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Bay Area’s Top Outdoor Music Venues

November 1, 2010 4:12 PM

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Stern Grove in San Francisco

Stern Grove in San Francisco (Copyleft Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Cramped clubs and packed stadiums aren’t the most enjoyable place to take in a show. Some of the Bay Area’s best places to appreciate live music are under the stars. Here’s a look at some of the best outdoor music venues in the Bay Area.

Stern Grove Festival

19th Ave and Sloat Blvd. San Francisco
Stern Grove Festival Association

Get there early to stake out your spot at this popular San Francisco concert series. The weather in the Sunset District can be chilly, but the FREE shows featuring some big-name artists make it worth breaking out the sweatshirt. The intimate forest-like setting is a favorite of locals.

Mountain Winery

14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga
Mountain Winery

Wind your way into the Santa Cruz Mountains for a spectacular view of the Silicon Valley and a unique opportunity to take in a show under the stars. Sip a glass of house-made wine from the old Paul Masson grounds as you take in a world-class show. Sound ordinances require the shows to end at 10:30 p.m., and the parking lot gets messy soon after.

Yerba Buena Garden Festival

760 Howard St, San Francisco
Yerba Buena Garden Festival

Between May and October this downtown San Francisco festival presents music, theater and art exhibits all free to the public. Over 10o performances provide workers a lunchtime break or opportunity to unwind in the evening.

Greek Theater

U.C. Berkeley Campus, Gayley Rd., Berkeley
Greek Theater

Watching the sun set over a show at the Greek Theater is one of the truly unique Bay Area concert-going experiences. The 1903 Greek-inspired amphitheater squeezes an 8,500 capacity crowd as close to the stage as possible. The venue is tucked into the Cal campus, and a concert ticket comes with all of the parking headaches you might expect from a trip to Berkeley. The venue plays host to a variety of acts, but is a big draw for the David Gray and Jack Johnson types.

shoreline Bay Area’s Top Outdoor Music Venues

credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Shoreline Amphitheater

One Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View
Shoreline Amphitheatre

Mountain View’s Shoreline is the largest on our list of outdoor venues. The tented structure is often THE Bay Area destination for major acts on tour in the U.S. Shoreline can also crank up multiple stages for big music festivals, and regularly plays host to the Bridge School Benefit concert. Repeat visitors try their best to land one of the fixed seats up front rather than trying their luck on the general admission lawn.

Sleep Train Pavilion

2000 Kirker Pass Rd., Concord
Sleep Train Pavilion

Opened in 1975, this 12,500 capacity venue draws big name acts to the East Bay. The facility has undergone a number of name changes, but this Frank Gehry designed structure is hard for concert goers to forget. Bing Crosby played his last U.S. concert at the site, and famous promoter Bill Graham was killed after leaving a concert at the pavilion in 1991.

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