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Red Rocks Amphitheatre has won the Pollstar award for best small outdoor venue in the country so many times that the trade publication just named the award after the Morrison venue. We know Red Rocks is the best place anywhere to see a concert, but there are other outdoor stages in sunny Colorado. Here are our top five.
5. Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada
The Arvada Center has been covering lots of territory since 1976, ranging from theater and dance performances to visual arts and yoga classes -- but this staple of the Arvada arts community also offers Summer Stage Concerts, hosted in its 800-seat outdoor amphitheater. This summer, you can see acts like Steve Earle, John Hiatt and Lucinda Williams. Tickets are between $40 and $55 bucks a pop, but try buying lawn tickets and bringing a picnic. The amphitheater has partial covering, so the show will go on if it's raining. Parking is free, too!
4. UMB Bank Amphitheater at the Denver Botanic Gardens 1007 York Street, Denver
Do you like rare forms of flora and fauna with your music? The UMB Bank Amphitheater is situated in the Denver Botanic Gardens, making for a visual and slightly surreal performance experience. The bowl of the amphitheater is surrounded by thousands of plant, tree and flower exhibitions, plus special art installations and a Japanese garden that you can explore before the music starts. The venue still seems to be off the grid for most Denver concert-goers, but it's a gem, especially with acts like Al Green, Bruce Hornsby, Buddy Guy and Ladysmith Black Mambazo coming through.
3. State Bridge Lodge 127 Trough Road, Bond
Legend has it the property that State Bridge resides on has passed from the Ute Indians to miners and to gamblers -- but over the last two years, music lovers and outdoor enthusiasts have taken the torch. State Bridge has emerged as the live-music underdog of the Colorado high country. After the original State Bridge Lodge burned down in 2007, new ownership renovated the old-school yurts and cabins and constructed a brand-new amphitheater, and they've been booking a multitude of performances and festivals ever since. State Bridge doesn't just stand out as a great place to see music; it stands out for its offerings beyond music, including on and off-site camping, fishing, and river rafting on the Colorado River. Take a leisurely float down the river with a beer in hand, and check out diverse acts that range from Greensky Bluegrass to BoomBox.
2. Mishawaka Ampitheatre 13714 Poudre Canyon, Bellvue
When the High Park Fire swept through Northern Colorado, Mishawaka was forced to close its doors, culminating in the cancellation of several of its June and July dates. Last week, the venue reopened, remarkably untouched from the ravages of the fire. Now, after decades of performances, "The Mish" continues to be one of the best places to see music outside. Hang out by the Poudre River or pull up a lawn chair to experience this Colorado cult classic at its best.
1. Fred Shellman Memorial Stage 500 East Colorado Avenue, Telluride
There's a reason the name Telluride has been synonymous with great musical events for years: The Memorial Stage is home to some of the best music festivals in the world, including the legendary Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Telluride Jazz. The stage is nestled in a box canyon, which makes for mind-blowingly magical mountain scenery and incredible sound, even in the farthest reaches of the town. If you're camping in Town Park (maybe some of the best festival camping known to man), you can hear the music from your tent. The drive from Denver is about six hours, but it's well worth your gas money.