There aren’t many cities where you can listen to live music under a star-studded sky with majestic canyons as your backdrop. Enter The Greek Theatre, an outdoor amphitheater carved into a hillside of Griffith Park that’s become so iconic for its magical setting and great natural acoustics, it inspired the 2010 film Get Him to the Greek, starring Russell Brand. (In the movie, a music executive must escort a wayward rock star to—you guessed it—The Greek Theatre, for his first stop on a career-defining concert tour.)
“We played The Greek!” is a common refrain from bands rocking out in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. On the California Now Podcast, longtime Rolling Stone contributor Fred Schruers recalls hearing Ryan Adams check The Greek off his musical bucket list at the end of a show. The prestige and allure of this stunning outdoor venue prompted Schruers to list it in his top five favorite places to see a concert in L.A.
From May through November, the 5,900-capacity amphitheater hosts some of the biggest names in music. “It has terrific acoustics,” Schruers notes. The venue opened in 1930, but its history dates to the 1880s when mining mogul Colonel Griffith J. Griffith moved to America from South Wales. Upon his death in 1919, Colonel Griffith left a $1 million trust to the City of Los Angeles with instructions to construct an observatory and an outdoor theater with Greek columns. Though the cornerstone was finally laid in 1928, the venue didn’t host its first act, an operatic concert, until 1931. Over the next few decades, sporadic use caused the Greek Theatre to fall into disrepair. During World War II, it was even converted into military barracks. But renewed interest in the 1970s sparked its resurgence. Since then, The Greek Theatre has hosted a slew of musical legends, including Frank Sinatra and Sir Elton John.
Over the past century, the city has preserved The Greek’s grandeur. Nestled among lush trees at the base of a Los Feliz canyon, The Greek remains one of the best places in Los Angeles to soak in a show. The amphitheater’s event lineup always promises big names—like Harry Styles, Tom Jones, and Pete Townshend—and with an intimate 5,900-person capacity, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The season only runs from spring to mid-fall, but the theater, modeled after a Greek temple, is still worth a look-see in the off-season.
And don’t just take Schruers’ word for it; Pollstar Magazine also named The Greek Theatre as the best small outdoor venue in the United States in 2018. Schruers says simply: “It’s crazy cool.”
Insider tip: Consider preordering one of the picnic baskets for two, filled with Mediterranean-style noshes like hummus, charcuterie, baguettes, or Greek salad.