From the rolling mountains to the sandy coastal towns, Virginia has been filled with music since the earliest inhabitants entertained with the simplest of instruments. Today, you’ll find rich music experiences in every corner of the state, whether you’re looking for a bluegrass band in the Blue Ridge, a jazz festival in the capital city, or a tour through time at a music history museum. If you consider yourself a true music lover, you need to plan a trip to one of these musical destinations, festivals, and landmarks in the Commonwealth.
—HISTORIC MUSIC DESTINATIONS—
Learn about Virginia’s legendary music history with a visit to these storied locations.
The Crooked Road—Southwest Virginia
Running from the far southwest corner of Virginia to the town of Rocky Mount, just south of Roanoke, the Crooked Road is a musical heritage trail that celebrates the deep roots of bluegrass, country, and mountain music that can still be heard in the region and connects the venues, museums, and festivals of Southwest Virginia. These include:
- Rex Theater—Galax
Opened in 1941, Rex Theater originally functioned as a movie theater, but the historic building screened the last film in the 1980s. After closing, the town of Galax decided to renovate the space and host live bluegrass performances every Friday evening, as well as vintage movie screenings and special events throughout the year.
- The Birthplace of Country Music Museum—Bristol
Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum covers Bristol’s important contributions to recorded music with exhibits, listening and mixing stations, theater experiences, and more. Learn about the technology that was used back in 1927 when the Carter Family, Jimmie Rogers, and other notable country musicians recorded the famous Bristol Sessions at this very location.
- The Carter Family Fold—Hiltons
Credited as some of the original country music artists, the Carter family recorded over 300 traditional Appalachian songs between 1927 and 1942. Today, you can visit the exact spot where they raised the talented family and hear similar tunes played during shows every Saturday night at the Carter Family Fold.
- Floyd Country Store—Floyd
This authentic country shop is over 100 years old, and while the Floyd Country Store functions as a general store and restaurant throughout the week, visitors and residents flock the site for the Friday Night Jamborees, featuring gospel, old-time, and bluegrass bands.
In addition these, there are dozens of venues, exhibits, and festivals along the Crooked Road that tell this harmonious story.
Patsy Cline’s Hometown—Winchester
Another notable spot to visit if you’re a music history buff is the historic Patsy Cline House in Winchester. As the first solo female singer in the Grand Ole Opry and the first woman to be inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame, Cline is an iconic character in the history of Virginia music. Her small home speaks to her modest beginnings, and visitors can pay tribute to the late country star at her final resting place, right outside the city limits in Shenandoah Memorial Park.
—MUST-SEE VENUES & CONCERT HALLS—
Whether you’re looking for a small, local show or a huge arena concert, there are hundreds of venues in Virginia to see your favorite bands perform.
Arenas & Amphitheaters
Virginia Beach Amphitheater—Virginia Beach
The Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater (commonly referred to as the Virginia Beach Amphitheater) has been one of the premiere East Coast music venues since its opening in 1996. With seating for over 20,000 people, world-famous artists like Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, U2, and KISS have all played at this massive coastal destination. Get tickets for your favorite bands for a fun-filled summer vacation.
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts—Vienna
This Northern Virginia outdoor venue brings performances in every genre, from pop and rock to folk, blues, and orchestra. On 117 acres of pristine lands, Wolf Trap has hiking trails that are open year round, although music events are primarily held during the summer months. Check their website for a full list of upcoming artists and show information.
The third-largest convention center in Virginia, the Hampton Coliseum seats about 13,000 people and offers year-round performances and shows. The arena hosts the popular Hampton Jazz Festival each year, drawing thousands of visitors to the music venue for blues, jazz, and soul performances from nationally renowned artists.
Opened in 1928, the Beacon Theatre is a historic landmark in the small town of Hopewell, located about 20 minutes south of Richmond. The venue holds only 637 people at its maximum capacity, but the stunning art-deco architecture adds an elegance and style that few remaining music destinations can capture.
Just minutes from Washington D.C., The Birchmere hosts some of the biggest names in country, rock, and folk music, as well as comedic talent. The venue was established in 1966 and is known throughout the world for its past shows. Future acts include Roy Rogers, Melissa Etheridge, and Amy Grant.
Just a few blocks from the waterfront in downtown Norfolk, The Norva brings acts of every genre and size to its stage, from rock and rap to bluegrass and pop. Get tickets to upcoming shows like The Chainsmokers, The Shins, Thursday, and T.I. on the venue’s website.
There are dozens more local live music venues around the Commonwealth that are hot spots for acts of all sizes. Many breweries and wineries also double as live music venues on occasion. Keep an eye on your local brewpub or winery event listings to find out about shows in your region.
—VIRGINIA CITIES FOR MUSIC LOVERS—
From the smallest town to the capital city, Virginia has plenty of destinations for live music. With various venues and festivals happening throughout the year, these incredible cities invite music lovers to come experience live music almost every single night.
The Capital city is filled with musical talent on any given night. You’ll discover both local bands and nationally recognized artists playing throughout the city. Small venues like The Broadberry, The Camel, The Tin Pan, Capital Ale House, and Strange Matter host a range of shows including up-and-coming attractions, local artists, and even big name shows with a more intimate viewing style. For larger shows, music lovers head to venues like the Richmond Coliseum, The National, and even outdoor event spaces, including Maymont and Brown’s Island, which hosts a popular Friday night summer music series called Friday Cheers. Multi-day festivals like the Richmond Jazz Festival and the Richmond Folk Festival draw thousands of people to the city, making it a must-see music destination.
Look up the event calendars for the individual venues to see if your favorite bands are coming to Richmond.
Charlottesville often hosts some of the biggest names in music, including former hometown hero Dave Matthews. The bigger concerts are held at John Paul Jones Arena and the Sprint Pavilion off the Downtown Mall, while local acts often perform at the Paramount Theater and Jefferson Theater. Looking for a festival? Charlottesville has you covered, with Tom Tom Founders Festival April 10-16, Ash Lawn Opera throughout the summer, and of course Lockn’, one of the biggest festivals in Virginia, just a short drive away from the city.
Many of Charlottesville’s wineries, breweries, and restaurants are also popular spots for live shows, letting you taste and hear the best that Virginia has to offer simultaneously.
Discover a few more music towns to add to your travel itinerary this year.
—TOP CONCERTS & FESTIVALS—
Want to see a variety of your favorite bands all in one place? Get tickets to these incredible festivals for an unforgettable music experience!
Date: May 25-28, 2017
In its 9th year, Rooster Walk Music and Arts Festival is a family friendly event that features a variety of genres, including rock, country, blues, reggae, funk, Americana, bluegrass, and more. Overnight camping is available on-site, and kids can enjoy arts & crafts booths and activities throughout the live music performances.
Date: August 24-27, 2017
Lockn’ Festival is all about musical collaboration, with many of the artists playing several combined sets over four days to create new and impressive results. Held in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, attendees can explore the Great Outdoors during breaks from the performances, including hiking and biking along a series of trails surrounding the festival grounds.
American Music Festival—Virginia Beach
Date: September 1-3, 2017
Combine a beach trip with a live music event when you attend the American Music Festival in Virginia Beach. Held over Labor Day weekend, this three-day festival brings together jazz, blues, rock, country, and R&B artists in the largest outdoor music event on the East Coast. Between stage performances, walk just a few steps to catch some rays on the sand or cool off in the Atlantic Ocean.
Date: July 26-30, 2017
Attend Floydfest for five days of nonstop music, artisan workshops, demonstrations, and a whole lot of fun. The 80-acre festival campus is filled with everything you need to get the most out of this musical event, like a “Global Village” that encourages visitors to learn about the Blue Ridge region’s foods, artists, and lifestyle. Stay in the festival campgrounds for a fully immersive festival experience, and if you’re interested in bringing the whole family, Floydfest has a playground, a “Children’s Universe” area where kids can explore and learn, a stage devoted to kid-friendly bands, and even babysitting services available for parents.
Date: April 7, 2017
Started in 1996 by the James Madison University student-run radio station WXJM, MACROCK is still going strong today with the intention of promoting independent music and the DIY culture. The event focuses on music, but also provides panels and events for local artisans, businesses, and authors to discuss their crafts.
With countless venues, festivals, and music-filled destinations, the Commonwealth has everything a music lover needs for a memorable vacation. Discover your reason to LOVE Virginia’s music scene when you plan a trip this year. Tell us, where do you like to see your favorite bands perform in Virginia?
© pkeppel for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2017. |