From big to small, natural to manmade, the United States is peppered with a myriad of places that you can go out and see live music. But what are the best? I’ve seen concerts in 17 of the 50 states and here’s my list of personal favorites. If I’ve left one out that’s on your list, let me know.
Alpine Valley, East Troy, WI: Alpine Valley is a Ski Area by Winter and a Golf Resort/Music Venue in the Summer. Located a couple hours from Chicago, IL, Alpine’s appeal is it’s natural amphitheater built into the Wisconsin hills. A truly beautiful venue with views of the Wisconsin hills from the lawn. The entrance is on top of the lawn area, making ingress and egress from the venue simple. Parking is ample, views are breathtaking.
Deer Creek Music Center, Noblesville, IN: Now called Klipsch Music Center, Deer Creek was one of Jerry Garcia’s favorite venues to play. Giant parking lots, plenty of campgrounds nearby and multiple ways in and out of the facility make it an excellent place to see a show. The wide lawn provides excellent chill space and with many big screens there’s not a bad seat in the place.
The Gorge, George, WA: Can’t imagine a more beautiful setting along the Columbia River in rural Washington State than The Gorge. A natural amphitheater built on the banks of the river, the stage sits due West of the seating to provide an amazing sunset backdrop to the show. It’s a lot of walking from the lot to the show, but it’s well worth the hike. Camping on site and nearby gives the concert goer the opportunity to enjoy the show without having to haul ass out afterwards.
Red Rocks, Morrison, CO: Founded in 1906, a natural rock amphitheater built just West of Denver, CO, Red Rocks is by far one of the coolest places to see a show. Red Rocks is surrounded by 3 huge natural rock structures called Ship Rock, Creation Rock and Stage Rock. Beyond the stage is a wonderful view of the lights of Denver and being out in the Colorado countryside, when the sun goes down, the night is full of stars. There’s tons of parking but only one good lot…the upper one. If you don’t get in there, you’re walking and climbing stairs seemingly forever. Climb to the top of the venue and just stand and look out at the view and you’ll understand why there’s nothing like a Red Rocks show!
The Greek Theater, Los Angeles, CA: Something about an outdoor venue in the woods in the middle of Los Angeles makes the Greek a cool place to see a show. The sound is great and the setting is Griffith Park. If you’re lucky enough to score the VIP treatment, the Redwood Decks offer a cool place to chill before the show, between acts and afterwards. Primo venue to catch celebrity sightings.
House of Blues, Las Vegas, NV: Located inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, the House of Blues is similar to the other House of Blues venues with one exception, it’s in the middle of a Las Vegas Casino! Ample floor space downstairs with an arena seating second floor gives the concert goer options, all good. Walk out of the venue and you’re smack in the middle of the Mandalay Bay Casino and very close to the elevators up to your room. Stay there if you’re going to a show there. You can go up to your room during set breaks to re-fuel and avoid the high dollar drinks at the hotel bars.
Caspar Inn, Caspar, CA: This is the coolest little venue in Mendocino County. Located across the street from the amazing Northern California coastline, from the front porch of the Caspar, you can see the ocean pound against the coast. Caspar Inn was a brothel during the California Gold Rush and still offers 10 rooms for rent above the bar. The old style wooden everything in the Caspar will throw you back into the days of old. Small venue with huge amounts of character. In business since 1906, the Caspar shows no signs of slowing down in the 100+ years they’ve been rockin’ the No. Cal. coast.
Waikiki Shell, Honolulu, HI: Steps to the beach, Diamondhead in the distance and walking distance to everything in Honolulu that’s worth seeing, The Waikiki Shell is smack dab in the middle of the action. Have lunch at Duke’s, sunset Mai Tais at the Royal Hawaiian and a concert at the Shell. Ah, Waikiki!
Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA: Built under the guidance of the legendary Bill Graham, Shoreline is a 22,000 seat behemoth of a venue. With the looks of a Ringling Brothers circus tent, Shoreline stands as the home field for the Grateful Dead but has hosted many a rockin’ good show. Getting in and out can be a nightmare, but once you’re there, you don’t want to leave. Climb up to the top of the lawn and find the upper lawn bar. From there you can see everything and not have to wander too far for a refill!
Buckeye Lake, Hebron, OH: Buckeye Lake is nothing more than a truck stop en route to Columbus from Pittsburgh. Formerly an amusement park, this natural hillside bowl offers a true country atmosphere with more than ample parking and camping around the venue. Barely a venue and more of a stage at the base of a hill, Buckeye Lake is a really down home and cool place to see a show.