The mood crackles with excitement as performance time nears. Inside the Filene Center, patrons stride down gently sloped stairs, enter wide aisles, and settle into their seats. Outside the theater on the grass, couples close picnic baskets and adjust colorful blankets while children wiggle onto spots claimed as their own. For the nearly 4,000 people seated inside the house and the 3,000 on the lawn, there is a feeling of intimacy with the performance on stage and with the natural setting that surrounds them.
Inside the Filene Center cool breezes and moonlight flow through vertical open-air expanses that alternate with panels clad with Douglas fir. Reminiscent of a fringe of gigantic trees, the timbers reflect sound from the stage back to the audience and provide exceptional acoustics in this partially enclosed theater. Outside, the audience enjoys the best of both worlds: the performance on stage and nature's show found in the grassy meadows and lofty trees of this 118-acre park.
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts began as a gift to the American people from Catherine Filene Shouse. Encroaching roads and suburbs inspired Mrs. Shouse to preserve this former farm as a park where people could find spiritual nourishment in the peacefulness of nature and in the performing arts. Mrs. Shouse donated land for the park, five existing buildings, and funds to build the Filene Center. In 1966 Congress accepted Mrs. Shouse's gift and authorized Wolf Trap Farm Park (its original name) as the first national park for the performing arts. The Filene Center opened on July 1, 1971, despite a damaging fire only weeks before completion. For a decade Wolf Trap's reputation blossomed as a world-class entertainment facility.
Then, on April 4, 1982, tragedy struck again, and the Filene Center burned to the ground. In the spirit of the show must go on, performances were held in a large tent until the rebuilt Filene Center opened July 30, 1984.
Today Wolf Trap's success is due to a fruitful partnership between a government agency and a private organization. The National Park Service cares tor the park, sponsors interpretive programs, and directs the operation and maintenance of the technical equipment and backstage facilities that serve the performing artists. The Wolf Trap Foundation, a private not-for-profit corporation founded at the request of the Department of the Interior, is responsible for artistic programming, public relations, and marketing. Together they foster the unique Wolf Trap experienceartistic excellence presented in a setting of natural beauty.
Experiencing Wolf Trap
The Wolf Trap Experience Exciting performances, picnics, and a beautiful setting are just part of your experience at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. Through the cooperative effort and partnership of the National Park Service and the Wolf Trap Foundation, you can enjoy music, dance, and a variety of performances throughout the year. Together they offer festivals in the park and performances in the summer at the Filene Center. The National Park Service (NPS) operates the park and keeps it active all year with backstage tours, interpretive activities, educational programs, and the annual Holiday Sing-A-Long program. The park is open daily except December 25 and January 1. It closes at dark except for patrons of the Filene Center.
Enjoying Nature You may wish to explore the forest, stream area, and meadows of this 118-acre park to learn about native plants and animals. In the forest, watch or maples, oaks, wild cherry, and woodland creatures. Near the stream keep a lookout for muskrats, turtles, and frogs. Some 55 bird species have been seen in the park, including mockingbirds that entertain with lyrical songs.
Filene Center On stagedance, opera, symphony orchestras, jazz, pop, musicals, country-western, or bluegrassthe performing artists and their creative skills are paramount here, whether the evening performance is a grand-scale stage production or an entertaining country group. Behind the scenes NPS specialists are responsible for maintaining the high standards of technical operation that best support the artists, including sound reinforcement, lighting control, scenery movement, and special effects. Backstage, NPS provides comfortable lounges and dressing rooms that have led to Wolf Trap's reputation among performing artists as a home-away-from-home. Contact the park for details on pre-performance discussions and off-season backstage tours: www.nps.gov/wotr/planyourvisit/ppd.htm.
Summer Evenings Come early and relax. Walk in the coolness of the forest canopy, listen to the stream play its own symphony, and watch squirrels perform graceful leaps among the tree branches. Why not shake off the day's stress, spread out a blanket, and enjoy a picnic before the performance begins?
Theatre-in-the-Woods Nestled in the forest near Wolf Trap Run, this aptly-named outdoor amphitheater introduces children to the world of live performing arts with summer daytime presentations of music and song, and a variety of dance, mime, puppets, and plays. The children's excitement is contagious as they become involved with activities on stage. Workshops-in-the-Arts and summer ranger programs bring them even closer to the arts experience. Contact the park: www.nps.gov/wotr/forkids/parkfun.htm.
Tickets and 24-hour Information You may obtain tickets in person, by phone, or on the Internet. Filene Center: Ticket sales are finalno refunds or exchanges allowed. All persons entering the Filene Center, regardless of age, must have a ticket. Theatre-in-the-Woods: Shows are cancelled for rain. A 24-hour recorded service provides information about tickets, directions, performances, group sales, policies, and gift certificates: www.wolftrap.org.
Picnic and Food Services You may picnic on the grass or at tables throughout the park. Concession facilities offer food and beverages for evening performances. Ovations Restaurant offers a 200-seat pavilion with a buffet, full dinner menu, and bar.
Parking Free parking is available in the lots on both sides of Trap Road and in overflow parking areas. Parking is limited for sold-out performances; carpooling is suggested. Please be considerate of property owners, if you must park in residential areas. Illegally parked vehicles may be towed.
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is west of 1-495 (Capital Beltway) between Va. 7 and Va. 267 (Dulles Toll Road). For directions to the Filene Center by vehicle or public transportation: www.nps.gov/wotr/planyourvisit/directions.htm.
Regulations • Grills, portable stoves, fires, and candles are not allowed. • Only water is allowed in the Filene Center and Theatre-in-the-Woods seating areas (no food or other drink). • Smoking is prohibited in all seating areas (covered and lawn), public lines, plaza area, restrooms, or within 25 feet of theater entrances. • Packages, coolers, and other containers are subject to inspection. • Cameras and audio and video recording devices are prohibited during performances. • Overnight camping is prohibited. • For firearms regulations check the park website. • Plants, animals, and natural and cultural resources are protected by law. • Emergencies: contact U.S. Park Police, an usher or park ranger, or call 911.
The Barns at Wolf Trap The Barns are owned and operated by the Wolf Trap Foundation. Information: www.wolftrap.org
Accessibility The Filene Center and Theatre-in-the-Woods are accessible for persons with disabilities. Service animals are welcome.
Volunteering Volunteers are an important part of Wolf Trap's success.
Source: NPS Brochure (2010)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
An Administrative History: Wolf Trap Farm Park Draft (Barry Mackintosh, 1983)
Cultural Landscape Report, Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts (Quinn Evans Architects, May 2021)
Financial, Ethical, and Exclusive Use Concerns About the NPS' Agreement With the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of the Interior Report No. 2017-WR-037-A (September 2018)
Geologic Resource Evaluation Report, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/GRD/NRR-2008/041 (T.L. Thornberry-Ehrlich, June 2008)
Master Plan, Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts (January 1997)
Natural Resource Condition Assessment, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, National Capital Region NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/WOTR/NRR-2015/1030 (Brianne Walsh, Simon Costanzo, William C. Dennison, J. Patrick Campbell, Mark Lehman, Megan Nortrup, Betsy Chittenden, Phillip Goetkin and Christopher Schuster, September 2015)
Traffic and Parking Analysis Study, Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts, Fairfax County, Virginia (Robert Peccia & Associates, December 1993)
Handbooks ◆ Books
Last Updated: 21-Feb-2022