Tanglewood with Kids: UPDATED FOR 2018
UPDATED FOR SUMMER 2018
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 78th season), is of course the summer home of Boston Symphony Orchestra but also a center for advanced musical studies which welcomes nation’s leading young artists every summer to train and perform.
Official 2018 BOSTON SYMPHONY SUMMER starts on Friday, July 6th, but Tanglewood grounds have been open for the concert-goers since mid-June. Diverse Tanglewood programing compliments the grand classical pieces (by the Boston Symphony) with the beloved Boston Pops and other renowned artists’ performances in a variety of musical styles (there is Broadway, Jazz, Pop Rock, Contemporary dance programs, Film musical events – see full summer 2018 schedule HERE).
A couple of summers ago, 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 is the best choice for families with young kids. There are programs during almost every day of the season, with Sunday afternoon concerts (2:30pm) offering the most pre-concert programming to entertain and educate the family.
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 children’s programming includes Watch and Play fun educational sessions and Kids’ Corner themed crafts activities, Instrument Playground, an annual Family Fest (JULY 27 this summer) and Young People’s Concert on August 10.
We make pre-concert “Watch and Play” part of Tanglewood itinerary every time we visit with kids. They typically have one or two members of the Boston Symphony (performing that night) engage the kids (ages 3-10, but all welcome!) 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 2018, “Watch and Plays” kids pre-concerts will be offered at 1pm EVERY Sunday (July 8 through August 26) BEFORE THE CONCERT at the Chamber Music Hall. 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).
After the “Watch and Play“, there is still a little time for themed crafts at the “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 2018 (with sponsorship from the Highland Street Foundation’s Free Fun Fridays program) is scheduled for Friday, July 27, from 3-5:30 pm (with live musical performances, craft activities, nature walks, and of course- the Instrument Playground). Families could then stay at the Lawn- for free – for the BSO’s 8pm concert (as Juanjo Mena conducts Britten, Mozart and Brahms ). Advance registration is recommended but not required.
Young People’s Concert on August 10 is an hour-long program designed for young audiences and their families- with musical interviews, examples and audience participation. A Tanglewood tradition conceived by composer Leonard Bernstein, this program will be hosted by his daughter Jamie.
3. CONCERT TIME: KIDS CAN STILL PLAY!
During the concert time on Sunday afternoons, our kids would dance when younger, but now are mostly quietly reading or drawing (no, we are not the “no electronics” family by no means, but we can still enforce the temporary “no gadget” rule with the elementary schoolkids in our group).
It is perfectly acceptable for the concert-going families on the lawn to get up and leave at times, or eat and drink, as long as you do not excessively bother other patrons. (I can tell you that the girls’ dancing during performances did not seem to bother 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 the 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 and 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 2 hours prior to performance to set up and enjoy the grounds and the pre-concert programming; 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).
NEW IN 2018: SUMMER SUNDAYS bus tours from Boston. I have not tried them but they are officially partnered with Tanglewood and offer both transportation and tickets – see more information here.
8. ADDED SUNDAY PROGRAMMING
SUMMER Sundays pre-concert programming that started in 2017, (July 8 through August 26 this year), is expanding with new activities and events for all ages 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.
MORE TIPS FOR YOUR TANGLEWOOD VISIT:
1. Plan to come early for best lawn seating options and to enjoy pre-concert programming. Grounds Open at 5:30pm for the evening concerts; and on 9am for morning Rehearsals; On Sundays: at Noon for 2:30pm concert (check the timing 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.
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