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I love getting to visit New York City – and one of my favorite things to do is to catch a hot Broadway performance in the epicenter of the theatre world. Scoring show tickets at a discount is not a challenge either as long as you know the ropes!
Sometimes I have the ability (and budget) to plan ahead and purchase tickets in advance – but often I need to stay flexible until arrival to be certain I am free to attend. Still, despite my inability to plan in advance on many occasions, I’ve managed to see many amazing shows over the years using some proven methods.
Here are my top 12 hints to find the best tickets at a discount:
- If you have a valid student ID (or are traveling with someone who does), check into day-of-show seat lotteries that are pically held for 1-2 seats at steeply discounted prices. Back in my grad school days I sometimes scored premium single ats this way!
- Hellbent on seeing a specific show that’s otherwise sold out? Consider standing room only tickets. Yes, you’d have to stand up at the back of the theatre, but you’d get into the hot performance. And bonus, usually ushers will often you down to vacant no-show seats at some point if they are available.
- If you want to see a show, but have some flexibility on which one, head to the TKTS booth – the discount theatre ticket source run by the Theatre Development Fund. TKTS sells tickets at prices typically 30-50% off list price for Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Evening tickets are sold same day at the Brooklyn and South Street Seaport locations and same afternoon at the Times Square location. Matinees are sold day-before at Brooklyn and South Street Seaport and same-day at Times Square.
- TKTS tickets are issued on a “best available” basis. What this means is that the first person in line may pay more than someone who buys later in the day because the theatre wants to sell the best available (i.e. most expensive) seats first. Tickets are also released at different times during the day. A hot show might not be available all day at the remote locations but show up in the mid afternoon when a Times Square opens. Or a theatre may release seats only at 5:30-6:00 pm after they feel like they’ve exhausted their own box office demand. Local rumor is that the best time to go is 6:00 pm for short waits and good availability of prime shows.
- Lines move quickly but are longer in nice weather and on weekends, shorter at off-peak times and in inclement weather. Many individuals begin lining up 1-2 hours before the windows open for a buying session. For many, when to get in line is a matter of luck and timing – I’ve gotten in line several times with a prioritized list of shoes but had to see #4 or #5 on my list because of availability.
- Updated show availability is displayed on boards near the front of the line, on the TKTS website (www.TKTS.com), and on the TKTS app. Refreshing this is a good strategy if you are eyeing several shows and making a priority ranked list like I often do. This is especially important when traveling with others so that everyone agrees on a strategy!
- Show promoters frequently “work” the lines to get you interested in particular shows. While they may claim to offer opinions on all shows, they are usually there to pimp out a specific set of productions so it’s important to do research. At the same time, discussion with others about the shows is fun. Often you’ll hear about new productions or Off-Broadway shows that may be running this way.
- Is seeing a specific performer is critical? If so, check theatre blogs and the theatre itself to make sure there are no understudy substitutions that are creating a flood of available tickets.
- If you plan to see a play, there is a much shorter play-only line at the a Times Square booth that moves quickly. Plays are also clearly marked on the sign, app, and online listings.
- Is it critical to be seated together with your companions? If so, the ticket order must be completed in one financial transaction. Keep in mind that if may be more difficult to get a large number of seats together so consider whether you’d be willing to split into smaller groups in order to see the same show but in different rows or sections.
- Extra travelers along for the walk (children, spouses, etc.) don’t all need to wait in line. TKTS rebuilt their venue a couple years ago to include stadium bleacher seating with a scenic view of Times Square.
- If all other strategies fail and you have access to a printer (such as the one in your hotel business center), do a last minute check if StubHub for late price reductions. This past weekend saw near-curtain price drops for popular shows like Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Book of Mormon.
This last weekend, we lucked into prime orchestra seat tickets to see Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina at the tail end of its first run. A truly amazing experience at 50% off via the TKTS line and one of the best ways for a theatre geek to spend a Pride weekend!
What shows do you want to see soon?