Tanglewood with Kids
THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 2015 BUT HAS BEEN UPDATED FOR SUMMER OF 2016
I used to think of a Tanglewood concert (in Massachusetts Berkshires) as a romantic date night idea. Over the last couple of summers, however, attending a Tanglewood concert has become our family’s tradition. Let me share a couple of “secrets” and experiences from our Tanglewood visit last summer (courtesy of the Berkshires Visitors Bureau and Boston Symphony Orchestra). This could be the beginning of your family’s summer tradition too!
1. DIVERSE PROGRAMMING
Tanglewood, celebrating its 76th season, is a summer home of Boston Symphony Orchestra and also a center for advanced musical studies, welcoming nation’s leading young artists every summer to train and perform.
The rich and diverse Tanglewood programing includes not only the greatest classics, but also performances by Boston Pops, contemporary and chamber music, internationally renowned jazz artists, Broadway, Pop Rock and Film musical events. (see full summer 2016 schedule HERE).
Last summer we got to experience the program of Mozart (Symphonies No. 35 and 36) and Schumann (Piano Concerto) inside Koussevitzky Music Shed (led by conductor Sir Neville Marriner; piano Paul Lewis).
As much as we enjoyed this magical experience, for families with young children, LAWN seating during the afternoon programs on Sundays at 2:30pm would be a more suitable choice. And, children’s tickets are FREE for the lawn. (Note that children 5 and under are not permitted inside the Koussevitzky Music Shed Seiji Ozawa Hall during performances; there is no age restriction for the lawn).
2. JUST FOR KIDS
With its expansive concert lawn and grounds, Tanglewood is a place TO BE in the summer for families.
To help kids make musical connections, Tanglewood’s special children’s programming includes Kids’ Corner, Watch and Play, Instrument Playground, an annual Family Fest ( June 24 this year) and a Family Concert (July 9).
During the “Watch and Play” prior to the concert we have attended last summer, two lovely violinists – members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra – engaged the kids with questions (“How does this music makes you feel?”), rhyming exercises, and virtuoso musical jokes (have you tried playing one violin with 2 bows?).
This summer of 2016, “Watch and Plays” will be offered at 1pm on four Sundays in the Chamber Music Hall: July 10, July 24, August 7, and August 14. The Chamber Music Hall is located near the Visitors Center, in the rear of the Lawn; the program is free with that day’s tickets (and children’s lawn tickets are free).
The minute we left “Watch and Play“, Vi and Sasha became engaged by another program that is offered on weekends- “Kids’ Corner” (right outside the Chamber Music Hall, in the grassy area near Tanglewood Visitors’ Center).
Kids Corner provides casual drop in “musical” crafts before and during weekend performances . Start time is 9:30am on Saturdays and noon on Sundays; note that on the days of “Watch and Play”, “Kids Corner” starts at 2pm. Kids must be accompanies by an adult. (Tickets to the Sunday concert or Saturday-morning rehearsal are required.)
Another family offering (we did not yet get to experience this one), Instrument Playground, offers an opportunity to see, hear, touch and play the instruments of the orchestra. This summer it will be offered rain or shine in the Hawthorne Tent preceding the Family Concert (July 9) and during “Tanglewood on Parade” program on August 2, 2-4pm. (tickets to concert are required to attend).
3. CONCERT TIME: KIDS CAN STILL PLAY!
During the concert time, when not dancing, Vi and her friend Sasha were (mostly quietly) coloring. It’s acceptable for patrons on the lawn to get up and leave at times, or eat and drink, as long as does not excessively bother other patrons. (I can tell you that girls’ dancing during all performances they attended never bothered anyone). Choose your lawn place “strategically” depending on your family’s needs. We had our blanket close to Shed, under a tree (for best shade). If it rains, you can quickly find refuge in the rear of the Shed; but some families prefer to position themselves further back in the rear of lawn, closer to play area (and bathrooms).
If your kids need even more freedom to play than the Lawn area near the Concert Shed can offer (say, they would rather play ball) you can take them to the grassy area in the rear of the lawn, near the Visitors Center and in the Apple Tree lot of Ozawa Hall.
4. PARENTS CAN ENJOY SOME WINE WITH THEIR PICNIC
I love putting time and effort into preparing my special “Tanglewood” picnic basket worthy of the occasion (and it seems that a number of other people do so). But- you can just bring a bag of chips and still fit in. It is a wonderfully accepting place.
5. EXPANSIVE GROUNDS
The quality of Tanglewood musical performances is superb, but beautiful grounds are an essential part of the atmosphere.
You can see the Berkshire Mountains and the nearby Stockbridge bowl from some areas on the Lawn. The Visitor’s Center (rear of the lawn) offers Exhibits and information on Tanglewood history; there are walking tours of the grounds (call 413-637-5393 for more information) offered on Saturdays at 1:30, Sundays at 12:30). There are also several casual dining options, and ice-cream concession stands. “Glass house” gift shop offers musical souvenirs and Tanglewood merchandise.
6. IT’S AFFORDABLE!
Tanglewood offers FREE lawn tickets for children and young people age 17 and younger (up to four free children’s tickets are available per adult; this offer does not extend to the “Popular Artist” series). at the Tanglewood Box Office on the day of the concert. You need to get your free tickets at the Box offices located at the entrance gates on the day of the concert. Adult lawn tickets range between $10-$22 depending on the day and time of performance.
We usually come 1-2 hours prior to performance to set up and enjoy the grounds; they do not seem to run out of lawn tickets even if you come closer to performance time (with the exception of the 4th of July when all tickets were sold out in advance). For advance ticket purchases, call 617-266-1200 or purchase on line HERE.
7. YOU CAN MAKE IT A DAY TRIP
From our suburb South of Boston, we have done both day trips and overnight visits to Tanglewood; it’s just over 2 hours one way for us (more in traffic, of course, but if you leave early, you should be fine).
Now, before the summer is over, make plans to visit beautiful Tanglewood with your family and start making your own Tanglewood memories (and musical connections).
MORE TIPS FOR YOUR TANGLEWOOD VISIT:
1. Come early for best lawn seating options. Ground Opening Times: Fridays 5:30pm Saturdays 5:30pm for evening concerts 9am for Rehearsals Sundays Noon (check for other events).
2. Cooking and open flames are prohibited.
3. In the event of severe weather, patrons will be directed to shelters (no refunds offered).
4. Umbrellas are now permitted (and small open-sided canopies) to shade from the sun (no stakes over 6″ in length, or canopies of more than 6′ square or umbrellas exceeding 4′ in diameter. )
5. No pets (except for service animals) are allowed on Tanglewood property.
For more things to do in the beautiful Berkshires, check out this Post.