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7 Things to Know Before Seeing a Broadway Show in NYC

Experiencing Broadway in NYC is dazzling, unforgettable—and a little dizzying. Here’s what to keep in mind before hitting the Great White Way.

Broadway in Times Square, NYC

Broadway in Times Square, NYC

No trip to New York City is complete without seeing a live show. From the rise of the city’s first theater company in 1750 to the birth of the American musical, experiencing the energy and electricity of Broadway has become an essential part of traveling to the Big Apple. But where to start? Those who are new to Broadway—and even those who aren’t—might have a lot of questions. Wondering how to get last-minute Broadway tickets? What to wear to a Broadway show? And how early do I have to get there? Consider this guide your primer to the greatest live entertainment destination in the world.

Research Broadway ticket options

Once you decide which show you want to attend, you’ll find plenty of ways to get Broadway tickets. To have the biggest selection of dates and seats, be sure to buy in advance using a trusted site. The Broadway Collection is a great start if you want to be connected to the official, primary ticketing source for each show. Always check with your preferred travel supplier, travel agent, tour operator, or online travel agency; most reputable companies work with The Broadway Collection to make tickets available at fair prices.

Imani Jade Powers, Erik C. Peterson, and Joel Meyers in <i>Harry Potter and the Cursed Child</i>

Imani Jade Powers, Erik C. Peterson, and Joel Meyers in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Courtesy of Broadway Collection/Matthew Murphy

We always recommend buying tickets before you travel, but if you’re already in the Big Apple, you can book tickets in person at the theater’s box office, with no extra fees. For last-minute Broadway tickets at a discount, visit the TKTS booth in Times Square. You may spend some time waiting in line, but for many, the wait is well worth it. Some shows, such as Hamilton and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, also offer online lotteries for specially priced tickets.

Snag the best seat in the house

Sophie Carmen Jones and Ricky Rojas in <i>Moulin Rouge</i>

Sophie Carmen Jones and Ricky Rojas in Moulin Rouge

Courtesy of Broadway Collection/Matthew Murphy

From the Greco-Roman décor of the Richard Rodgers Theatre to the expansive Winter Garden, no two Broadway theaters are the same, making it a good idea to preview your seat on the website when booking or contact a representative for advice on premium seats, accessibility, and more. Some shows like Moulin Rouge, which transforms part of the theater into a cabaret, even offer special seating options.

In New York City, orchestra seats on the lowest level are the closest to the stage and among the most expensive. If the show is a musical or has impressive staging, you might prefer the mezzanine, which hangs over the orchestra and provides a bird’s-eye view of the action. Some larger theaters also have balcony seats, which are usually the least expensive, and if you’re willing to stand in the back, some shows offer the option to buy Standing Room tickets.

Wear what makes you comfortable

During Broadway’s golden age, men and women traditionally wore semi-formal or formal attire. While Broadway theaters no longer have a dress code, many attending a Broadway show treat it as a special night out. Whether you opt for a suit, a button-down shirt, a cocktail dress, or jeans, wear what helps you enjoy the experience more.

Grab a bite to eat before the show

Many of the best restaurants near Broadway offer pre-theater or prix-fixe menus so you can have a full dinner for less than the regular price and still make it to the show on time. Check out Bond 45 for hearty Italian fare like meatballs and branzino al forno and Joe Allen for classics like crab cakes and steak frites. At Sardi’s, a Broadway institution where stars have dined for more than 100 years, you can admire the caricatures of Broadway celebrities while sipping a perfectly made Manhattan cocktail.

Get there early

Be sure to check the start time listed on your ticket beforehand. Matinees usually begin at 2 p.m., while many weeknight performances start at either 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday evening shows commence at 8 p.m. Times Square and the Theatre District are almost always packed, so instead of a taxi or Uber, take the subway to avoid traffic, and give yourself a buffer for unexpected delays.

To avoid missing the start of the show, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before curtain. If you do get there late and the performance is already underway, be aware that management will seat you at their discretion, which is usually at an appropriate break in the show.

Mind your manners

Because Broadway is truly live, it’s especially important to be polite for the sake of the performers as well as those around you. Show your appreciation by applauding after a musical number or at the end of an act and be sure to not talk or make noise during the performance itself as it can be distracting to those onstage.

Unlike at a concert, don’t sing along (unless the performers encourage it). While Broadway doesn’t have a bag policy, be mindful of bringing large backpacks or shopping bags to the show or check them at the entrance. Broadway theaters are smaller than you might expect, with narrow aisles and not much space under the seat. A stray backpack may cause someone to trip.

Keep the show going

The fun doesn’t have to end even after the curtain falls. Once you finish applauding, head outside to the stage door where the cast and crew exit from backstage, and wait to ask the performers to sign your Playbill. Though not everyone participates, it’s a fun way to interact with the artists and connect with other fans—a benefit of seeing a live show.

If you’d like to learn more about Broadway, don’t miss the Museum of Broadway, an immersive museum that celebrates the art form’s rich history. The displays are full of interactive exhibits, rare props, costumes, and more from beloved shows like Chicago, Wicked, and Company.

Dive even deeper into the New York theater scene at the nearby Drama Book Shop, which was founded by the Drama League in 1917. Now co-owned by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the shop is the ideal place to pick up a Broadway souvenir.

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