There’s nothing as powerful as a great live music experience and Tampa has many options to offer those looking to check out the local music scene. From a 20,000 seat outdoor amphitheater to four tables in a dive bar, 10 Best has got you covered with this list of venues.
If you’re looking for a taste of old Florida, check out Skipper’s Smokehouse. They feature national and local acts that play an eclectic assortment of music in their infamous outdoor concert area, the “Skipperdome.”
Perhaps you’re more in the mood for a casual bar that just happens to showcase local talent like Red Star Rock Bar, in trendy Seminole Heights, or the Orpheum in Ybor City.
You’ll find that many live music venues are clustered in the Ybor City area, but terrific places to hear live music can be found throughout Tampa such as Tampa’s version of CBGBs, the Brass Mug, that features heavy metal and rock bands and is located in north Tampa.
If you are looking for more cultural offerings, Tampa hosts a symphony orchestra and opera company as well! Check out the Straz Center for Performing Arts. A world-class facility located in the heart of downtown. Whatever kind of live music experience you’re looking for, you can find it in Tampa.
Opened in 1982, this live music venue is known as "Tampa Bay's Music Core." Although it once headlined bands like pre-stardom Green Day and No Doubt, The Mug is now a punk/metal scene popular among locals and University of South Florida students. Located in a strip mall in north Tampa, the facility is a dimly lit hole-in-the-wall, so don't expect frills (but who wants frills at a metal concert, anyway?). The stage is huge so the bands are happy and that's the most important thing about this venue. Make sure to bring earplugs so you can get close enough to feel the stage thumping. (813-972-8152)
Red Star Rock Bar
Red Star Rock Bar is located in Tampa's trendy Seminole Heights neighborhood. Occupying a small narrow storefront on Florida Avenue, what it lacks in size inside, it makes up for with an outdoor patio and stage area outside. The decor is distinctly rock and roll with plenty of red and black accented with leopard print and images of rock legends on the wall. Their calendar is packed with events every day of the week and live local bands play almost every Friday and Saturday beginning at 8pm. While there is no kitchen, Red Star offers a rotating schedule of some of Tampa's best food trucks. (813-237-0012)
Hard Rock Cafe
The Hard Rock Cafe is located in Tampa's Seminole Hard Rock Casino, the 6th largest casino in the world. Featuring the famous Hard Rock experience, Tampa's edition delivers in spades with an impressive elevated stage surrounded by table seating. Opposite the stage is a large bar area and there is also an outdoor patio and bar. Light and sound systems are state-of-the-art. Live entertainment is presented Wednesdays through Saturdays starting at 8:30pm. Music covers the entire rock spectrum from new original music to golden oldies to Island favorites. DJs mash it up on Friday's and Saturday's until 4am. (1-866-502-7529)
The RITZ Ybor
This poll-topping venue is hailed by many as the premier spot in Tampa, Florida for live music. Originally built in 1917, the RITZ underwent a $2 million renovation and now boasts three magnificent rooms, a grand foyer, multiple full-service bars and state-of-the-art sound and lighting. The venue is large enough to bring in top music industry names like Lady Gaga and Interpol but intimate enough to provide excellent sight-lines and electrifying musician-audience interaction. Ticket prices are reasonable and there is a good drink selection. General admission only and no seating in the concert area. So, get there early and wear comfortable shoes! (813-247-2555)
New World Brewery
Granted, this tucked away bar may be a touch more avant-garde than the average Ybor offering, but New World is still worth checking out if you deem yourself a fan of live music and good beer. Indeed, the groovy little shack books a wide range of acts from week to week, and it wouldn't be at all odd to stop in on one night and see an up-and-coming alt-rock group only to come back the following night to find folks nodding their heads to cool fusion jazz. Performances take place most Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. As for the libations, this is one of the few places in town that can boast about their vast selection of local and international beers. (813-248-4969)
Rock, jazz, ska, dubstep, hip-hop, indie, metal, reggae – the Tampa, Florida live music scene doesn't get more varied than this. The Crowbar, a local fave strung with Christmas lights, offers a clean, intimate space in which concertgoers can feel completely absorbed by the music. Bar service is consistently stellar, and if your eardrums need a break, you can pamper them on the quiet outdoor patio. Open mic nights and karaoke are also well-loved here. Cover varies from free to $10, so it's a very reasonable price to pay for enjoying live, original music. (813-241-8600)
David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts
The Straz Center is Tampa's world-class center for the performing arts that hosts most of the area's major cultural performances. Here you can enjoy performances from the Florida Orchestra and Opera Tampa as well as popular music greats such as Lena Horn and the Isley Brothers. The Straz also hosts a full calendar of Broadway musicals. The facility is modern and beautiful with a variety of venues. The largest and most impressive is the 2,610 seat Carol Morsani Hall that features state-of-the-art acoustics and a 120 foot stage. In addition to another, smaller concert hall, the 268 seat Jaeb Theater can be set up cabaret style for more intimate performances. ((813) 229-7827)
Devoted to nurturing live musical acts, this club supports both local and national performers. The sound system is first-rate and, on nights when the DJs run things, there's a dance floor for those who feel inclined to move and groove. Drink specials are offered during the week, and there's a nice selection of draft beers as well. If you're curious about what Tampa's music scene can offer, drop in for the evening and check out the talent and the atmosphere. Among the name acts who have performed here are Juliana Hatfield, Make Up, and Michelle Malone. (813-248-9500)
MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds
MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly Live Nation & Ford Amphitheater) is Tampa Bay's largest outdoor concert venue with a capacity of 20,000. The biggest names in the music industry play here as well as up-and-coming acts. The large stage accommodates all the but the biggest shows and most seats provide a good view. Seating is mostly covered and concerts go off rain or shine. More affordable tickets are available for lawn seating at the rear of the venue, however this area is not protected from the elements so you take your chances. Food and beverage concessions are available including some alcohol sales. ((813) 740-2446)
A legendary local hangout, Skipper's Smokehouse is wonderfully Old Florida and attracts a faithful crowd of regulars. The decor is perfectly done in Florida-shack style, looking like it's made of corrugated tin and brightly painted plywood held together with a few nails. Although it started out as a smokehouse, Skipper's is now renowned for its seafood and booking some of the top bands in the area. Known as the "Skipperdome," the outside music venue welcomes performers of all musical genres who play to appreciative crowds beneath moss-draped oaks. On any given night you can enjoy rock, soul, jazz, zydeco, blues, ska and reggae under the stars. (813-971-0666)
About Skye Rodgers
Skye has lived in Tampa for over 16 years and spends much of her time exploring the region and discovering its hidden treasures. As a native of Canada, Skye has happily embraced the no cold, no snow climate and enjoys basking on the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and navigating the waters of Tampa Bay.
When not out exploring Tampa, Skye is a freelance writer and public relations professional. She currently provides public relations counsel on a freelance basis to non-profits, social enterprises and small business.
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