What better way to celebrate summer or fall than to sit back and enjoy an outdoor concert or play? Soaking in the gentle breezes, sunshine and music immediately soothes and relaxes even the most stressed of souls, while a play under the stars has a romance of its own. The Triangle has many outdoor amphitheaters, each with its own atmosphere, history and architecture. Some offer theater; others offer live performances or movies. Take a look at a few of your choices.
1. Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Ampitheater at North Carolina Museum of Art
Opened in 1997, the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Theater in the North Carolina Museum of Art Park Theater features performances by singer/songwriters and musical groups as well as movies, from classics to new releases. The Museum Park Theater also offers “Music/Movie Combos”—live performances followed by film screenings. Choose limited reserved seating or lawn seating under shade trees, and be sure to take a picnic.
2. Walnut Creek Amphitheatre
In 1991, the City of Raleigh built the Walnut Creek Amphitheatre, and some of the world’s most famous musical acts have performed there, from B.B. King and the Beach Boys to Usher and ZZ Top. The venue, which covers 77 acres, can host about 20,000 visitors—6,847 seated and 13,653 on the lawn. Browse upcoming events here.
3. Stephenson Amphitheatre at Raleigh Little Theatre
Begun in 1936 as a project of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration agency, created as part of the New Deal to fight the Great Depression, Raleigh Little Theatre is one of the oldest continuously operating community theaters in the country. The Stephenson Amphitheatre sits adjacent to the Rose Garden and behind the main theater building, all part of the original New Deal project. After a hiatus of several years, the amphitheater began hosting shows in summer 2014.
4. Red Hat Amphitheater
Red Hat Amphitheater is centrally located in downtown Raleigh across from the Raleigh Convention Center. Each year, from April through October, the amphitheater, which seats nearly 6,000, offers about 30 events. Performances cover genres from bluegrass and R&B to pop, classic and indie rock as well as family shows. Software maker Red Hat acquired naming rights to the amphitheater in 2010 after moving its headquarters downtown, and the venue exudes “cool” with the Cree Shimmer Wall on the exterior of the Raleigh Convention Center as a backdrop.
5. Midtown Park
Located on the east side of the North Hills' mixed-use development, Midtown Park opened in April 2014. The $10.5 million park covers 1 acre and includes a distinctively designed amphitheater that can host up to 10,000 people. Shaped like a shell with a swirling, sculptural look, the amphitheater invites children to play on its stones and a fountain that delights visitors spouts water at timed intervals. Check out the Friday Night Tribute Series.
Amphitheaters in Cary
6. Koka Booth Amphitheatre
Built in 2001, the Koka Booth Amphitheatre offers a natural setting for concerts, set on 14 acres of pine forest in Cary's Regency Park right next to Symphony Lake. Visitors can take a seat on the lawn or on the Crescent deck. This amphitheater has attracted acts from Crosby, Stills & Nash to The Prairie Home Companion radio show to Lady Antebellum. It is the summer home of the North Carolina Symphony concert series, and its “Movies by Moonlight” series presents movies and picnicking under the stars in the summer. The Hob Nob Jazz Concert Series, which also takes place in the summer, offers another chance to picnic.
7. Sertoma Amphitheatre
Nestled in Cary’s Fred G. Bond Park, Sertoma Amphitheatre offers a great setting for outdoor concerts. The Town of Cary, which operates the amphitheater, features a range of free concerts in genres that include blues, folk and classical music. Take a look at upcoming performances here.
Amphitheater in Apex
8. Apex Nature Park Amphitheatre
Head to Apex for family friendly concerts and movies at the new Nature Park Amphitheatre, surrounded by a forested disc golf course and nearby recreational facilities. The Apex Music and Movies Series in the Park features acts such as the Triangle Brass Band and popular, family-friendly movies. Take lawn chairs, blankets and a picnic dinner and be sure to show up early for good seats.
Amphitheater in Chapel Hill
9. Forest Theatre
A stone amphitheater built into a hillside on the eastern edge of the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, Forest Theatre is the grandfather of outdoor drama in North Carolina. Professor Fredrick Henry Koch developed the theater with the Carolina Playmakers—a campus-based theater group that he founded—starting with the group’s first outdoor play at the site in 1918. Forest Theatre was rebuilt with Works Progress Administration funds in 1940 and has been a favorite site for theatrical and musical performances. Today, the UNC-based Playmakers Repertory Company carries on the name and traditions of the earlier theater group. In the summer, Forest Theatre hosts a variety of shows.
Amphitheater in Durham
10. American Tobacco Amphitheater
The American Tobacco Amphitheater sits in the heart of the American Tobacco Campus, a 1-million-square-foot mix of shops, offices and residential apartments. The amphitheater’s stage has a unique design, built at the base of the Lucky Strike tobacco water tower and surrounded by flowing water. More than 2,000 people can fit on the grass leading up to the stage. The amphitheater offers free live performances, including the Back Porch Music on the Lawn summer series.