By Kristin Harmel
January 05, 2015
Best Places to Hear Live Music in Orlando
Credit: Franck Fotos / Alamy

Orlando's music scene is thriving, and its live music offerings are surprisingly ample. Not only is it the city that produced artists such as Matchbox Twenty, Mandy Moore, and NSYNC, but it's also a tour stop for most major bands (although some stop an hour's drive down I-4 in Tampa instead) as well as a place that often hosts musical experiences that can't be found anywhere else. You can find someone playing live any night of the week downtown (in the area in and around Wall Street), at Universal's CityWalk, or at Downtown Disney, and there are several music festivals throughout Central Florida at various times of the year. There's even a plethora of pianists and guitarists who play regularly in hotel lobbies and restaurants around town. In short, if you like music, you've arrived in the right place. Here are the best places in Orlando to rock out.

Hard Rock's Velvet Sessions

My favorite musical event in town is the monthly Velvet Sessions, which takes place in the lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando. An intimate evening with a band (recent guests have included Bret Michaels, Joan Jett, Eddie Money, Foreigner, and The Romantics), the event feels like a true VIP experience, complete with free finger foods and free specialty cocktails before the show begins. Ticket prices are very reasonable.

House of Blues Orlando

The Orlando outpost of this popular concert venue chain is based at Downtown Disney, so it's easy to park and grab a bite before the show. The acoustics are great, the cocktails are ample, and the venue offers both VIP balcony seats and standing room up front.

Hard Rock Live Orlando

At Universal's CityWalk, this popular concert venue, steeped in the tradition of the Hard Rock Cafe (just a short stroll away), features interesting art and music memorabilia and lots of great viewing areas. When the concert is over, you'll find yourself in the midst of an exciting nightlife district.

America Gardens Theater

In Epcot's World Showcase, this large outdoor theater hosts several annual concert series, including Flower Power (March through May, featuring artists such as Chubby Checker & the Wildcats, The Village People and The Guess Who) and Eat to the Beat (September through November, featuring artists such as Sugar Ray, Richard Marx and Boys II Men). During the holidays, the wildly popular Candlelight Processional takes place here too. Concerts are free with theme park admission.

The Social

One of downtown Orlando's most popular live music venues, The Social is a jewel in the indie music scene. It hosts concerts most nights of the week. Ticket prices are usually cheap, and you'll be surrounded by local music lovers. In the same neighborhood, you'll also find the Amway Center, which hosts most of the big-ticket concerts that come to Orlando.