by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
You haven't seen a concert until you've seen one at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The outdoor music venue is on the bucket list of places to see a live show at for thousands of people around the country, and world. But what many don't know is that Red Rocks is not just an amphitheatre, it's a large park open to the public year-round that includes hiking and biking trails, a visitor center, museum and restaurant, besides the amazing vistas at the top.
Distinctive for its naturally formed red sandstone boulders, the 640-acre park and Mount Morrison Civilian Conservation Corps Camp were jointly added to the list of National Historic Landmarks in August 2015. It is one of Colorado's, and certainly Denver's, biggest attractions, drawing visitors from all corners of the globe. The amphitheatre, completed and ready for business in 1941, is built into the brightly colored rocks at over 6,000 feet high, and it's celebrating a milestone 75th anniversary in 2016.
You don't have to buy concert tickets to see Red Rocks, you can drive there for a morning or afternoon excursion while visiting Denver. Details about the amphitheatre and park can be found at redrocksonline.com and for Denver trip planning, you can get started at visitdenver.com. Here's a bit more information about this incredible destination within a destination from my recent journey.
GETTING TO RED ROCKS
Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Park is located about 15 minutes from Denver, so you'll have to drive or arrange personal transportation to get there; public transportation isn't available. If driving, take I-70 West from downtown to exit 259, turn left at the bottom of the Morrison exit ramp and then proceed 1.5 miles to the Red Rocks Park entrance. There is limited free parking available in paved lots and along the shoulders of the road. On concert nights, there are various private shuttles that provide transportation to and from the venue, including CID Colorado (cidentertainment.com), Bus to Show (bustoshow.org), Front Range Ski Bus (frontrangeskibus.com) and Ride to Red Rocks (ridetoredrocks.com); average price for any of these services is $35 round-trip.
VISITOR CENTER, RESTAURANT AND MUSEUM
The Visitor Center at Red Rocks, located at the top of the venue, is an excellent place to begin your experience, and where you can view exclusive memorabilia, from photos to musical instruments to rare video footage, of artists who've performed at the amphitheatre. Definitely browse through the Hall of Fame on the lower level, a wall plastered with original portraits of famous musicians that have been voted in for having made significant contributions as performers during Red Rocks' 75-year existence. For food, The Ship Rock Grille is a full-service restaurant, also situated in the Visitor Center's lower level, with daily service offered between 10:30am and 2:30pm all year long, except on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and of course, it's open on performance nights to concertgoers (time varies by show) and reservations are strongly recommended. Inside and outside terrace seating is available at The Ship Rock Grille. The Visitor Center is closed only on two days during the year, Christmas and New Year's Day.
The Colorado Music Hall of Fame, located in The Trading Post at the park, began honoring performers from The Centennial State who've made significant musical contributions, including John Denver, Judy Collins, Glenn Miller, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Poco, Sugarloaf and the Red Rocks Amphitheatre itself. The Trading Post is in a different building from the Visitors Center near the bottom entrance to the venue. Go to cmhof.com for more information about the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. For souvenirs and gift items to bring home, do stop by The Trading Post.
AMPHITHEATRE AT DAYLIGHT
Because of its uniqueness and natural beauty, and also because of its 192-step staircases on either side of the stage that run from the platform to the very top, Red Rocks Amphitheatre doubles as a workout gym during the daylight hours. Runners, joggers, walkers, yoga enthusiasts and anybody else wanting exercise flock to this landmark attraction throughout the day, but mostly in the mornings to avoid the higher temperatures. There are group workout sessions that you can join by researching them online, though the majority of fitness gurus that come to Red Rocks have their own regimens. Besides exercising, the amphitheatre is a great spot for photography, meditation, reading, or a lunchtime picnic. On scheduled concert days, the venue will close early in the afternoon, or in some cases before noon.
LEGENDARY PERFORMANCES AT THE AMPHITHEATRE
The most recognized performance staged at Red Rocks Amphitheatre took place on June 5, 1983. While still an indie rock band, and not yet a global supergroup, U2 performed a magical set at the venue with portions of the show appearing on the band's live album Under a Blood Red Sky, released two months after they performed at the venue. The accompanying concert video, 'U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky,' was released in 1984 and spent a total of 148 weeks on Billboard's 'Top Music Videocasettes/Top Music Videos' chart in various formats (VHS, laserdisc, DVD). The video was filmed entirely at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
In 1968, Seattle legend Jimi Hendrix wowed a Red Rocks sold out crowd of 9,000 seated in the amphitheatre and hundreds more that ambitiously scaled the boulders to catch a glimpse of the master guitarist and his band. The Beatles included a date at Red Rocks on their historic 24-city North American tour in 1964, the Fab Four's first-ever live appearances in the US. The late John Denver performed at the iconic venue 17 times, including four consecutive nights in 1974. In 1978, The Grateful Dead made its debut at Red Rocks, the first of 20 performances the jam band would give there through 1987.
Other notable artists that have performed at the venue over the past 75 years include Stevie Nicks, Sonny & Cher, Sting, Dolly Parton, Barry Manilow, Diana Ross, Radiohead, The Carpenters, Daft Punk, James Taylor, R.E.M., Dave Matthews Band, Depeche Mode, Eurythmics, Tori Amos, Coldplay, Tracy Chapman, Rush, Death Cab for Cutie, Seals & Croft and Neil Young, to name just a few. The gorgeous setting of the amphitheatre has also appeared as a backdrop in many music videos, most recently in OneRepublic's 'I Lived,' Train and Ashley Monroe's 'Bruises' and the Zac Brown Band's 'Keep Me in Mind.'
The concert season runs from spring to fall at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and some of the acts scheduled to perform in the coming weeks are Ray Lamontagne on September 18, G-Eazy on September 22, Dierks Bentley on September 26 and 27, Tears for Fears on October 3, Jimmy Buffet & The Coral Reefer Band on October 13 (sold out) and Brantley Gilbert with Justin Moore and Colt Ford on October 14 (sold out) and 15 to name a few. For a complete list of upcoming shows, go to redrocksonline.com.
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