Wolf Trap is America's National Park for the Performing Arts, formally established in 1971 from land donated to the U.S. Park Service, in what was long ago wolf country in rural Virginia, 35 miles from the District. The Park Service created one of the nation's great outdoor performance venues, the Filene Center, an open-air summer stage and pavilion with reserved seating for 3,766 built into a natural slope. Another 3,100 can sit farther up the hill on the lawn, where blanket space is generally easy to buy on the day of the performance. Although the management is strict about not letting patrons smoke on the lawn or in seats, it allows coolers of beer and wine as well as picnic baskets full of food. Trees surround the outdoor amphitheater and the sound is surprisingly clear and true. The top names in music and dance play Wolf Trap; in 1997, the National Symphony Orchestra, B.B. King, Bob Dylan and the Irish dancers of "Riverdance" were on the bill.
In the winter, concerts are moved to an 18th-century barn with wooden walls and floors that offers the same casual performance atmosphere as the outdoor amphitheater. With only 352 seats, it's easy to get a good view of the performers on stage.
For summer events at the Filene Center, Wolf Trap provides a shuttle bus from the Falls Church Metro for $3.50, but if you prefer to drive, it's easily accessed via the Dulles Toll Road. During rush hour, the drive can be difficult, but the rolling lawn, your picnic dinner and the show will soon make you forget the road.
-- Shayla Thiel