Some area venues are open only a few months a year, making it an annual rite of passage to figure out the best practices for parking, tailgating and purchasing tickets. This year, tackle the summer concert season like a pro, taking tips from our seasoned staff.

Wolf Trap bound? Bring a blanket, and a picnic. The venue encourages it. (Wolf Trap)

9:30 Club

A lot of shows sell out quickly at the 9:30 Club, so if you’re not a first-class planner, you may feel like you’re perpetually missing out. But there’s hope for the spontaneous. Rarely have I gone to a sold-out show where someone wasn’t standing outside trying to offload a ticket or two — sometimes for free. Worst-case scenario? You go, scope it out and if no one is selling, grab a boozy milkshake at Satellite Room. There are worse consolation prizes. If you do make it in, here’s another tip: Skip the crowded bars upstairs and on the main level. The subterranean Backbar is the fastest way to get a brew.

— Stephanie Merry


If you’re taking a cab to Echostage, make sure you’ve installed Uber, Hailo or a similar taxi-reservation app so you’ll be able to get a ride home. The area around the club doesn’t attract many cabs, and the crush of concertgoers trying to hail one after a show can prove daunting. If you’re driving, Echostage’s Web site has a handy map of nearby parking lots that shows how many spaces each has and what it costs to park there.

— Fritz Hahn

The Fillmore

You won’t have to worry about finding a parking space near this Silver Spring club — the county garages are free in the evenings. Instead, focus on what to do before the show. One great option: Hit the bar at nearby 8407 Kitchen Bar, where chef Justin Bittner, who previously helmed the kitchen at popular Bar Pilar, is cooking up fancy Southern-tinged fare, including duck-fat fries, fried Eastern Shore oysters and a killer burger.

— Lavanya Ramanathan

Howard Theatre

We’re all familiar with the sticker shock of summer concert season: “Processing fees” can tack as much as 20 percent onto your ticket price. But if you buy your ticket at the Howard Theatre box office (open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.), you won’t have to pay the Ticketmaster charge, only the Howard’s fee — $2.50 to $5 a ticket.

— L.R.

Jiffy Lube Live

Tailgating is allowed at Jiffy Lube Live, but there are plenty of rules: No alcohol, no tents or canopies, barbecue coals must be disposed of in designated containers, and tailgating must end 20 minutes after the beginning of the advertised show time, even if you don’t want to see the opening band. Jiffy Lube’s “Parking Lot Ambassadors” are continually on patrol for violations, much to the irritation of concertgoers, many of whom have created Facebook pages suggesting boycotts of the venue.

— F.H.

M&T Bank Stadium

If you’re driving — perhaps the best way to reach Baltimore, given that the last MARC train to Washington departs at 9:15 p.m. — consider reserving a parking-lot spot ahead of time with the parking app Park Me (, which offers plenty of options nearby. Or, get to the city a little early (I've arrived by 6 p.m.) and park on a metered street such as West Pratt, near Camden Pub. It’s only a few dollars to max out the meter, so pay till enforcement ends and you won’t have to worry about it during the show.

— L.R.

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Rush-hour traffic can make driving to Merriweather an excruciating experience, and trying to get out of the parking lots after a show isn’t much better. So let someone else make the trip for you. Rock and Bus ( is Merriweather’s “preferred shuttle travel provider,” offering party buses with music, televisions and bathrooms (yes, you can eat and drink on the bus, too). The buses leave from such locations as Ballston Common Mall, Georgetown University and the Bethesda Metro station. Note: Prices vary by show — you’ll pay $50 for a ride to see Willie Nelson, but only $35 for Fall Out Boy.

— F.H.

Nationals Park

To extend your concert experience at the ball park, head to the Fairgrounds near the center field gate before or after the show to hear free music of the same genre as that night’s concert. For the main show, if you have seats on the field, enter through the home plate gate, not the center field gate. Restrictions on what you can and can’t bring into the stadium are the same as for any baseball game.

— David Malitz

Verizon Center

Want to experience summer-tailgating magic in the middle of the city? Hill Country’s Backyard Barbecue has taken over a grassy section of the National Building Museum’s lawn, offering outdoor drinking, grilling and lawn games just one block east of Verizon Center. The party runs from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday until Sept. 1.

— F.H.

Wolf Trap

Most venues go so far as to search bags for contraband, including outside food and drinks, but Wolf Trap takes a different approach. The venue encourages picnicking, and it’s not uncommon to see concertgoers carrying in a cooler of beer, wine and dinner. (Note: There is a size limit. Coolers can’t be larger than 15 inches by 15 inches by 22 inches.) As for getting there on Interstate 66 when HOV restrictions are in effect, express buses run every 20 minutes from the West Falls Church Metro station on the Orange Line beginning two hours before showtime, and then again 20 minutes after a show ends.

— S.M.