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Horse-drawn carriage tours and lively nightlife in downtown Louisville, Kentucky

Colorado, Pennsylvania, Washington, Missouri, Indiana, Utah, Texas, Arizona, South Carolina, Kentucky

Venue Guide: Lesser-Known Hip Hop Spots

By: Peter Bothum

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  • States:
    Colorado
    Pennsylvania
    Washington
    Missouri
    Indiana
    Utah
    Texas
    Arizona
    South Carolina
    Kentucky

Overflowing with historic sites, museums and world-class restaurants, the following cities are places that might already be on your vacation bucket list.

But if you’re a fan of hip hop, check out the local scene and catch a show at one of these fabulous venues.

Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom

This hub for hip hop, DJs, dubstep and electronica is in the heart of downtown Denver, Colorado, surrounded by attractions like the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Denver Zoo and majestic Coors Field, home of baseball’s Colorado Rockies. The calendar is packed with top artists like Rob $tone, Ty Dolla $ign and old-schoolers Method Man and Redman.

Cervantes Masterpiece, a concert venue in a former casino in Denver

Cervantes Masterpiece, a concert venue in a former casino in Denver
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Mr. Smalls Theatre & Funhouse

Mr. Smalls serves real-deal acts like the legendary Rakim, Texas’ Maxo Kream and Chicago MC CupcakKe to hungry hip hop fans in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Order highly touted beer and pub sandwiches at Hogs Head Bar & Grill or swing by the Nova Café Millvale, which offers an array of comfort food. For outstanding scenic views, check out nearby Point State Park or Herrs Island, which is also known as Washington’s Landing.

Approaching Pittsburgh via the Roberto Clemente Bridge

Approaching Pittsburgh via the Roberto Clemente Bridge
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The Crocodile

Situated near the picturesque banks of Elliott Bay in Seattle, Washington, The Crocodile features enough flavors to appease fans of any music. Hip hop is well-represented with regular performances by RiFF RaFF, John Sisco and legendary hip hop duo Das EFX. The venue isn’t far from the must-visit Pike Place Market on the waterfront. Bars, pizza, sushi and the upscale El Gaucho steakhouse are all within reach.

Seattle's Central Waterfront district aglow at night

Seattle's Central Waterfront district aglow at night
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The Riot Room

This cozy club in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The Riot Room has a solid selection of craft beers and is in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, dating back to the Civil War. Its low stage puts you face-to-face with hip hop artists like Chicago’s Chief Keef and New Jersey’s Da$H. You’re less than a kilometer away from tasting Kansas City’s local delicacy, barbecue ribs, at Q39. Walk off your meal in nearby Roanoke Park.

Downtown streetscape in Kansas City

Downtown streetscape in Kansas City
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Morgan Phillips Photography
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The Vogue

This historic former movie house in Indianapolis, Indiana, has hosted the likes of Ice Cube, Rhianna and Scarface. The intimate atmosphere makes it a great spot to cater to a strong hip hop scene that includes rappers Sirius Blvck and John Stamps. The theater is surrounded by restaurants and bars, including the Flatwater Restaurant, which has a patio bar overlooking the water. You might opt to experience White River and Canal Walk via a kayak or pedal boat excursion.

At twilight, the White River and the skyline of Indianapolis

At twilight, the White River and the skyline of Indianapolis
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Elevate

Salt Lake City, Utah, is probably best known for its scenic landscapes surrounded by soaring mountains. This city also features a premier hip hop nightclub and concert venue, Elevate. Near the Clark Planetarium, the club packs it in for weekend dance nights and can’t -miss concerts by up-and-coming local hip hop artists.

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Trees

Huge names in all genres play at Trees in the Deep Ellum neighborhood of downtown DallasTexas. The favorite concert venue thrives with a hip hop scene featuring socially conscious rappers like Bobby Sessions and Sam Lao and good-time MCs like FXXXXY. Everyone in the house is treated to an intimate experience on the main floor and superb acoustics from the upper level. Real-deal Tex Mex fare is nearby at Pepe’s & Mito’s as is the popular Dallas World Aquarium.

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Club Red

Club Red has started a buzz within the underrated local hip hop scene in Mesa, Arizona. Club Red features two stages and hosts national touring acts like Yung Pinch, Trap House and Oddisee. During the day explore the Musical Instrument Museum aka MIM just north of Mesa, in Scottsdale, or spend the day outside on a paddleboard on Tempe Town Lake, in Tempe, Arizona. 

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Music Farm

Music Farms Productions owns music venues in South Carolina’s two biggest hip hop cities, Charleston and Columbia. The scene has grown thanks to shows in both towns with national acts like Ugly God and Houston’s Devin The Dude. While in South Carolina you should try the local biscuits, and if you’re near the Music Farm in Charleston, you should get them at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit. The South Carolina State Museum is something to check out if you’re hitting up Music Farm’s Columbia location.

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Mercury Ballroom

Yes, Louisville is Kentucky’s largest city, and its hip hop scene is emerging! The Mercury Ballroom features a varied lineup with a heavy dose of hip hop, including newer performers like Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T. and legends such as Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Baseball fans should visit the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory while horse-racing enthusiasts can explore the Kentucky Derby Museum.

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