Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts | PARK AT A GLANCE

Filene Center theater (photo by Robert of Fairfax)

Filene Center theater (photo by Robert of Fairfax)

PARK OVERVIEW

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is located in Vienna, Virginia, just west of Washington, D. C. It is the only park in the National Park system dedicated to the performing arts. The Wolf Trap property and the money to build a theater was donated to the Federal government in 1966 by Catherine Filene Shouse, who had been purchasing farm land in the area since the 1930s. The first performance was held in 1971. Today, the National Park Service maintains the grounds while the Wolf Trap Foundation runs the day-to-day operations, as well as schedules shows and sells tickets.

The Filene Center, the main theater, hosts concerts, ballets, operas, and other performances from mid-May through mid-September. This is an open-air theater that has covered seating in addition to lawn seating. For those wanting a meal before the performance, the Ovations Restaurant opens two hours prior to show time, and everyone is welcome to use the picnic tables scattered around the park. A concession stand that sells food, beer, and wine is open during the performances. Those with lawn seats can bring their own coolers with food and beverages and picnic during the show. No food is allowed in the covered seating area.

A second theater, the Theatre-in-the-Woods, hosts children’s performances from late June through mid-August. Shows are held on Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10:30 AM and cater to children from pre-K through six grade. Unlike shows at the Filene Center, there are no food concessions available at the performances, but you are welcome to bring a picnic and use the tables near the theater.

A third theater, the Barns of Wolf Trap, is a 382-seat indoor theater where shows are held year-round. However, while the barns and land were also donated by Catherine Shouse, this is run by the Wolf Trap Foundation and is not part of the National Park.

Wolf Trap is open even when no performances are being held. There are two loop trails that cover much of the 117-acre park, and the picnic tables are always open to anyone who wants to have a picnic. National Park Rangers lead hikes around the park on the first Sunday of each month and conduct backstage tours of the Filene Center on select days from October through April. There is no fee, but space is limited and reservations are suggested.


OPERATING HOURS

The grounds of Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts are open from dawn to dusk whenever no festivals or performances are being held at the Filene Center. On performance days, the park closes to non-ticket holders two hours prior to show time. These restrictions do not apply to days and times when performances are held at the Theatre-in-the-Woods, the park’s children’s theater.

The entire park is closed for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.


FEES

The only fees associated with Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts are the cost of tickets to shows. There is no fee to enter the park for any other purpose, such as hiking, picnicking, or attending Ranger-led activities.


PARKING

Parking is free, but spaces are limited. The West and East Parking Lots are about a quarter mile from the Filene Center, but there is a shuttle service—large golf carts—that starts operating two hours before the show and continues until fifteen minutes after the performance has started. After the show, non-disabled patrons must walk back to their cars. The shuttle is still available for disabled patrons.

There is a parking lot for those with disabled parking permits that is closer to the Filene Center, but still not close enough that disabled visitors can get to the theater without some assistance.

For Theatre-in-the-Woods shows, the shuttle service is available only for disabled visitors.

It is possible to get dropped off at the main gate, but only up to three hours prior to the show. After this deadline there is a specific location for those being dropped off in private vehicles or taxis. According to the National Park Service website for Wolf Trap, this location is “the specified area on the west side of Trap Road across from the Marquee,” which from what I can figure is the West Parking Lot.

Starting two hours before shows at the Filene Center, Fairfax County operates an express bus from the West Falls Church Metro station every 20 minutes, with the last bus departing at show time. Return buses depart 20 minutes after the show, but no later than 10 PM on Sundays, 10:30 PM on Mondays through Thursdays, and 11 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. Thus, if the show runs past the cutoff times, you must leave early to catch the bus. The current fee is $5 round trip, exact cash or SmarTrip. For more information visit Wolf Trap’s official Transportation web page.

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Last updated on April 13, 2020
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