In 1971, Catherine Filene Shouse donated Wolf Trap Farm to the National Park Service, who created a National Park for the Performing Arts. The Filene Center, built on an amphitheater-like hillside, seats 3,766 in covered comfort, while another 3,100 can enjoy the performance from the sloping lawn. Spreading out a blanket, opening a picnic basket and enjoying a performance has become a summer tradition for many in the Washington region.
From June through September, there are performances almost every evening. Theatrical productions, usually touring versions of Broadway shows and dance spectacles like "Riverdance," can be found here, along with concerts by such artists as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Los Lobos, Tony Bennett and the Wolf Trap Opera.
In the fall, winter and spring, the Barns at Wolf Trap, a 352-seat indoor theater, presents more than 100 concerts ranging in genre from chamber music to folk. Constructed out of two restored barns, the largest of which dates to around 1731, the theater holds 254 on the floor level and another 98 in what was originally the hay loft.
-- Brad Hathaway
Set on hundreds of acres of Virginia countryside, the park is a good place to explore, and well-behaved children may enjoy "adult" performances on the lawn of a Filene Center show. Wolf Trap also offers special programming for children:
This outdoor venue's program features free family entertainment in July and August (call for current dates). Clowns, mimes, dancers, puppets and plays are some typical offerings, and workshops for ages 4 and up give tykes a chance to work closely with the performers. Reservations can be made starting in June, and the series usually is filled by the time the shows begin.
Notes: You need to call ahead for wheelchair access (703-255-1827).
International Children's Festival
At least once, every family should try to visit the International Children's Festival, held in mid-September (again, you'll need to call for current dates). Using the Filene Stage, it gathers acts from around the world, from Chinese tumblers to Scandinavian dancers. Best of all, they're young Chinese tumblers and Scandinavian dancers. Wolf Trap brings in some very talented children, and grown-up Americans perform, too. (Bob McGrath from "Sesame Street" has been coming for years.) Out in a meadow are tents filled with arts and crafts projects, storytellers and face painters. The face painters, restricted to painting the flags of countries being celebrated, are a tad disappointing, but kids seem to like everything else, especially rolling like runaway logs down a gently sloping hill.
Notes: For this, too, you need to call ahead for wheelchair access (703-255-1800).
-- by John Kelly and Craig Stoltz