Red Rocks Amphitheatre is one of the most coveted venues for music lovers but when trying to plan your visit, you might have a ton of questions about the venue, its facilities, and the overall experience.
So below, I’ll give you an overview of what to expect at this iconic establishment.
I’ll give you some insight on preparing for your concert and making the most of it, including tips on choosing your seat, getting through security, parking, and everything else.
Table of Contents
Introduction to Red Rocks
Red Rocks Amphitheatre holds a special place in the hearts of music lovers due to its unparalleled natural beauty, with towering red sandstone formations forming a breathtaking backdrop for concerts.
The venue’s legendary acoustics and unique open-air design create an immersive and some might even say magical experience, making every performance at Red Rocks an unforgettable event.
Throughout its storied history, Red Rocks Amphitheatre has witnessed legendary performances by iconic musicians such as The Beatles, U2, and Jimi Hendrix, solidifying its status as a hallowed ground where musical legends have left an indelible mark on the hearts of audiences.
When you step into this iconic venue, Red Rocks embraces you with open arms, inviting you to be a part of its rich musical legacy, but it still helps to do a little bit of your homework to make the most of the experience.
Preparing for your Red Rocks Concert
Planning out your trip to Red Rocks
If you’re still looking for a special event to attend at Red Rocks, you can always check the latest event schedule on the official website.
Events can be announced several months in advance or sometimes just a few weeks before the event so it’s worth signing up for updates or checking the event page regularly if you’re looking for something specific.
The venue is most well known for putting on concerts, but you can also occasionally catch comedy shows, movies (classic and new films), and sometimes other special events like yoga sessions.
Ticket purchasing: recommended websites, resale options, and best time to buy
A Red Rocks concert typically has a reserved section, a general admission section, and maybe a VIP section.
Just how big the reserved section is going to be versus general admission depends on the concert/event. Sometimes the reserved seating could be found somewhere in the first 40 to 50 rows. Other times, it could just be a few rows.
In our case, we attended a 311 concert which had a huge general admission section.
Tickets for the reserved section were about three times more expensive than general admission for our concert so it helps to really think about your preference (more on how the general admission seating works below).
There are multiple platforms you can get your tickets from and we decided to purchase our tickets through StubHub, which gave us the ability to transfer or sell them if we needed to.
I’ve pretty much purchased all of my tickets through StubHub over the years and never had an issue but you can also purchase tickets directly through Red Rocks/AXS (we found tickets to be slightly cheaper on StubHub but YMMV).
Only a few hours before our concert, I got locked out of this app because it randomly required me to verify my email when trying to login with my Apple credentials but none of the email verifications came through.
Luckily, I was finally able to locate my password so my advice would be to not rely on logging in with your Facebook or Apple account because if you don’t know your password, you could get locked out of the app (reseting your PW could be hard with limited service).
Also, the app generates a QR code that changes every 60 seconds so you can’t simply take a screenshot of your tickets once you see them for the first time. You will probably be fine but keep an eye on the app and make sure you have your tickets pulled up well in advance of arriving.
Planning logistics: transportation, parking, and arrival and exit time
Doors open about one hour prior to the start of the concert and parking for the event should open up about two hours prior to the doors opening but always check on your specific event for the exact times.
You’ll have several different options to choose from when it comes to parking and typically it is available for free.
Here are the main lots you’ll be considering:
- Upper South Lot
- Lower South Lot #1
- Lower South Lot #2
- Upper North Lot
- Lower North Lot
As you begin to approach the parking lots, you’ll be directed to whatever open lot your path is heading to so you may have to just go with the flow sometimes.
Also, lots of people park along the road, presumably to avoid the congestion of the parking lots. From what I can tell, this is acceptable but they will tow or ticket folks who don’t park properly so use caution.
Vehicles can be left overnight but must be removed by 10 AM the next morning.
The length of your concert is going to depend on the artist performing, but you can probably expect things to run from 7 PM to close to midnight.
Here’s how long our event lasted just to give you an idea of how things can go.
Initially, the concert was supposed to start at 6:30 PM but because of weather it started around 7:45 PM.
The first opening act lasted about 40 minutes as did the second.
So 311, the main attraction, came on at about 2 hours and 15 minutes after the show started and lasted until close to midnight. We got home around 12:45 AM which meant we spent about 7 hours total at the venue.
If you’re relying on Uber to get you to and from the concert, be aware that finding an Uber back can sometimes be a challenge. Whether it is surge pricing or limited cell phone service, some people do have issues at times so you may want to leave the concert a couple of songs before it ends to avoid the mad rush.
Also be aware that there are some people who hang out around the exits and claim to save you money on Uber and Lyft but I would steer clear of these people as you never know who you can trust.
Drop off points for rideshare services are located at Trading Post, Upper North Lot, and Upper South Lot. But note that pick up location at the end of the night will be directed to Lower South Lot 2 only.
We chose to drive our own vehicle in and park. We left the amphitheater at the beginning of the second encore song and we were able to beat the crowds, only dealing with very minimal traffic getting out of the venue.
One popular way to deal with getting to red rocks without the hassle of parking is to utilize a shuttle bus.
You can find shuttle buses that will pick you up at various parts of Denver and take you directly to the venue. This can be a very safe way to get to and from Red Rocks if you plan on partying it up.
Dressing appropriately: considering weather conditions and comfort during the event
Weather in the Denver/Red Rocks area is notoriously unpredictable, especially in the summer when storms quickly develop and dissipate in the afternoons.
Our experience is a perfect example of why you can’t rely on the weather forecast.
On the morning of our concert, the weather forecast predicted a clear late afternoon with no chance of rain and we ended up getting hit with a thunderstorm that delayed the concert and forced us to run for cover so we didn’t get drenched!
So bringing a poncho or waterproof jacket is a very good idea even if you woke up that morning and you see a 0% chance of precipitation.
And if you do see a chance of severe weather, bring something to cover your head from hail and be ready to head to your vehicle or another place of shelter if it starts to rain down like it did on these unfortunate concert goers.
Also, after sunset, the temperature can drop pretty quickly. You could easily go from a temperature in the 70s to the lower 60s or even 50s.
During the spring and fall, you could be dealing with really cold temperatures calling for a thick jacket and multiple layers.
But in the peak of the summer, the evening temperatures can be heavenly although the wind can sometimes pick up pretty good. I noticed that the wind was significantly stronger in the last few rows of the venue versus where we were in row 60.
Navigating the Venue
Understanding the layout of Red Rocks: seating areas, stages, and landmarks
Red Rocks has capacity for around 9,000 attendees. There are 70 rows in the amphitheater with the back row and some of the first rows dedicated to accessible/VIP seating.
You’ll be able to get up to your row utilizing one of two stairways.
One staircase aisle is directly adjacent to all of the seating and the other one is on the perimeter of the venue which makes it a little easier to navigate because you won’t have people standing in the way and the steps are smaller.
This also is where are you find the designated smoking areas (for tabacco).
Almost anywhere you park, you’re going to have to deal with some elevation gain to get to and from your seat.
There are ways that you can minimize the walking, though. For example, if you are planning on sitting in one of the upper levels you could enter from the Top Gate West Entrance from the Upper North Lot, which would seriously cut down your walking efforts.
The south entrance has an advantage of allowing you to avoid lots of extra stairs as they have a winding ramp that takes you to the lower levels of the amphitheater.
Just be aware that if you’re coming from sea level, the venue is located at 6,450 feet.
Even if you’re fit, the high altitude can impact your ability to do basic things like going up stairs, so I recommend drinking lots of water and taking your time while ascending the trails or steps. Besides, the breathtaking views along the way make it easy to pause and savor the scenery.
Getting through security
When we went through security for our concert, the process went like this.
First, there was a staff member who was in charge of checking bags. They never used a metal detector but they did dig through our bag.
They didn’t check every single tiny item and it seemed like they were more concerned with trying to detect heavy/bulky items. A joint or small pipe stashed away could’ve easily gotten through.
Next, there was the staff member with the metal detector wand. They “wanded” us over our upper torso, midsection, and arms but that was about it. Sometimes the venue may also give you a pat down, although I doubt they perform those like TSA.
Once we got through these two stations, there was a third staff member who scanned our QR code and we were officially in the venue!
Know what items to bring and not to bring: not always so clear
You can find the full list of things allowed and not allowed on the Red Rocks website. Some prohibited items that you might not expect include some cameras, aerosols (including sunscreen), tablets, and gum.
But here’s something to know: there’s a bit of inconsistency with what you see on the official Red Rocks website versus how things actually go in the real world when it comes to security at Red Rocks.
A big question is often asked about bringing marijuana into the venue whether it be blunts, joints, pipes, or vapes.
On paper, Red Rocks clearly prohibits this: “All marijuana products are prohibited at Red Rocks.”
But in practice, the enforcement policy on these is going to differ a bit based on the artist and the event. For example, security might be quicker to come tell you to put out your joint at a certain type of event if you are smoking in broad daylight.
During our 311 concert, the smell of bud filled the atmosphere through the entire show from the opening acts through the encore. Clouds of smoke billowed from the crowd even before it got dark, even in areas close to the end of the rows.
It was pretty clear to me that the enforcement policy was to let people do their thing (within reason).
But waiting till dark and using a vape or pipe when away from the ends of rows will probably always be the most discreet way to go about it (besides edibles).
And keep in mind people can make complaints via calling in or texting and so you could always be reported if you’re sitting next to the “wrong” people.
I’ve also seen reports of staff “spraying” out joints and giving people warnings. So just don’t be a nuisance and have some situational awareness as to how things are being enforced at your event and you’ll be fine.
When it comes to bringing additional “prohibited” items, there are also some other discrepancies.
For example, umbrellas are not allowed but the staff let us know that if you keep them in your bag while in the audience, there is no issue (so you could use them while standing outside if a rain shower popped up).
Another thing is the new bag policy, requiring bags to only have one pocket. We saw a few bags let in that clearly did not meet this requirement.
Obviously, if you don’t want any issues you should err on the side of being cautious but just know that there may be some wiggle room with event staff, depending on the nature of the event.
A checklist of items worth bringing
In terms of the things you’ll want to consider bringing, here’s a list:
- Well charged phone with tickets already pulled up in app before you leave your house/hotel
- Comfortable shoes for steep walking (hiking boots not needed)
- Light jacket or sweater (evenings can get cool or downright cold)
- Rain poncho or waterproof jacket (in case of inclement weather)
- Blanket, towel, or seat cushion to sit on
- Binoculars (for a closer view of the stage and surrounding scenery)
- Small backpack or bag with single pocket for personal items
- Sunscreen and hat (for tailgating and openers)
- Sealed water bottles
- Snacks or packed food (in clear plastic bag)
- Personal medications (if necessary)
Enhancing the Red Rocks Experience
Arriving early: benefits of exploring the venue before the concert starts
I would actually recommend you to visit Red Rocks well before you attend a concert if possible.
We visited Red Rocks a few weeks before our concert and did a little bit of hiking in the morning and then just went up the amphitheater steps to check out the views. This really helped us to get a sense of where we might want to sit and got us generally familiar with the layout of the venue.
Even if you only have time in the morning or early afternoon of your concert, it could help to go check it out before the concert. You can also spend some time visiting the Colorado Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Tailgating at Red Rocks: tips for pre-show festivities and community bonding
Tailgating is definitely a part of the experience and as mentioned it goes on in many of the different parking lots.
One of the coveted lots is the upper north lot (that has close access to the amphitheater) which we initially wanted to park in but we were redirected to the lower north lot, which still had a good amount of tailgating going on. But others have good things to say about the Upper South lot if you really want to party.
If you plan on tailgating, they do have some rules you need to follow which include:
- Tailgating must be confined to the rear of your vehicle and not interfere with the parking of other vehicles.
- You may not block off other parking areas or spots.
- Loudspeakers, tents and canopies are not permitted.
- Open flame fires and charcoal grills are prohibited – no large BBQs. Food and beverages should be for personal consumption for your ticketed party.
- Small gas-controlled grills are allowed unless there are temporary fire bans in effect.
- Propane grills must be at least 12” off the ground and the flame no more 6” high.
- Glass is not permitted in any area of the park. Use cans or plastic instead.
Each of the parking lots will have a few portable toilets for you to use but be prepared for some potentially long lines.
If you want to move around and kill some time, you could also do some light hiking.
Probably the best trail to do which is easy to moderate would be the Trading Post Trail, which we have done and really liked as it takes you that close to many of the rock formations.
Finding the best seats at Red Rocks
Now on to finding the “best seats” at Red Rocks.
If you followed my suggestion and previously visited the venue, you’ll have a solid idea of the seating preference you’d like.
For those without reserved seats and opting for general admission, you’ll sometimes have a plethora of choices.
By inquiring around, you’ll receive recommendations for nearly every section within the venue, ranging from the front rows to the very back.
So to give you some clarity here are my recommendations based on my personal experience and all of the (very thorough) research I did before experiencing Red Rocks.
For those who are willing to arrive early, securing seats in the front rows at Red Rocks guarantees an up-close and electric concert experience. The pulsating energy of the crowd, the lighting, and the raw connection with the performers create an atmosphere that resonates on a primal level.
But you’ll need to line-up early. Get to the gates 30 minutes to an hour(+) before they open to get up close. Also, keep in mind some of the seats are reserved for accessible seating and also VIP seating.
If you sit in the middle portion, you still experience some of that energy from the front section and the good acoustics, but you also get to appreciate more of the amphitheater and enjoy views of Downtown Denver and Dinosaur Ridge.
These seats would be the seats around rows 30 to 40 but you still need to arrive early to lock these down lots of times. Also, some of these can be reserved at times.
If you’re seated towards the back (rows 50+), you should be able to find more space between you and others and you’ll have the most expansive view of the entire venue and backdrop of the city lights. Our 311 concert was around July 4 so we also had the benefit of admiring a beautiful fireworks show from around row 60.
Of course, from the back the band members are much smaller although the screens help you still get a good feel of what’s going on down on the stage. The biggest drawback could be that the acoustics could be impacted, particularly if there is a lot of wind.
A good amount of people were also standing in the aisle ways of the stairs and posted up on the ledges hanging out under the trees so depending on how staff is enforcing things, you can get a little creative with your seating situation.
Once you do locate your seat, memorize your row number. There were at least a few people who I found coming through our row and getting lost as they struggled to locate their row.
Keep in mind that your seat is pretty much going to just be a wooden bleacher.
If you’re worried about comfort, you can go out and buy one of those stadium seats and bring those in as long as they are not wider than 18 inches and do not have legs. Only a very tiny sliver of people had these during the 311 concert.
Personally, I was tempted to use one of these but in the end the bench seating was not that bad and we stood up 95% of the time during 311’s performance.
There are no seats with obstructions in this amphitheater which is one of the major perks of its design.
But I would try to avoid rows that connect directly to concessions or drink stands because you’ll experience A LOT of traffic coming through during the entire show.
Also, while general admission means you can take anything you want there is some concert etiquette that goes into this. When securing a seat, avoid trying to squeeze people in, especially if you are arriving late.
If there is a lot of space between people, they will usually happily scoot over to give you some room but if you’re going to force them to get squished in, you should probably look for seat somewhere else.
Having people come into your space is much more common in the lower rows near the stage where people have a different expectation of personal space, so if you don’t want to deal with much of that you can head up towards the top.
I will say 311 creates some great vibes and all of the people we were seated around were really cool.
The only slightly annoying thing was when everyone was sitting down during the opening acts.
On occasion, people walking by would kick us in the back trying to make their way through, despite there being a pretty wide aisle.
Also, towards the end of the concert when lots of people were leaving early, a decent number of people were stumbling through without sufficient lighting to guide them to the exit aisle.
But overall, it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Food and Refreshments
Exploring the culinary offerings: notable food vendors and concessions
If you’re looking for alcohol, you can find bars located throughout the venue from top to bottom. Some of these had long lines, but the small bar near our row 63 at the top seemed to serve people quickly. Expect to pay $13 to $15 for an alcoholic beverage and about $6 for a bottle of water.
You can also find concessions on the bottom of either entrance as well as at the top of the venue (whenever construction is finished). They serve up everything from tacos, burgers, hotdogs, and pizza.
Bringing your own snacks and beverages: permitted items and restrictions
We didn’t really want to mess around with the concession stands and waiting in those crazy long lines (although you can apparently order through the app to avoid the lines).
So we decided to just bring our own food which consisted of chips, beef jerky, and some candy for the sugar rush. We also brought in gummies since I’m not much of a smoker these days. We simply put these in a clear Ziploc bag inside of our tote bag and got them in just fine.
Security did seem pretty strict on the closed container requirement for liquids.
If you bring in bottles of water or other permitted liquids, they have to be factory sealed. Also they don’t allow certain types of beverages like aluminum cans or anything with glass.
Near the upper north lot, they did have a Chick-fil-A pop-up that stayed open all the way until after the concert was finished but as good as it sounded, I didn’t like the thought of paying $9 for a chicken sandwich, so we passed.
If you’re looking to get some merchandise, head to the lower south clamshell. Occasionally, there might be other spots to grab merch, but regardless of where it’s sold be quick when going for your merch. The popular items tend to sell out fast, and the merchandise lines can become quite lengthy.
Accessible facilities and services
As mentioned, if you need accessible seating you can find that at the bottom and top of the venue. Look into getting shuttled from the parking lot if needed.
Bathrooms can be found at the bottom of the amphitheater on both sides (north and south) as well as up top around the visitor center.
For any music lover, heading to Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a true bucket list experience.
For the most part you don’t have to stress too much about the details as just about any seat in the house will offer you a memorable experience.
But for those who want to optimize their experience, knowing things like what to bring, where to tailgate, where to sit, and what to expect can help make your experience that much smoother!
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.