Last weekend I had my first experience at the infamous Tanglewood in Lenox, Ma. I was invited along by my parents who are Tanglewood veterans and showed me the way. What I quickly realized was that you cannot go into this blind. There’s a certain type of etiquette to follow for a night on the lawn listening to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I’ve made a quick list of tips to follow to have a successful night at Tanglewood!
1. What to Bring
- Food: Hors d’oeuvres, salads, dinner items, desert, wine and/or beer.
- Cutlery: Forks/knives, (1) Sharp knife for cheese if necessary, serving utensils, plates, napkins, solo cups, and plastic and/or stemless wine glasses. Corkscrew!
- Fold up camper chairs
- Multiple Blankets.
- Layers: Jackets, Sweatshirts, Sweaters.
- Fold up side tables and coolers for surfaces.
- Flashlights, candles, battery powered lights or solar lights.
- Bug Spray and Sun Screen
- Trash bag
2. Arrive Early & Parking
The lots usually open 2-3 hours before the start of the show. We arrived shortly after the gates opened and the lots were filling up really fast! You’ll want to head to the East or West Main Lots so look it up ahead of time. Some GPS’s will point you to the Lions Gate Lot which includes a pretty tough hill climb to get up to the event. The venue typically hosts an older average age so this isn’t recommended for some people.
I also was told that when it rains, the hills gets VERY slick and people fall easily. The other lots are MUCH more gradual and less demanding.
Arriving early is also necessary if you want a good spot on the lawn. There are several trees spaced throughout the lawn and you don’t want to get stuck sitting behind a tree blocking the screen! People would be rolling in 30 minutes before the show and all upset that they couldn’t get good spots! Most people usually do all their eating and exploring in those hours before the show starts as well. Those couple of hours goes by quick!
3. Marking your Territory
As I mentioned before, it is important to bring multiple blankets. One for when it gets cold and one or two to reserve your space! I saw several people pop their chairs up right in front of other groups if the space in front of them wasn’t reserved. Some people enjoy the option of picnicking and sitting on the blanket while eating and only moving to the chairs for when the show stars.
ProTip: Chairs is an absolute must. If you try to just sit on the ground, you will not be able to see and I personally don’t think it’s fair to ask people to move for you.
Most people bring small fold up tables with them or just use their coolers as surfaces for the food and drinks. Some people bring full size pop up tables and set them up near the back for larger groups. My favorite was a wagon with a table built on top, complete with a checkered table cloth!
Additionally, the most difficult part of the evening will be trying to find your seats again if you’ve wandered off to use the bathroom. Bringing candles, battery powered lights or solar lights is a great way to mark your space and provide some additional light during the show.
4. Exploring the Grounds
Reserve some time to wander around the grounds of Tanglewood before the show starts. If you opt out of packing your own dinner, there are several options for dinner and drinks. The Tanglewood Grill and Cafe is a casual setting with seating under a covered area. They also have plenty of drinks available to order including a craft beer bar! If you’d rather take your meal back to your seat on the lawn, you can order a meal ahead with their Meals-to-Go service! If you’d like to up your dinner game, you can find an “elegant buffet dinner” inside the Highwood Manor House. For those of you just looking for a dish of ice cream or a small treat, you’ll find concession stands located throughout.
On either side of the stage you can find gift shops selling everything from post cards and keychains to high quality zip-ups with the Tanglewood logo! It’s always fun to browse what kind of neat things they offer. Plenty of practical items are for sale in case you forget anything as well.
My mom and I stumbled into the visitor center while wandering and found that they had a whole exhibit about one of the well-known composers from the area. They also have a small-scale replica of the Tanglewood grounds which is pretty interesting to look at! If nothing else make sure to head to the back right corner of the grounds to check out the view overlooking the mountains and lake below. It’s a really nice setting!
5. The Spread is Everything
You will be amazed to see the types of spreads that people bring to Tanglewood! Whether you opt to do hors d’oeuvres or a full five course meal, make sure you also pack ample wine and (preferably plastic) wine glasses! Don’t make the mistake of bringing a corked wine, without a corkscrew! But if you do forget, don’t worry, they sell openers in the gift shop! I saw anything from cheese and cracker plates to massive containers full of pasta! Large chocolate cakes, bins of chocolate chip cookies, strawberries and chocolate hummus dip, you name it!
Some people had full size tables, tablecloths and even a candelabra! This is obviously an extreme but if that’s the kind of standard that you’re used to then by all means! It’s always enjoyable to eat by candlelight so why not use this as an opportunity!
6. Be Prepared for Everything
Because Tanglewood is located in the Berkshires, it will get cool at night. Make sure to bring a jacket, sweatshirt or blanket to wrap around you! I saw a lot of people running around in summer dresses and shorts and were unprepared for once the sun set.
Also make sure to look ahead at the weather. We had the smallest percent chance that it would rain and of course it did! About 25% of the lawn cleared out at the first sign of rain because they weren’t prepared. The rest of us packed up our tables and food, pulled out the rain jackets and umbrellas and sat back to listen to the orchestra! The rain was over as soon as it began! In extreme cases, they do have areas of refuge for severe weather so keep that in mind.
If you’re not one for sitting in the rain, many people packed their stuff, closed their chairs and left them in their spot then headed for cover until the rain passed. This is also an option!
7. Sit Back and Enjoy the Show!
Enough said! 🙂
Have you experienced an evening at Tanglewood? Let me know if you have any tips or suggestions in the comments below! Until next time…
Stay Wild and Adventure On!