Plopped atop 117 acres of land, Wolf Trap is more than just a concert venue; it’s a national park with hiking and bird-watching trails. Chances are, though, if you’re making the 30-minute drive from DC to Vienna, Virginia, you’ve probably got tickets for a show. And no wonder: Wolf Trap is the only national park in the country dedicated exclusively to the performing arts.
The space has three different venues. The largest, the Filene Center, squeezes about 7,000 show-goers onto its sloping lawn and covered seats, and hosts more than 80 shows each summer. The Barns at Wolf Trap crams 382 seats into an 18th-century barn and has performances October through May; in warmer months, it’s home to Wolf Trap Opera. Hidden among the trees, you’ll find Children’s Theatre-In-The-Woods, an outdoor venue dedicated to interactive, kid-friendly shows.
Here’s everything you need to know before you go.
What to bring
A picnic! If you have tickets to the Filene Center’s sloping lawn, pack a blanket, drinks, and dinner for sipping and munching throughout the show. And if it looks like rain, also bring a coat or umbrella, especially if you’re on the grass. Wolf Trap is a rain-or-shine venue.
Alcohol, thankfully, is welcome. (Kegs, however, are not.) Ticket-holders are allowed to pack coolers as big as 48-quarts and bags or totes that are about standard size—14 inches by 13 inches by 10 inches.
The food and drink don’t flow as freely beneath the covered area, though. To avoid the presence of unwanted critters, ticket-holders with orchestra seats aren’t allowed to bring food or alcohol to their chairs; only water is permitted.
How to get there
Driving is the easiest way to arrive. If you’re traveling via public transportation, ride the Orange Line to the West Falls Church Metro Station. From there, hop onto the Filene Center’s $4.50 to $5 shuttle, which accepts cash and SmarTrip cards. The shuttle service, which operates during summer, begins two hours before showtime and runs every 20 minutes until the start of the performance. Buses depart 20 minutes after the show. Taxis and ride sharing services are also an option, but can get pricey.
Where to park
Free parking is available throughout park grounds.
Where to eat and drink
On premises: Dining options abound at Wolf Trap. Forgot your picnic basket? Reserve one from the on-site restaurant Ovations for $21.95 per person. Recent options have included tomato, mozzarella, and arugula sandwiches with fruit salad; buttermilk fried chicken with potato salad; and a Mediterranean dip sampler with hummus, baba ghanoush, olives, and marinated vegetables. (The restaurant also offers a dinner buffet for $32 per person.)
The concession stand offers much more than the typical concert-venue fare. Think crab-cake sandwiches, black-bean burgers, and Buffalo chicken tenders. Since this is such a booze-friendly venue, there’s also beer, wine, and cocktails, such as a Moscow Mule and margarita on the rocks.
Sushi Yoshi (101 Church St., NW, Vienna; 703-242-1350): Located about eight-minutes from Wolf Trap, this affordable Japanese restaurant serves everything from live scallops to deep-fried pork cutlets. Try the salmon-belly and red-snapper sushi, the caterpillar roll with eel and avocado, and the Costa Rica roll with yellowtail and mango.
Plaka Grill (110 Lawyers Rd., NW, Vienna; 703-319-3131): Before the show, stop by this inexpensive Vienna spot for pork gyros, French fries, tzatziki, moussaka, and pastitsio—sort of like a Greek version of lasagna.
Maple Ave Restaurant (147 Maple Ave. W., Vienna, VA 22810): Expect an eclectic menu. Lemongrass chicken with ginger sauce occupies the same page as roasted bone marrow and duck-leg confit. The dinner menu is split primarily between small plates ($9 to $12) and main plates ($19 to $28). It’s about a nine-minute car ride from Wolf Trap.
Nostos (8100 Boone Blvd., Vienna; 703-760-0690): Modern Greek is the theme at this Vienna spot, which is about a nine-minute drive from the venue. Kick the meal off with a dip sampler of fava bean purée, tzatziki, and roasted eggplant, then move on to grilled swordfish skewers, Greek-style meatballs, and spanakopita. Entrées go from $20 to $34.
Whole Foods Market (143 Maple Ave. East, Vienna; 703-319-2000): Take a brief detour before the show and make the trek to Vienna’s Whole Foods for the customary picnic provisions: wine, cheese, bread, and loads of olives, cornichons, and marinated peppers.