One of our favorite thing to do in NYC (in fact sometimes it's the reason we go to NYC) is to see theatre, lots of it. Watching a lot of theatre in the theatre capital of the world can become expensive and we have made a rule NEVER to pay full price. Here's how we do it.
TKTS - Hopefully everyone knows about the TKTS booth (locations here). You line up for either a matinee (counters open at 11:00pm) or an evening performance (counters open at 2:00pm). We usually go around 30 minutes prior to the counters opening and one of us hangs in the line while the other gets coffee. The line actually moves pretty quickly and it has never taken more than an hour out of our day. Don’t forget there are two lines so make sure if you are seeing a play only (non-musical) you are in the correct line as it moves much more quickly. You can find out what is on sale at all of the booths by visiting TKTS live - you can’t buy online of course but it saves you from walking to the booths when there is nothing for sale that you are interested in seeing.
- Guaranteed deep discounts. Most of these tickets are discounted by 50%.
- Wide variety of shows. TKTS includes off-broadway performances which is an opportunity to take a chance on something different.
- Queueing. Not everyone can stand a queue. You wouldn’t catch my Dad doing this.
- Best-sellers not included. You won’t often find the more popular musicals here. You’ll have to use alternate channels for that.
- Seat selection - although they can tell you the general area of your seat, unless you are very familiar with the theatre you won’t actually know the quality of your seat until your bum is in it.
TodayTix - TodayTix is a discount app for your phone. I started using TodayTix last year with pretty good (and mixed) results. I managed to snag 5th row seats to Wicked for about a 30% discount. They were still very expensive but the box-office didn’t have any seats at all so it was worth it for me as it was Emily’s Christmas gift. The app shows a wide-range of shows at varying levels of discounts. You purchase the tickets on the app and then a TodayTix concierge meets you outside the theatre prior to the show (don’t worry, they are always there).
- Easy. No lining up.
- Wide variety of shows. TodayTix always has plenty of choices including many that are not available at the TKTS booth.
- Advance purchase. You can buy tickets a week or so out from the current date so if you are a planner this app may work better for you.
- Seat Selection. TodayTix will tel you the class of ticket but not your seat numbers. You find those out when you pick up your tickets from the concierge.
- Discount levels. The discounts vary and change all the time based on ticket availability so sometimes there isn’t anything better than walking in to the box office (unless it’s a sold out show).
- Lotteries - Mark decided that Wicked was too expensive for him to join Emily and I in the orchestra seats I got for her Christmas, but after she came back glowing and raving he decided he wanted to go. The two of us were in NYC a day longer than Emily so we decided to try the lottery - we won! These lotteries are a great way to try for a super-expensive or sold-out show - our seats were cheap and although not as good as our front orchestra seats, were definitely great. I found a great cheat for the lotteries - this page tells you every theatre that participates in a lottery along with a schedule - essential for lottery strategizing. This page also has digital lottery listings which we haven't tried yet but if you do let us know how it goes. Remember most lotteries are cash only so don't get stuck not being able to purchase your ticket - bring cash!
- Amazing prices. $30. Orchestra. Wicked. Need I say more.
- Seat selection. You don’t get to reserve your seats but they are always orchestra so we aren’t complaining.
- Time. You need to go to the theatre to sign up a certain period of time prior to the show and then you need to return for the actual lottery. Then if you actually win there is another break before the show. If you aren’t staying nearby that can make a day pretty choppy.
- Chances. Obviously these tickets aren’t guaranteed. We heard tales in the Wicked line of folks entering 5 times with no luck. It truly is random. One trick here is to recruit your friends to put their names in - we brought our buddy Colin who was the actual name called. I handed him the cash and he handed my the tickets.
Rush - I remember when Rent came bursting on to the New York theatre scene and introduced the concept of Rush tickets. When you rush a performance you show up at the box office at a designated time and line up. For popular shows prepare yourself for a long wait. Mar and I walked past Hamilton on our latest trip and the folks camped out on the pavement had obviously been there all night. Not really our style but worth it when I was was a poor 20 year-old and could get in to Rent for only $20. You can find out about Rush performances and schedules here.
- Amazing seats. Most theatre who have Rush tickets are in the habit of saving some of the best seats for you. First row orchestra is not unheard of.
- Amazing prices. Even better than the lottery. You can Rush most theatre for a $20-30 ticket.
- Pretty obvious. Sitting (or God forbid sleeping) on a NY sidewalk is not everyone's cup of tea.
Stub hub - I have had great luck on Stubhub for same day performances. Stub hub is mostly made up of private individuals who have purchased tickets and are unable to use them. A few hours prior to the performance these folks tend to get a bit desperate and the prices go down quickly. We scored 2nd row Crucible tickets on Stubhub for under $100 at an almost sold out show. I just Google Stubhub and the name of the show to find tickets. A Stubhub secret… One of the benefits of Stubhub is that they show the exact seat numbers of the tickets that are available. Check Stubhub an hour or so before a performance - if there are great seats available then you can buy some cheap nosebleed seats at the box office. Check Stubhub again 5-10 minutes before the performance starts and if the seats are still available, it means they are still available. Act confident and stroll down the aisle and grab them. If you aren’t confident enough you could confirm their availability after the curtain opens (by looking) and move at intermission. But move fast lots of other folks have their eyes on those seats too.
- Seat selection. You know exactly what seat you are getting.
- Value. Stub hub even ranks value for money you can get some really great prices if you are last minute.
- Availability. Sometimes there are lots of choices. Sometimes there are none. It;s a real roll of the dice.
- Ease. You can get digital guaranteed authentic tickets but they have to be printed. No printer, no luck.