Best Outdoor Music Venue (2015)


Sometimes live music is best enjoyed outdoors. Four the past four weeks USA TODAY 10Best readers have been voting daily for their favorite outdoor music venues from a pool of 20 nominees. The polls have closed and the results are in!

  • Saratoga Performing Arts Center

    Saratoga Performing Arts Center
    Saratoga, N.Y.

    A cultural hub in upstate New York, Saratoga Performing Arts Center promotes diverse artistry. In the heart of Spa State Park, a 25,000-capacity venue, surrounded by hiking trails, geysers and natural mineral springs, hosts New York City Ballet and The Philadelphia Orchestra. The arts center also presents the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival, oversees the National Museum of Dance and presents top-notch chamber music, jazz, opera, rock and pop concerts.
    Photo courtesy of Saratoga Performing Arts Center

  • Red Rocks Amphitheatre

    Red Rocks Amphitheatre
    Morrison, Colo.

    Another bucket list destination for die-hard concert goers, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 10 miles west of Denver, features big-names acts in a magical, jaw-dropping setting. At 6,450 feet above sea level, Red Rocks Park features 868 acres of geological wonders where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. The self-proclaimed “only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world” has featured legends from The Beatles to Sting and U2.
    Photo courtesy of Stevie Crecelius

  • Merriweather Post Pavilion

    Merriweather Post Pavilion
    Columbia, Md.

    Midway between Washington and Baltimore, Merriweather Post Pavilion reigns on a 40-acre lot of preserved land. Originally built as the home of the National Symphony Orchestra by renowned architect Frank Gehry, Merriweather hosted Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead back in the day. The current-day calendar features the best in most any genre. Jack Johnson-inspired “green” efforts like solar panels and a bio-diesel fueling station make it one of the nation's more eco-friendly venues, and the trend will continue as the venue undergoes a $19 million improvement. The independently operated amphitheater employs a family-operated caterer, and the food is just as good as the music.
    Photo courtesy of Merriweather Post Pavilion

  • Starlight Theatre

    Starlight Theatre
    Kansas City, Mo.

    Starlight Theatre got its start in 1925 when a visit from a European queen inspired the Kansas City Federation of Music to showcase local talent. The outdoor theater has evolved since, even receiving a generous donation from Jerry Lewis in 1958, funding an expansion (he found the distance between the performer and audience too limiting). In a 1960s production of “Mr. President,” President Harry Truman made a guest appearance. As one of the country’s few remaining self-producing outdoor theaters, Starlight remains an important landmark.
    Photo courtesy of Starlight Theatre

  • Klipsch Music Center

    Klipsch Music Center
    Noblesville, Ind.

    The largest outdoor venue in the Indianapolis area, the Klipsch Music Center seats 24,000–6,000 under its pavilion and 18,000 on its lawn. Some notable events here have included Ozzfest, H.O.R.D.E. Festival and the Vans Warped Tour. Between 1989 and 1995, the Grateful Dead played 14 shows, and Phish has visited the arena 25 times. In 2013, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers set a new attendance record for the venue, drawing more than 24,000 fans.
    Photo courtesy of Klipsch Music Center

  • Greek Theatre

    Greek Theatre
    Los Angeles

    The Greek Theatre, AKA "The Greek," is a 5,900-seat venue in L.A.’s tree-enclosed Griffith Park. Built in 1929, this internationally-renowned alfresco space has hosted some of the biggest names in entertainment–spotlighting genres from pop to classical, reggae to rock–and has starred in blockbuster movies like “Get Him to The Greek.” The 2015 summer line-up spans from The Doobie Brothers and Wilco to comedian Jim Gaffigan and “Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions.”
    Photo courtesy of Robert Mora

  • Crosby Theatre

    Crosby Theatre
    Santa Fe

    This state-of-the-art, open-air theater in Santa Fe has won many design awards and receives kudos for its exquisite blending of contemporary aesthetics and traditional materials. Spectators at the summer opera series relish a stunning panorama with views of the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo mountains. A fire destroyed the original Crosby Theatre in 1967; the current space opened in 1998 with a seating capacity of 2,128 plus 106 standing spots. Every position offers a digital computer screen that broadcasts translations of the operatic productions in English and Spanish.
    Photo courtesy of Robert Godwin / TOURISM Santa Fe

  • Blue Hills Bank Pavilion

    Blue Hills Bank Pavilion

    Situated on Boston Harbor and adjacent to Rowes Wharf, Blue Hills Bank Pavilion proves the city’s most popular spot for outdoor summer concerts. With a seating capacity of 5,000, the waterside venue offers perks like a top-of-the-line sound system, 25-plus concession areas and a prime location that welcomes cool harbor breezes. Top names like Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, Norah Jones and The Allman Brothers Band have played this picturesque stage.
    Photo courtesy of Live Nation

  • Nikon at Jones Beach Theater

    Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
    Wantagh, N.Y.

    Nikon at Jones Beach Theater (originally Jones Beach Marine Theater) is one of two major outdoor arenas in the New York metropolitan area. Located at Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, the amphitheater suffered major damage during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. After a $20 million-plus reconstruction, the 15,000-capacity stadium reopened May 31, 2013. Once a "dry" venue, the general public can now purchase alcohol at the "Backstage Oasis” to enjoy during concerts.
    Photo courtesy of Rob Sinclair / Flickr

  • Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater

    Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater
    Park City, Utah

    The return of summer brings with it alfresco concerts at Park City’s stunning Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater. A full calendar lists vibrant shows on Deer Valley's stage multiple times a week. World-renowned artists and local bands star during Utah Symphony | Utah Opera's Deer Valley® Music Festival, Park City Institute's St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights Outdoor Concert Series and the Grand Valley Bank Free Community Concert Series.
    Photo courtesy of Deer Valley Resort

Snagging the coveted first place spot for Best Outdoor Music Venue is the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate New York. This cultural hub hosts myriad performances – including the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra – in front of a crowd of up to 25,000 spectators.

Runner-up for Best Outdoor Music Venue is the jaw-dropping Red Rocks Amphitheatre located 10 miles outside of Denver. The self-proclaimed “only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world” has hosted the likes of U2 and The Beatles.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Outdoor Music Venue are as follows:

  1. Saratoga Performing Arts Center - Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
  2. Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, Colo.
  3. Merriweather Post Pavilion - Columbia, Md.
  4. Starlight Theatre - Kansas City, Mo.
  5. Klipsch Music Center - Noblesville, Ind.
  6. Greek Theatre - Los Angeles
  7. Crosby Theatre - Santa Fe
  8. Blue Hills Bank Pavilion - Boston
  9. Nikon at Jones Beach Theater - Wantagh, N.Y.
  10. Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater - Park City, Utah

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Ben Kaye and Adam Kivel (Consequences of Sound) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of America's live music scene.

Other nominees for Best Outdoor Music Venue included the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in Wisconsin, Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington State, Great Stage Park in Tennessee, Hatch Memorial Shell in Boston, Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago, Mohawk in Austin, Prospect Park Bandshell (Celebrate Brooklyn!) in New York, Rumsey Playfield (Summerstage) in New York and Stubb's BBQ in Austin.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners. The contest was promoted on 10Best and USA TODAY.

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Ben Kaye

Ben Kaye

Ben Kaye

Adam Kivel

Adam Kivel

Adam Kivel