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Top U.S. Amphitheaters: America’s Most Popular Outdoor Venues

Adam Young | September 13, 2022
Popular amphitheaters.
There’s something special about an amphitheater experience — the night sky, premium acoustics, the energy in the air. It’s no wonder amphitheater concerts create unforgettable memories. They’re made for that. So, what amphitheaters rank among the best in the country? It’s no surprise Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado is at the top of the list, according to ticket sale data available to Event Ticket Center for the 2016 season. Following Red Rocks is New York’s Jones Beach Theater and New Jersey’s PNC Bank Arts Center. DTE Energy Music Theatre and BB&T Pavilion also made the top 5 list.

What makes each amphitheater so special? Here’s an inside look.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Consider it the mother of all amphitheaters. Red Rocks Amphitheatre has become somewhat of a rite of passage for music lovers. Seeing your favorite band or solo performer at Red Rocks is a goal fans can’t help but achieve. What makes it so great?

One of Red Rock’s most unique qualities is the way it was created — naturally. Sitting snug among red rock formations, the stage for Red Rocks has hosted the world’s most famous musicians, including classics Jimmy Hendrix, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and Colorado’s very own John Denver. The popularity hasn’t slowed down since the sixties and seventies. Red Rocks is still a mecca of music for today’s fans. The current lineup includes an array of musical flavors, including Chicago, Norah Jones and Paul Simon, among others. 

Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater 

Live music in a state park? That’s how they roll at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, New York. Originally built in the 1950s for musical theaters and water sports (it included an area of water between the stage and seating area), the outdoor venue has since been expanded to house roughly 15,000 concert-goers.

Some amphitheater buffs may recall the days when Jones Beach Theater was known as Tommy Hilfiger at Jones Beach Theater. Those days were short lived, as the clothing designer only retained naming rights from 2002 to 2005.

Jones Beach Theater has hosted a myriad of famous names, including Jimmy Buffet, who has hosted Parrot Head at the venue more than 25 times. Concerts at Jones Beach are by no means restricted to one genre — this summer’s lineup includes Muse, Dave Matthews Band and Florida Georgia Line, among a number of other acts.

PNC Bank Arts Center

New Jersey’s PNC Bank Arts Center is hailed as a big venue, capable of housing more than 27,000 fans (in both seating and grassy areas). That’s a lot of fans! Because of its capacity, it has hosted — and still does host — some of the world’s most famous musicians. Its historical lineup has included Whitney Houston, Ringo Starr, James Taylor and the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. Its lineup this summer includes Kings of Leon and Zac Brown Band, among a host of other top names in the current music scene.

Its history dates back to 1968, when it first opened its doors. During that time, it hosted classical orchestra acts, including the famous Philadelphia Orchestra.

Pine Knob Music Theatre

Nestled in Michigan’s southeast corner, Pine Knob Music Theatre draws crowds from around the country. Its hometown of Clarkston boasts a population of just 882 — when a show comes to down, that population can temporarily grow by 15,040 music fans.

The Michigan amphitheater includes a few traditions, including a resident season opener. Every year on the day before Memorial Day, Eddie Money takes the stage for the first show of the season. It’s a tradition that dates back to 1989 (he missed one year in 1995) and has become a bit of a season opener ceremony, if you will.   

Freedom Mortgage Pavilion

Representing New Jersey (again), Camden’s Freedom Mortgage Pavilion is located on the Delaware River, adding an extra summer vibe to its outdoor shows. BB&T Pavilion has gone through an identity crisis over the years — when it opened in 1995, it was known as Blockbuster Sony Music Entertainment Centre.  From there, it was sold to Tweeter (no, not Twitter… Tweeter) and wore the name Tweeter Center at the Waterfront. Following that, it was purchased by Susquehanna Bank (which was then purchased by BB&T Bank), and is now known as the Freedom Mortgage Pavilion.

With the capacity to seat more than 25,000 people, it’s become an outdoor mecca for big-name acts. This summer it will host Rod Stewart and Cyndi Lauper, Florida George Line, Boston and heaps more.

Did your favorite amphitheater make the list? Here’s a look at the top 10:

Largest and Best Amphitheaters in the U.S.

  1. Red Rocks Amphitheatre
  2. Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater
  3. PNC Bank Arts Center
  4. Pine Knob Music Theatre
  5. Freedom Mortgage Pavilion
  6. Blossom Music Center
  7. Jiffy Lube Live
  8. Hollywood Bowl
  9. Xfinity Center - MA
  10. Ruoff Music Center
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