lawn spot a fine place to relax. The parking lots are quite residing, while an abundance of flowing streams, trees and natural grassy areas surround this Greek revival influenced layout, making one wish they brought a toga to the party.