Houston’s 10 Best Outdoor Live Music Venues

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The temperature still routinely reaches the 90s, and the mosquitos haven’t stopped biting just yet, but make no mistake — fall is here in Houston. And nothing works better on a cool (by Houston standards) fall night than good company, a couple of cold beverages and, perhaps most important, some quality live music. Fortunately, Houston doesn’t lack for options.

Less a live music venue and more a large parking lot that hosts large musical events, poor NRG Park — despite a promising slate — has had a somewhat rough year. While June’s Vans Warped Tour ran rather smoothly, NRG Park once again found itself as the backup site once rain washed Free Press Summer Fest out of Eleanor Tinsley Park. Then there was the nightmarish weather that limited Houston Open Air Fest, originally a two-day event, to half a day. When the weather is tolerable (and that’s far from a given in Houston), NRG is a prime spot to host a festival. It’s walkable, parking is available and it’s spacious enough to host various stages. (1 NRG Park, reliantpark.com)

Keeping a steady tenant in the rooftop space above Reef hasn’t been easy over the years, but Proof seems to have succeeded where others couldn’t. And with fall and its cooler weather on tap, Proof – with its picturesque skyline view – is sure to be among the hottest spots in Midtown. October is shaping up to be a big and musically diverse month; upcoming Proof concerts include Ratt (this Tuesday), Cee-Lo Green and Puddle of Mudd. (2600 Travis, proofrooftoplounge.com)

Of all the outdoor music venues in Houston, perhaps none has better cornered the nostalgia market than the Pub Fountains. This is fitting, considering the venue resides in the suburbs, making it more likely to appeal to an older crowd than its Inner Loop contemporaries. Whether it's former Creed front man Scott Stapp, Drowning Pool or Fuel, the Pub Fountains knows what its audience wants — rock hits of yesteryear. (12720 Southwest Freeway, Stafford, thepubinstafford.com)

Houston’s quintessential patio bar, Cottonwood is among the better places to enjoy a night outdoors while sipping on a cold craft beer and knocking down one of Houston’s best burgers. Hell, bring the pups; Cottonwood’s patio is dog-friendly. Cottonwood also boasts an outdoor stage that hosts live music, much of it local, every week as part of KPFT's "Troubadour Tuesday" (featuring Austin's The Drakes this week), and Thursdays are a popular night for live music as well. (3422 North Shepherd, cottonwoodhouston.com)

Tinsley Park routinely plays host to Houston’s biggest summer festival – the annual Free Press Summer Fest. Well, it was SUPPOSED to play host to the event the past two years, until inclement weather rendered the park unfit for a festival (FPSF moved to NRG Park). However, when it’s fit to show, Tinsley Park is Houston at its finest. Nestled just outside downtown, the park offers up a stunning view of downtown Houston, and the green space is tailored to live music festivals like FPSF. Tinsley Park also played host to the Freedom Over Texas event this past July 4 weekend, which featured noteworthy acts like Darius Rucker and the Eli Young Band. (500 Allen Parkway, buffalobayou.org)

If there’s a better place in Houston to post up with a picnic basket full of food and a bottle of wine, all the while taking in a relaxing evening of live music or the performing arts, well, good luck finding it. Miller Outdoor Theatre, which neighbors the Houston Zoo, is the perfect place to enjoy live music on a crisp fall evening. Bring some food and drink and enjoy a free seat on the lawn. Miller Outdoor recently hosted the annual Chicano Music Festival, and numerous other music and arts-related events are on tap in 2016. (6000 Hermann Park Drive, milleroutdoortheatre.com)
Is it more a Mexican restaurant, or more of a live-music venue? Eh, who cares. Last Concert Café is a Houston institution, one that serves up quality Mexican food and live music most nights of the week. In the next month, that includes local offerings from a range of genres, including classic rock, funk, blues, Prog and Creole. Those looking for a truly unique slice of Houston will find it at Last Concert Café. (1403 Nance, lastconcert.com)

Houston’s newest addition to the outdoor live-music scene also happens to be one of its finest. Simply put, White Oak is the venue Houston has been in desperate need of for years, and the one it’s finally gotten — albeit not without a few hiccups along the way. Although its outdoor stage, known as the Lawn, has been a source of trouble from both City Hall and White Oak's neighbors, a decision from the city regarding the owners' application for a permanent-stage permit could be handed down as soon as this week. The Lawn is spacious, the concessions are reasonably priced (for concerts, anyway) and artists like Sturgill Simpson and Flaming Lips have helped give White Oak some early credibility. In addition to a pair of indoor stages, White Oak also has a little brother of sorts in Raven Tower. A sort of patio bar/live music hybrid located next to White Oak, Raven Tower also features an outdoor stage that serves up live music several nights a week – much of it cheap or at no cost whatsoever. (2915 North Main, whiteoakmusichall.com)

Downtown Houston is finally starting to pop, and some of the credit for that revitalization goes to Discovery Green. The venue, which boasts plenty of green space, a man-made pond and kid-friendly activities like a playground and splash pad, has helped provide downtown with a new identity of sorts. It’s also provided a new place to showcase an array of local and national acts. In April, Discovery Green played host to Final Four-related concerts from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Fall Out Boy and Twenty One Pilots. The venue has also become the host for the annual Untapped Festival, a tribute to beer and live music; Dr. Dog headlines this year’s event, scheduled for October 22. And then there’s the weekly Thursday Night Concerts series, which has played host to such singer-songwriters as Robert Ellis and Alejandro Escovedo. (1500 McKinney, discoverygreen.com)

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is regarded as being among the finest outdoor live music venues in the nation, and with good reason. The Pavilion (along with Toyota Center) is the place in the Houston area for major touring acts looking to fill up an arena or comparably sized venue. In the past two months alone, the Pavilion has hosted name-brand acts like Counting Crows, Alabama Shakes, Snoop Dogg and Gwen Stefani. The covered seating area is great, but for those looking to sprawl out on a fall night, the lawn is second to none. (2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, woodlandscenter.org)

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