Listening to a sweet melody while swaying in unison to that warm summer breeze–that’s what we call a pure, unfettered moment. Now that concert venues have opened up and all that cheerful sunshine is here to stay, we can have more of those moments. No more isolated nights with just the TV as our only source of “human” interaction (unless, of course, we still want to). As things start to go back to normal, we can now enjoy outdoor concerts with our loved ones beside us. From having a full on picnic setup with charcuterie board on hand, to screaming our favorite lyrics right next to the stage while decked out in band memorabilia, each outdoor Salt Lake City concert venue offers something different. So instead of expecting a calm evening perched on a grassy hill, only to be surprised by a vibrant, active crowd, or vice versa, we’ve compiled a list of the best Salt Lake City outdoor concert venues, nuances and all.
Red Butte Amphitheatre:
An oasis of relaxation in the foothills
Situated in the foothills with picture-worthy landscapes in every direction, this is the venue where you’ll want to bring along your picnic blanket, favorite take-out meal, and that Moscow mule set you bought last summer on a whim. Outside food and beverages ARE allowed, but if this is your first time attending a Red Butte concert, keep in mind the venue doesn’t sell any alcohol (you are permitted to bring your own though).
We’ve seen a good amount of cheese plates and wine tastings at these concerts, so come prepared or you may be drooling over your neighbor’s picnic arrangement the entire time. Take it from someone who learned the hard way. However, they do sell food, in case you do forget your picnic basket.
Given the wide, open, and elevated lawn, you’ll experience pretty relaxing concerts, even with the 3,000-person capacity. So this venue is a good one to bring the grandparents without fear of a mosh pit breaking out (okay, we won’t say definitively, but we’re pretty certain. Just double check what band is playing). Red Butte often hosts popular, well-known bands, with major headliners such as: Counting Crows, ZZ Top, and Emmylou Harris performing this year, and lesser-known, talented artists sprinkled in the line up each year. The majority of bands tend to skew acoustic and/or folky, but Red Butte is known for switching things up, with an array of genres from rock to jazz to country music.
Take your pick
Located in the center of downtown Salt Lake City with skyscrapers encompassing the surrounding views, The Gallivan Center is a fairly intimate music venue that puts on a free concert every Wednesday from 7:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m. in the summer. The Excellence in the Community Concert Series features local music and has more of a laid back feel, with a good amount of brass instruments tending to make an appearance. The venue is a peaceful space–perfect for some camping chairs and a full thermos of warm, English breakfast tea. Or you can choose to stand closer to the stage and show off your big band dance moves.
Twilight Concert Series
at the Gallivan Center
For quite a different feel you can opt to attend the famous Twilight Concert Series at the Gallivan Center. Previously held at Pioneer Park, Twilight will have a smaller capacity this year, still hosting well-known artists such as St. Vincent, Neon Trees, Big Boi, Thundercat, and Lake Street Dive. So you’ll have closer access to your favorite artists and can dance with a smaller, but still bustling crowd during this Salt Lake summer staple series.
Where to find the big names
Depending on the artist playing, this venue may feel chill or more like a pumped-up party with everyone singing in unison. But the variety is to be expected; given USANA is a massive outdoor music venue with a 20,000-person capacity. Names like Willie Nelson, Van Halen, KISS, John Mayer, and Goo Goo Dolls have graced the stage, with a lineup this year of artists such as the Jonas Brothers, Maroon 5, and 3 Doors Down. USANA has assigned seats along with a general admission lawn, but most concertgoers choose to stand in excitement. While listening to your favorite big-name artists here, you can enjoy a variety of food and drink options and choose how you want to soak in the music. Sit, stand, dance, zone out, everyone does their own thing at USANA.
The Gateway at Rio Grande:
Time to dance
The Gateway has been through a lot over the years, sometimes overlooked with all the new, shiny buildings downtown competing for attention. But it persevered and reinvented itself with colorful, new artwork and mural installations, unique restaurants and businesses, and endless events throughout the year. And now...summer concerts! In the center of The Gateway, there’s a large plaza and colorful décor, where you’ll find the live music. This summer, The Gateway has Diplo, Steve Aoki, and Zhu coming to town.
The Great Saltair:
For a unique setting
The Great Saltair looks like something out of a Disney Movie, with steep, rounded structures on the peaks of the building and an almost haunted vibe when empty. However, the Great Saltair gets an effervescent crowd on concert days, bringing life back to the historic building surrounded by nothing but a highway and the great outdoors. Recently expanding, the venue hosts an indoor and outdoor space for concerts, bringing mid to large names to the iconic space. Nothing can get more Salt Lake than a concert on the Salt Lake, right? When outside, the venue space is on a mix of sand and salt, showcasing scenic views of the water (sunset concert anyone?) and miles of vast, open land.