Location: Vienna, Virginia
Webpage: National Park
General Description: Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is the only National Park that is dedicated to the performing arts and thus it is more a venue for concerts of varying times and sizes rather than a National Park. The National Park is 130 acres in size and is managed through a partnership between the non-profit Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and the NPS. It began as a donation of the land by Catherine Shouse to preserve her family farm from the encroachment of Washington D.C. urban sprawl. The park consists of three venues: the Filene Center seats 7,000 and hosts nightly performances from May to early September, the Children’s Theater in the Woods that is set in a wooded setting for a wide range of family and children productions, and the Meadow Pavilion which hosts events for the International Children’s Festival at Wolf Trap. There is also a short hiking trail that circles the area.
1) We did not know what to expect at Wolf Trap since we were visiting in April, before the season opens and were not interested in attending any of the performances anyway. Not surprising, we were the only visitors. We did run into a NPS Park Ranger as we walked up to the box office windows and found out they have a small “Visitor Center” or offices for the NPS. He provided information about the walking trail and allowed us to enter and look at the seating area for the Filene Center, the main venue.
2) The Filene Center is made out of Douglas Fir and is an enormous wooden structure with backdrops and stage. I was surprised that the seating area is much smaller than I imagined. It certainly does not look large enough to seat 7,000, even though over half of them would be sitting on the grassy slope in front of the stage.
3) I was also impressed with the range of talents they will be hosting this season. We must have spent 20 minutes looking at all the acts they have booked, most of them we knew. They range from classic rock and current singers to opera.
4) The hiking trail around the facilities is an easy walk along an urban stream. There are a few interpretive signs along the trail that highlight the difficulties the NPS faces in managing a small urban park. Most notably is the huge overpopulation of deer. In one location they have created a deer exclusion area to keep deer out to demonstrate the undergrowth that should be growing on the ground instead of the dirt and pine needles that cover it today. The trail also takes you to the Children’s Theater in the Woods.
5) I would not recommend anyone else interested in our National Parks visiting Wolf Trap as it is really a venue for the shows they put on instead of visitors. According to the webpage they offer backstage tours to visitors, which might have made the visit worthwhile. Obviously we were too early in the season for the tours.