8 Iconic Californian Music Festivals And Venues To Visit

From Coachella to Stagecoach, California’s festival vibe is varied and buzzing.

Music is synonymous with California, and what could be better than listening to your favourite band on a balmy night with the palm trees swaying in the background? But it’s not just the festivals themselves that make the music scene iconic - it’s the amazing performance venues, which range from historic landmarks to contemporary masterpieces. Open-air venues dot the state so you can see the stars while enjoying the show, and some sites even offer guided walks or behind-the-scenes tours - a great way to visit even if you’re not catching a show.

Check out the must-see festivals and venues for your California trip right here...

Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival
Flickr CC-BY Jason Persse
This music event is one of the biggest not just in California but the whole of the US. Drawing a star-studded crowd of models (Kendall and Kylie are regulars), actors and famous friends to the Indio Polo Grounds in the desert plains just south of Palm Springs, Coachella is the It-festival of the moment. Carried out over two weekends, 150,000 music-lovers dress in their festival best and, for 2016, will watch the likes of Ellie Goulding, Calvin Harris and Guns N’ Roses. As well as music, art plays a pivotal role in the festival, and works are scattered throughout the polo grounds while pop-up restaurants offer the best of quality California wines and craft beers.
Stagecoach Festival
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Pop on your cowboy boots and hats and yee-haw your way down to Stagecoach, which is a huge country music festival that’s almost as popular as Coachella, and is, in fact, held at the same location, the Indio Polo Grounds. Over three days you’ll see a host of stars, like Miranda Lambert, ZZ Topp, and Greg Allman while sipping on cold beers and digging into authentic barbecues. It’s a rootin’ tootin’ real good time.
BottleRock Napa Valley
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If you’re more rock’n’roll than hippie vibe, this three-day bash is for you. BottleRock in Napa Valley offers some huge names with Stevie Wonder, Lenny Kravitz and Red Hot Chili Peppers on the 2016 line-up. Snoop Dogg, Gwen Stefani and the Kings of Leon have also rocked the stage. And, because this is Napa, the food and drink is also top-notch; think wood-fired pizzas with local cheeses, oysters fresh out of Tomales Bay, local craft beers and mouthwatering wines.
Paramount Theatre
Flickr CC-BY BWChicago
A historic landmark of national importance, the Paramount Theatre in Oakland is one of the finest Art Deco buildings in the whole of the US. Known as East Bay’s Art Deco ‘palace’, its glimmering golden interior is a sight to behold. It’s played host to heavy-hitters like Bruce Springsteen and comedian Chris Rock, and the Oakland Ballet and Oakland East Bay Symphony are resident companies here. If you can’t catch a show, make sure to enjoy the two-hour tour offered on the first and third Saturday of every month.
Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival
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This event is held over three days at the Golden Gate Park, which was home to the summer of love and 60s flower power. Famous boots to rock the Outside Lands stage include Arcade Fire and Kings of Leon. Some say the food and drink is almost as good as the entertainment, with upmarket chef demonstrations and wine-tasting events. So get stuck in.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Flickr CC-BY Milo
The iconic Walt DIsney Concert Hall in Los Angeles is almost an ode to origami in steel. You can see magical performances by the Los Angeles Philharmonic here as well as a host of other incredible musicians. The visual experience is said to be almost as good as the sound, thanks to the striking central organ, nicknamed the ‘French Fries’. You can take a guided tour of the building and stop off at the third-level garden to soak in the city views. Here you’ll also the Lillian Disney Fountain, which is a tribute to the woman who the made the concert hall possible.
William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre
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Styled like a majestic amphitheatre, the William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre is a great outdoor live gig venue that is. It’s located at the base of the Berkeley Hills, on the edge of the UC Berkeley campus in the San Francisco Bay Area. It opened in 1903 and was a gift from its millionaire publisher namesake. Local boys Green Day are said to love playing here, while Sheryl Crow and James Taylor have also headlined.
The Hollywood Bowl
Kevin Winter via Getty Images
The Hollywood Bowl has to be the most iconic performance venue in California, and is also the largest natural amphitheatre in the US. It’s distinguished by its band shell framed by tall trees, and is situated in Los Angeles on the west side of Hollywood. Big-name bands like the Kings of Leon and Bruno Mars play here, but it’s also home to Tuesday and Thursday night classical music concerts and, in summer, you can find jazz legends bringing the house down on Wednesdays. No time to catch a show? Visit the free-admission Hollywood Bowl Museum, which features exhibits on the Beatles’ historic visit in 1965 and Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald’s amazing jazz concert in 1956.