Red Rocks Amphitheater is America’s music Mecca. Every artist dreams of the day they get to mount the Red Rocks stage while music fan’s dreams are filled with magical moments on the rocks. Red Rocks is a natural amphitheater that formed when a portion of the Rockie’s front range disappeared under the crust forcing younger, iron filled (cause of the red color) formations straight up towards the sky. This natural phenomenon formed an acoustically perfect amphitheater and since the 1930’s Red Rocks has been an iconic place to witness live music.
My recent trip to Denver included my first Red Rocks shows and I must say, the hype does not do this phenomenal place justice. Upon arrival I was immediately enchanted by the peculiar, bright red formations towering out of the hill side. We arrived at the park early to hike around the area on the numerous trails that weave through the rocks and around the venue. All day the anticipation grew as show time neared. Walking into the venue and peering over the rail, down towards the stage was like looking over the edge of the Earth and glimpsing musical heaven for the first time.
The performances that ensued will stick in my mind forever. Getting to hear some of my favorite bands (Boombox, Galactic and The String Cheese Incident) in such a perfect acoustic environment was pure magic! We were way at the top of the amphitheater, looking out over the stage at the Denver skyline but could still hear and feel the presence of the music as if we were in the sound booth.
After having such an epic and worry free experience at The Rocks I thought I’d share some tips to help you enjoy yourself just as much or more! Diabetic or not this advice could prove useful on your first Red Rocks adventure.
There are two types of tickets at Red Rocks, general admission and assigned seating. Obviously the assigned seats are a bit more expensive but worth it to some if you don’t want to squabble with people for a spot. General admission has two options, either grab a spot wherever you can in the top 20 rows or squeeze into the crowd down in the first 20 rows, right in front of the stage. The latter option will put you in the “pit” and depending on the artist playing you may find yourself bumping elbows and dodging flailing dreadlocks. For my fellow type 1s sitting near the top may be your best bet as you are close to restrooms (yes we pee alot…), food vendors, medical staff and your car (if you park in the right lot, more on that in a bit). No matter where you sit, the music will sound excellent, that I can promise.
What to Wear/Bring
The weather can be variable and unpredictable in Denver, make sure to be prepared for a number of situations. Layers, layer, layers! Bring a light jacket in case you get chilly and definitely have a rain poncho handy. If you really want to be the hero of the show bring a few extra cheap ponchos and if it rains, hand them out to poor souls who forgot one. For the pre-party tailgate be sure to have sunscreen and possibly a sun hat, that 4p-7p sun can be brutal. Sensible shoes are a must as you are not just attending a concert but are also taking on a mandatory hike to get into and out of the venue. Take a blanket or stadium chair to sit on to keep your butt comfy or wrap up in if the temperature drops. Taking a decent sized bag in is suggested, especially since you can stash it under your seat and out of everyone’s way.
Most Red Rocks shows have a 6:30p door time. To truly enjoy the whole experience I would suggest getting there no later than 5:30p and even earlier if you plan to hike or enjoy the tailgate fun before the show as parking lots fill up quick and the later you get there, the further the hike to the venue. Driving yourself is your best bet if you want to set up and tailgate but there are other options if you are visiting and don’t have a car or plan on getting too sloshed to drive. Bus to Show is a great service that will take you to and from the show for around $40. They have pick up locations in Boulder and Denver. There are also plenty of reasonably priced party bus options if you have a large group.
Half the fun of a Red Rocks experience is the pre-show tailgate. There are four parking lots to choose from and each has its own personality. Whether you get to park where you want depends on what time you show up, which direction you are coming from and the mood of traffic directors.
The Upper North lot hosts the mellowest pre-show vibe and is also the shortest trek from car to show which is the reason it fills up first. This is where I suggest any T1D to park as you can easily access your car during the show in case of emergency or if you need to grab a snack, back up meter etc.
The Upper South and Lower North lots are equal distance from the venue and are good second options if limiting your hiking distance is your goal. To decide between the two you must choose ramp or stairs. The Upper South takes you up the ramp, the Lower North to the base of the park stairs.
For a true non-stop party experience the Lower South lot is your best bet for some real tailgate adventures. This is where most party buses drop off patrons and you will find plenty of extravagant tailgate set ups hosting proper pre-games. This may be the best spot for the pre-show party but be prepared as it is also the furthest away from the venue. Definitely have a couple road beers ready for the trek.
Security was relatively lax, confiscating the basic prohibited items and making sure no one was sneaking in alcohol. (You can check out the prohibited items list here). The security checkpoint consisted of a basic bag check and metal detector wand. Normally security would confiscate any type of liquid but upon explaining I was type 1 and that I must drink excessive amounts of water the guard let me keep my “water” bottle.
Reentry is only permitted for weather related or medical emergencies, lucky for us needing a snack from the car or grabbing our back up meter is considered a medical emergency.
As far as I know the only medical staff on site consists of a few EMTs and an ambulance. If a medical emergency were to take place you are mere minutes from Denver so fear not. As always, just have everything you need and take care of yourself. Eat a solid meal, count how many drinks you have had, know your limits and stay away from any drugs or substances you aren’t familiar with. If you do plan to experiment, tell someone you are diabetic and educate them on the danger signs to watch out for and what to do if you become unresponsive. Be sure to wear a diabetic alert bracelet or other jewelry!
(Ketamine, an animal tranquilizer, is becoming increasingly popular as a recreational drug, especially in Colorado. STAY AWAY FROM K! Ketamine will deplete the glucose in your system causing a severe hypo).
Food and Drink
Be sure to pack all the snacks and sugar sources you will need. The venue allows personal snacks but no large meals, be sure to eat something substantial before going in, food prices are outrageous in the venue and healthy choices are limited. Also bring your own water bottle to avoid spending $5 for water. Most liquids are not allowed in but they will make an exception for water, juice boxes or other necessary hypo treatments, just have a medical ID on hand to prove you are diabetic.
Hope you found some useful info here! If you have any questions about navigating Red Rocks or other shows and festivals with diabetes drop a comment below.
Like this post? Sign up below to receive new posts and updates straight to your inbox!