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Top 10 Outdoor Music Venues

Listen, watch, and marvel at open-air stages as great as the performances on them.

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Opera singers perform on the floating stage in Bregenz, Austria.

From the National Geographic book Four Seasons of Travel

Great Stage Park, Manchester, Tennessee
If you’re after a really good time, then it’s off to Bonnaroo, a music festival that takes over the 700-acre (285 hectares) Great Stage Park every June. It is a giant party, though you’ll need to get ready for crowds and the southern sun. Maybe some mud, too. But it’s all worth it: The lineup, from jam bands and rock royalty to bluegrass and funk, is a music lover’s dream.

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, Denver, Colorado
This one is nature-made—big-time. The only acoustically perfect, naturally occurring amphitheater in the world, the well-named Red Rocks serves up the kind of audio experience engineers work a lifetime to perfect. And the visuals? Two brilliant red sandstone monoliths rise 300 feet (90 meters) above the crowd.

The Greek Theater, Los Angeles, California
You’ll go for the main act, but, thanks to the Griffith Park location and the stellar sound system, you’ll remember the Greek. With just 5,800 seats, you’ll never feel like you’re out at sea (or, more importantly, can’t see) at the Greek; it’s one of the most intimate outdoor venues you’ll ever experience.

Downtown Montreal, Quebec, Canada
For ten days every summer, a wide swath of downtown Montreal turns into one of the ultimate city music venues. All traffic comes to a halt once the annual Festival International de Jazz de Montréal kicks off. Then it’s just people and music, from the namesake jazz to blues to rock.

Slane Castle, Meath, Ireland
It takes a mighty backdrop to (just about) overshadow outsized performers like Madonna, U2, and the Rolling Stones. But if any venue can do it, it’s Slane Castle, the current residence of Lord Henry Montcharles, Eighth Marquess Conyngham, whose family has called Slane home since 1701. The estate’s natural amphitheater below the castle is worthy of rock royalty. With a history that includes King George VI and St. Patrick himself, Slane Castle is legendary—and so are its shows.

Dalhalla Amphitheater, Near Rättvik, Sweden
There are few outdoor concert spots cooler (literally or figuratively) than an old limestone quarry. The terraced gray stone and pool of aqua water at the bottom create an arresting backdrop and add up to a striking photo op. Make your day at Dalhalla a double bill: Take one of the guided tours before the night’s event begins.

Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, Italy
This modern, Renzo Piano–designed music complex actually recalls the theaters of ancient Rome. The 3,000-seat open-air space is, very much, of its city—and the acoustics aren’t bad, either.

Floating Opera Stage of the Bregenz Festival, Vienna, Austria
This is an opera stage on a lake. Every year since 1946, the Bregenz Festival creates amazing floating stages with sets as much a treat for the eyes as the music is for the ears.

Sultan’s Pool, Jerusalem, Israel
The Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent brought this ancient pool of water back to life in the 16th century. Five hundred years later, during summers when it is dry, the area is put to use to refresh people in a different way—with music.

Ethnomir, Near Moscow, Russia
Every summer since 2008, this cultural complex hosts the Dikaya Myata, or Wild Mint Music Festival, to become the Russian version of Max Yasgur’s Woodstock farm. The open-air, multiday music festival, about a half hour outside Moscow, features musicians from Russia, Germany, the United States, and elsewhere.

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