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10 Tips for Visiting Tanglewood

Lawn and Shed at Tanglewood
John Ferrillo/BSO

In New England, you don’t want to waste a precious moment of summer inside. During the fleeting months that the days are long and the weather warm, you want to take advantage. Fortunately, you don’t have to put away culture with your winter jacket when the temperatures rise. The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) decamps to its summer home at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts, and you can join them to be serenaded by the symphony under warm summer skies.

For more than 80 years, the lush green grounds of Tanglewood have housed the BSO for the summer season, hosting a variety of events and performances from June through Labor Day. Located in the quaint Berkshires town of Lenox, Tanglewood is a country escape for both the performers and the audience. The idyllic grounds sprawl over 524 acres, so it never feels crowded.

Although Tanglewood is most widely associated with the BSO, you can catch performances by popular artists like James Taylor here as well. Tickets are sold both for the lawn, where the audience sprawls out with elaborate picnics and watches the show on big screens, and inside the open-air Koussevitzky Music Shed, which has assigned seats and closer views of the performance.

Shed and lawn at tanglewood
Hilary Scott/BSO

Here are my top tips for visiting Tanglewood:

  • Bring a picnic. Even if you have tickets inside the Shed, half of the fun is showing up early to picnic and explore the grounds. Expect to see some extravagant spreads set up by other attendees, including tables with candles, china, and crystal vases with fresh flowers.
  • Don’t want to pack your own food? You can order pre-made meals from Tanglewood restaurants, or dine at one of the on-site eateries. There are also snack stands and a beer garden in case you didn’t bring enough refreshments.
  • Show up early to get the best spot on the lawn. The gates usually open a few hours before showtime, and regular fans will wait in line at the doors in order to snag the best seats. You can check the gate times here.
  • Bring bug spray. Tanglewood treats the grounds at least weekly to prevent mosquitoes and other bugs, but some repellent is good to have just in case.
  • Parking is free and plentiful, but be sure to remember which lot you parked in, as there are a number of different options.
  • Lawn chairs will make watching the show more comfortable, so bring your own or rent cushions and chairs on site.
  • Bring an umbrella, as the show goes on rain or shine. If the forecast is bad, you might want to consider tickets inside the Shed instead, where you will be covered.
  • Lawn tickets are a great bargain (with prices for some shows starting as low as $14) and there are no bad seats on the lawn, thanks to a stellar speaker system and large movie theater-style screens.
  • Check out the Tanglewood ticket packages page, which features great deals like $20 tickets for patrons under 40 years old, student offers, packages combining show tickets and admission to the Norman Rockwell Museum or MASS MoCA, or the special “date night” deal that includes dinner and a show.
  • Take a free walking tour to learn about Tanglewood’s storied history and see the gorgeous grounds.

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Caroline Morse Teel was hosted by Tanglewood. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos of the best things to do in New England and the rest of the world.

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