There’s something about the bright marquee lights along Times Square that inspires visitors to enjoy one of the most popular activities in New York City: the theater.

With so many shows and venues to choose from, it can be an overwhelming venture. Should you splurge on that very difficult-to-get ticket? Is an off-Broadway experience just as good? How can you go about getting tickets last minute?

This guide is to help you address those questions, as well as to give you in isight into how locals enjoy the theater without breaking the bank.


With kids in tow

Most travelers with young children shy away from theater-going because of the fear that the kids will get restless or bored with long productions or difficult to understand material.

This is why so many New Yorkers love the New Victory Theater. Many of their productions are beautiful and feature artists from all around the world. The shows aim to please audiences of all ages, and the venue is one of the most historic, beautiful sites in the city.

In addition to the performances, the theater offers workshops in choreography, theater design, Shakespeare and more, all geared to further inspire and encourage the love for the arts. When it comes to introducing your child to the theater, there is no better place to start than here.

Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway 

This distinction has very little to do with the quality and entertainment value of a show, and more to do with the size of a theater venue and in turn, the cost of tickets. Larger venues tend to charge more for tickets because of the cost in operating them.

There have been and continue to be incredible shows that start out in small venues and end up on larger stages because of increased demand and recognition.

Always a great show somewhere

Always a great show somewhere

You may find there are more selections “off-Broadway” as there are only four theaters remaining on Broadway and they are the Broadway Theatre, the Winter Garden Theatre, and the Roundabout Company.

Last minute and discounted tickets

With so much to do in New York City, it can be difficult to commit to a specific day and time to see a show. Or maybe you are on a limited budget, but would like to have the theater experience. For locals who love the theater and their budget, TKTS Discount Booths is the answer. These booths are located in several different areas of New York City, near many of the theater venues and tourist sites.

Same day tickets can be purchased, often up to a 50 percent discount. There is a limit of 9 tickets per person. The lines can be long, but they often move quickly. The only requirement is that you are open to whatever show may be available at any given time. Though it is possible to get specific tickets to specific shows, it is best to approach it with some flexibility as more popular shows sell faster. For more information on times of operation and locations, check out the TKTS website.

Best dining spots, pre- and post show

Though there are many fabulous restaurant near the Theatre District of New York City, finding a seat can be difficult around the pre- and post- show times, and thus, reservations are highly recommended.

Some favorites are Esca, Mario Batali’s high-end seafood and Italian restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen; the more casual Sake Bar Hagi for Japanese bar food (a popular spot post-show) for those in the Times Square Theatre District; Carmine’s for family-style Italian; the Shops at Columbus Circle for those catching a performance at Lincoln Center; The Plaza Food Hall for those closest to Carnegie Hall; and The Modern at the MoMA for those near Radio City Music Hall.

Viewfinder tip: Pre-show reservations are harder to come by than post-show seats. Consider a later dinner to avoid crowds and long waits.

Hotels to compliment your theater experience

Last but not least, where you stay can really enrich your entire NYC theater experience.

The Paramount Hotel is one of Times Square’s first hotel, and only hotel built by famed theater architect Thomas Lamb. It’s very existence came up about due to the growing theater district surrounding it and thus, it seems fitting that one would celebrate the culture in the hotel that first catered to it and its celebrities.

The Park Central is easily accessible to many popular venues, including Carnegie Hall and is a NYC landmark. Famous guests such as Jackie Gleason and Mae West to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt were known to seek out the hotel’s serene and classical scenery.  The in-house Redeye Grill is a popular pre- and post-show spot.

The Park Hotel NYC

The Park Hotel NYC

Another top choice is The Algonquin Hotel, where it is said the spirit of poet Dorothy Parker and other artists and founding members of the Algonquin Round Table still hang out there. Head to the Blue Bar post show.

The Casablanca Hotel is a favorite with its romantic, Moroccan feel, and free cheese and wine reception, right in the heart of Times Square.

Navigating the theater scene in NYC can seem overwhelming at first, but with this little guide on hand you will be able to make the most of the bright lights and big city just like a local.

What is your ideal NYC theater experience?