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On with the show! How to get a great deal on Broadway tickets

August 16 2022
8 min read
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If you've been following the return of live theater and performances in New York City, you may be making a ticket wish list, as I have, for what to see on the Great White Way this year. Like me, you may also have gotten some sticker shock when you encountered $500 premium seats to shows like "The Music Man." (For that price, I expect my premium seats to involve a flight.)

But never fear, as there are an array of ways to enjoy great live theater in NYC while still having money left over for dinner and sightseeing afterward. I've successfully watched live theater — from recent Tony Award winners to newly debuted shows — without breaking the bank by using a number of tips and insider hacks to catch Broadway shows for reduced rates or even free.

From online deals to the TKTS booth, here are some of my favorite ways to see Broadway shows on a budget.

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In-person deals and discounts

(Photo by Bruce Glikas/Getty Images)

One of the easiest ways to save some cash if you're in New York City is to simply walk up to the box office. By purchasing tickets in person, you'll avoid paying the exorbitant Ticketmaster/Telecharge fees that are added when you purchase on those websites. (Personally, I'd prefer to spend that money — sometimes more than $30 per person — on a glass of wine and snacks at intermission.)

Another perk of going to a theater in person is having the opportunity to purchase rush seats or same-day discounted seats available on a first-come, first-served basis. This works best if your schedule is flexible, you don't mind waiting in line and you won't be heartbroken if you're not able to get a ticket the day you wait.

Rush seats are available at many of Broadway's most popular shows, including recent Tony Award winners "Strange Loop" and "The Music Man." To increase your chances of snagging these last-minute discount seats, which are generally priced at $49 or less and are often located in the front row or other close sections of the orchestra, aim to line up early.

Should you want to avoid spending anything for a quality performance, consider an evening under the stars at Shakespeare in the Park. Tickets for these Central Park shows will cost you exactly $0.

Although the main ticket distribution point is in Central Park, if you're a resident of one of the five boroughs of New York, there are distribution days for local borough residents with easier-to-navigate lines. TodayTix also runs a digital lottery for the free summer shows.

Related: Broadway is back — how spending an evening watching a tragedy left me feeling hopeful

TKTS

(Photo by Cavan Images/Getty Images)

Another popular in-person option is the tried-and-true New York City experience of going to the TKTS booth in the middle of Times Square. Here, you can purchase day-of tickets for both big Broadway shows and smaller off-Broadway productions for 20% to 50% off regular prices. (Note that you usually won't have a chance to see the most popular shows this way, including Disney productions.)

One nice perk of TKTS is that while evening performances require same-day purchasing, you can often buy matinee tickets the day prior to the show. You can also view real-time ticket availability online or by using the official TKTS app.

For more options and a wider selection, consider becoming a member of the nonprofit Theater Development Fund, which runs TKTS. This will give you access to discounted tickets in advance.

Related: 3 ways to experience New York City, whether you're on a budget or have money to burn

TodayTix, Lucky Seat and lotteries

Don't want to wait in line? You don't always have to queue up to get a good deal. The TodayTix app acts as a digital rush with discounted tickets to a variety of shows available. Prices vary, but most of the top shows currently playing are available on the site and the app.

Although not all shows are hugely discounted, TodayTix often runs no-fee promotions. Keep in mind, though, that for some shows, you won't be able to choose your precise ticket location; instead, you will pick a section you'd like to sit in.

TodayTix also offers online lotteries for tickets on its app, as does Lucky Seat. These are usually for seats to some of the most expensive and in-demand shows currently playing.

For this option, you enter your name to win heavily discounted tickets. It takes some perseverance, but I have gotten lucky with this service, scoring $25 orchestra tickets to "Mean Girls." An added perk is that you will usually find out a day or two in advance of your show if you've secured tickets, allowing you time to make some dinner plans, too.

If you want to see what's possibly the most popular Broadway production of all — "Hamilton" — know that there's also a lottery for these coveted tickets. The separate lottery for $10 tickets runs directly through the show for all of its North American productions.

Related: How to travel to New York City on points and miles

Playbill

(Photo by Ozgur Donmaz/Getty Images)

Yes, Playbill is what you're handed when you go to a Broadway show, but the miniature magazine does more than give you all the necessary details about a show before it starts. The magazine also runs a super informative website that offers up some solid ticket deals for both Broadway and off-Broadway productions. Plus, the site provides backstage insights and lots of great tips on what's opening soon so you can take advantage of new show previews (the period before a show officially opens and is reviewed, and when tickets are available at a slightly lower price point).

By signing up for the magazine's daily newsletter, I've gotten looped in on a number of previews and deal alerts that resulted in affordable seats to shows that later went on to become big hits, including the gender-switching version of "Company" with Patti LuPone (which just ended its run). To steal a line from Patti in that show: "Everybody rise!"

Limited-time offers

For another easy way to save on theater tickets, sign up for alerts from NYC & Company, the official tourism arm of the New York City government. Along with the group's ever-popular restaurant weeks, there are also special Broadway Weeks held twice annually. During these periods in September and early January, theatergoers can purchase two-for-one Broadway tickets.

Unlike some of the previously mentioned discounted ticket options, these special theater week offers include popular family shows such as "Wicked" and "The Lion King." (In fact, this limited-time option is how I originally introduced my theater-loving kiddo to Broadway musicals.) Tickets usually go on sale about three weeks in advance, with tickets for the next theater week (which takes place from Sept. 6-25) available to buy starting Aug. 16.

Related: These are 18 of the best hotels for families in New York City

Bottom line

There are plenty of ways to enjoy live theater in New York City without maxing out your budget.

In addition to saving big on tickets, check out these great (and affordable) points hotels to help keep the costs of your Big Apple visit down.

Also consider some of the more cost-effective options for pre-theater dining, such as the Times Square location of Hong Kong offshoot Tim Ho Wan, a Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant right around the corner from "Little Shop of Horrors" that serves a multitude of dishes costing less than $10.

If you crave a sweet treat after the show, indulge in a decadent gelato at Amorino, where the flower petal cones of deeply flavored hazelnut, dark chocolate and blood orange offer a standing ovation wrap-up to a discounted Broadway outing.

Featured photo by (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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