Check out these classic rock musicals and attractions in NYC

Make a day out of seeing a rock show on Broadway, including The Who's Tommy, Huey Lewis's The Heart of Rock and Roll, or the '70s rock-inspired Stereophonic.

Erin Cavoto
Erin Cavoto

Home to historic rock bands like The Velvet Underground and The Ramones, New York City is a rock and roll lover’s paradise. Even though many of the popular venues that used to host rock and punk artists in the ‘60s and ‘70s have since closed, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the history of rock and roll while visiting New York City.

Take your own rock-and-roll tour of NYC with these classic rock attractions, with something for every rock fan. Pick up some records; pay homage to late, great rock stars; and visit music landmarks that are still standing today.

Plus, get tickets to one of Broadway's rock musicals, and enjoy your favorite songs from bands like The Who and Huey Lewis and The News.

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Strawberry Fields

There are a few places to pay homage to the Beatles in NYC, like the Ed Sullivan Theater or Carnegie Hall, where they played milestone performances. One of the most special locations is Strawberry Fields in Central Park, a memorial to John Lennon.

This peaceful, five-acre section of the park features meadows and the famous Imagine mosaic, named for Lennon's song of the same title. Strawberry Fields sits across from the Dakota, the building where Lennon lived and where his wife Yoko Ono still resides.

Record stores: Generation Records and Rough Trade

There are numerous record stores in the city, but Generation Records in Greenwich Village is a solid spot for rock fans. The store specializes in punk, metal, and hardcore music, but it also has a robust collection of rock records, plus plenty of music memorabilia like posters and T-shirts worth sifting through.

Located closer to the Theatre District, right by Rockefeller Center, is the popular record store Rough Trade. The store sells both classic records and vinyls of today's music, and it also hosts album signings and performances with a variety of bands.

Webster Hall

Alongside music venues like Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, which have hosted countless esteemed rock bands over the years, Webster Hall was home to many emerging rock artists in the 1980s when the rock club The Ritz opened inside the venue.

The Ritz started as a place to showcase new rock bands and musicians, and it went on to host acts like Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, The Talking Heads, and more. In fact, MTV broadcasted Live at the Ritz on Saturday nights in the '80s, showcasing many of these bands.

Bitter End

Of course, what rock and roll day is complete without hearing live music? There’s no better place than Bitter End, a nightclub in Greenwich Village considered the oldest rock club in the city. The Bitter End has hosted tons of famous rock artists throughout its 60-plus-year history.

Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and the Grateful Dead have all performed there, just to name a few in the rock genre. Music legends like Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Billy Joel have also graced the stage. Neil Diamond, whose music is currently on Broadway in A Beautiful Noise, famously played there early in his career. It’s a historic venue no music lover should miss on a trip to the city.

The Hotel Chelsea

The Hotel Chelsea — also known as the Chelsea Hotel, or just the Chelsea — is known for the celebrities who lived there when it was an apartment building. Tons of famous artists, writers, actors, musicians, and more called the building home at one point, or at least spent some time hanging out at the hotel, in the mid-to-late 20th century.

Notable for rock lovers are the numerous bands that spent time at the Chelsea, such as the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead, as well as rock artists like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. These days, you can book a room at the luxury hotel or pay a visit by dining at the Cafe Chelsea or El Quijote, a Spanish restaurant that many of the hotel’s famous guests frequented.

Cafe Wha?

A classic hangout in the ‘60s for folk and early rock artists, Cafe Wha? is a music club you can still visit in Greenwich Village. Some of its most famous performers include Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and Bruce Springsteen with his early band, the Castilles.

When the space reopened as a restaurant during the ‘70s and ‘80s, Van Halen played sets there (David Lee Roth’s uncle was the original owner of the club). Today, you can hear a wide range of music at the club, including performances from the venue's House Band, which plays Thursday through Sunday nights.

CBGB/John Varvatos

The famous CBGB club ushered punk music into America from its opening in 1973 to closing in 2006. Some of the bands that famously played CBGB early on in their careers include The Ramones, Blondie, Joan Jett, and the Talking Heads.

The store that now stands in CBGB's place, John Varvatos, honors the musical landmark. Though the store mainly contains designer clothes, you’ll find tons of records and a stage, plus punk memorabilia and even an entire wall of stickers and posters from the CBGB preserved behind glass.

Hard Rock Cafe

This chain restaurant may be touristy, but the Hard Rock Cafe has tons of amazing, authentic rock memorabilia. The Times Square branch, located steps from Broadway theatres, has items from famous rock stars with ties to New York, such as The Ramones, Bruce Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix, and John Lennon. You can also see other types of music memorabilia, such as costumes from pop stars like Madonna and Gwen Stefani.

Rock musicals on Broadway

This season, there are numerous rock and roll-themed musicals on Broadway where you can enjoy your favorite music live in a way you may never have before. Here are the Broadway rock musicals with tickets available now.

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The Who’s Tommy

Fans of The Who will want to catch the revival of their Tony and Grammy award-winning musical, Tommy, set to the band’s 1969 concept album of the same name. It follows Tommy, who can’t hear, speak, or see after witnessing a murder as a child. His life changes when he learns he's a "Pinball Wizard," but he must deal with the repercussions of stardom while healing from his trauma.

Get The Who's Tommy tickets now.

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The Heart of Rock and Roll

Any ‘80s rockers should check out the new musical The Heart of Rock and Roll, which — you guessed it — is set to the music of Huey Lewis and the News. It follows Bobby, a failed rock musician who takes a corporate job and falls in love with Cassandra, his boss’s daughter. Both learn it’s not too late to give up on their dreams, and their story is set to popular hits like "The Power of Love,” “Hip to Be Square,” and “Stuck With You.”

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Playwright David Adjmi's Stereophonic puts audiences inside the recording booth with a budding rock band on the verge of its big break in the ‘70s. If you’re a rocker who’s not a fan of traditional musicals, you might opt for this one: It’s actually a play with original music written by Arcade Fire's Will Butler. The actors are all instrumentalists who play the band’s songs on stage.

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A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical

Fans of classic music can watch the story of Neil Diamond unfold in A Beautiful Noise, which explains how a poor boy living in Brooklyn eventually rose to being the legendary musician behind hits like “Sweet Caroline” and “America.” The musical follows Diamond in the present day as he reflects on his life, from romantic highs and lows to career-defining moments, set to hits from his legendary discography.

Get A Beautiful Noise tickets now.

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Discover more spring preview content on New York Theatre Guide and learn about all the Broadway shows this season.

Top image credit: The Who's Tommy on Broadway. (Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

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