Red Rocks is one of the most famous concert venues in the world, and for good reason. Yes, it’s pretty cool that the red sandstone rock formations form a natural amphitheatre, but it’s more than that! As a concert venue that was once listed among the Seven Wonders of the World, Red Rocks is pretty special, and definitely worth a visit.
If you read our founder Kathrin’s message in this month’s newsletter (Didn’t get it? Sign up for the ALL OUT DISPATCH here!) then you know Red Rocks has a soft spot in our founder’s heart.
In fact, you could say the same for all of our guides, and most everyone who has ever been lucky enough to catch a show at Red Rocks.
But did you know there’s more to do at Red Rocks than just catch a concert? Or that Aspire Tours (that’s us!) will now be offering round-trip transportation to Red Rocks shows?
Well, funny thing! We’re here to talk about just that. But for all your first-timers, let’s quickly get an important question out of the way.
Does Red Rocks Live Up To The Hype?
YES! And then some.
When we asked our guides for one word to describe Red Rocks, we got responses like,
That’s an impressive collection of adjectives! And probably not enough to do Red Rocks justice.
Seriously, this is a true bucket-list amphitheater that we are beyond blessed to have right in our backyard. It really doesn’t even make sense! How did it even get there?!
Quick history lesson!
The Formation & History of Red Rocks
Okay, we’re not going to go so far back as to talk about the formation of the actual rocks but let’s just say it took wind and sand and water and a lot of time. Cool? Cool.
Oh, also, dinosaur fossils and tracks have been found here. In fact, just east of Red Rocks is Dinosaur Ridge, a National Natural Landmark that has been ranked the #1 dinosaur track site in the U.S.!
Red Rocks is, as its own website claims, a geological phenomenon and the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world. They even spell the amphitheatre the fancy way with the “re” instead of “er,” so you know it's legit.
The land lies on the traditional territory of the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe Peoples, who consider this to be sacred ground.
In the 1930s, intrepid Denver Mayor, Benjamin Franklin Stapleton, and Parks and Improvements Manager, George Cranmer, received approval to build the amphitheatre. (Cranmer insisted on the traditional English spelling. See? We weren’t just being sassy, it’s part of the history lesson.)
Renowned Denver architect, Burnham Hoyt was brought on for the project, and it’s here between Ship and Creation rocks that he created his magnum opus.
After five years of dynamite and pick-axes, removing 50,000 cubic feet of dirt and rock, they began construction. They laid 90,000 square feet of sandstone for seating, plus 800 tons of quarried stone and 30,000 pounds of reinforced steel for the stage. Red Rocks officially opened on June 15, 1941.
(View the full super-interesting timeline here on the official Red Rocks website.)
What’s So Great About Red Rocks?
The sights, the sound, the setting, the people, the acts, Red Rocks really has it all. It’s been the site of so many incredible performances, many of which have been captured on film, including the iconic U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday live video from all the way back in 1983.
Numerous other acts have put concert to film here due to the incredible setting and perfect sound.
Our guides have seen acts like Lake Street Dive, Avett Brothers, My Morning Jacket, and others. For everyone, Red Rocks is about so much more than who they saw.
It’s who they were with, the general energy of the place, and the community fostered by the close-knit environment. You’ll remember how you felt more than specific songs or moments. Red Rocks just has a way of sticking with you.
But to have the ultimate experience, here are our tips.
What Else Is Going On There?
Visit on most days and you’ll find people sweating it out running the stairs (193 steps from the stage to the top!).
On other days, there are yoga classes, and you can even catch a movie screening on nights when there isn't a show. You can also just explore the beautiful, 738-acre Red Rocks Park. Deemed significant and worthy of preservation, the entire area was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2015.
Are you visiting in the winter? Join one of the winter fitness classes to warm yourself up!
Tips To Make The Most of Red Rocks
Red Rocks is nestled in the little town of Morrison. It’s right at the western edge of the city, about a 25 minute drive from Union Station in downtown Denver when traffic is light. For a weeknight show, you'll have to plan extra time to navigate traffic and parking. And you’ll have to do a bit of a hike once you get parked, so wear comfortable shoes!
Oh, and dress warmer than you think you’ll need to. It tends to be breezy and at over 6,000 feet, Red Rocks is at some elevation, so it gets chilly at night. Speaking of elevation… If you’re not used to it, go easy on the alcohol. It’s easy to overdo it at a Red Rocks show!
Our biggest piece of advice though? Let us drive you.
Why? Because if you’re planning to go the rideshare route, you’ll get stuck with spotty cell reception, long wait times, and the dreaded surge pricing. If you want to enjoy a few beverages during the show or just don’t want to deal with the hassle of driving, we’ll take you and your group right to the base of the amphitheatre.
We’ll get you there nice and early so you can enjoy the famous Red Rocks tailgate scene and send you inside well in time for your show. When it’s time to leave, we’ll be right there at the van to take you and your group back home! Get in touch with us to discuss your needs for round-trip transportation from Aspire Tours.
Just want to check out the sights? Our Denver Foothills Explorer and Breckenridge Mountain Explorer tours both make stops at Red Rocks so you can explore the hallowed grounds.