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The main attraction of a show isn’t always the act gracing the stage– sometimes, it’s the stage itself, like at Denver’s Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre. As they put it themselves, “Mother Nature was the architect”, which is incredible considering that the forces of nature combined just so to make an acoustically perfect area, formed by massive, 300-foot sandstone monoliths (fun fact: the rocks that form the amphitheater are all named– there’s Creation Rock, Ship Rock, and Stage Rock).

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It’s actually been used as a concert venue for over 100 years (maybe even more, if you count the fact that American Indians lived in the area and it’s not hard to imagine them gathering around the rocks). Red Rocks as we know it was conceived by a man named John Brisben Walker, who had a dream of placing a stage nestled among the rock walls of what was then known as “The Garden of the Angels” and putting on a concert. He made this a reality in 1906, when he purchased the area, renamed it the “Garden of the Titans”, and put on his first show, which was a hard-core, intensely metal… 25-piece brass band (brass is technically a metal, ok?)

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It wasn’t until world-famous opera singer Mary Garden declared the Garden of the Titans the “finest venue” at which she had ever performed in 1911 that people really began to take the space seriously. In 1927, Denver Parks purchased the venue and it got a more permanent makeover from the Civilian Conservation Corps– and it was finally, officially named Red Rocks Amphitheater.

Ironically, Red Rocks didn’t hear much rock music until the 1960’s– the Beatles were the first major rock ‘n’ roll act to grace the stage in 1964– and rock music was actually banned from the theater between 1971 and 1976 after a riot outside the theater during a Jethro Tull concert. More mellow acts, like Sonny and Cher, Seals and Crofts, John Denver and The Carpenters, were featured instead. Red Rocks isn’t just a fan favorite– artists like Jimi Hendrix, Rush, and the Grateful Dead all reportedly listed the venue among their favorites. U2 even chose to record and release U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky, their acclaimed concert film, at Red Rocks in 1983.

The concert season at the amphitheater kicks off every year with a nondenominational Easter event at sunrise, and then shows are put on almost every night. Each year, 130+ concerts are put on at Red Rocks, ranging from Widespread Panic and Jackson Browne to Ryan Adams, Seal, Beck, and more.

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Red Rocks is more than a concert venue, though. During the day, visitors can hike, picnic, and check out the visitor center. The visitor center has a gift shop and also houses the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, packed with memorabilia, educational displays, and a tribute statue dedicated to John Denver.

Many people like to jog up and down the amphitheater’s bleachers as a workout, but that’s not the only way to get in some exercise at the park. The always-popular Yoga on the Rocks is offered June through August on Saturday mornings. Participants are led through a workout on the steps of the theater, and the views take the experience to an almost spiritual level.

via VISIT DENVER
via VISIT DENVER

For the 75th anniversary of the park, the city of Denver added extra land to Red Rocks to expand it, so there’s lots of room for hiking and exploring. There are two trails that are contained entirely within the park (the Trading Post Trail and the Geologic Overlook Trail which provide stellar views in addition to interpretive signs and historical information), and a handful of others that pass through or nearby. Like the rocks that make up the amphitheater, the other geological formations in the park have names as well. Be on the lookout for Frog Rock, Picnic Rock, Nine Rocks Park, and Seven Ladders Rock, among others. Hiking during the day and rocking out to a concert at night? Sounds like a perfect day.

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