14 of Georgia's Best Outdoor Music Venues
Music fans are spoiled for choice when it comes to al fresco venues in Georgia – particularly amphitheaters. And while we don't use our Peach State venues for gladiatorial combat, we can all agree that the classic bowl-shaped outdoor entertainment space is one of those things the Romans certainly got right. Here's a quick rundown of some Georgia's best.
Columbia County Amphitheatre, Evans
Tucked into a pond-and-park environment behind the Columbia County Library, this built-for-blankets bowl has a seating capacity of about 1,000 patrons. Be forewarned, however: there are no seats. Acts that have appeared there include Gretchen Wilson, Sister Hazel and Bruce Hornsby.
Jessye Norman Amphitheatre, Augusta
A venue with a view, "The Jessye," as it is locally known, backs up to the Savannah River, offering a perfect picturesque backdrop for any act. With a seating capacity of 1,600, it’s a popular stop for touring acts and has hosted the Avett Brothers, Charlie Daniels and Widespread Panic.
Ameris Bank Amphitheatre, Alpharetta
Located just north of Atlanta, this 12,000-seat outdoor event complex has, over the course of nearly 10 years, earned a reputation as one of the premier venues in the region. Look for A-List acts under its distinctive fan-shaped roof. Past performers include the Zac Brown Band, the Dave Matthews Band and Phish.
Lakewood Amphitheatre, Atlanta
Opened in 1989, this large (nearly 19,000 capacity) is a performer favorite due to its favorable acoustics and convenient location just south of Downtown Atlanta. Performers that have graced the Lakewood stage include Nicki Minaj, Slipknot and Depeche Mode – who have returned five times and recorded a live album at the venue.
Wolf Creek Amphitheatre, College Park
Located just east of I-285 in South Fulton County, the 5,420-capacity facility was designed with table, lawn and traditional seating in mind. Wolf Creek has been open since 2011 and has presented concerts by Patti LaBelle, Mary J Blige and R. Kelly.
Chastain Park Amphitheater, Atlanta
This classic venue, centrally located in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood, has been staging performances since 1944. The city-owned venue, which seats nearly 7,000, has long hosted Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Pops concerts and is well-known for its fall concert series. Artists that have graced the Chastain stage include Henry Mancini, R.E.M., Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre, Mableton
Known for extensive covered seating that keeps concerts weather-safe while retaining the outdoor experience, Mable House, located just east of Atlanta, seats approximately 2,400 in table, lawn and traditional seating. The venue mounts a variety of music series devoted to jazz, country and rock.
The Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater, Peachtree City
Colloquially known as "The Fred," this 2,500-seat amphitheater is popular with both performers and patrons, thanks in no small part to a tangible sense of intimacy unusual for a facility its size. Its summer concert series regularly attracts national touring acts to the heart of Peachtree City, including Melissa Etheridge, the Monkees, Dionne Warwick and the Steve Miller Band.
Zac Brown's Southern Ground Amphitheater, Fayetteville
Although branded with the name of Georgia musician Zac Brown's lifestyle brand Southern Ground, this mid-size – 1,500 capacity – venue is actually owned by Fayetteville's Downtown Development Authority, run by the Main Street Tourism Association and opened in 2002. Acts that have played Southern Ground include Randy Travis, Vince Gill and, on occasion, the Zac Brown Band.
Lady Antebellum Pavilion, Evans
While not strictly an amphitheater — there is no incline to the expansive lawn and seating is often where your lawn chair lands — the "Lady A" has become a popular stop for concerts and festivals in the Augusta area. Capable of containing crowds in excess of 10,000, the stage has seen acts such as Willie Nelson, Darius Rucker and Kid Rock play for its east Georgia audiences.
The Bowl at Sugar Hill, Sugar Hill
The recently opened (2014) Bowl at Sugar Hill in northern Gwinnett County is more an outdoor concert hall than a traditional amphitheater with luxury suites instead of lawn seating. Acts that have played The Bowl include Travis Tritt, Kool & the Gang, Blues Traveller and Collective Soul.
Sweetland Amphitheatre, LaGrange
Opened in spring 2016, this 2,500-seat venue was built into a natural hillside on the site of an old civic swimming park and pool dating back to the 1930s. In its short history, the venue has already played to in-demand acts such as the Beach Boys, Willie Nelson and the Charlie Daniels Band.
The AMP in Adamson Square - Downtown Carrollton
Opened in 2012, this covered outdoor venue features free concerts in the middle of Carrollton's Main Street district. Seating up to 750, the civic venue has hosted performances by the likes of Mother's Finest, Drivin N Cryin and Steep Canyon Rangers.
Northwest Georgia Amphitheatre, Ringgold
Opened in 2007, this 3,500-seat venue is located on the Georgia-Tennessee border near Chattanooga. Artists that have played the Northwest Georgia stage include Natt Nathanson, Colbie Cailat and the Charlie Daniels Band.
Steven Uhles has more than 20 years experience as a journalist and critic specializing in the worlds of music and film. Nearly a native, he has called Augusta home since 1980, and his local arts column – Pop Rocks – has run in the Augusta Chronicle for more than 15 years. His work has also appeared in The ’hamster, Georgia Music Magazine and in newspapers around the country. He lives in Columbia County with his wife and two children.