Planning a Trip to Broadway
Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today (or, err, tomorrow!) I wanna be a part of it, New York New York!
Okay so I have to admit that I am crazy “5 year old on Christmas morning” excited at the moment as I am, for the first time EVER, off to New York! Now as a theatre gal, this is kind of like the second Mecca to me. I live my life in and out of West End theatres, but I have never stepped foot on the Great White Way. YET.
So finally after months (and MONTHS) of saving, I finally was in a position to book the trip of a lifetime. The scariest thing is, at 25 and travelling on my own, I had to plan this whole thing myself from start to finish. Seriously, there will be nobody to look after my passport, booking confirmations and all important dollar (holler!) but me. Yikes! I am now in a position where I have planned this trip (I think!) pretty well, so I thought I would write a little guide on how to plan a Broadway trip! I hope you find it helpful!
Okay so obviously you have to get there. No matter whether you live in London (like me) Australia or even somewhere else in the US, this usually involves a flight…or if you are feeling totally crazy and adventurous a BOAT! I however opted for the former. Booking a flight is a lot like trading on the stock market. Now I had been watching flights like A HAWK for MONTHS before booking my ticket. We all live in hope of that all important price drop but you definitely don’t want to be the victim of a price hike!
- Which Airports: Broadway is in Manhattan, part of New York City. There are three international airports that are within travelling distance to Manhattan and they are John F Kennedy International Airport in Brooklyn, LaGuardia Airport in Queens and Newark Airport in New Jersey. Where you choose to fly should largely be dictated by price and where you plan to stay.
- Useful Websites: when booking my travel Skyscanner and Kayak were the fountains of all knowledge and helpfulness. Skyscanner is great for price comparison and a really neat graph of what days in the month are cheaper to fly. Kayak is amazing for its ability to predict when prices will fall AND it allows you to book a multi-flight trip (so for example London to Toronto, then New York Newark to London) all in the same fare!
- Tips: My main tip when booking a flight is: be flexible. If you are dead set on what dates you want to fly you may miss out on some great deals. If you are able to let flight times and dates determine your holiday rather than the other way round you are likely to save yourself £100 or more!
- What I did: okay so it may sound crazy but I have decided to fly from London to Toronto in Canada, spend a couple of days there and then get the BUS from Toronto to Manhattan. #Yolo.
Total Cost: Flights (London to Toronto, Newark to London) = £460 Bus: £26 = £486 or $792 (ish!)
Where to Stay?
So as I mentioned, I extended my trip to include Toronto as it didn’t make any difference to the cost of travel, plus this way I get to spend time in another country for a couple of days!
In regards to New York City, Manhattan is the district that is home to Broadway. Unlike sprawling London, New York City is relatively small and easy to navigate (comparatively anyway!) You can stay anywhere within the five regions of NYC (Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island) and commute to Broadway in under an hour. New Jersey also borders New York, and if you stay on the Hudson River side of Jersey City, you can drive or get the train into Manhattan in no time at all! No matter where you decide to stay, there is something near Broadway for all budgets.
- Useful websites: If you want to spend all of you money on Theatre and want to spend a bit less on accommodation try Hostelworld.com, which allows you to filter by price, rating etc, or Air BnB which friends of mine have raved about.If you have a slightly higher budget, there are a plethora of hotels and B&Bs to stay in around NYC. TripAdvisor and booking.com are very useful in such instances as you can filter your search by price, location and user ratings.
- Tips: If you can find a place to stay in Manhattan then great. If it is IN the Ethel Barrymore Theater, even better. However as I mentioned above, you can stay in places surrounding Manhattan with short commutes too. It is often a lot cheaper to do so!
- What I Did: I am lucky enough to have a friend who lives out there, so I am staying on the border of New Jersey and New York, which is just a 25 minute subway journey to Times Square.
What to see on Broadway
Well that is the million dollar unanswerable question isn’t it! Truthfully, the only person who can decide whether a show is right for you is, well, you. There are around 40 shows running on Broadway at any one time so, unless you are in the city for a month or so, it would be impossible to see them all. If you have never seen a musical before classics like Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and the revival of Les Miserables are sure fire hits. If you want to see a Disney classic then there is The Lion King and Aladdin as well as Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (not the Disney version, but equally magical.) If you want to see something that is exclusive to Broadway, there are some shows that are not on the West End (yet) such as Sting’s (STING’s!) new musical The Last Ship, Tony Award Winning Kinky Boots, If/Then starring Idina Menzel, Motown the Musical…the list goes on! If you want to see a play then The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time has just transferred to Broadway, The Tony Award Winning Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill and The River (starring HUGH JACKMAN!) opens late October…plus so much more!
- Useful Websites: for a general overview of what’s on, sites such as NewYorkCityTheatre.com and Broadway.com are great. Sites such as Playbill, TheaterMania and BroadwayWorld.com are fantastic for show news and theatre insights to get you in the mood for Broadway!
- Tips and Hints: I am a member of the Playbill Club, which is free to join and often gives you discount codes for shows. I am also a member of the Broadway World, TheaterMania and Playbill mailing lists so I am always up to date with show news, which can be helpful when picking what to see. As I discuss in the tickets section below, it is not always necessary to pre book your Broadway Theatre tickets.
- Reviews: I always read TimeOut and New York Times reviews of shows.
- What I Did: I have pre-booked tickets for Kinky Boots, The Last Ship and Beautiful. I plan to find a rush seat for the Cinderella Matinee.
What to see Off Broadway?
People in Manhattan are seriously spoilt for choice! Not only are there big Broadway shows to choose from, there are also smaller, more intimate pieces of theatre. Off Broadway shows tend to have shorter runs, so it is worth checking out what is on a few months before you travel and again when you get there. At the moment Avenue Q, Stomp! and Fifty Shades! The Musical are hot Off Broadway tickets. There are also long running, non-Broadway shows such as Punchdrunk’s immersive theatre show, Sleep No More, which I for one can’t wait to see!
- Useful Websites: TheaterMania has great information on
- Tips and Hints: As I discuss in the tickets section below, it is not always necessary to pre-book your Off Broadway Tickets.
- Reviews: Similarly Time Out and The New York Times are my go to sites for reviews.
What Days to See a Show
Broadway shows tend to run from Tuesday through Saturday nights with a Sunday matinee and a week day matinee. With the exception of Hedwig and the Angry Itch and Mamma Mia!, you can count on all shows running from Tuesday – Saturday evenings. Below I have listed current Monday night shows and matinees.
Monday Night 8pm: Chicago, Mamma Mia! On the Town, Phantom, Rock of Ages, Wicked (7pm.)
Wednesday Matinees (2pm): Aladdin, Beautiful, Cabaret, Cinderella, Gentleman’s Guide, If/Then, Jersey Boys, Kinky Boots, Les Miserables, Lion King, Matilda, Motown, Once, Pippin (2.30pm), Wicked/
Thursday Matinee (2pm): Cinderella, Phantom.
Saturday Matinee: ALL
Sunday Matinee (2 or 3pm): ALL except Phantom, Wicked, On the Town.
- Tips and Hints/ Useful Websites: The above is a rough guide to the Broadway performance schedule. The Playbill website tends to have a full list.
- What I am doing: I am seeing Kinky Boots on Thursday night, The Last Ship Saturday Matinee, Sleep No More Saturday night and Beautiful on the Sunday matinee. I am hoping to grab a rush ticket for Cinderella on the Thursday matinee too! I have purposely kept my Friday night theatre free because, much as I LOVE theatre, I want to see some other cool stuff the city has to offer too.
Where and When to Book Tickets?
Okay so you know what shows you want to see? Great! Oh wait…tickets are HOW MUCH? Yep…welcome to the harsh reality of Broadway Theater prices where tickets can set you back anywhere between $80-$300. Yikes. Luckily help and forward planning (and last minute planning!) is at hand!
As much as I LOVE theatre and earn a reasonable income, seeing 5 shows on Broadway in a week at full price is a full on kick in the money maker for me. One day I will be a billionaire, sure, but right now after having paid almost £500 in flights to get to New York in the first place, I am not feeling to much like Daddy Warbucks on a good day. However there are some options to make theatregoing a little more affordable – see below.
- Tips and hints: Figure out what you absolutely want to see the most; the make or break shows that will determine your enjoyment of your Broadway break. Now look at the shows you have selected and consider how long they have been running and whether they have a Rush Seat policy (cheaper seats you can buy on the day.) Shows that have just opened are unlikely to have any rush seats and are likely to be popular. Similarly, there are some shows that are in small theatres that regularly sell out. As a general rule, unless you are flexible with what shows you want to see and when, I would book shows you really want to see in advance.
- Rush Seats and Lottery Tickets: Some shows do on the rush seats for around $30 and other shows sell unsold seats off last minute via a lottery ballot. For full details you can visit the simple yet informative: broadwayforbrokepeople.com
- Discounts: The TKTS booth in Times Square has plenty of on the day discounts for Broadway shows if you want a last minute deal. The Play Bill club is also a great site for offering show discounts. Also, when you buy a ticket from Telecharge, they often send through exclusive discount codes for theatre and various local businesses.
- Full Price tickets: Telecharge and Ticketmaster are the two official Broadway ticket sources
- Where to Sit: The front and middle of the Orchestra Stalls will always be the most expensive seats in the house and the front of the Mezzanine is also likely to be pricey. As Broadway Theatres are generally smaller than three or four storey West End venues, if you book at the back of the Mezzanine level, you should still get a good view and these seats are generally the cheapest.
Other than theatre, what to do?
Like any big city, there are hundreds and hundreds of things to do in New York City. However if you want a few suggestions, these are my NYC bucket list top ten.
- Climb the Empire State Building for 360 degree views across New York – Tickets are $29 for adults.
- Visit the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) – Tickets are $25 for adults.
- Take a walk through Central Park – this is totally FREE too so hurrah for money saving.
- Take a trip to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty – Tickets cost $18-20
- Take in the buzzing atmosphere of Times Square – FREE!
- See a sports game at Madison Square Gardens. Giant foam fingers? Yes please! Depending on the type of sport and the sports season, tickets to MSG can cost anywhere from $25 to several hundred dollars. As the stadium is so huge, there are usually always cheaper seats.
- Go shopping in Macy’s department store ( the largest store in the WORLD apparently!) This can cost you as much as you like, but is essentially free if you just want to take in the sites!
- Invest in STREET Pizza! Hello yes! I have seen this happen so many times in movies and I am told that NYC has the best pizza outside of Italy. A slice of pizza is roughly $3
- Visit the High Line park (a public park built on a railway track!) this is FREE!
- Walk the Brooklyn Bridge. This is another iconic landmark and is a totally free activity!
SO I am about to pack my bags ready to catch my flight tomorrow! I hope this post has been helpful to those planning Broadway getaways. If you have any other handy tips then please post them in the comments section below! Also watch out for my blog posts whilst I am away and my full report on my return!