Travel

The Best Music Venues in Phoenix

From intimate indoor music halls to large-scale, outdoor amphitheaters, the city has a variety of venues for every type of concert and concert-goer.

Footprint Center
Footprint Center
Footprint Center

While Phoenix is the nation’s fifth largest city, it’s historically been overlooked by touring artists who viewed it as an unnecessary stop between Las Vegas and Los Angeles-but things are finally starting to change, thanks in large part to the incredible music venues in the Phoenix metro area. From intimate indoor music halls to large-scale, outdoor amphitheatres, the city has a variety of venues for every type of concert and concert-goer. Here are our personal favourites from around the Valley.

Gila River Arena
Gila River Arena
Gila River Arena

Gila River Arena

Glendale
This multi-purpose arena has been recognized by Pollstar for its utility as a concert venue, and the list of talent it’s seen-ranging from Madonna to Paul McCartney-speaks for itself. While it’s had a couple of different names since opening in 2003, it’s gained a solid reputation as a go-to venue for top talent. It also serves as the anchor for Westgate City Center-a’s 223-acre entertainment district with restaurants and shopping-perfect for pre-concert dining.

Ak-Chin Pavilion
Ak-Chin Pavilion
Ak-Chin Pavilion

Ak-Chin Pavilion

Maryvale Village
This expansive amphitheatre offers one of the best ways to enjoy Arizona’s beautiful weather while seeing top-tier talent. The massive venue has a capacity of 20,000 and has hosted a variety of festivals including Warped Tour and Ozzfest. Whether you’re attending a festival, or seeing acts like Pitbull and Dave Matthews Band, it’s the perfect place to lounge in the grass, grab a beer, and enjoy some live music.

The Van Buren
The Van Buren
The Van Buren

The Van Buren

Downtown
The Van Buren has quickly become a favourite among locals since its opening in 2017. The historic downtown Phoenix building once housed a vintage auto dealership and still holds some of the building’s 1930s charm; and while its capacity is 1,800 people, it still feels intimate-perfect for seeing up and coming acts. Some of the top musicians the venue has seen include Billie Eilish, Death Cab for Cutie, and Dua Lipa.

Marquee Theatre

Tempe
Marquee Theatre is a Tempe staple, having opened as the Red River Opry in 1993. In 2003, it opened as Marquee Theatre and has since welcomed thousands of artists Adele, Green Day, and Katy Perry. In 2015, it was renovated and now includes a second story balcony for even better views of the stage.

Mesa Amphitheatre
Mesa Amphitheatre
Mesa Amphitheatre

Mesa Amphitheatre

Mesa
This magical-feeling amphitheatre offers the up-close-and-personal feel that many venues of its capacity lack. The sprawling, grass-covered amphitheatre has kept its design-which allows it to welcome nearly 5,000 people at a time-since opening in the 1970s. Since then, it’s hosted musical artists of all kinds – from Machine Gun Kelly to O.A.R. Plus, its location in Mesa offers a change of scenery for many concertgoers who are used to heading to Glendale or downtown Phoenix for shows.

Crescent Ballroom
Crescent Ballroom
Crescent Ballroom

Crescent Ballroom

Downtown
Housed in a historic garage constructed in the 1910s, Crescent Ballroom keeps to its gritty roots with underground shows, local band performances, DJ competitions ,and trivia nights. The laidback lounge feel and in-house Mexican restaurant, Cocina 10, make it a place you want to be-even if you don’t know who’s up on stage.

Arizona Financial Theatre

Downtown
Arizona Financial Theatre, previously known as Comerica Theatre, has a two-decade long history as a venue in the Valley-hosting not only concerts, but also comedy shows, award ceremonies and even a WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony. During its 20 year run, the 5,000 seat, downtown Phoenix venue has welcomed more than two million people to see world renowned talent such as Janet Jackson, Lorde, and Lana Del Rey.

Friends of the Orpheum Theatre
Friends of the Orpheum Theatre
Friends of the Orpheum Theatre

Orpheum Theatre

Downtown
The 93-year-old Orpheum Theatre has earned a reputation for its historic and glamorous interior, haunted history, and for being a standout place to catch a concert. It also regularly hosts performances by the Phoenix Opera, Ballet Arizona, as well as a variety of Broadway musicals.

Footprint Center
Footprint Center
Footprint Center

Footprint Center

Downtown
This 18,422-seat arena-known as the home of the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury, and Arizona Rattlers-offers night after night of A-list talent from Kid Cudi to Keith Urban and Duran Duran, all within walking distance of downtown Phoenix’s best bars and restaurants. While it’s had many names (you might remember it as US Airways Center or Talking Stick Resort Arena), its reputation as one of Phoenix’s best venues has held strong.

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Jamie Killin is a Phoenix native and Arizona State graduate who specialises in lifestyle and features writing. You can usually find her at the spin studio, a concert, or trying new restaurants across the Valley. Follow her at @jamiefayekillin.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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