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Rolling Stone magazine calls it America’s best outdoor amphitheater. Musical legends including The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones have raved about it. And many a music fan will wistfully recount their first-ever Red Rocks concert.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre’s reputation may precede it, but there's no replacement for experiencing this acoustically impeccable, naturally stunning marvel of ochre sandstone yourself. Designated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service and Department of the Interior, the amphitheater is a top destination for Colorado residents and tourists from around the world. It’s just 15 miles from Denver, and the Red Rocks Shuttle starts the experience, offering round-trip options departing from Denver Union Station. So make plans to see a concert, watch a film, hike, dine or geek out on history. We dare you not to fall for its rare beauty.
1. EXPERIENCE A RED ROCKS CONCERT
The high point of many a summer has been a life-changing Red Rocks concert. You’ll never forget the moon rising over Denver as Neil Young breaks into “Harvest Moon.” Or a mountain breeze carrying the riff of a Widespread Panic tune over the sandstone walls and into the inky sky. Or even the sprinkling of rain as James Taylor grins and sings, “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.” It almost doesn’t matter who you see play at Red Rocks; just see someone. Here are some highlights of this year’s Red Rocks schedule.
Concertgoer Tip: Getting from your parking spot to your seat is part of the adventure. Wear comfortable shoes and expect a bit of light hiking with some amazing views along the way. (Though it’s easy to arrange to be dropped at the top entrance if you’re unable to make the trek by foot.)
2. GET YOUR HEART PUMPING
Red Rocks is also a park, owned by the City of Denver, which is open to visitors one hour before sunrise through one hour after sunset. Just being there will quicken your pulse, but if that’s not enough, consider hiking Trading Post Trail or hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding Red Rocks Trail. Both trails explore the park’s dramatic geology, pines, wildflowers, wildlife and views. Another option is to join ambitious locals who come to run up and down the stone steps of the amphitheater for a real thigh-burner. Or attend Yoga on the Rocks for the most inspiring downward dog view ever.
Park-goer Tip: On concert days, the amphitheater closes by 2 p.m. or earlier, so be sure to check the calendar.
3. DELVE INTO RED ROCKS' HISTORY
The giant sandstone outcroppings that form the walls of Red Rocks Amphitheatre are higher than Niagara Falls and are part of the geological Fountain Formation, deposited approximately 280 million years ago. Believe it or not, the Rolling Stones weren't around yet, and in fact, Red Rocks didn't get its start as a music venue until the early 1900s, when Renaissance man John Brisben Walker set up a makeshift stage among the rocks. A famous opera singer came to perform and declared it “acoustically perfect,” and it has been revered by musicians ever since. Learn more about Red Rocks’ human and geological history at the Visitor Center, which has educational displays, a short documentary and a Performers Hall of Fame.
Visitor Tip: Stop by the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. The CMHOF has been created to honor those individuals who have made outstanding contributions, to preserve and protect historical artifacts and to educate the public regarding everything that's great about our state's music.
4. SEE A FILM ON THE ROCKS
Kick back and take in some classic and cult-favorite films on the big-big-big screen at Red Rocks. Great cinema is just the start of the entertainment on movie nights. Each Film On The Rocks event features an opening comedian or band and fun audience participation contests.
Filmgoer Tip: Picnics are welcome, so pack some goodies and sealed, nonalcoholic beverages. Don’t forget to bring a few blankets to cuddle up with during the suspenseful scenes.
5. GRAB A BITE AND DRINK UP THE VIEW
Built around two giant slabs of red sandstone, Red Rock’s Ship Rock Grille is worth a visit for the view alone. Better yet, grab a seat on the patio to dine at the edge of a mountainous panorama and order up some inventive Colorado-themed dishes like buffalo tamales smothered in house-made green chile or elk sliders with a side of crispy fries.
Want something to remember your Red Rocks visit by? Stop by the gift shop, which sells cozy sweatshirts, memorabilia, books, CDs and more.