Quick NYC- How to see a show in the city without breaking the bank

-Brenda Hillegas

If you follow my Instagram (@shamrockenroll), you’ll see I attend a lot of theatre performances in Philadelphia. I also make day trips to NYC to see shows. And sometimes, I do overnights. This past Saturday, I did a quick overnight with my best friend of 20+ years after she asked if I’d see Take Me Out again and bring her. Initially, I said no. But it’s currently Broadway 2 for 1 Week and Take Me Out was part of the deal. It also was a limited run show and Feb. 5th was the last day to catch it.

Before I go on, Broadway 2 for 1 Week is actually a month (ish) long event and doesn’t end until February 12th. So if you’re up for last minute plans, like I am, check out the offerings. There are a lot of great shows to choose from including some of my favorites like Hadestown, & Juliet, and Hamilton, along with 16 others!

If not. There are other ways to get affordable tickets. Some of my favorite ways are:

Broadway Lottery– I’ve won a lot of these lately. They’re usually around $35-$75 depending on the show and often available the day before the show. This means you can try your luck and if you win, you have tie to plan a quick trip to the city (transportation and hotel ideas below). If you lose, you still have time to buy a full price seat…if you really want to see the show. TodayTix and Telecharge will list the lottery tickets they have available and the rules. And if you lose, open the email anyway! We didn’t win Kimberly Akimbo back in November but the email notification gave us an offer code for orchestra seats that were about $20 more than the lottery price. Still a win! A quick google search of the name of the show you want to see and “lottery” will show you how to obtain tickets this way, if they’re available. Some shows do day-of lottery so have a plan in mind if you end up needing to rush to the city! Speaking of rush…

Broadway Rush Similar to the lottery, many shows have morning of digital rush tickets. Find out if the show you want to see offers this option and when they go on sale. Titanique (dying to see this), for example, has a limited number of day-of tickets on sale for a cheaper price and right at 9am. Act fast! Rush options are great if you’re spending the night in the city and want to try to see another show before you go home…and if you’re open to anything! Many shows also offer in-person rush and people line up very early in the morning to be sure they’re at the front of the box office when it opens for the day. This is also fun to do, especially if you’re already staying in the city the night before, and you get to chat with fellow Broadway lovers.

Partial View– More often than not, these are still great seats. Look at the seats closest to the walls on either side of the orchestra. They’re usually much cheaper than the one right next to it! You can also check out the website A View From My Seat to see just that – what it might look like if you’re sitting there.

Full Price– I’m lucky enough that I live close to NYC and can try the options mentioned above. But if you don’t have the time or are traveling from far away, sometimes splurging to make sure you get to see what you want is worth it. When Strange Loop was closing, I found a “partial view” seat for $90…and I didn’t buy it because I held out for a lottery win. I didn’t win. At that point, because the Tony-winner for best musical was in it’s last weekend, the only tickets left were around $200. I should have just bought one.

There are so many other ways to get discounted Broadway tickets too. I follow a TikToker named Gen who recently saw eight different Broadway shows by using eight different discounted methods. Take a look at his content- @genwithahardg. He has amazing tips and helps make Broadway more accessible to people who just want to see a show.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mason Marzac) and Jesse Williams (Darren Lemming) in Take Me Out, photo by Jeremy Daniel

I saw Take Me Out twice. The first time was with a lottery win. The second time was Broadway 2 for 1 and the seats were “partial view”…but they were perfect! Orchestra both times. (The photo above is a production still, I know better than to take pics during a show- in fact, because of nudity, your phone is locked in a Yondr pouch before entering the theatre.)

Getting there
I don’t have a car, but getting to NYC is easy from Philadelphia. First off- why did Amtrak get rid of their late night train back to Philly? I loved spending a Wednesday doing a two show day and then getting the last train back. Now, many evenings the last train home is between 7-8pm and that just doesn’t work. Sure there’s the Megabus option and maybe NJ Transit is doable (I’m not checking as I write this, sorry)…but at the end of a full day, you just want to get home quickly.

Anyway- Amtrak has great deals if you plan far enough in advance. If I can get a trip for $26 or less each way, I’ll take it. I’m planning a weekend in April and I know I’ll be able to get affordable train tickets. If you are doing a last minute weekend like I just did, there are still budget-friendly options. Megabus and SEPTA/NJ Transit run frequently enough. I’m too paranoid to take Megabus to NYC; I worry there will be traffic and I’ll miss my show. But if you have plenty of wiggle room, it’s fine. I’ve been relying on SEPTA to NJ Transit, which takes a little longer but it’s a train option. I can also get on any scheduled train with my ticket, instead of a specific time booked for Amtrak or Megabus.

Staying Over
Sometimes, it just makes more sense for me to stay over (and maybe catch another show before I go home). This past weekend, we only did the one show. But because we couldn’t get a train home after the show, we decided to make a weekend out of it.

If you act fast you can also score a Hotel Week deal through the 12th. There are a lot of great options here and you can search by neighborhood. We chose the Voco Times Square South and loved it. I’ll definitely be back. There’s no free breakfast, but you do get fresh, free popcorn and fruity water! You also receive two complimentary bottles of water in your room that you can refill, also for free, throughout your stay. There’s a bar, restaurant and beautiful greenhouse that’s perfect to relax with a drink.

Even if it’s not Hotel Week, there are plenty of affordable hotels in the Theatre District area believe it or not. I usually stay at the Riu or the Fairfield Inn by Bryant Park. A friend just stayed at Stay Pineapple which also looked like the perfect spot for a girls’ weekend. It’s actually just next door to Voco. I’ll be checking it out soon, but I think Voco might be my go-to for a while.

In warmer months, I venture to other parts of the city that are less touristy. The hotels are cheaper and I don’t mind walking more! Or taking the subway, of course. But if you aren’t super familiar with the city, staying close to the action is fine too. Again, feel free to reach out to me if you’d like some tips on my favorite neighborhoods or how to navigate the subways.

It’s also NYC Restaurant Week
We didn’t pick a Restaurant Week deal, but there are plenty! Instead, we decided to splurge and get some great cocktails. If you love well-made cocktails, I recommend Lady Blue in Hell’s Kitchen. This is also an area called Restaurant Row just a couple blocks from most of the theatres. I love wandering around 9th Avenue, usually between (or on) 45th and 46th Street. You can find an amazing selection of foods and price points, really just steps away from Broadway shows! I have a lot of favorites in this area, so feel free to reach out to me for recommendations- Lilly’s Craft and Kitchen and Hold Fast come to mind! But if you just want a slice of pizza, you’ll find plenty of spots to do that too. For brunch before leaving the next day, we grabbed eggs and coffee at the Westway Diner on 9th. The menu has everything and you’ll be in and out quickly.

Another place I love, but had to skip because of timing, is Buena Vista (also on 9th Ave). It’s a Latin American spot with an incredible weekend brunch deal- for $30 you get three courses AND unlimited mimosas or sangria.

Junior’s Cheesecake is crowded and touristy…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great. If you’re going to the city with your family, especially kids, this is a big spot with a couple locations right in Times Square. The menu has something for everyone. And booze! But here’s my favorite thing to do when I sleepover in the city…I go to the side entrance on Shubert Alley where you can grab to-go slices and then take it back to my room. Since the bar in my hotel closed at 11pm and it was after that by the time we got our cake, we stopped at a random corner market and picked up a 24oz. $5 White Claw. I will 100% be doing this again to pair with my hotel cake!

Please email me if you have any questions. I’m happy to help you organize an affordable day trip or weekend trip to the city. If there’s a show you want to see, don’t wait. Shows can close without much notice and limited runs can cut their performances short. I don’t want you to miss out on a great and memorable weekend when you really don’t have to!

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