One of the most common questions I get as a tour guide from both tourists and locals alike is about Broadway; more specifically how to score a good, but cheap seat.
And honestly despite Broadway being one of our biggest industries in NYC, this is not an easy question to answer. There are so many avenues to choose from and it’s hard to know which paths are the right ones and which ones are laden with pitfalls and booby traps. However, I believe that despite it’s overwhelming nature everyone deserves to breathe in the “magic perfume” of a Broadway house and spend their vacation watching their childhood fantasies come alive in the Lion King or a grandiose gothic classic like Phantom of the Opera. So in an attempt to keep theatre fun and stress free, I am going to list and link all of the surefire ways to get a ticket to a Broadway show and what to look out for if you want to make your first experience calamity free.
Do Your Research
So first thing’s first. What show do you want to see? There are over 40 different Broadway houses, so that means there is a possibility of having up to 40 shows to choose from. And you might only have time for one. But don’t panic. This is the fun part. This is when you get to have total control over your viewing experience. Do you want something funny or romantic? Classic or contemporary? Musical or play? Once you decide this the rest of the buying process will be simpler. A great resource for everything currently running on broadway including the shows’ age restrictions, synopses, and cast lists is Broadway.com. This is where you will be able to find the show or shows that are right for you.
So you’re on Broadway.com and you’ve settled on three choices for shows: Lion King, Anastasia, and Once On This Island, but now you have another choice to make. Do you buy the in advanced or once you get to the city. For a lot of people this is a no brainer. Broadway.com will let you buy tickets straight from their reputable website at full price. But there is a catch. Whether you’re on telecharge, ticketmaster, or broadway.com there will be a very hefty service fee added to your tickets. So a $177.00 Lion King ticket turns into a $244.00 dollar ticket at checkout, which is a big difference. Also, when buying online you must make sure you are buying from a reputable site. The safest bet is to buy directly from the Broadway show’s website to buy the ticket (i.e. chicagothemusical.com). And in spite of staggering fees sometimes buying in advanced, online at full price is the only sure way to get a ticket. A family of four is never going to win the Lion King lottery, I’m sorry, but it’s not happening.
If you are a local or happen to be in town a few days before you want to see a show, going to the box office of the theatre is another great option for full priced tickets. The theaters open at 10am most days and they don’t charge you outrageous servicing fees. This also gives you the chance to explore the historical theatre district, look at the flashing lights of Times Square, and maybe even catch a glimpse of a Broadway star out of costume.
Don’t buy tickets off the street. I repeat: DON’T BUY TICKETS OFF THE STREET. Sure they have laminated I.D. cards and they’re screaming at you about Lion King deals, but I could find a way to laminate a card if I really wanted to and it’s New York everyone is assertive. They’re just trying to make a profit. They will have fake online services, they will stand next to Tkts in Times Square dressed in red coats to tempt and trick tourists. They are not reputable, they are scalpers. Some are rumored to have been there since the dawn of time. Sporting nicknames like Richie the Rat and Momma, these old standards of Broadway are either going to sell you fake tickets or tickets that are completely overpriced and you won’t know it until you’ve signed your life away.
Discounts: Rush and Lottery
So you don’t want to pay the online fees, you’ve successfully navigated the Times Square scalpers, but the Box Office’s full price tickets for Anastasia are still too steep. This is where discounts come in. There are 4 popular ways to get discounts on Broadway shows: Rush, Lottery, TodayTix, and TKTS by TDF. Rush and Lottery are handled by theatres themselves. Rush refers to when you go to the box office of a theatre the morning of the show and buy a 30-50 dollar ticket with no fees attached. Lottery refers to when you submit your name either online or in person in the hopes of being chosen for a 10-50 dollar ticket. Each theatre and each show is different so two great websites that list all of the rules for rush and lottery are playbill.com and broadwayforbrokepeople.com. They are updated regularly and very clearly lay out everything you need to know about these processes. Now if you don’t have the time or the energy to test your luck with the lottery or to get up early and sit outside of a theatre at 6am for a rush(looking at you Mean Girls) there are two other ways of getting discounts.
This is a popular online service that does unfortunately have fees but they do same day deals for a lot of Broadway shows like Head Over Heels and they host online lotteries for shows like Cursed Child. They also have a very user friendly app. The seats aren’t generally the best but a seat in a theatre is a seat. If you’d like a discount for your first purchase, you can use this promo code: PMJAG.
TKTS by TDF
TKTS is a 50 year old theatre discount legend. Their main location is under the red steps in the middle of Times Square and they are known for selling same day discounts on premium seats for most Broadway shows. Since these are premium seats offered, still expect to shell out anywhere from 60-120 dollars per ticket, but all three of their locations post their actual prices after the fees and taxes so you’ll know what you’re getting into before waiting up to an hour in line (90 minutes during high tourist season) for a ticket. General rules of thumb for Tkts: download the app to keep track of what’s available that day. You can’t buy off the app, but it does show you the list of shows and prices. Check the weather so you can make sure you’re properly prepared to wait in line. Consider using the other 2 locations not in the middle of Times Square, there might be less of a wait. Always have a few options beforehand. If 4 seats together to Anastasia is no longer a possibility by the time you get to the front of the line, you’re going to need a second plan. Tkts accepts cash and credit card and their 5 dollar fee goes to supporting theatre accessibility programs for students and for children with autism. Tdf even has its own online membership that gives access to cheap online tickets if you pay an annual subscription. More info about tkts and tdf is here: https://www.tdf.org/nyc/7/TKTS-ticket-booths
Remember To Have Fun!
This is by far the most important tip of all. No matter how you get your ticket, no matter how far you’ve traveled, at the end of the day you get the chance to take part in history and merriment and see a Broadway show, a New York and American cultural staple. So get a drink from the bar, find your seats, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.