Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre

Top choice Park

in Denver

Why you should go

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

Set between 400ft-high red sandstone rocks, the acoustics at Red Rocks are so good many artists record their live albums there. The seating capacity is upwards of 9000 seats, each one offering stunning views. The venue consistently draws a big-name line-up for its summer concert series. To see your favorite singer got 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.

Many people just come for the day while visiting Denver to check out the famed venue. And amazingly, it can be almost as entertaining when it's silent. The amphitheater is only a tiny part of a 600-acre open space park. Open during the day for free, there is a visitor center, trading post and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame all accessible from the parking lot. There are miles of hiking trails, opportunities to lose the crowds and take in the lovely rock formations. Climbing the stunning rocks is prohibited; however there are 250-plus steps that lead to the top of the theater and offer views of both the park and Denver, miles off to the east. Yoga on the Rocks and Film on the Rocks are popular regular events that attract hundreds. 

History

The history of music at Red Rocks is ancient. The Ute Tribe once used the space as a sacred site and a gathering place for music and dance. Then as western expansion enveloped more of the state, other groups also chose to perform there. In the early 1900's John Brisben Walker produced several concerts there on a temporary stage, 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.

Crowd at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Co
Crowd watches band play with a scenic view of the surroundings. John P Kelly / Getty Images

Tickets and other practicalities

Red Rocks hosts numerous events throughout the year and the lineup can be found on the website where you can also purchase tickets, the prices of which vary by show. There are two vast parking lots, but they fill up and leaving can take ages. Take an Uber if that will annoy you. Most locals drive up early with coolers full of food and drinks to hang out in the parking lot and have a picnic. The food vendors inside are expensive, crowded and not great. You can bring your food into the show, but you can't bring your booze. Beer, wine and other boozy beverages are available for purchase inside as well as water and sodas. Many concert goers will bring a blanket or a cushion, particularly for events like Film on the Rocks. For concerts you'll probably be on your feet the entire time. It's cool at night at this altitude, so don't forget to dress in light layers for summer shows. 

Eating and sleeping near Red Rocks

There aren't many choices really near Red Rocks. You can stay in Morrison, a tiny little town down the road from the park hidden from the Denver skyline by the Hogback rock formations. Made up of a main drag with a few side streets, it echoes the feel of some of Colorado's most remote mountain towns. Its a great stop if you want dinner before a show or lunch after hiking around the theater and park. But none of the restaurants are fancy, just greasy spoons and casual cafes.

There is only one B&B in town called Cliff House Lodge. The decor might be a little overboard, but all the cottages have hot tubs and the garden is a peaceful place to relax.