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Seven Scenic Music Venues in the Mountains

The Hills are Alive

The Blue Ridge has been a hotbed for cultivating innovative music since the early 19th century, acting as a melting pot for cross-cultural pollinations that brought previously unthinkable sonic combos like traditional Scottish fiddle tunes spliced with African rhythms, German Alpine folk, and Lutheran-style chorale harmonies. 

Today that spirit remains alive and well, embodied by a range of genre-defying artists playing everything from progressive bluegrass to authentic Americana to eclectic indie rock. And fortunately regional musicians have some great stages to explore these sounds. Here are seven must-visit music venues in the mountains. 


Harpers Ferry Brewing Company, Harpers Ferry 

Technically located in Purcellville, Virginia, this gem of a brewery sits just three miles from historic downtown Harpers Ferry atop a give-or-take 1,000-foot mountain that backs onto a sheer escarpment with panoramic views of the Potomac River, town, and surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Top regional acts like the Virginia Rum Runners perform on weekends on an indoor stage or midsized outdoor bandstand on the periphery of a sprawling grass seating area populated by an array of picnic tables, stone terraces, firepits, decks and gazebos. Grab delicious tacos or nacho baskets from an outside food truck and bar area or indulge in a gourmet wood-fired pizza from the indoor food counter. Pair your eats with samples from a seasonally changing menu of 20 house brews and ciders on tap, and a selection of local wines.

Collaborations always take place at Mountain Stage in West Virginia. Photo by Brian Blauser.

Culture Center Theater, Charleston 

The much-loved, two-hour National Public Radio show “Mountain Stage” doubles as an open-to-the-public live concert series that’s almost exclusively recorded in Charleston’s Culture Center Theater. The beautifully renovated 468-seat theater and state museum sits adjacent to the capitol building in a historic district just two blocks from the Kanawha River and its eponymous 9.1-mile riverside greenway. 

West Virginia Public Broadcasting founded the near-weekly show and series in 1983 in an effort to drive tourism and boost public access to a diverse range of elite-level musical acts. Alumni performers span an impressive spectrum of styles and genres, ranging from bluegrass legends like Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys to chart-topping pop stars like Sheryl Crow and Norah Jones.  


The Foundry, Waynesboro 

 You’ll find this new state-of-the-art venue in the eastern corner of a massively overhauled 35,000-square-foot, turn-of-the-century brass and bronze foundry on the outskirts of historic downtown Waynesboro, and less than a mile from entrances to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park. Expect a musical lineup of prominent regional bands interspersed with national acts like the North Mississippi Allstars, Yonder Mountain String Band, Larry Keel Experience, and Jon Stickley Trio. 

The 850-person dancefloor, stage and bar area includes a balcony and raised deck VIP seating, and connects to parent company, Basic City Beer Co., via a wide, window-lined indoor corridor that’s also home to Italian-inspired eatery, Patina. The counter-style restaurant dishes up portably packaged, pub-friendly takes on staples like risotto and paninis. Next comes a taproom and seating area that offers wood-fired pizzas, regional wines, ciders, and a dozen house-made brews on tap. Two game rooms filled with vintage pinball machines, arcade games, foosball, pool, and air hockey tables round out the package.

Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, Orkney Springs 

Discover one of the country’s longest running multi-genre, outdoor concert series in the high Alleghany Mountains, about 30 minutes west of Harrisonburg and less than five miles from Bryce Resort. The festival launched at the Massanutten Military Academy as a two-day classical music showcase in 1963, but quickly evolved into a four-weekend series intended to “celebrate the musical roots and cultural diversity of the Shenandoah Valley,” says fest founder and executive director, Dennis Lynch.

Concerts are now held on Saturdays and Sundays from late July through September 1 on the grounds of the beautiful, 1,100-acre Shrine Mont retreat center and historic Orkney Springs Hotel, which dates to 1853. Take in tunes from all-star headliners like Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, Steve Earle, and Mavis Staples at a 600-person pavilion and lawn area surrounded by mature hardwoods and evergreens. 

“There’s something incredibly magical about this place,” says Lynch. “We’re out there on this historic mountain property surrounded by national forest lands, and I think that setting inspires both the artists and listeners to focus on the music in a way that’s very hard to replicate.”


Beech Mountain Resort, Beech Mountain 

Beech Mountain’s annual outdoor summer concert series pairs resort amenities with tunes from nationally acclaimed performers, surrounded by stunning views in North Carolina’s High Country. 

Follow a day of hiking on nearby trails or thrashing in the lift-served mountain biking park with performances from top groups like Sylvan Esso, The Wood Brothers, String Cheese Incident, and Dispatch. Artists throw down the jams on an outdoor stage situated at the foot of a gently sloping, natural grass amphitheater in the resort’s basecamp area. A food truck village offers diverse and delectable local eats, craft beer, wine, and cider. Walkable lodging options abound.

Brevard Music Center campus and parker concert hall. Photo courtesy of Brevard Music Center.

Brevard Music Center, Brevard 

This renowned music education institute offers year-round events programming centered around world-class jazz, classical, and bluegrass musicians and singers just 1.5 miles from downtown Brevard on a beautifully landscaped 180-acre, 145-building campus that dates to 1936 and backs up to Pisgah National Forest. Its 16-show summer concert series is held in an 1,800-seat auditorium with open sides that sits on Brushy Creek and opens onto a small lake. 

This year’s marquee acts include Grammy winners like legendary jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, acoustic guitar hero Bryan Sutton, and iconic folk singer-songwriter Judy Collins. Permanent seating in the auditorium flows into a deck area and two grassy terraces with lawn seating and concessions tents.


The Caverns, Pelham 

An hour’s drive northwest from Chattanooga brings you to the Caverns, one of the nation’s most novel live music venues. Pass beneath a massive, natural stone arch into a near two-mile-long cave system that features an expansive, 1,200-person dancefloor and stage area replete with all the amenities you’d expect from a primo amphitheater, including cutting-edge lights and sound.

This is the new home of the hit PBS music show and concert series “The Caverns Sessions” (formerly known as “Bluegrass Underground”). Weekly shows bring an eclectic variety that spans from bluegrass hall-of-famers like the Del McCoury Band to cosmic country axeman Daniel Donato and crossover rock-shred master Buckethead. Bigger shows happen here, too. Not far from the entrance is a 6,000-person sister amphitheater surrounded by expanses of rural mountain forests and a campground with luxury yurts, spots for RVs, and more than 1,000 primitive sites.

Cover photo: The Outdoor Amphitheater at the Caverns in Tennessee. Photo by Matt Morrison. 

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