10 Stunning Outdoor Concert Venues in the U.S.

Sunset with a clear blue sky behind the lit stage, audience, and red rocks at Red Rocks Amiptheatre
Audiences at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado enjoy great acoustics and exceptional views during live performances.

John P Kelly / Getty Images

Concert venues are usually defined by their list of past acts and ability to draw current chart-toppers. In a few instances, though, a stage’s surroundings can steal the spotlight, like these outdoor concert venues where the amazing views and idyllic natural surroundings are an important part of the experience. Some of these forest, seaside, or mountain-top venues have become bucket-list locations for performers and fans alike while others are still relatively unknown to all but the most dedicated music fans.

Here are 10 outdoor concert venues in the U.S. with amazing natural surroundings.

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Jones Beach Theater (New York)

Aerial view of Nikon at Jones Beach Theater with water and a blue sky behind the stage from the back of the seating area

Kevin Kane / Contributor / Getty Images

First opened as Jones Beach Marine Theater in 1952, this Long Island amphitheater is owned by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Sponsored since 2017 by Northwell Health, this 15,000-seat venue is known as Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater.

The original structure included a stage on the water, and performers had to be transported there by boat. Jones Beach has played a major part in the careers of some of America’s best-known acts. The summer brings shows from popular names in pop and rock.

The music is not, however, the only reason to make the trip. The seating area overlooks panoramas of the adjacent Zachs Bay, the state park, and 6.5 miles of beach on Jones Beach Island. The island is connected to Long Island by several ocean parkways.

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Red Rocks Amphitheatre (Colorado)

small groups of people walking around Red Rocks Amphitheatre on a bright, sunny day with one of the namesake large red rocks in the background and a blue sky with light clouds above

Daveynin / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

This venue’s namesake sandstone slabs create ideal acoustics for concerts. Located in Morrison, not far from Denver, Red Rocks hosted its first performance in 1906 and has been the location for a wide variety of acts over the years. The early 20th-century performances were held on a temporary stage, and the amphitheater itself opened in 1941. Despite its notoriety, this is a relatively small venue: It seats only 9,500 people. 

The cinematic surroundings, easily visible from the 6,500 feet of elevation, steal the show at Red Rocks, but the property consists of much more than the amphitheater. Red Rocks Park covers 738 acres, and in 2015, Red Rocks Park, including its amphitheater, was named a National Historic Landmark.

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Gorge Amphitheatre (Washington)

view of crowd sitting on grassy hill facing Gorge Amphitheatre below with Columbia River and mountains in background

Daniel / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

The Gorge Amphitheatre opened in George, Washington, in 1986. This venue is conveniently located about 150 miles from Seattle and a similar distance from Spokane. The theater overlooks the Columbia River, the Cascade foothills, and the venue's namesake, the Columbia River Gorge.

Because of its location, the Gorge Amphitheatre is often used for multiday festivals. Fans can stay at the campground adjacent to the venue. With a seating capacity of over 20,000, the Gorge features top performers.

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Hollywood Bowl (California)

View looking down at Hollywood Bowl from top of seating area with mountains and blue sky in the background

Keith Roper / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Perhaps slightly less scenic but certainly more famous than some of the other locations on this list, the Hollywood Bowl is in the Hollywood Hills. The easily recognizable Hollywood Sign is in the background behind the iconic bandshell. The “bowl” in the title refers to the natural depression in which the venue was built during the 1920s. The capacity is approximately 18,000, but in the first years of existence, much smaller audiences sat on temporary benches and the acts played on makeshift stages.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic plays its summer season here, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association oversees the venue’s operations. Mainstream musical acts are on the calendar, and legends like the Rolling Stones, Louis Armstrong, Elton John, Ella Fitzgerald, and the Doors are a part of the Bowl’s history. An on-site museum provides insight into past performers.

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Ravinia Park Pavilion (Illinois)

View of Ravinia Pavillion with yellow flowers and shade trees in the foreground between concert-goers and the pavillion

Krystyna Cygielska / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Ravinia Park hosts what has become America’s oldest outdoor music festival. The Ravinia Festival, which takes place during the summertime (from June through September), hosted its first event in 1905. The park, in Highland Park in northern Chicagoland, is named after the shoreside ravines that run to nearby Lake Michigan. During the summer, different tents are set up inside the 36-acre green space, but the main stage is the 3,400-seat Pavilion, an outdoor theater with both traditional and lawn seating.

The lawns, gardens, and wooded landscapes make this seem more like parkland than a music venue. Indeed, attendees will often choose to sit on the lawns with a picnic while listening to the music. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a regular at the festival grounds, though the calendar has a wide range of genres, including folk, jazz, blues, pop, and rock. Ravinia hosts approximately 120 events per year.

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Mountain Winery (California)

View of Mountain Winery with multi-level seating, historic buildings, and large pine trees with blue sky and white clouds above

David Hartwig / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Mountain Winery was founded in California’s Santa Clara Valley in the early 1900s by famed winemaker Paul Masson. After damage caused by the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 and later Prohibition, production stopped, and the winery took a hiatus. In the 1950s, new owners built a concert bowl and started a music series with the surrounding farmland and classic architecture as a backdrop for the performances. Famous acts like Ray Charles, Diana Ross, and Willie Nelson played this stage over the years.

The bowl is an intimate space, with seating for only 2,500 people. The theater is framed by the original winery building, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Because the location has a higher elevation, attendees can enjoy panoramas of the Santa Clara Valley as well as see on stage.

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Wolf Trap National Park (Virginia)

Daytime view of the audience seated in front of the Filene Center, a two story wooden structure and performance venue at Wolf Trap National Park

Ron Cogswell / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

National parks are not usually associated with concerts, but concerts are the main events at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Fairfax County, Virginia. Philanthropist Catherine Filene Shouse donated the land to the National Park Service in the 1960s because she wanted to protect it from suburban sprawl. Originally called Wolf Trap Farm Park (the name was changed in 2002), the property was the first, and remains the only, national park for performing arts.

Wolf Trap’s main stage is the Filene Center, a partially covered space that seats around 7,000. Half of the attendees sit in a covered pavilion, and half can sit on the lawns behind this area. Performances have included operas, folk music festivals, ballet, jazz, and symphonies (including performances by the National Symphony Orchestra). Besides the Filene Center, Wolf Trap has a children’s theater.

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Mishawaka Amphitheatre (Colorado)

Aerial view of night performance at Mishawaka stage and performers lit in red, pink, and blue spotlights with audience members below

Massat and Sunny Side Productions / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Located in the mountains about a half-hour from Fort Collins, Colorado, the Mishawaka Amphitheatre (“the Mish”) has been hosting concerts since 1916. The venue is on a bank of the Cache la Poudre River. Shows take place on a small, log-cabin-like stage, where up to 1,000 people can enjoy the river and mountains that are clearly visible in the background.

The Mish also has a restaurant, which is open year-round. Despite its rural location, the venue attracts top-tier talent. Joan Baez, George Clinton, Jonny Lang, and other folk, rock, and blues acts have taken the stage here. The venue also books local and regional acts from Fort Collins and Colorado’s other local music scenes.

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Tanglewood (Massachusetts)

Crowd gathered on the green lawn in front of Tanglewood, a cream-colored curved building surrounded by tall green trees with a blue sky and a few white clouds above

Paul Marotta / Getty Images

Located in the Berkshire Hills of west-central Massachusetts, Tanglewood has been the summer base for the Boston Symphony Orchestra since the 1930s. Because of its history and its musical training programs, this estate is most often associated with classical music. However, it also hosts pop, jazz, and folk acts.

Tanglewood has venues with indoor and covered seating as well as additional lawn seating. The older Koussevitzky Music Shed (1938) and newer Seiji Ozawa Hall (1994) allow for lawn seating during the summertime. Smaller venues, such as the Chamber Music Hall, also host concerts, and sometimes students from one of the music academies will perform directly on the lawn.

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Empire Polo Grounds (California)

Aerial view of sunset over Coachella Music and Art Fesetival with a crowd of people facing toward a lit stage with palm trees and mountains in the distance

Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

The Empire Polo Grounds, as its name suggests, is a facility for polo matches. Located in Riverside County, about 45 minutes from Palm Springs and two hours from Los Angeles, Empire has leased its grounds since the 1990s to the concert company that controls the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and its country music counterpart, the Stagecoach Festival. Coachella, one of the world’s most famous and profitable festivals, has been held there since 1999. The grounds have also hosted one-off festivals. 

The Coachella Valley is a desert surrounded by the San Bernardino, Santa Rosa, and San Jacinto mountain ranges. This means that there are views in every direction and little on the valley floor, besides stages and tents, to obstruct those panoramas.