Have you heard the news about The Sound Clearwater, an awesome new Florida live music venue?
It was roughly 6 p.m. on a recent summer Friday in late June. We happily braved the rush hour bridge traffic from Tampa to downtown Clearwater to check out freshly renovated Coachman Park for its grand opening weekend. Tucked within the 19-acre waterfront space you’ll find The Sound Clearwater, a much-needed, mid-size venue for enjoying live music in the Tampa Bay area.
The night before, Cheap Trick kicked off the festivities at The Sound Clearwater with a free concert, and tonight we arrived for Gavin Degraw and Colbie Cailllat. From high-voltage rock to singer-songwriters, The Sound delivers across the musical spectrum. Here are our thoughts and some tips for making the most out of seeing a live show at The Sound.
A rendering of the revamped waterfront Coachman Park and its crown jewel, The Sound Clearwater. (photo courtesy of The Sound/ Ruth Eckerd Hall)
The Sound Clearwater — what to know about the venue
The Sound Clearwater has 4,000 covered (read: shaded!) seats and 5,000 additional lawn seats, with the most coveted situated under a giant oak tree on a sloped lawn near the library. Bring a blanket if you opt for these spots, since chairs aren’t allowed. As for bags, make sure they’re clear or a small clutch-style to bring in.
Even without a ticket, you can snag a blanketed spot on the nearby lawn outside the ticketed area or pull up by boat in the harbor to catch the music. You can also enjoy daily, free live music at The Green near the Bay Walk Promenade, a waterfront sidewalk with seating and views of the Memorial Causeway and Sand Key bridges (beautifully lit at night).
If you’re looking for an “elevated experience” at The Sound Clearwater, look for the seating area called The View to the left of the stage. This is the ticketed VIP area with an air-conditioned space boasting a bar, catered food, restrooms, high- and low-top tables and lounge-style seating. The upper-level balcony does the name of this area justice with incredible views of the stage and Coachman Park.
We listened from the surprisingly comfortable covered seats – red plastic chairs that didn’t feel tight, even with someone seated right next to you. There aren’t drink holders, though, so be careful you don’t kick over your beverage as it balances on the turf below.
While Degraw passionately played keys along with his soulful vocals to “Summertime,” I noticed that the venue’s design made the experience feel intimate with big city, music-in-the-park vibes. The Florida sun played its own part in the experience, peeking between the covering and stage on its welcome descent to take the heat down a notch.
Even before the sun went down, there was a constant, generous breeze from Big Ass Fans (real company name and, yes, they’re huge) above our seats.
We sat in one of the last rows with a good view of the stage and performers. Like at most venues, when the people in front of you stand, you stand, too, all the better to catch a view. But even if you can’t make out every facial expression without zooming in on your phone, the music rings through crystal clear no matter where you’re sitting.
There are two family bathrooms outside The Sound near a new splash pad. Inside the venue, there are plenty more toward the entrance and exit.
Getting there and where to park at The Sound Clearwater
I’m usually not one for a proactive deep dive into parking options before heading out. But given the energy and events around grand opening weekend, it felt necessary. After looking at the city of Clearwater’s downtown parking map, I noted some street parking and garage options, then ended up parking pretty close in the Garden Avenue Garage, about an 8-minute stroll away from The Sound.
From parking to rideshares and trolley service, you have options here.
Parking near The Sound Clearwater
Prices in city and county garages run $2/hour from 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. After 6 p.m., parking is free. There’s also free parking all day Saturday and Sunday.
We were pretty stoked considering how high parking prices can soar when events take place at other venues in the Tampa Bay area. Visit Coachman Park fo parking maps, parking hours, and pricing, or Clearwater’s parking website for an interactive map with all your options for parking garages near The Sound.
Getting to The Sound Clearwater by Uber and other Rideshare Apps
Prices in city and county garages run $2/hour from 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.; after 6 p.m., parking is free. There’s also free parking all day Saturday and Sunday – we were pretty stoked considering how high parking prices can soar when events take place at other venues in the Tampa Bay area.
If you’re looking for a designated driver that fits your schedule or just don’t want to think about parking or trolley routes, The Sound has designated drop-off and pick-up spots for rideshare apps like Lyft or Uber.
Getting to The Sound Clearwater by Trolley
Clearwater’s Jolley Trolley can take you from Clearwater’s north and south beaches and drop you off in downtown Clearwater at the library, a 10-minute walk away from The Sound.
If you’re staying at the Sandpearl, Opal Sands, Sheraton Sand Key, or Tradewinds, just show your room card to ride for free. Otherwise, for $5, you can get an unlimited daily pass interchangeable with the Suncoast Beach Trolley, which runs from St. Pete Beach to Downtown Clearwater every day of the week.
Getting to The Sound Clearwater by Ferry
If you’re in Clearwater or Dunedin, the Clearwater Ferry can be a fun way to get to the The Sound Clearwater. Be aware that reservations are required and the schedule is limited. A quick search for a Saturday evening weekend roundtrip ticket was $16 per adult, but the last pickup was too early to make it work. Check out schedules, routes and ticket prices on the website.
Food and drinks are readily available for purchase at The Sound Clearwater. (photo courtesy of The Sound/ Ruth Eckerd Hall)
Eat & drink at The Sound Clearwater
As soon as you enter the park, not far from another great place to see a show — The Capitol Theatre — you see an expanse of shaded walkable areas, concessions, and a rotating line-up of food trucks as you walk to your seats.
The Sound is a cashless venue, but you can tip in cash, and reverse ATMs/Cash-to-card machines are nearby to deposit cash and dispense a charge card for use onsite. The concessions keep it simple with crowd-pleasers like wood-fired pizza from Corvo Bianco and cool bites from Ben & Jerry’s (we did hear that somewhere onsite you can find vegan sorbet). The permanent onsite concession area has chips ($3), Bavarian pretzels ($6) and fresh fruit ($2) if you’re feeling snacky.
Drink stands are everywhere. We made a beeline for the grab-and-go fridge since it seemed like the fastest way to get a cold beverage, but there are also pop-up carts, cocktail and beer stands.
You can find free water offered at coolers located between the lawn and red seating area — pay $1 for a cup of ice that will be free every time you bring that cup back, or shell out $5 for canned mountain water from Liquid Death.
Alcohol price points are on par with most venues ($10 – $23), but you can buy a souvenir tie-dye cup or Tervis® tumbler for $1 off refills of beer or wine. Ask for a 21+ band to save you rifling for your ID.
Food truck options during our show included Shisho Crispy, Fo’ Cheezy, Funnelvision, Sea Dog Cantina, and Gigglewaters, where we grabbed a Waygu beef burger, chicken salad sandwich and some fries that hit the spot. (NOTE: You can find info on the food trucks that will be at each show on The Sound Clearwater’s website.)
Choose the Sandpearl Resort for a beachfront stay close to The Sound and ride the trolley to the venue for free. (photo courtesy of Sandpearl Resort-Visit St. Pete/Clearwater)
Where to stay near The Sound Clearwater
Only a 10-minute drive away from The Sound Clearwater, each of these hotels and resorts offer something a little different with varying vibes if you’re extending your night out into a weekend getaway.
The Pier House 60 Clearwater Beach Marina Hotel — close to the action of its namesake, Pier 60, and across the street from the beach — prides itself on location. Rooftop bar, Jimmy’s Crow’s Nest, has expansive views of the beach and marina which make for a stellar sunset view, and a laid-back local vibe to go with it (did we mention happy hour from 3 – 6 p.m.?).
Situated on Clearwater Beach’s dazzling white sand, the luxury Sandpearl Resort has well-appointed rooms and expansive balconies to maximize your beachfront stay. Enjoy the picturesque private beach, spa and gulf-front adventures like paddle boarding. Pups under 30 pounds are welcome.
If you’re looking to stay in a quieter locale, Sheraton Sand Key Resort is a welcome reprieve. Relax on the family-friendly property’s private beach, or, if energy allows, start a game of beach volleyball, tennis or pickle ball. On the north end of the island, you’ll find Sand Key Park — 95 acres of minimally developed beach and park.
Just north from The Sound, you’ll find Fenway Hotel, Autograph Collection, a historic boutique hotel in Dunedin. A Jazz Age landmark, it was built in 1924 and is big on charm. Reminders of its musical past are everywhere you look, and it was also home to the county’s first radio station, too. Enjoy sweeping views from the Hi-Fi Rooftop Bar.
Traveling south from The Sound Clearwater to Belleair you’ll find an inn that dates back even farther – to 1897. After much drama to save this historic site, The Belleview Inn underwent a massive renovation in 2018. With a blend of history with world-class amenities, this iconic resort has 35 rooms and a complimentary breakfast basket delivered to your door every morning.