Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre

Park in Front Range

Image by Ron Koeberer Getty Images

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is set between 400ft-high red sandstone rocks 15 miles southwest of Denver. Acoustics are so good many artists record live albums here. The 9000-seat theater offers stunning views and draws big-name bands all summer. To see your favorite singer go to work on the stage is to witness a performance in one of the most exceptional music venues in the world. For many, it’s reason enough for a trip to Colorado.

When the setting sun brings out a rich, orange glow from the rock formations and the band on stage launches into the right tune, Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a captivating experience, wholly befitting the park’s 19th-century name, ‘Garden of Angels.’

The natural amphitheater, once a Ute camping spot, has been used for performances for decades, but it wasn’t until 1936 that members of the Civilian Conservation Corps built a formal outdoor venue with seats and a stage. Though it originally hosted classical performances and military bands, it debuted as a rock venue with style; the first rock quartet on this stage was John, Paul, George and Ringo. Since then, the gamut of artists who have recorded live albums here – such as U2, Neil Young, Dave Matthews and new-age piano tinkler John Tesh – is a testament to the pristine natural acoustics.

You scored tickets? Great. Now for the nitty-gritty. Eat in Morrison beforehand as the junk food from the food vendors is predictably expensive and the restaurants are crowded. Alternatively, you can bring a small cooler into the show, as long as there’s no booze and it’ll fit under your seat. Climbing on the stunning formations is prohibited; however, 250-plus steps lead to the top of the theater, offering views of both the park and Denver, miles off to the east.

Amazingly, Red Rocks Park can be almost as entertaining when it’s silent. The amphitheater is only a tiny part of the 600-acre space. There are miles of hiking trails, opportunities to lose the crowds and take in lovely rock formations. There’s information about the entire area on the website.