New York is an expensive city. There is not much getting around the cost of a hotel and the price of a decent sit-down meal. But with a little patience and flexibility, you can see a Broadway (or off-Broadway) show, without seeing the bottom of your piggy bank.
TKTS – This option is best if you are traveling with a group of people. TKTS is situated under the red steps in the middle of Times Square. The red steps are a set of bleachers that are–you guessed it–red. You can’t miss them. Tucked beneath the steps is the TKTS booth.
Pros: TKTS offers up to 50% off tickets. If you are flexible with what show you want to see, chances are you can get a pretty good deal at the booth. Can’t make up your mind? There are helpers dressed in red stationed along the line that will help you pick a show. Most of the workers at TKTS know the NYC theater scene very well. Listen to their recommendations. They know what they are talking about!
Cons: If you have a specific show in mind, TKTS is a gamble. Even if the show you’ve been waiting for months to see is up on the list of tickets available, the tickets may be gone by the time you get to the front of the line. Which brings me to…the line. Sometimes, especially during high-tourist seasons like summer and Christmas, it can be a long wait in line. It is best to get in line well before the booth opens. The hours are on their website.
Rush Lines and Lotteries
Most shows have extra tickets every night they are willing to sell at a steeply discounted price. Most theaters have rush policies and only a few use lotteries to fill their empty seats. Lotteries are just what you think they are–a couple of hours before a particular show is set to begin, you put your name in a big bin and they lotto off extra tickets for a discounted price. I happen to be the most unlucky person imaginable so lottos just tend to leave me grumpy and mildly heartbroken. Rush tickets are sold the morning of a show, when the box office opens (usually 10:00am on weekdays and Saturdays, 12:00 pm on Sundays) Depending on the popularity of a show, you may have to get in line hours before before the box office opens and wait outside. Most times, you can only get one or two rush tickets per person, so this may not be ideal for a larger group.
Pros: I’ve gotten third row center seats for as low as $26.50. Which is pretty amazing especially since the people next to me are often people who paid six times that much. I can’t tell you how many show’s I’ve seen by getting rush tickets. I’ve saved thousands of dollars.
Cons: If you are unlucky (like me) the lottery may not be for you. With rush lines, depending on how popular the show is that you are trying to get tickets for, you may be waiting for hours in line. When I went to see Once after it won the Tony Award for Best Musical, I had to get it line at 5:30am to get a rush ticket. I was in line for almost five hours! But it was still worth it. Another con about getting rush or lotto tickets is that you never know what you’re going to get. You hand over your cash and the box office gives you a ticket, you could be sitting in a prime seat in the Orchestra or Mezzanine, you could be way up in the highest farthest row in the Balcony, or you could have a partial view seat on the extreme side of the Orchestra.
If you are going to rush a show, I recommend bring something cushy to sit on, a snack, and a good book. Also, make friends with the people in line with you. That way, when you have to pee, they won’t mind saving your spot while you run to Starbucks. They can also recommend other shows to you that you may not have considered before.
For more information about a show’s rush or lottery policy, visit the show’s website or go to BroadwayforBrokePeople.com! The website has been by Broadway show bible. All of the policies are listed there.
TheaterMania.com and BroadwayBox.com
If you’re not willing to wait in line, visit these websites. There may be a discount available for a show you want to see.
Talk to the Box Office
I have come into contact with some of the crankiest box office personnel imaginable. Listen, these people are trapped inside a little box listening to tourists demand the most ridiculous things or complain about prices. Don’t let this deter you. It’s amazing how much a smile and a gracious attitude will get you. One time I was at the box office of a notoriously expensive show and with a little “How are you today?” and a smile the gentlemen at the box office gave me an excellent student discount on my ticket even though I did not have a student ID (and I am pretty clearly not a student).
It is amazing how far a little kindness will get you. Even if your box office helper cannot get you a discount, be nice to them. They have to put up with shenanigans all day long.
It can be cheaper than you think to have a night out at the theater. Go! Support the theater community! You won’t regret it.