When visiting New York City, one of the things on many peoples’ “must do” list is to see a Broadway show. Over the past decade or two that’s become somewhat more difficult to do, since the prices for some shows have risen astronomically, and other shows are just seemingly impossible to get tickets for, unless you order them months, if not well over a year in advance. Despite this, there are several ways to try to get last-minute tickets, even for those really popular shows, that may or may not cost a fortune.
First let’s look at what I’ll call The Old Fashioned Way to buy tickets to a Broadway show – simply go to the show’s official website, look at the calendar and buy tickets online via Ticketmaster or Telecharge (some Broadway houses use one, some use the other. Whichever one it is, you’ll need to set up an account to order tickets on it). The pros of this are you’ll be able to pick out your seats and you’ll know way ahead of time (way, WAY ahead of time for popular shows where you’ll be buying tickets months and months in advance) that your tickets are secured. The only con is that you’re going to pay rack rate or higher.
Higher? Yup. If you decide to buy tickets The Old Fashioned Way, be aware that Ticketmaster now allows tickets to be resold on their site. If you look at the seating chart for any given show, the resold tickets will be up there, right alongside the tickets available directly from the theater. Those resale tickets are usually much more expensive than tickets sold directly from the theater, so be aware. They’re 100% legitimate and backed by Ticketmaster…they’re just secondary market and therefore expensive. But if you want to see Hamilton in 2 months because that’s when you’re going to be there, hey, it’s an option. Just don’t buy them if you don’t HAVE to (unless you feel like overpaying for tickets).
Here are some other, usually cheaper ways to get tickets to Broadway shows, usually on the day of the show:
TKTS is a way to get same-day theater tickets for up to 50% off. There are 4 TKTS locations: the flagship location in the heart of Times Square (under the red steps), their satellite booths at South Street Seaport and Downtown Brooklyn, plus their latest booth at Lincoln Center. Not all shows will have availability (the more popular it is, the less the chance of tickets being at TKTS) and not all shows will be 50% off (I’ve seen 25%, 33%, 40%, etc.). You also will have only very limited control of which seats you can get. Tickets go on sale a few hours before the curtain time.
Most Broadway shows offer some last-minute options at their respective box offices that could help you snag some awesome seats. Anyone who is willing to wake up and get to the box office early, spend some time in a line, or stand during the show, can get majorly discounted tickets to the majority of shows on Broadway. Or if none of those appeal to you, several Broadway shows now offer digital or online lottery options.
These are the 4 major options:
In Person Lottery – Essentially, you go to the theater and at a certain time frame before the show starts and put your name into a hat. If your name is picked, you are eligible to purchase a specified amount of tickets for a specific price that is much lower than rack rate. The cost and location of each ticket, as well as number of tickets available per person will vary from theater to theater.
Digital Lottery – Digital lotteries started because the crowds for in person lotteries for popular shows like Hamilton literally closed the street down because of all the people trying to win tickets. For a digital lottery, you enter your name digitally during a specified time frame and if your name is picked, you are eligible to purchase a specified amount of tickets for a specific price that is much lower than rack rate. The cost and location of each ticket, as well as number of tickets available per person will vary from theater to theater.
Standing Room – When a show is sold out, patrons who had stood on line for Standing Room tickets can buy low-priced tickets so they will be allowed to watch the show from the back of the orchestra section. Instead of having patrons stand in line, some shows offer Standing Room tickets via Digital lottery. Either way, tickets are limited and are available on a first come, first served basis. These theatergoers do not have seats; they are expected to stand for the entire production (I’ve done this one on more than one occasion – as long as you’re OK with standing for a few hours, it’s not as bad as you might think. You usually have something to lean on).
General Rush Tickets – These tickets are available in limited numbers at the box office for each day’s performance. The cost and location of each ticket, as well as number of tickets available per person will vary from theater to theater. For some shows, rush tickets will be limited to certain age groups (i.e. students, under a specified age, or senior citizens) or will have sort of show-related spin to them (i.e. you must be wearing a certain color). Rush tickets are occasionally available via mobile purchase. (Click here for a brief history of how rush seats came to be. You can thank Jeffrey Seller, one of the original producers of Rent, for the invention of rush tickets.)
Each Broadway show has its own policies regarding which type of discounted seats they offer, what kind of payment they’ll accept, times and locations of lottery and/or purchase, how many tickets they’ll sell, etc. CLICK HERE for an updated list of current shows and their respective links for updated policies.
Oh, and if you’re interested in Off-Broadway shows? CLICK HERE for a complete, updated list of Off-Broadways rush, lottery, standing room and inexpensive ticket policies.
- If your time in NYC is limited and you have a few extra dollars you can spare, you may want to consider hiring professional line sitters to help you with your goal of scoring tickets. Yup, you can pay someone to stand on line for you!
- If you’re OK with not sitting with your party (because really, you can’t talk during the show anyway and you can re-group during intermission and then after the show), consider buying single seats instead of a clump of 2, 4 or however many people are in your group (that’s how Joe and I scored tickets for Harry Potter & The Cursed Child when they were first released…there were no 2 seats together but there were 2 single seats in different parts of the theater).
- For a show that’s extremely popular and sells out quickly and often, and THAT’S a show you REALLY want to see, consider trying to get tickets the moment your dates in New York are set in stone.
- American Express has a deal with some theaters that gets some or all of their cardholders access to tickets to some shows before they go on sale to the general public (we got tickets to Hamilton that way. Twice!).
- Some Broadway shows have one or more touring companies, not only in the United States by worldwide. Before trying to get tickets to see Wicked, Jersey Boys or The Lion King, see if the touring company is scheduled to be near where you live (or somewhere you can easily travel to for, say, a weekend getaway), so you can save your Broadway experience for something chances are good you will ONLY see on Broadway.
- Be wary of tickets that people are selling on the street. These tickets may be fraudulent or illegally obtained. Illegal tickets will not be honored at the theater.
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