Summer concert season in California means live music inside iconic locations, around airy-outdoor amphitheaters and of course, seated in those smaller, intimate concert venues. Below, are our top nine most memorable California music venues to kick back and feel the beat.
1. The Forum: In Inglewood, the iconic venue (est. 1967), The Forum, once home to the LA Lakers, is now a fulltime concert arena drawing crowds over 17,000 and big acts like U2 and Phish. Designed by Charles Luckman Associates, the same firm that designed Madison Square Garden in New York the previous year, this architectural gem is one of California’s bigger concert venues.
2. Hollywood Forever Cemetery: Set on 62-acres of greenage, music fans flock to the Fairbanks Lawn of Hollywood Forever Cemetery, a landmarked-resting place for Tinseltown’s founding fathers and now, a special place for indie music on warm nights. Even more than a concert venue, however, it also offers outdoor classic film screenings, lectures and literature events throughout the year. The Kimpton Everly Hotel is conveniently located just a mile from this top venue.
3. Hollywood Bowl: Opening in 1922, this venue looks over the famous Hollywood sign, once hosted the Beatles and still remains a grand open-air amphitheater for classic bands and niche stars like Erkyah Badu and Elvis Costello. Pack a picnic (it’s BYOB) with a blanket and some California pinot noir.
4. The Fillmore: Built in 1912, and known as the legendary 60’s hippy venue where The Grateful Dead and Jimmy Hendrix played, The Fillmore still draws intimate crowds for cool indie labels. Fun fact: Artist Andy Warhol and superstar engineer Danny Williams pioneered the lightshow projection still used today. From the Kimpton Buchanan Hotel, it’s also only a six-minute walk to the venue. All hail not needing transit.
5. Greek Theatre: For an open-air experience on UC Berkeley’s leafy campus with sweet views of the Bay, Greek Theatre (built in 1903 and based on the architecture of the ancient theatre of Epidaurus) provides stellar acoustics for visiting bands like Dave Matthews and REM.
6. Stern Grove Festival: Set on 33-acres with fragrant pine groves and still a relatively well-kept secret, Stern Grove Festival is perched on newly-renovated concert meadow with a series of free cultural performances and special days devoted to genres like hip hop and classical. Also BYOB.
7. Santa Barbara Bowl: Built in 1936 in the spectacular foothills of Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Bowl hosts 27 concerts to 4,500 concertgoers with soft, mellow acts from surfer-cool Jack Johnson and the hip English band, The xx. Located at the Kimpton Goodland, Good Bar’s laidback lounge offers billiards, backgammon and a carefully-chosen coastal cool soundtrack that makes for the perfect place to unwind after a night of world-class music.
8. North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre: Located in Chula Vista and one of the largest venues in San Diego, this amphitheatre carries the classic seating structure for 20,000 plus. Of course, max your lawn seating by throwing a blanket down with a local craft beer.
9. Casbah: Near downtown, the 30-year-old Casbah stage has hosted gigs from Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins and continues to push the envelope with edgy bands and EMO performances. Stay at the nearby Kimpton Hotel Palomar San Diego for an easy trip home after a memorable night of music.
Where to stay: List of Kimpton’s boutique hotels in California
This post was originally published on August 17, 2017 and has been updated.