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Grab your lawn chair, and maybe a rain jacket, too. Festival season is here, and the Centennial State has an abundance of majestic outdoor venues where music lovers can catch a concert under the stars. Whether you’re looking for an intimate performance by your favorite local indie band on a working farm or hoping to relive your pop-punk days with Fall Out Boy in a world-class amphitheater, here are our favorite spots to catch some sweet sounds this summer, along the Front Range and beyond.
Best for: Gardenside concerts alfresco
Capacity: 2,500 in the round at UMB Bank Amphitheater
If you go: If you bring a chair, the total upright height may not exceed 26 inches (and they will check!). Make it easy on yourself and rent one at Marnie’s Plaza for $10.
Hot picks for summer 2023: The Summer Concert Series includes Neko Case, Esperanza Spalding, Fitz and the Tantrums, and Ozomatli with Los Mocochetes. Evenings al Fresco will feature Cary Morin, Dzirae Gold, and Eman Alexander.
Music at Denver Botanic Gardens is a uniquely lush experience. Enjoy concerts in the round with world-renowned artists in the UMB Bank Amphitheater for the annual Summer Concert Series, taking place over 10 evenings in June, July, and August. Looking for something more off the beaten path? Attend the weeknight Evenings al Fresco series, during which talented local musicians perform among the daylilies and ponderosa pines as you stroll. Note that while food is available for purchase at the gardens, booze is not. If you prefer, you may bring your own food and beverages to either series, but note that alcohol must be in its original container. 1007 York St.
Best for: Hot jazz in the Mile High City
Capacity: As many as City Park can hold—come one, come all.
If you go: If you’re planning on bringing your own booze, remember that only alcohol up to 3.2 percent is allowed in the park, and no glass containers are permitted.
Hot picks for summer 2023: Sarah Mount and the Rushmores, Stafford Hunter and Jazz Explorations, Dotsero, Ritmo Jazz Latino, Wellington Bullings, Otis Taylor, The Burroughs, LAPOMPE
On June 4, the volunteer-run City Park Jazz kicked off its 37th year of a Mile High City tradition: hosting the genre’s best and brightest Colorado-based acts. Over the course of 10 Sunday evenings, enjoy jazz, blues, funk, soul, and Latin-fusion performances at the bandstand of Denver’s crown-jewel park. The series prides itself on entertaining a diverse demographic of music lovers at the pavilion beside Ferril Lake. Best of all, every concert in the series is free, and a varied selection of affordable food truck fare is available for your enjoyment. 2001 Steele St.
Best for: Family-friendly concerts on green space aplenty
Capacity: 7,500 for ticketed shows and nearly 20,000 for free shows
If you go: To get the full experience at the free concerts, bring your own blankets, lawn chairs, and soft-sided coolers, and be sure to RSVP online to guarantee entry.
Hot picks for summer 2023: Levitt’s ticketed concerts this season include Dwight Yoakam and EmmyLou Harris, CAKE, Los Lonely Boys, and Yellowcard.
With an expansive lawn and open seating, Levitt Pavilion has enough real estate for everyone to sprawl out and enjoy a summer serenade—without sitting on top of each other. This Ruby Hill nonprofit offers 50 free outdoor concerts a year and aims to pay artists 40 percent more than other local venues on the Front Range. This summer’s free concert lineup includes Soccer Mommy with mon cher, local favorite iZCALLi with El Cro and Fruta Brutal, Flobots with Joseph Lamar, and Mariachi Sol de mi Tierra with Fiesta Colorado Dance Company and Baile Caliente. Consider becoming a VIP for either free or ticketed shows to support Levitt’s mission of increasing access to high-quality art. 1380 W Florida Ave.
Best for: High-quality, community-focused access to the arts
If you go: The Arvada Center offers complimentary tickets to Native individuals. Contact the box office at (720) 898-7200 for further information.
Hot picks for summer 2023: Indigo Girls, Mozart Under Moonlight, Boz Skaggs, Ben Folds, and Keb’ Mo’
In pursuit of something a little more posh? This Arvada nonprofit regularly hosts some of the Denver area’s most essential ensembles, including Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra and Front Range Youth Symphony. Conveniently located a couple miles down Wadsworth Boulevard from Olde Town Arvada, the center has an exciting lineup for each year’s Summer Concert Series, presented by 105.5 The Colorado Sound in the Center’s outdoor amphitheater. This year’s schedule is sprinkled with all sorts of genres, ranging from symphony repertoire to nostalgia-inducing ’90s folk bands. The Arvada Center acknowledges that its facilities are built upon the ancestral lands of the Tsétsėhéstaestse (Cheyenne), the Hinono’eiteen (Arapaho), Nuche (Ute), and Oceti Sakowin (Lakota) nations and is committed to cultivating an inclusive culture for all marginalized groups. 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada
Best for: Legacy acts in an earth sculpture
If you go: In addition to the 7,000 fixed seats and lawn space for 10,000 additional general admission guests, high rollers can reserve a private box that includes seating for four to 10 guests, reserved parking, and access to the Subaru VIP Lounge, which features a full bar and private restrooms, ensuring you won’t miss a note while waiting to use the loo.
Hot picks for summer 2023: Fall Out Boy, Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top, Weezer, and Goo Goo Dolls
It only seems fitting that this massive Greenwood Village amphitheater, which now hosts chart-topping recording artists, began itself as a work of art. Today, it’s the largest outdoor venue of its kind in the metroplex, but landscape architect George Hargreaves originally designed Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre as a large-scale earth sculpture—a sloping grass bowl built directly into the surrounding landscape. The venue hosted community festivals and special engagements with the Colorado Symphony before transforming into a world-class amphitheater with the addition of a formal stage and fixed seating in the mid ’80s. As participants in AEG 1EARTH, Fiddler’s Green is committed to reducing environmental impact through means of recycling, environmentally preferable products, and energy- and water-saving efforts. 6350 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., Greenwood Village
Best for: A relaxed evening on a working farm
Capacity: While the series has not named an official capacity yet, the open field can comfortably host up to 200 people.
If you go: Be sure to pack all your summer essentials for the best experience: lawn chairs, blankets, a cooler full of beverages, rain gear, and bug spray. Since three farm dogs reside on the property, animal pals should sit this one out.
Hot picks for summer 2023: El Javi and Dechen Hawk, Covenhoven, and Bonnie and Taylor Sims Band
What started as a pop-up performance on a permaculture-based farm in Boulder became an impromptu concert series for the music-loving community. Along with operations support from the members of the soulful folk four-piece Sturtz, owners of 63rd Street Farm, Amanda and Brian Scott, welcome concertgoers on a donation basis (a suggested amount of $15 is accepted at the entrance). A stonemason since 1995, Brian Scott keeps his own pizza ovens on site, and wood-fired pies can be procured during the events, also by suggested donation. Guests may peruse a mini-market of honey, produce, alpaca yarn, and other goods raised on the property before settling on a grassy spot to enjoy some of the area’s most acclaimed acoustic acts. This year marks the first official season lineup, which the folk-bluegrass-gypsy jazz band Taarka kicked off in April, and wraps up with the Denver acoustic duo LVDY in October. 3796 63rd Street, Boulder
Best for: A weekend of tubing, camping, and dancing
If you go: Per the Festivarian Bill of Rights, “Festivarians shall have plentiful access to free, filtered, local drinking water,” so don’t forget your favorite refillable vessel.
Hot picks for summer 2023: The Lil Smokies, Big Richard, Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway, and Stillhouse Junkies will be at Rockygrass (July 28–30, 2023). The Tallest Man on Earth, Charley Crockett, and Tank and the Bangas will play at Rocky Mountain Folks Festival (August 11–13, 2023).
Tucked away in the northwest corner of charming Lyons lies the enchanted festival grounds of Planet Bluegrass, where festivarians can enjoy “music, mountains, and the uninhibited pursuit of happiness,” and where the same producers responsible for the storied Telluride Bluegrass Festival call home. The annual Rockygrass and Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, held in July and August, respectively, are a “must-do” for Front Range residents and out-of-town travelers alike. The North Saint Vrain Creek runs through the property for wading or tubing in between sets of booty-shaking bluegrass surrounded by glowing red rock formations, culminating in an experience that can only be described as pure mountain magic. 500 West Main St., Lyons
Best for: A rustic riverside romp
If you go: Be sure to reserve shuttle service as parking is extremely limited at the venue. All concertgoers are strongly encouraged to ride the shuttle.
Hot picks for summer 2023: Toad the Wet Sprocket, Guster, Jamestown Revival, Lotus, and Band of Horses
Known affectionately as “The Mish,” this riverfront restaurant and outdoor venue in Bellvue started as a dance hall after motorcyclist and musician Walter S. Thompson stumbled across the site in 1916. Get there early to enjoy icy Odell Brewing Company suds with your lunch while you watch bighorn sheep graze along the nearby hillside, then pile into the amphitheater, which blends into the wooded landscape. The rugged beauty of surrounding Poudre Canyon offers plenty of summery outdoor activities like rafting and fly-fishing, too, so you can set up camp and plan an entire weekend around driving up Cache la Poudre–North Park Scenic and Historic Byway from Fort Collins. 13714 Poudre Canyon Hwy., Bellvue
Best for: A spiritual music experience
If you go: Hold out for a bucket-list artist because this otherworldly atmosphere pairs best with music that moves you. Fortunately, each star-studded season has a genre for everybody.
Hot picks for summer 2023: Al Green with the Colorado Symphony, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Boygenius, Maggie Rogers, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Brandi Carlile, Sylvan Esso, and Sting
Summer season at Red Rocks Amphitheatre has been referred to as the “greatest music festival in the world,” and for good reason. Watching the sun sink over Denver while listening to your favorite band, surrounded by rust-colored stone formations taller than Niagara Falls is an unparalleled experience. You have to work for it—when the Red Rocks website warns that you may have to hike to your seat, they mean it—but the tunes and views are well worth the extra effort. Perhaps we’ll get a repeat of Brandi Carlile crooning “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on another misty—and quite magical—mountain night. 18300 W Alameda Pkwy., Morrison
Best for: Lakeside lounging with a Rocky Mountain view
If you go: Camp chairs with legs are permitted in the concrete seating bowl area only. For grass sitting, bring a blanket or seat cushions, and though Dillon loves animals, furry friends should stay at home.
Hot picks for summer 2023: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, String Cheese Incident, Train, Young the Giant, and Gregory Alan Isakov
Dillon Amphitheater has quickly become a Summit County staple following its multimillion-dollar facelift, completed in 2018. The renovation, which included an upgraded stage and new greenrooms, allowed the town of Dillon to book bigger acts, starting with the String Cheese Incident at its summer unveiling. Concertgoers can lounge in the grass and enjoy a lakeside view, surrounded by dramatic views of the Tenmile and Gore Ranges. Marc Cohn and Shawn Colvin kicked off the new free concert series (called Mountain Music Mondays), which includes Los Texmaniacs and Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra in its summer lineup. 135 W Lodgepole St., Dillon
Best for: High art at a high elevation
If you go: Bring layers as temperatures dip once the sun sets and a raincoat because the show will go on, rain or shine.
Hot picks for summer 2023: Big Head Todd and the Monsters and Blues Traveler, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue and Ziggy Marley, The Head and the Heart, Father John Misty, Mt. Joy, Pixies, and Modest Mouse with Cat Power, plus a hearty lineup of dance performances
This state-of-the-art, multi-genre concert facility surrounded by sweeping forest vistas is a must-experience in alpine Vail. Opening in 1987 in the presence of its namesake 38th president and first lady, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre came out of the gate as a legacy venue with Willie Nelson as the headliner of its first major performance. Just beyond the stunning amphitheater is Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the highest-elevation botanical garden in North America at 8,200 feet. Each summer, the Amp’s offerings include internationally renowned dance and classical music presentations, as well as the free weekly Hot Summer Nights series. “See you at The Amp!” 530 S Frontage Rd. East, Vail
Best for: The finest classical music anywhere
If you go: Lower-priced tickets have been added to Friday and Sunday concerts in 2023, and Roaring Fork Valley residents can qualify for a discounted “Locals Pass.”
Hot picks for summer 2023: The annual festival takes place from June 29 through August 20, with a lineup that includes Stravinsky’s the Rite of Spring featuring pianist Daniil Trifonov (July 2); the music of composer John Williams, including scores from the iconic films Star Wars, E.T., and more (July 25); and Broadway star Audra McDonald backed by a full orchestra (August 3).
Heralded as one of the preeminent classical music festivals in the U.S., Aspen Music Festival and School has been hosting a program of summer music annually since its founding in 1949. The Benedict Music Tent, which opened in 2000, is one of the school’s two larger venues just outside of town. Boasting the acoustics of a traditional concert hall, the tiered-seating tent has all the vitality of an open-air venue and is the perfect space for eight weeks of orchestral splendor, including a Fourth of July celebration of symphonic Americana (think Sousa and Copland). Space is also available on the lawn outside the tent for summertime picnicking. 960 North 3rd St., Aspen
Best for: Epic Western Slope festivals
If you go: At 8,750 feet, be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and drink more water than you think you need, and factor in time to hop on the free gondola to Mountain Village, stationed just down the river.
Hot picks for summer 2023: Telluride Jazz Festival is hosting St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Tower of Power, and Denver’s own Annie Booth Sextet. The lineup at Telluride Blues and Brews Festival includes Bonnie Raitt, Anders Osborne, and Buffalo Nichols.
Nestled at the end of a box canyon and surrounded by fourteeners, this park, home to the historic Fred Shellman Memorial Stage, is perfect for revelries in stunning Telluride, a town that seems to have been built just for summer festivals. If you missed the 50th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival, never fear: There will be riffs aplenty in August for Telluride Jazz Festival. And for those who fancy a drink with their dancing, Telluride Blues and Brews closes out the summer in mid-September. 500 E. Colorado Ave., Telluride