San Juan doesn't get the credit it deserves as a major center for the performing arts. Beyond its own rich tradition of local art and theater to the biggest Broadway plays to the most recognized stars on the planet, this island has frequently brought the best and the brightest to its shores.
When you're here on holiday, you might not realize just how much is going on around town. But if you want to combine your days on the beach with a show, concert, play, ballet or other production (in English or in Spanish), here's where you'll want to go.
El Coliseo (The Coliseum) is Puerto Rico's largest arena, the grand-daddy of the island's performing arts venues. The impressive, modern design of the stadium, which has a capacity of close to 20,000 people, makes it one of the biggest attractions in the Hato Rey neighborhood of San Juan.
The Coliseo has hosted boxing, wrestling, and UFC matches, rock concerts featuring the biggest local and international talent (to date, Metallica holds the record for most tickets sold in one night). You can visit its website or TicketPop to check out who's playing when you're in town.
It also has a beautiful performing arts center, named after one of modern Puerto Rico's most influential citizens. The Centro de Bellas Artes Luis A. Ferré has a full calendar of recitals and musicals, ballets and various forms of dance, operas, and plays. You might catch a Broadway play here, and if you're here in February or March, and you enjoy classical music, make time for the Casals Festival, one of the island's premier events and widely considered to be the most important classical music festival in the Caribbean.
One other point about the Center, Just outside it is one of my favorite sculptures in Puerto Rico: The Muses by Annex Burgos - a series of 6-foot bronze sculptures that evoke the different artistic expressions. It's an elegant and graceful homage to the island's love of the arts.
Tito Puente is one of the icons of Latin music, so it stands to reason that he would get his name attached to a performing arts center. The open-air amphitheater is located in Hato Rey and hosts numerous musical events throughout the year, none bigger than the annual Heineken Jazz Festival.
As the oldest freestanding theater under U.S. jurisdiction, Teatro Tapia can hold its own against the most venerable playhouses in the nation. Inaugurated in 1832, the beautiful neoclassical structure has occupied prime real estate in Old San Juan for close to 200 years.
For a night out on the town, you could do a lot worse than taking in an opera, theatrical performance, ballet, or musical. It also hosts an annual Festival of Puerto Rican Theater and a Festival of International Theater.
One of the most historic buildings in Old San Juan, the Cuartel de Ballajá, or barracks, was the living quarters of Spanish soldiers who were stationed on the island. Today, this three-level space, with its expansive courtyard, is home to a school of dance, school of music, and the Museum of the Americas on the second floor. The Cuartel has often held musical and cultural performances within its walls.