The Inside Scoop: Wolf Trap

17 Aug
Courtesy of Wolf Trap

Courtesy of Wolf Trap

I’m sure you all remember Sports Editor Rachel who, in addition to reporting on the area’s sports news, regaled you with the tale of her speed dating experience. Yet another impressive area of Rachel’s expertise is the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, which is best known for the summertime events held at its outdoor theater called the Filene Center. Rachel was an illustrious parking attendant there for several summer breaks during college.

Though Rachel abandoned me to move to San Diego with her boyfriend (who she did not meet at speed dating), she agreed to share some Wolf Trap tips and tricks with us.

1. When is it worth shelling out the money for proper seats instead of lawn tickets?
The lawn is a great spot, but keep in mind that the sun will be bright for a large portion of the performance during the summer, when sunset is late in the evening. This can make it very challenging to get a good view of the stage inside the darkened pavilion from out on the lawn. So get a proper seat when you want to have a good view of the performers. This might be the case for a:

  • dance performance
  • play or musical
  • concert by a performer you really like, if you’re a front-row-seats type of guy/gal

For a concert by the NSO, a rock show or one of the annual sing-a-longs, stick to the lawn.

2. Say it’s raining and I’ve got lawn seats. Is it still worth going or should I stay home with my TiVo instead?
It depends on how much rain you’re getting, and how excited you were about the show. If it’s sprinkling on-and-off, I suggest going to the show and setting up your blanket. There are a few covered spots where you might be able to take shelter for a few minutes. Keep in mind that many people are likely to choose not to go to the show, so you’ll probably be able to get a great seat if you stick it out. On the other hand, if it’s a thunderstorm, and I were you, I’d probably skip it.

However, if there are empty seats inside the house, you’ll be able to “buy up” by paying the difference in price between your lawn seat and that inside seat.

3. If I have lawn seats and it’s nice weather, how early do you recommend I arrive to get a decent spot on the lawn?
The lawn opens 1.5 hours prior to the start of the show. If you must have a seat in the front row of the lawn, I recommend arriving around 2 hours before the show. This will give you time to park, unpack your car and line up. The ushers will often even scan tickets a few minutes ahead of opening the gate, so everyone can make a run for it.

4. Where’s the best place to park to avoid the long lines getting out?
The parking arrangements vary slightly depending on the expected crowds for that day’s performance. The most reliable option for a quick exit is parking in the west parking lot, right by its entrance. The west parking lot is the one across Trap Road from the Filene Center–see below.

Traffic from various exits is often all directed in one direction or the other, no choosing allowed. If you’re not familiar with this area of Virginia, I recommend having the GPS fired up in case you end up detoured.

(One additional note from me: Rachel never had to take the Dulles Toll Road to get to Wolf Trap because she lived close by, but my friend recently waited in a line of cars at the toll-booth for 45 minutes. Either take an alternate route down Leesburg Pike or factor in the waiting time.)

5. Is there a way to get discounted tickets?
Nothing came immediately, but a Google search for “wolf trap discount” did seem to have some good options. Everyone, please give that a try before you purchase!

6. Any other tips? Fun facts?
Some performances have a Pre-Performance Discussion, where an expert shares information about the upcoming show. Check out the 2014 schedule.

If you park in the lot I recommended, you can hitch a ride on a golf cart up the hill to the theater. My tip is actually to skip the golf cart: there’s typically a queue, and you’ll save time by walking. Plus, you know you’re going to have some wine with your picnic on the lawn—earn it with your exercise here.

On the other hand, if anyone in your group requires accessible parking or other assistance, this can be arranged by calling the park ahead of time.

In a typical theater, lights are dimmed in the lobby to indicate the show is about to start or resume. At Wolf Trap, a large farm dinner bell is rung.

The park was called Wolf Trap Farm Park until 2002. It was renamed because it had been a concert venue for quite some time and needed a more accurate name to avoid confusion.

If you have a National Parks Passport, don’t forget that Wolf Trap is a national park! Stop by the Ranger Station for your stamp.

Thanks Rach! Miss ya!

Wolf Trap map

Click on the map to make it larger.

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