Don’t miss Wolf Trap this summer!

Posted By Katie on Jun 24, 2013

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Wolf TrapIf you are going to be anywhere near the Washington D.C. area this summer, make time to see a performance at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.  This unique venue features concerts and plays nearly every night of the summer from May to September, as well as an amazing children’s Theater in the Woods from late June until August.

Tips for Theater in the Woods at Wolf Trap2011-07-08 11.13.47

1. Plan for a short hike before arriving at the theater.

Remember, this is a national park so hiking is encouraged and expected before you arrive at the quaint theater in the woods.  It’s not a long walk, but you want to arrive at least 30 minutes before the performance so you can park and stroll to the theater.  The path is very stroller friendly and there is ample stroller parking.

2. Pack a picnic lunch.

Most shows start at 10:30 a.m. and last about an hour.  You cannot bring food into the theater (water is fine), but you can leave a picnic lunch outside the theater to enjoy on the grounds afterward.  Junior Ranger activity books are available in the park for those who want to stay and explore.

3. Bring water, bug repellant, and sunscreen.

This is Virginia in the summer, friends.  You will sweat.  Bring plenty of water, bug repellant, and sunscreen.  The theater is mostly shaded, but wear your sunscreen if you plan to stay and picnic.

4. Purchase tickets in advance or at the door.

Wolf Trap’s website says that some shows sell out.  I haven’t ever had difficulty getting a ticket if I am there a few minutes early, but if you are concerned you can buy tickets in advance.  You will pay a service charge for each ticket purchased this way that you can avoid if you buy tickets at the door.

Tips for the Filene Center at Wolf TrapFilene Center

Wolf Trap’s outdoor concerts at the Filene Center make for a perfect summer evening.  Shows run 5-6 nights per week and range from folk artists to Broadway musicals to rock bands to the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO).  Check the schedule and find a show your family would enjoy.  These tips will help make for a perfect evening at Wolf Trap.

1. Choose your seating wisely.

Lawn seats are the cheapest and are an experience in themselves.  For popular shows, the lawn can be incredibly crowded and you will need to arrive early to get a decent seat.  The sound system for the lawn is great, but seeing the stage from the back of the park can be difficult.  The benefit of the lawn is the cool breeze and great stargazing while you enjoy fabulous music.  If you want a great view, you will need in-house seating.

Hard to see the stage from the back of the lawn seats.

The stage is a long way from the back of the lawn.

2. Arrive early.

Doors open 1 hour 30 minutes before showtime, but patrons often line up before that to throw their blanket down on the lawn.  Come early and plan to enjoy your evening.  Food and beverages are permitted at picnic tables and on the lawn area but not inside the theater.

3. Bring a picnic.

Part of the fun of Wolf Trap is eating on the lawn and enjoying the crowd.  The hill is steep and you should consider bringing or renting seat cushions with back supports.


Picnic on the lawn.

4. Be prepared for the weather.

Evening concerts go on rain or shine at Wolf Trap.  If you have lawn tickets for a wet night, bring a tarp and raincoat if you plan to stay and enjoy the concert.  On rainy nights, lawn tickets can be exchanged for any open seats in the house by paying the difference in cost at the box office.

5. Go see the National Symphony Orchestra.

The NSO usually does six performances each summer at Wolf Trap.  Let your kids stretch out on the lawn and learn to enjoy the orchestra.  We have seen Bugs Bunny at the Symphony, where they set up huge screens and showed Looney Toons cartoons while the orchestra played.  Last summer our 6-year-old son was thrilled at a John Williams NSO concert when Darth Vader and Darth Maul battled on stage.  Darth Vader leading the orchestra while they played Star Wars music was a highlight.  You will not be disappointed by anything the NSO does at Wolftrap.

The Indigo Girls put on a good show.

The Indigo Girls put on a good show.

Good to Know

Where:  1551 Trap Road, Vienna, Virginia.  Just 25 minutes outside of Washington, D.C.

When:  Open year-round as a national park.  Shows run almost daily in the summer months.  There are some year-round concerts at The Barns.

How Much:  Prices vary based on the shows.  Children’s Theater in the Woods tickets are $10.  Evening performances at the Filene Center usually start at $20 for the lawn tickets.

Amenities:  Elegant dining, casual picnics, and concessions available for purchase.  Seat cushions with back support are available to rent at the gift shop.

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Katie is a busy mom living in Northern Virginia with her husband and five children ranging in age from toddlers to teens. When she isn't traveling, she is planning her next trip. Katie loves all types of travel, but she especially loves beach vacations. The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a favorite family destination.


  1. I didn’t know that the National Park Service included performing arts venues. This place looks so fun.

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  2. Wolf Trap’s status as a NPS facility is a weird one. The folks you’ll likely interact with regarding tickets and concession sales etc are actually employees of the WT Foundation rather than government Park Services employees.

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