Some of these venues are architectural treasures, while others coccoon the audience in nature while giving us a show under the stars. Whatever their design, they all bring people together through the universal language of the arts.
Here are 10 fantastic American theaters that definitely merit a visit.
1. The Egg, Albany, New York
Visitors to New York’s capital are usually left unimpressed by its small size and relative dearth of attractions. The Egg may change visitors’ opinions, however. This performance space is part of Albany’s small but iconic skyline, which is dominated by the Empire State Plaza, a 1960’s-era collection of government buildings. The Egg is actually shapred mre like a bowl, with two theaters wholly enclosed inside.
2. War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
A contender for California’s grandest structure, the War Memorial Opera House was built in the 1930s and has hosted countless performances. The building also was used for some of the country’s (and the world’s) defining moments of diplomacy. The United Nations charter was drafted here, and Japan’s post World War II sovereignty was restored in a ceremony held at the Opera House in 1951.
3. Ford’s Theater, Washington, D.C.
You may be familiar with Ford’s Theater as the location where President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. The theater was brand new at the time, having just opened in 1863. Lincoln’s actual place of death was across the street at a boarding house where physicians unsuccessfully tended to his wounds. Today, the theater plays host to tours walking guests through that fateful evening, and how Lincoln’s assassination shaped the post-Civil War United States.
4. Tampa Theater, Tampa, Florida
The historic Tampa Theater, located in the city’s core, has been hosting all forms of entertainment since its inception in 1925. At its opening, the theatre was the only air-conditioned building in Tampa, which doubtless made it extremely popular. Its style is that of an atmospheric movie house, with an interior evoking a lavish Mediterranean courtyard. Satues, murals, and gargoyles peering down from the rafters, watching the watchers. After its heyday as a movie house in the early 20th century, the theatre began serving as a venue for touring popular music acts.
5. Crosby Theatre, Sante Fe, New Mexico
A striking open-air theatre, the Crosby uses the picturesque New Mexican desert as a natural backdrop for its performances. Originally a small, 480-seat amphitheater, the Crosby has evolved since its opening in 1957 to accommodate classic and modern operas. Dubbed the “Opera Ranch,” audiences here can take in performances under a canopy of desert stars. Most concerts also feature a meal, with choices ranging from high-end cuisine to picnic-style theater snacks. Dessert in the desert, anyone?
6. Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville
One of the newest theaters on our list, downtown Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center opened in 2006. It may not be as historic as some of the spaces on this list, but it’s still a majestic and regal monument to “Music City”, hearkening back to classical music’s baroque origins. Its entryway channels Greek wonder such as the Parthenon, while modern sound design and acoustics ensure every performance is thrills the senses.
7. Kauffman Center, Kansas City, Missouri
Another modern theater, the Kauffman Center in Kansas City opened in 2011. Its appearance is singularly unusual, like an exaggerated seashell, but this design lends to its excellent acoustics and also the distinctiveness of the Kansas City skyline. Part of the redevelopment of downtown, the center hosts popular touring acts as well as the Kansas City Symphony and the Kansas City Ballet.
8. Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Chicago
An outdoor bandshell in Chicago’s Millenium Park, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion is a Frank Gehry-designed modern musical venue masterpiece. The venue is noted for its acoustic excellence, as it was designed to give the audience an open-air experience with indoor sound precision. Numerous theater and music companies regularly perform at the pavilion, including the Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Lyric Opera of Chicago.
9. King’s Theatre, Brooklyn, New York
Another example of an ornate movie hall of yesteryear, King’s Theatre in the Flatbush neighborhood was revamped in 2015. Today, it’s a bustling live music venue. The building sat in disrepair for 40 years, becoming a blight on the community. The interior, which was originally modeled after the Paris Opera House, was damaged by vandals and water leaking from the roof. Luckily, vandals could not reach its ornate 70-foot high ceilings, which were mostly spared. A $95 million dollar renovation project brought the building back to its glory.
10. Paramount Theatre, Seattle, Washington
Once a film and vaudeville theater, Seattle’s Paramount first opened in 1928. It was one of the many grand theaters built by Paramount Pictures in major cities across the country during the roaring 20s. It still boasts its original features from 90 years ago, including 4,000 seats. It can also convert into a ballroom with the flip of some switches!
Live theater and music performances are a part of America’s rich cultural tapestry. Check out a show at some of these venues on your next trip.