Les Schwab Amphitheater has beautiful grass, and it's right along the Deschutes River, so there's usually a lovely breeze," says Noelle Fredland, marketing director for Bend, OR's Old Mill District, where the concert venue is located. "The first thing you want to do here is take your shoes off and start dancing."
It's the kind of concert experience that's worth a trip. And summer is the ideal time to embrace Fredland's freewheeling spirit and hit the road to make memories amplified by live music.
A spectacular outdoor setting also draws concertgoers out of Boulder, CO, to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which overlooks three natural sandstone formations. Not only are they a beautiful backdrop, but they happen to provide terrific acoustics.
In other words, if you want to understand a place and mingle (or mosh) with locals, a concert is just the ticket. Whether you're headed to Washington, D.C., or Washington State, pack your bags, but leave your headphones at home. It's live music time.
See All of America's Coolest Music Venues
See More of America's Coolest Music VenuesCredit goes to the 9:30 Club for inciting a music movement in downtown D.C. in the 1980s. One of America’s best-known rock clubs has since moved to the edge of the U Street corridor in the up-and-coming Shaw neighborhood, where it’s easy to find a trendy restaurant or cocktail bar before a show. Indie bands and mainstream stars alike dig the intimate, standing-room-only venue, which fits 1,200 patrons. It’s hosted Bob Dylan, Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys, and local band O.A.R., as well as reggae acts, house-music DJs, and jazz groups. 930.com Photo courtesy of 9:30 Club
See More of America's Coolest Music VenuesThe Surf was opened in 1934 by developer Carl J. Fox, who borrowed against his life-insurance policy to kick-start the project. He attracted jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Count Basie, who played the lakefront venue during the ’40s. After a fire devastated the original location, the current ballroom was built across the street. Soon, it became one of the first places in Iowa to book rock-n-rollers like Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Everly Brothers, who performed against a backdrop mural of boats, ocean waves, and palm trees. Nowadays, you can enjoy big-band dances at the ballroom or catch acts like Craig Morgan, and various orchestra performances. surfballroom.com Photo: Images Photography
See More of America's Coolest Music VenuesThis supposedly haunted venue is San Francisco’s oldest, grandest nightclub, with ornate Rococo balconies, marble columns, and elaborate ceiling frescoes. It opened in 1907, not long after a catastrophic earthquake had rocked the city. Its restaurant and brothel are long gone; instead, you’ll find two bars and a cutting-edge sound and lighting system. The 5,000-square-foot concert hall has been graced by the Grateful Dead, Arcade Fire, and Patti Smith. slimspresents.com Photo: Pedro Paredes-Haz
See More of America's Coolest Music VenuesCarved into the sandstonefoothills of the Rocky Mountains and surrounded by monolithicformations (Ship Rock, Creation Rock, and Stage Rock), Red Rocks truly has a one-of-a-kind setting. It’s proven irresistible to musicians like Dave Matthews Band, Jimi Hendrix, and U2, which filmed the video for Under a Blood Red Sky here. You can hike or bike on trails surrounding the venue anytime, and occasionally you might see people practicing yoga on the seats when there’s not a concert. In 2014, Red Rocks celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first rock concert: The Beatles. It was the only venue on the band’s 1964 tour that didn’t sell out—because of its expensive $6.60 ticket price. redrocksonline.com Photo: Stevie Crecelius
See More of America's Coolest Music VenuesWhat do you get when you build a 200-seat arts center on a dirt road in Maine farmland, 50 miles from the nearest city? A concert venue that feels like a living room; a secluded experience in a post-and-beam barn where singer-songwriter Carol Noonan and husband Jeff Flagg previously built commercial fishing nets. The venue has welcomed Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lyle Lovett, Judy Collins, the Indigo Girls, Aztec Two-Step, Lucinda Williams, the Wailin’ Jennys, John Hiatt, and many others. Fans arrive early for homemade pizza and wine, but by eight o’clock, the servers are gone and the show begins—with each seat no more than 45 feet from the stage. stonemountainartscenter.com Photo: David Griffin (Confluence Visuals, LLC)
See More of America's Coolest Music VenuesIn 1977, a few music fans launched this club to showcase performances by New Orleans pianist Henry Roeland Byrd—or Professor Longhair, as he was known—who created the New Orleans samba-style piano rhythm. Tipitina’s is now one of the city’s most influential music clubs, attracting local talent like G. Love, Maceo Parker, and Cowboy Mouth, as well as musicians from around the country such as Karl Denson and Todd Snider. Tipitina’s Foundation provides instruments to local schools, organizes Sunday youth music workshops, and directs a music internship program. And Tipitina’s runs a free Fridays program through its foundation so visitors can enjoy tunes gratis. tipitinas.com Photo courtesy of Tipitina's
See More of America's Coolest Music VenuesYou could easily walk by Bowery Ballroom without realizing you’re in the presence of a Lower East Side institution (est. 1998)—one that quickly developed a reputation as the place to catch indie rock bands. Its historic building, completed just before the stock market crashed in 1929, delivers superb sight lines and sound, along with architectural flourishes. The multilevel venue keeps capacity to only 550, offering private seating, a downstairs lounge, and views of Delancey Street from the balcony. It also hosts light shows synced to music that have been known to foster epic dance parties. boweryevents.com Photo courtesy of Bowery Ballroom
Follow Travel + Leisure on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TravlandLeisure