Buying Broadway Show Tickets for Dummies
As someone that is addicted to watching theater in New York, be it Broadway, Off Broadway or Off off Broadway (you can read about the difference between these in my post on Everything you wanted to know about Broadway shows but were too afraid to ask here), one of the questions I am asked very often is where tickets for a particular show can be bought. This can be confusing as searching for the tickets online often gives you a page that is full of sponsored posts by ticket brokers, where you end up paying a huge premium on tickets and fees. The other question that I ask myself, given the sheer volume of shows I like to watch, is where I can get discounted tickets to get the most bang for my buck.
In this post, I am going to de-mystify the ticket buying process for Broadway shows in New York by listing various options for buying tickets at face value or at a discount. Just remember that tickets are always non cancellable and non refundable, so be sure you can attend the show when you commit to tickets.
If you are looking for tickets early in the year or around September, keep a look out for NYC Broadway week where you can get 2 for 1 tickets.
Buying tickets at the Box Office in person can save a pretty penny if done correctly. There are various options based on when you would like to see the show as described below.
- Buying regular tickets for a show in the future. This is my preferred option if I have the time to go to the theater as the online fees for buying tickets for the same seats add up quickly! However, I am always prepared with a couple of pieces of information when I do this –
- What seats I would like for the show, availability is easy to confirm online through the options described for buying tickets online below. This allows me to request specific seats at the Box Office at the price point I want, rather than trying to figure it out based on the couple of options they offer in person.
- If there is a discount code I can apply to my tickets. These discount codes can be used to buy tickets online (though fees typically apply), or even at the Box Office by sharing the code! I have a couple of go to options for checking for discount codes –
- Same day rush tickets. These are sold day of the show, often at very low prices such as $20. Each buyer can buy only 2 tickets. The websites of the shows often list out the price and policy for buying these rush tickets, and whether they are available in person at the Box Office or through a digital app or link. If these are in person, be prepared for lines that form before the Box Office opens, and tickets that may sell out if you are too far back in line. If they are digital, the website will give details of how to apply for these. Rush tickets can be –
- Regular Rush, which anyone can buy
- Student Rush, which requires a student ID to buy
- Senior Rush, which are often for over 65+ year old ticket buyers
- Under 35 Rush, which are for ticket buyers under 35
- Broadway Lottery tickets – Some shows offer lottery tickets either in person at the Box Office theater or through an online link or a mobile app. There is a time specified to enter the drawing, and a time when the winners will be announced, both online and digitally. These are often heavily discounted tickets, though never a guaranteed way to see the show!
- Sold out shows –
- Standing Room tickets, which are assigned spaces to stand behind the last row in Orchestra in some theaters, and are only offered if the show is sold out. The policies for these are also available on the show websites, and these tend to be cheaper and often the only cost effective way to watch a sold out show. These are usually available when the Box Office opens in the morning, lines for these form early and can be long, so plan accordingly. The first time I got these tickets was for Billy Crystal in 700 Sundays. It was a long show to be standing for, but so worth it!
- Cancellation line for tickets, these are available right before the time of the performance before curtain up based on last minute cancellations. People tend to line up for these long before curtain up, and lines can be long for these as well.
The tickets you get at the Box Office are hard copies, so be careful not to lose these as you will not be able to watch a performance you have paid for without these! Some theaters have now started offering tickets by email as well.
Most theaters stop selling tickets for performances on another day an hour or two before the current performance is scheduled to begin. I have walked to the Box Office to buy tickets and had to return another time because of this on more than one occasion, so hopefully this tip will help you plan ahead for your in person ticket shopping spree.
Buying tickets by phone is an option by calling in to the ticketing site that the tickets for a particular show are available on. The easiest way to figure out which site is selling tickets for Broadway shows is at Telecharge. They have listings for all the Broadway and Off Broadway shows that tickets are available for, and specify which ticketing site the tickets are listed on. This is usually my first stop in researching my ticket options.
Just like at the Box Office, I like to be prepared with the seats I am leaning towards, or a discount code from Playbill or BroadwayBox for tickets ordered by phone.
Ticketing fees will apply to the tickets ordered by phone as well.
I tend not to order tickets by phone as the wait times can be long and it is just much easier to enter payment information online. The only times I have actually called in for tickets is when there have been errors on online sites and I can’t complete my purchase, in which case I called in to get the seats that I wanted.
There are multiple sites you can visit to buy tickets as I have described below. When you are buying tickets online, always factor in the cost of fees to avoid sticker shock at checkout.
When I start the process of researching ticket options, unless you are getting a slew of emails with discount codes like I do as a regular theatergoer, I usually start with Playbill and BroadwayBox to see if there are any discount options and/or codes available, and follow through on the purchase from these.
- On Playbill, you need to navigate to the section on Broadway Shows, and they call out very clearly what shows they have discount tickets for. You can click through to where the tickets are available and complete your online purchase, often on the two sites I am going to mention next, right from here.
- BroadwayBox tends to lead with shows that have discounts, and you can navigate to complete the purchase by clicking through to the site they direct you to for the purchase.
Telecharge is like a directory of all Broadway shows, as well as a portal that you can actually buy tickets on. They call out which shows are available through partners, often Ticketmaster, and you can click through to buy the tickets from here. Unless you have a discount code, these will direct you to full price seats only. I like the search capability on Telecharge if you are looking for tickets over a range of time, say evening shows on Wednesdays and Thursdays over a 4 week period. You can do this as one search, and it will display ticket availability by the days and shows you have chosen so you can choose easily between the seats and price points you like.
Ticketmaster is the portal for some Broadway shows. The big difference I find between this and Telecharge is that you need to search for shows one at a time if you are looking over a range, so each needs to be its own search. As well, Ticketmaster allows its customers to resell their tickets at any price they like on their site, so you will see a mix of tickets at face value, and resell tickets at usually way more than face value for the more popular shows. You can toggle a button if you want to turn off the resell tickets option. The color for tickets at face value is usually blue, and resell tickets is like a deeper red, so it is easy to distinguish between the two.
One of the most popular way to buy discount tickets for same day or next day matinee performances is to stand in line at the TKTS booth at Duffy Square in Times Square. There is also another TKTS at Lincoln Square, but that has been closed through the pandemic so check on the schedule if you plan to visit this one.
You can check to see what tickets are available here or on their app, but you will need to stand in line to buy them. The TKTS booth is below the red steps at the North end of Times Square. Lines can be long, and it is first come first served so there is no guarantee that you will get tickets to the show you are interested in even if you do stand in line.
A well kept secret at TKTS is their 7 day fast pass, which allows anyone that has bought a ticket from TKTS to return within 7 days of their purchase and go to a specified window with their TKTS ticket stub to buy tickets for another show. This is a way to reward theatergoers that have seen a show to come back and get tickets for another without needing to stand in the long line all over again!
I do have to confess that I have never stood in line at TKTS! I usually manage to get discount tickets through all the other ways I have described here as I can do this in my own time without needing to spend hours in line to get tickets, especially given how many I see!
Ticket lotteries are a great way to score super discounted tickets for great seats, but as their name indicates they truly are a lottery and you are lucky if you get picked for these seats! Ticket lottery details are available at show websites. Lottery tickets can be made available in multiple ways such as in person, through the show app or through apps such as TodayTix. The most famous of these is the Hamilton lottery, which offers $10 tickets for all their shows through their app.
These are definitely worth trying for as you can score top tickets at unimaginable prices! You usually have a limited amount of time to claim tickets if you win, so be careful to stay on top of this if you do decide to participate as you will lose the tickets if they are not claimed as specified.
TodayTix is an app for buying theater tickets, and is definitely worth downloading to explore various options for discount tickets, no fee tickets, same day rush tickets and ticket lotteries for discounted tickets.
If you are entering a ticket lottery, keep in mind that there is a limited window to claim your tickets if you win.
My favorite option on TodayTix is their Rush Tickets, where a limited number of heavily discounted tickets are made available for shows on the same day. Their app clearly lists which shows offer these tickets, and you can even set up reminders for when they are available. These sell out within a couple of minutes, so you need to try for these as soon as they go on sale.
Most shows make tickets available at special prices for larger groups. Check the show website for details on their group pricing availability and contact information to take advantage of this.
I just had to share this ad I saw for group Broadway tickets in Times Square!
There are a ton of online and in person brokers that sell Broadway tickets, usually at a premium. This is my last resort for tickets, and I use this only when there is someone visiting New York with a limited window for a must see show, and they are willing to pay what it costs to get these tickets on the secondary market.
StubHub is my go to for online tickets, and like all good New Yorkers I have a ticket broker that can always get his hands on great tickets anytime I need them.
Broadway shows do offer accessible seating, though the options vary by theater.
- Wheelchair seating – Broadway theaters offer two types of seating for wheelchair accessibility. The first is an empty wheelchair spot, and the second is transfer seating from a wheelchair. Each of these has a companion seat next to them. Most theaters permit one companion ticket with accessible seating, even if there is a larger group planning to attend the same show. The actual location of the seating varies by theater. I have attended a couple of shows with a wheelchair user, and theater ushers are incredibly helpful in facilitating the seating and accommodating requests.
- Wheelchair accessible seating is specifically reserved in each theater, and tickets can often be found for this even for sold our shows.
- Most online sites for the purchase of tickets have an option to select wheelchair accessible seating, or these can be requested while buying tickets over the phone or at the Box Office. Always check by calling in or with the Box Office if tickets are not available online as they are often able to assist with these requests.
- Listening Devices – Various assistive listening devices can be offered by theaters for theatergoers that are hard of hearing, some of which have also upgraded to handheld captioning devices.
It is recommended that you confirm the availability of options supported by the theater by calling in or visiting the Box Office before buying tickets as tickets are non refundable after purchase.
If you are a regular Broadway show patron and require accessible seating assistance, you should check out the Theater Development Fund Accessibility Membership and/or options for people with disabilities here.
What format will the Broadway Show tickets be in?
Depending on the options offered to you, tickets can be –
- Hard copies if you buy from the Box Office
- Sent as printable attachments to emails
- Mobile tickets that are links within emails
- Downloadable from the site you order them on, which will need to be printed
- Will Call, which means they will be held for you at the theater Box Office for pick up before the show. You usually need to give just your name to pick tickets up, but some theaters require picture ID or the credit card used for payment before handing your tickets over to you. The line for Will Call is usually separate from the line to get seated for the show, so be sure to check if you are in the right line outside the theater if you’re picking up tickets from Will Call.
- Mobile tickets on an app
You have the option to buy tickets on behalf of other people if you like. You can always send or transfer the tickets to them, or even give their name for pick up at the Box Office before the show. There is likely to be a small charge if you are giving their name at the Box Office for pick up before the show.