Broadway on a Budget
Updated: Jul 21, 2019
Broadway is one of the biggest tourists draws in NYC, but tickets can be extremely pricey. Luckily, there are ways to see Broadway on budget.
In terms of what to see, there is literally a show for everyone. What you should probably ask yourself is, do you want to see a musical or a play, do you want something light and fluffy or something deep and thought provoking, do you want massive set pieces or something more minimal and plot focused, do you care if there is a celebrity in the show, and if you’re seeing a musical would you prefer lots of dance or more of a “park and bark” where the best voices in the world sing at you for a few hours. If you can answer these questions, if will be much easier for your hotel concierge or musical loving niece to direct you towards your perfect Broadway show.
Now, for the discounts.
The most famous and time honored way to give discounts tickets is to visit the TKTS booth. There are a few locations, all listed here. They all have the same exact shows at the same exact prices. The 47th street location is by far the most famous. When I say “by far the most famous,” 99.9% of theatre goers either don’t know the other locations exist or are too lazy to go to them. If you want to avoid the lines, go to any location but the 47th street location. If you want to be in the middle of Times Square where lots of people are standing around to answer questions about shows, go to the 47th street location.
The way TKTS works is, shows that have tickets for sale can donate a portion of those tickets to the TKTS booth THE DAY OF THE SHOW. So you are buying tickets to see a show performing that same day. The tickets are typically 50% off, something you will see other percentages. They typically sell tickets to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, and occasionally a ticket to Lincoln Center appears. You do not get to choose your seats. It is a first come first serve deal and you will get the best seats available at the time.
Here is the tricky thing, if you are first in line, the best available seats might be tickets that start at $250, so even at a discount you are paying $125 a pop. If you wait too long, there is a chance that all the tickets to a particular show will sell out. There is also a chance a show will be unavailable in the morning, but tickets will magically appear in the afternoon. It’s a bit of a game you have to play. That being said, it is a reliable New York City institution. To be honest, my favorite way to get tickets to TKTS is just to ask, “What are you cheapest tickets,” buy those, and be surprised. There are so many great shows on Broadway, and I’ve yet to be disappointed with this method of ticket buying.
TODAYTIX is a totally legit app you can download to help you purchase discount tickets to Broadway Shows.
This app was developed in 2013 by two Broadway producers who had the goal of making it easier for theatre goers to buy tickets on their smart phones.
Today you can buy tickets to all different types of shows in all different cities using the TODAY TIX app. They offer both discounted tickets and discounted “lottery” tickets on their app. Depending on the show you will either collect your tickets at the theatre’s box office the day of the show, or you will meet a TODAYTIX representative outside of the theatre thirty minutes before curtain.
If you have a valid student ID, you could be qualify for a student discount at a Broadway show. Every show has a different rush policy, so it is best to just check with the box office or google “Broadway Student Rush” and see what comes up. I would link you here, but the policies are always changing and the odds are that once you read this blog entry, the data will be obsolete.
The general gist of student rush is this: go to the theatre the day of a show. Show the box office your student ID and tell them you’d like student rush tickets. They will let you know if any are available that day. If there are, you can buy them them at a hefty discount. Most student rush tickets cost less than $50. The general rule is either 1 or 2 tickets per student ID.
Every show is going to have a different rush policy, but the general gist is that a specified number of tickets will be held to be sold at a steep discount to patrons showing up at the theatre the day of the show.
The best thing to do is to google “Rush tickets + the name of the show you would like to see” or “rush ticket policy Broadway.” I would link you, but the policies change so often that the link would be obsolete by the time you saw it in this blog.
If the show is more popular, such as HAMILTON, you might need to camp out overnight to get a rush ticket. If the show is regularly appearing on discount boards such as TKTS, rush tickets might be available all the way up until curtain.
Some theatres also have discounts for certain age groups. For example, Manhattan Theatre Club offer 30 Under 35. If you register with them online are under the age of 35, you can get a pair of $30 tickets to any of their shows. New York City Ballet offers $30 tickets for anyone between the ages of 13 and 30. Roundabout Theatre, for a time, offered HIPTIX which were $25 tickets to anyone between the ages of 18 and 35. Because these policies are always changing, it is best to google them just before your trip or just before you want to see a show and see if you can are eligible for an awesome discount.
Lotteries are the cheapest way to see a show. They are also the least reliable.
Lotteries used to all be in person and you would show up at a theatre a few hours before curtain, basically put your name in a hat, someone would draw twenty names, and you’d get a heavily discounted, and often front row, ticket. It was amazing and I got to see both the original casts of WICKED and HAMILTON front row this way, for the low low cost of $10 a piece!
Today, most (if not all) lotteries have moved online, and some lotteries draw a day or two before the actual show. The same amazing discounts and seats still apply.
Every show will have a different lottery policy and the policies constantly evolve and change. As with the rush tickets, it is best to google NAME OF THE SHOW YOU WANT TO SEE + LOTTERY. The first search result should give you everything you need to know about entering the lottery for your desired show.
All lotteries are free to enter, so my advice is to enter a lottery for everything you want to see, keep your fingers crossed that you win one, and if you don’t try TKTS, Rush tickets, Today Tix, StubHub, TDF, etc...
TDF stands for Theatre Development Fund. TDF is just an awesome organization that aims to bring the power of the performing arts to everyone. You should check them out just because they are good people doing good things for the world.
TDF theatre discounts apply to you if you are a full time student, a full time teacher or school facultative, a union member, a retiree, on federal disability, government employee/civil servant, full time staff member of a not for profit organization, full time non-exempt employee, full time arts professional, member of the armed forces, freelancer, or full time clergy.
If this describes you go to the TDF website and register. You will pay an annual fee which, at the time of this writing, was $40. You can then buy Broadway tickets to select shows for $49 a piece and Off-Broadway shows for $39 a piece.
TDF picks your seats for you, and I have always been happy. TDF also has tickets to a range of non-Broadway performances, the price ranging from $11 to $49.
To see if you qualify for TDF visit www.tdf.org
Stubhub is a ticket resale site that will allow you to get discounted (or in some cases inflated) tickets for everything from Metallica to Disney on Ice.
With Broadway, I have found it best to visit the site either the day before a day or the day of the show. That is when the tickets seem to be the least expensive. This site is totally legit and the tickets you buy will be real tickets. If you really want to see a sold out show like Hamilton, Lion King, or Wicked, this will honestly be your best bet for a discount ticket, or in some cases, getting a ticket at all.
This is a great website that outlines all of the rush and lottery ticket policies for shows currently on Broadway.
So there you have it. You can now see Broadway on a budget and stop using the high prices as an excuse to pass on seeing shows.
Of course, if you can afford it, it is always good to pay full price because it helps support the show and keep hundreds of people employed. Shows are expensive to produce, with he sets, costumes, lights, Manhattan real estate, actors, stage managers, designers, directors, choreographers, writers, composers, orchestrators, musicians, front of house, and more. Did you know know that when you are watching a Broadway show, every person involved in that production is unionized receiving a decent wage, benefits such as pension and health, and treated in a humane fashion with breaks and bathrooms. It would be wonderful for you to support that if you are in the financial situation to do so.
If times are a bit leaner for you, please still go and see shows using these discount tips and cheer wildly from stands showing your appreciation of all the hard work that goes into every minute on stage. Most importantly, if you like what you saw in New York City, bring that passion back with you and support your local regional theatres by cheering as wildly in the audience for them as you did on Broadway.
Also - always remember to turn off your cell phone when watching a show! The noise, as well as the light from the screen, distracts both performers and your fellow audience members! Be cool and make sure it is off and tucked away!:)