Listening to recordings of your favorite country songs is all well and good, but to truly get the country experience you need to hear it live. Country music was born in bars, and on front porches, anywhere you could find space for a singer and a guitar. If you’re looking for live country, then you need to seek out some of the best venues this great country has to offer. Since hundreds of venues have helped make country music what it is today it can be hard to decide to choose between them all. To help you we’ve gone through them and picked out the twelve best, so you know where to go to get the best experience possible.
1. Grizzly Rose, Denver, CO
In the heart of the Rocky Mountains, you’ll find a country venue unlike any other, which of course we think is the most famous country venue you can find! Since 1989 the Grizzly Rose has brought artists like Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Toby Keith to come tear it up in the heart of Denver. Beyond the world-class music, the Rose also comes equipped with a dining room, dance floor, smoke shop, pool room, and mechanical bulls. Add in weekly specials running from Tuesday to Sunday there’s always a reason to come on down to the Grizzly Rose.
2. Gruene Hall, New Braunfels, TX
If you want to really touch Country music history, then the Gruene Hall is a must visit. It’s been around since 1878, and it is still going strong after almost a century and a half. The best thing is that while other historic venues have changed with the times, the Gruene Hall’s owners have sought to preserve its unique character.
3. Skinny Dennis, New York City, NY
When you see the horseshoe on the door and step in to find a painting of Woodie Nelson looking down at you you’ll know that you’re not in Williamsburg anymore. This little slice of the South in Brooklyn is proof positive that Northerners know how to play country music with the best of them. All week long you’ll find live music on the stage and affordable beers behind the counter.
4. Grand Ole Opry House, Nashville, TN
No list of country music venues would be complete without mentioning the Grand Ole Opry. The Grand Ole Opry radio show has been broadcasting some of the best music around into homes across America since 1925. The show started out in a small venue and eventually demanded its own space, which lead to the construction of the Grand Ole Opry House in 1974. In the over forty years since it was built this venue has seen just about all of the legends of country music. Every country music fan should try and visit it at least once in their life.
5. Dusty Armadillo, Rootstown, OH
Anyone looking for a night of peace and quiet should avoid the Dusty Armadillo. This is a place where the music is loud and the patrons are even louder. Even if you aren’t outgoing chances are you’ll get swept up in the spirit as the alcohol flows and the dancers tear it up on the floor all into the wee hours of the morning.
6. The Stage on Broadway, Nashville, TX
If you want to see tomorrow’s country music stars today, then The Stage on Broadway is the place to be. It’s famous as the spot where musicians with dreams of stardom go to pay their dues as they make their way in Nashville. But the stage isn’t just about country music’s cutting edge; you’ll also find memorabilia owned by country music legends like Waylon Jennings decorating the walls.
7. Firehouse Saloon, Houston, TX
The name of this venue comes from the fact that it was founded by firefighters. More than that, after 20 years it’s still owned by a firefighter, so you can feel safe when you enter this honky tonk. With wooden floors and picnic tables to sit at this place is as authentic as you can get.
8. Bub City, Chicago, IL
If you want to see how they get down country-style in Chicago then head on over to Bub City. All week long it’s a great little bar, but the place really lights up whenever there’s live music. Touring acts and locals alike take the stage on the weekends, while drinkers can get in on the action on Tuesdays for the best country karaoke night in Illinois.
9. Austin City Saloon, Lexington, KY
Don’t let the name fool you, this venue is located in Kentucky. The name comes from the founders’ desire to bring a taste of Texas to Kentucky and that’s just what you’ll get when you visit the Austin City Saloon for drinks and dancing.
10. Coyote Joe’s, Charlotte, NC
This venue is the place that country musicians hit up whenever they swing through North Carolina. It’s another venue that hosts line dancing lessons. Its atmosphere is very warm and inviting so if you’ve always wanted to try line dancing then Coyote Joe’s is the place to dive on in.
11. Bushwhackers Dance Hall & Saloon, Tualatin, OR
This Oregon establishment is a small saloon with a big heart. It’s created a little community of country fans in the heart of Oregon by holding dance classes and bringing in some of the best country acts around for live shows every weekend. Just be warned, this venue’s size and popularity mean that by the end of the night it can get pretty crowded.
12. Billy Bob’s Texas, Fort Worth, TX
In Texas, they like big steaks, big hats, and big honky tonks. Billy Bob’s Texas holds the title of the largest honky tonk in the world. The 100,000 square feet inside the building can hold up to six thousand country music fans at once! It was at Billy Bob’s that Merle Haggard earned the world record for biggest round ever purchased when he bought a crowd of over 5,000 fans a shot of whiskey. This venue has also been a star of TV and film, including George Strait’s 1992 classic Pure Country. Once you walk into Billy Bob’s, it’s clear why this honky-tonk is a star.