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Soak in the sounds – and the views – at classical music’s most scenic U.S. festivals.
Picture yourself surrounded by awe-inspiring views while relaxing to classical music, perhaps with a glass of wine in your hand as the sun sets in the distance – far, far away from the busyness of everyday life. Intrigued? Take a look at these music venues, concerts and festivals that combine the timelessness of the classical symphony with beautiful spaces and places throughout the USA.
Chicago, Illinois – Grant Park Music Festival
The Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and Grant Park Chorus conduct this 10-week summer concert series in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Performances are at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an architecturally inspiring stage designed by Frank Gehry. While you’re there, snap photos of the park’s other landmarks, including Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”), Crown Fountain and Lurie Garden. In nearby Highland Park, the Ravinia Festival is the oldest outdoor music festival in the USA held every summer since 1905.
Watching a nighttime show at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Lenox, Massachusetts – Tanglewood Music Festival
Some of classical music’s biggest names, including Yo-Yo Ma, Susan Graham and Lang Lang, have performed during the summertime Tanglewood Music Festival, where many of the concerts begin at sunset under the open sky. In addition to shows by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops, this festival presents a variety of rock, pop and jazz musicians, too, from June through August. Recent artists include Béla Fleck, Roger Daltrey, Alison Krauss and Harry Connick Jr.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra performing at Tanglewood
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio – Blossom Music Festival
Spread out your picnic blanket and enjoy the show at Blossom Music Center, host to the annual Blossom Music Festival. The event calendar spans June through September and features concerts by the Cleveland Orchestra and Blossom Festival Orchestra. The amphitheater’s striking pyramid shape is surrounded by the lush forests of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Big Sky, Montana – Big Sky Classical Music Festival
One of the biggest draws to this three-day festival? The main outdoor performances are absolutely free and open to all ages. Every August, the Big Sky Classical Music Festival presents open-air classical performances at Town Center Park, an indoor ticketed concert at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center as well as activities geared toward student musicians.
Listening to live music in the mountains in Big Sky
Hawaiian Islands – Hawaii International Music Festival
Founded in 2016 by violinist Eric Silberger, pianist Carlin Ma and opera soprano Amy Shoremount-Obra, the Hawaii International Music Festival quickly grew into a week-long, multi-island festival. Every facet of the August event highlights an aspect of Hawaiian culture, whether it’s with a traditional ukulele performance or coffee brewed from locally harvested beans. Not surprisingly, the music is accompanied by Hawaii’s unforgettable natural scenery.
Vail, Colorado – Bravo! Vail Music Festival
In winter, Vail is a snow sports paradise. In summer, the hills come alive with the sound of classical music at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival from June to August. Bravo! Vail attracts some of the most respected orchestras in the country – Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic – in addition to soloists and small ensembles. Plus, the alpine scenery surrounding the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater can’t be beat.
A gorgeous summertime day in Vail’s village
Katonah, New York – Caramoor Summer Music Festival
Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts is the sprawling estate-turned-cultural-center in the town of Katonah, about 80 kilometers north of New York City. Explore the picturesque gardens, reserve a tour of the Rosen House and, if you’re visiting in summer, attend a concert during the Caramoor Summer Music Festival. Opera, orchestral music and other classical genres are performed throughout the estate grounds, including the Spanish courtyard and historic music room.
Charleston, South Carolina – Spoleto Festival USA
Charleston’s popular Spoleto Festival USA, held in May and June, is the U.S. counterpart to the Festival dei Due Mondi based in Spoleto, Italy. During its 17-day run, the festival offers a variety of performances, including opera, choir, theater, ballet recitals, chamber music and more. Charleston is a city steeped in Southern culture, from the onset of the American Civil War at Fort Sumter National Monument to its historic architecture and traditional cuisine.
The iconic architecture and palm trees of Charleston
Logan, Utah – Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre
Fans of opera and stage performances can’t miss this unique festival, held at the Ellen Eccles Theatre every July and August. With more than 100 events over its five-week run, the Utah Festival Opera covers opera, Broadway musicals, orchestral shows, choral performances, backstage tours and more. The festival is held in Logan, about 130 kilometers north of Salt Lake City.
A performance of the 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' during the Utah Festival Opera in Logan
Cottonwood Falls, Kansas – Symphony in the Flint Hills
The wind-swept, tallgrass prairies of Kansas serve as the setting for the Kansas City Symphony’s esteemed event, Symphony in the Flint Hills. This one-day festival in June offers a new theme every year – 2018 was “water” – with a day of educational events in the pavilion and live musical performances as the sun sets behind the endless horizon. Nearby, explore nature at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve or visit the cities of Wichita and Topeka.
Vienna, Virginia – Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
Bring lawn chairs, food and drinks to watch live concerts at the only U.S. national park dedicated to the performing arts – the Wolf Trap National Park for Performing Arts in Vienna, 30 minutes east of Washington, D.C. From May to September, you might catch a stage musical, classical concert or performance by the Wolf Trap Opera. In addition to the Filene Center and Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods, the grounds feature hiking trails and ranger-led tours.
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