A picnic basket, a blanket, the stars above – and some toe-tapping music. Nothing quite spells summer in Arizona like a concert in a park. Luckily, there are plenty of summer concert series throughout the state, with music ranging from acoustic folk to rousing marches. Many concerts are free, while some require an admission ticket. Check websites or call ahead for details.
Here are just a few musical options around Arizona.
Flagstaff’s cool pines and high elevation make it a magnet for summer getaways. After a day of hiking, biking or exploring, two concert options add to the fun.
Summer Nights on the Square showcases local and regional musical acts Thursday evenings from late May through early September in historic downtown’s Heritage Square. Bring a chair or sit on the amphitheater steps, but you don’t have to bring a picnic because there are dozens of indie dining options are within a short walk.
A brief drive from downtown, the 200-acre Arboretum at Flagstaff hosts monthly outdoor concerts between June and September, while there’s still enough early-evening light to see the backdrop San Francisco Peaks. Buy beer, wine and munchies there, or bring your own food as you enjoy everything from mariachis to jazz.
North Central Arizona
Clarkdale, a historic mining town in the Verde Valley, animates its town park gazebo with music ranging from Americana to big band sounds between May and September. Carry in chairs or blankets and pack a snack, or walk down Main Street to find pizza, Mexican food and a winery’s tasting room.
In Prescott, concerts on the historic Courthouse Square are a long-standing summer tradition. Several nights a week between June and August, musical acts ranging from jazz and Americana to rock and funk take to the stage, with the grand, 1918 neoclassical Revival-style courthouse as a backdrop. Great restaurants in the surrounding historic district render picnics optional. Dancing, though, is encouraged.
Up on the Mogollon Rim, Payson’s summer concert series has drawn residents and visitors alike since 1998 to the grassy amphitheater at Green Valley Park with weekly Saturday evening concerts in June and July. Food tents and pushcarts provide sustenance if you feel hunger pangs while listening to doo-wop, country or rock cover bands.
After the sun sets in the Phoenix metro area, the sound of music draws desert denizens to two concert series.
Got kids? In Scottsdale, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park’s summer concerts are family favorites. Between May and early July, you and your youngin’s can shake your booties on Sunday evenings to classic rock, country and more, then hit the park’s playgrounds, vintage carousel and narrow-gauge railroad. Hungry? The park store sells ice cream and other treats.
Across town, Glendale Summer Band celebrates its 50th season with Thursday
evening performances June and July at Glendale’s Murphy Park Amphitheater. Arizona’s longest-running community band pulls from a pool of 300 musicians of all ages, with some 100 performing polkas, marches, show tunes and more at each concert. Buy snacks at the park or dine at any number of restaurants dotting the park’s surrounding historic district.
Tucson Pops Orchestra’s Music Under the Stars series has been a community favorite since 1955, with the large orchestra mastering everything from classics to show tunes. The split season runs Sundays in May and early June, and again in September. Come early to the DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center at leafy Reid Park to snare seats (concerts have been known to draw up to 10,000) or bring your own. Visit the food trucks that line the park.
In Sierra Vista, the weekly summer concerts at Veteran’s Memorial Park Centennial Pavilion always have a show or two featuring the military band from nearby Fort Huachuca, home to about 6,500 active-duty soldiers. Other concerts, which run through mid-July, include jazz, swing and bluegrass performances. Pack a light meal, bring chairs or a blanket, and enjoy the high-desert setting.
In the heart of Kingman’s historic Route 66 district, Metcalfe Park has been home base for Concerts in the Park, a program presented since 2011 by Sounds of Kingman, a nonprofit promoting live-music performances. (In the off-season, they present historical reenactments of famous men and women who lived in Arizona and became legends in the 1800s and early 1900s.) Concert-goers sit on chairs and blankets to hear country, classic rock and big band shows, offered monthly through the end of September. Starving before or after the concert? Diners, pizza and Mexican food are options within walking distance.