Tanglewood with Kids
UPDATED FOR SUMMER OF 2017
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.
I have put together this list of things you may want to know about experiencing Tanglewood with family – so you could start your own Tanglewood summer family tradition!
1. DIVERSE MUSICAL PROGRAMMING (and seating) options
Tanglewood, (in its 77th 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 famous grand classical pieces, but also performances by the Boston Pops, and other internationally renowned artists in a variety of musical styles (there is Broadway, Jazz, Pop Rock, Contemporary dance programs, Film musical events – see full summer 2017 schedule HERE).
Last summer we got to experience Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue inside the Koussevitzky Music Shed.
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 (under 18) tickets are always 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. SPECIAL KIDS PROGRAMMING
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 activities before concerts, Watch and Play educational sessions, Instrument Playground, an annual Family Fest ( JULY 21 this summer) and an annual Family Concert (July 22).
Here is more information on these programs: take a note-and take advantage- of these activities as they play a big part in making Tanglewood visits fun for kids!
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 2017, “Watch and Plays” kids pre-concerts will be offered at 1pm on four Sundays at the Chamber Music Hall: July 9, July 23, August 6 and August 13. 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 always 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.)
Tanglewood Family Fun Fest 2017 is scheduled for Friday, July 21, from 1-5 pm (with educational scavenger hunt, Instrument Playground, and a series of live musical performances). New this year: families have the opportunity to stay – for free – to watch the BSO’s 8pm concert from the lawn (as Maestro Gustavo Gimeno conducts a program of Bernstein and Tchaikovsky, featuring pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet). Advance registration is recommended; please CLICK HERE TO REGISTER for this event.
The Tanglewood Family Concert will follow on Saturday, July 22 at 1:30pm, with an engaging chamber music experience especially for children ages 3-8 and their families at Ozawa Hall. Preconcert activities begin at 11:30am. Tickets are $12, and children under 18 are free. (To get free tickets for the Family Concert, call 888-266-1200).
3. CONCERT TIME: KIDS CAN STILL PLAY!
During the concert time on a Sunday afternoon, 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 also walking tours of the grounds (call 413-637-5393 for more information) . 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 youth 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, and students’ 18 and older tickets are 50% off.
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).
8. ADDED PROGRAMMING FOR KIDS AND FAMILIES
NEW FOR 2017: On Sunday afternoons, July 9 through August 27, when the gates open at noon, there will be new activities and events for all ages to enhance your Tanglewood experience -at various locations throughout the grounds – food tastings, yoga, games for families, and more! From 12:30- 1:30, additional offerings including lectures, performances, and musical demonstrations, will take place in the Theater. I can’t wait to come back to Tanglewood this July and will be sure to report to you about these new experiences!
MORE TIPS FOR YOUR TANGLEWOOD VISIT:
1. Come early for best lawn seating options. Ground Opening Times on the day of the concerts: Fridays- 5:30pm, Saturdays -5:30pm (for evening concerts); 9am for morning Rehearsals; Sundays: Noon for 2:30pm concert (check for special 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 with kids, check out this Post.