There are a number of reasons to visit Wolf Trap (you can find 9 here), but if you’ve never ventured beyond the Filene Center stage, we have one more reason to check out this National Park: the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods. For over forty years, kid-friendly shows geared toward kids 10 and under have found a special home at this completely outdoor venue nestled under a canopy of trees. Thanks to the natural umbrella, shows here are cool (literally) even during hot summer days! From puppet shows to live music and dance performances, every show encourages audience participation for a memorable, interactive experience. Before you go, we’ve got all the tips to help you make the most out of your next visit to Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.
Be an Early Bird
While walk ups are welcome, it’s best to purchase tickets prior to the event. Many popular shows, like Freddy Fossil’s DINO Show (7/13-7/14) and 123 Andrés (8/3), sell out. For those wanting a stage-front seat, plan to arrive at the ticket kiosk by 10 a.m. The first 3-5 rows are often called on to participate in an act (or even onstage), but if you have a child with sensitive ears you may want to sit further back (the stage speakers are loud).
Make it Sensory Friendly
For a more sensory-friendly experience, consider sitting in the “wings” of the theatre. It’s also a great place for kids who have the wiggles and may need to move around. There is a strict no food policy once seated, so this area is also designated for those that need to grab a juice, have a snack or feed an infant. There are tree stumps to sit on, a few stairs that act as mini risers or just stand and enjoy the performance.
Prepare to Participate
Every show calls for audience participation, making these theatrical performances an interactive experience for the whole family. Get ready to dance with performers, clap to a beat or raise your hand to participate onstage. While you are welcome to take pictures of the action, there is no recording allowed so feel free to act as silly as the kids (there won’t be any embarrassing videos after the fact).
Pack Your Picnic
Shows last 45 minutes meaning performances end right in time for lunch. Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch at one of the picnic tables in the shade. Or hunt for the perfect spot to spread out a picnic blanket. There are over 117 acres at this National Park to explore and find the perfect spot.
Become a Junior Ranger
Ranger-led walks are offered at 11:45 a.m. following performances. It’s a great way to learn about the flora and fauna in this park, but they aren’t a mandatory step in the process to being sworn in as an official Junior Ranger. Simply grab a Junior Ranger Booklet at the ticket kiosk and complete simple challenges, like going on a scavenger hunt or playing connect-the-dots to reveal a special Wolf Trap attraction. After your elementary school-age child takes an oath, they’ll receive a Wolf Trap badge.
Explore the Great Outdoors
Grab a handful of pamphlets next to the ticket kiosk and you’ll have handheld guides to the flowers, trees and animals that can be found within the park. There are two trails within the park. The TRACK trail, a 1.5 mile loop, is best suited for children. For those feeling more adventurous The Wolf Trap trail (2.5 miles) navigates the outer perimeter of the park.
Arrival Time Tips
When you arrive, head over to Gil Hill. All parking in the park is free, but Gil is closest to the Children’s Theatre. It’s always smart to take a potty break before an adventure, so consider using the facilities directly outside the parking area (there are no bathrooms at the theatre site). It’s approximately a 10 minute walk down a stroller-friendly path to get to the seating area.
Editor’s Note: The path is slightly hilly and visitors will need to walk up an incline to return to the parking lot.
All shows start at 10:30 a.m. Tues.-Sat. every week through Aug. 6. Tickets cost $12/person.
1551 Trap Rd.