We're finally deep into spring, which means it's almost that time to grab your beach blanket, pay for some grossly overpriced beers and chill out on the lawn to listen to your favorite band.
Outdoor concerts are one of the greatest aspects of summer, and not just because they offer a chance to soak up some rays while listening to tunes. The acoustics of outdoor venues are often far superior, because with nothing for the sound to bounce off of, the music sounds more pure.
But not all venues are created equal, and the following 10 are worth a visit no matter what performance you're going to see:
Red Rocks Amphitheatre | Morrison, Colo.
I still remember the first time I walked into Red Rocks. Music was playing, then-illegal smoke was drifting through the air, and I turned around to see the two massive amber stone monoliths that went from the stage to the end of the crowd of 10,000, and thought “this is heaven.” And that’s because, God – more or less – built Red Rocks. Seriously. Kind of.
The amphitheater, situated at nearly 6,500 ft above sea level and part of a state park, is a naturally formed venue nestled between two 300-ft slabs of rock with a view of Denver in the background. And yes, the acoustics are naturally perfect.
Gorge Amphitheatre | George, Wash.
When it comes to the best outdoor concert venue in the U.S., the two that are always mentioned at the top of the list by diehard concertgoers (you know, those people that follow Phish or Dave Matthews Band around all summer) are Red Rocks and The Gorge.
Twice as big as its unofficial rival, this 20,000-seat venue is the embodiment of pristine: a converted vineyard with a stage perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Columbia River and the Columbia Gorge Canyon, surrounded by verdant forest and sweeping vistas of the gorge. With so much to look at, it almost doesn’t matter who is playing.
Théâtre Antique d’Orange | Orange, France
It’s not often you get to see a performance at a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the experience doesn’t disappoint. The Théâtre Antique d’Orange was originally used as a Roman theater, back when it was carved into a hillside in Provence sometime in the first quarter of the first century. Now its 337-foot brick backdrop serves mostly as the setting for operas and the celebrated annual festival of Les Chorégies d’Orange.
Dalhalla | Lake Siljan, Sweden
Dalhalla looks more like a place a serial killer would drop dead bodies in a thriller starring Morgan Freeman than it does a concert venue, but it's undoubtedly jaw-dropping. This former limestone quarry was in use until 1990, before it was transformed into a 4,000-seat concert venue in 1995. Now this beautiful-yet-slightly-creepy venue hosts some of the top acts from Sweden and around the globe – some of whom have been known to jump into the aqua blue water on which the stage sits.
Slane Castle | Slane, Ireland
Yes, Slane Castle is actually a castle. And it’s been around since the 18th century. The grounds of this historic site have played host to some of the largest rock bands on the planet, as well as some more (or less, depending on how you look at it) historically relevant events, including St. Patrick’s paschal fire and the Battle of the Boyne. And because this is Ireland, it’s also got its own brand new whisky.
Greek Theater | Los Angeles
You’ve probably heard of the Greek Theater – if for no other reason than its role in the film Get Him to the Greek, a not-half-bad spin-off of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. More importantly it’s also one of the most iconic outdoor theaters on earth. The Greek – modeled off of an actual ancient Greek Theater, columns and all – is one of LA’s most celebrated venues, hosting an impressive lineup of artists in an intimate and lush setting. And they’ve been doing it for more than 85 years.
Hollywood Bowl | Los Angeles
If you live in Los Angeles, you’ve almost definitely been to the Hollywood Bowl, LA’s other iconic, long-running concert venue, that’s as much a stage for philharmonic and orchestra concerts as it is big name pop stars. The Hollywood Bowl has been around for the better part of the century.
The famous bandshell (even if you’ve never been, you’ve 100 percent seen it in a movie, because LA) is set in front of the Hollywood Hills, and the Hollywood sign can be seen in the background which means you’ll have to watch out that the models siting behind you don’t spill their light beers on you as they pose for selfies.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion | Chicago
Jay Pritzker doesn’t get quite the big names as some of the other venues on this list (and doesn’t have nearly as cool of a name either), but aesthetically speaking, it’s one of the most impressive modern outdoor venues in the country.
Famed architect Frank Gehry designed this bandshell, which is the jewel of Millennium Park, part of Chicago’s Grant Park. The venue often hosts free classical and jazz concerts throughout the warm months, as well as a few big acts, but the stainless steel ribbons that make up the venue – as well as the sweeping views of the Chicago skyline – are the real stars of the show.
Sultan’s Pool | Jerusalem, Israel
As most ancient sites, the home of the Sultan’s Pool, the Valley of Hinnom, has had quite a journey: garbage dump, Pagan ritual sacrifice grounds, named after Purgatory in Hebrew (Gehinnom) and Muslim hell in Arabic (Jahannam). But today the site is more famous for Sultan's Pool, a concert venue that sits beneath the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, which provides an epic view for those watching the global music acts that play here.
Bregenz Festival Floating Opera Stage | Bregenz, Austria
Every summer, for more than 70 years, the Bregenz Festival has been attracting visitors from all over the world (this year it takes place from July 19 to August 20). Most of them come to see the spectacle that is the opera stage floating on the picturesque Lake Constance. The music and production value are impressive, but perhaps most spectacular is the grandiose design of the stage itself, which changes each year according to the performance.