Whether you’re visiting New York or you live here full-time, this is your guide to seeing more theater. No, there isn’t a secret trick to instantly acquiring affordable tickets to Hamilton, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on seeing it or any number of the great shows currently on and off Broadway. If you’ve ever wondered how some of your friends manage to see everything without going totally broke, they’re either preposterously wealthy or they employ the following methods to acquire tickets that won’t break the bank.
So, check out the listings of current Broadway and off-Broadway shows — or prepare for something down the line with Playbill’s guide to what’s coming on the Great White Way or beyond — and then get to saving.
1. Buy rush tickets.
Rush tickets are sold day of and you have to be willing to stand (or sit) in line, but they offer some of the best seats at the lowest prices. It’s pretty simple: You just go to the box office of the theater for the show you want to see when it opens (usually 10 a.m., but contact the box office in advance to be sure) and buy one of the limited discounted tickets available for that day’s performance. The bad news is you won’t be the only person to have this brilliant idea, so you’re going to want to show up early to ensure you snag one. When Rent — which introduced the concept of rush tickets — was at the height of its popularity, people camped out on the street. Those tickets were $20, and you’re unlikely to find anything that inexpensive now, but most rush tickets are in the $30 to $40 range. (Be advised that some shows do student rush only, which means you actually need to be a student. And if that’s you, bring your ID!)
2. Buy SRO tickets.
SRO stands for “standing room only,” so ask yourself: Am I willing to stand for upwards of two and a half hours? If you are, congratulations, SRO may be the best option for you! These tickets tend to be slightly cheaper than rush, though different shows have different policies (and many don’t do SRO at all, so be sure to call the box office in advance). The catch here is that, for the most part, SRO tickets are only sold if the show is totally sold out. (Otherwise they want you to just buy a normal ticket.) You are often limited to one SRO ticket per person, so again, check the individual show’s policy.
3. Enter lotteries.
If you’ve entered and lost the Hamilton lottery 200 times in a row, you a) are not alone, and b) probably have a skewed view of how hard it is to win a Broadway lottery. Naturally, it depends on the show and how popular it is — and if you can enter online, because people are a lot more likely to do something that doesn’t require actually showing up. Some shows only let you enter the lottery on the day of, while others will let you submit for several dates at once. These tickets are also in the $30 to $40 range, and they’re even more of a crapshoot than rush. However, many shows will offer you discount tickets if you don’t win the lottery, so you could still be getting a reasonable deal. Plus, the thrill of winning undercuts the fact that, even with a discount, you’re throwing down a not insignificant $80 for a pair of tickets.
4. Bookmark the reference sites.
There are a bunch of sites you should have in your rotation for the most up-to-date information on rush tickets, SRO tickets, lotteries, and other discount opportunities. Broadway for Broke People easily has the best name, and it’s comprehensive. Playbill also keeps a regularly updated list of rush and lottery policies for current shows, both on Broadway and off. But you should still contact individual theaters before showing up at the box office, just in case they’ve recently switched things up.
5. Visit a TKTS booth.
TKTS is a New York City institution. If you’ve ever seen a large group of tourists lining up in the center of Times Square (on the corner of 47th Street and 7th Avenue), there’s a good chance it was for the thrill of buying half-price tickets at TKTS (though it could have been for a photo with budget Dora the Explorer). You have to show up in person and wait in line to get a ticket via TKTS, and discounts are only for shows that day. Tickets are up to 50% off, which means you might have to settle for, like, 35% off. There are actually three TKTS booths besides the iconic one in Times Square — in South Street Seaport, downtown Brooklyn, and a pop-up through Jan. 28 at Lincoln Center. While you can’t know ahead of time what will be available on the day you go, you can check the website or the app before you head over to see what they’re currently offering and plan accordingly.
6. Join TDF.
TKTS is a service of the Theatre Development Fund, or TDF. You can actually become a TDF member if you’re eligible, and for a very reasonable $34 annual fee, you have access to serious discounts: Tickets range from $9 to $47. The catch is, you have to prove your eligibility. Students, teachers, freelancers, union members, recent graduates, and professional artists all qualify, but there are other ways in — check the site for a full list of who can apply for membership. Even before submitting proof, you’ll have access to an overwhelming number of discount tickets to start snagging.
7. Join Hiptix, LincTix, and more.
If you’re under 35, you can join Hiptix and LincTix, both of which offer very affordable tickets to shows at their respective theaters. Hiptix is Roundabout’s discount ticket program: Tickets to any Roundabout production can be purchased for $25, and while they’re generally in the mezzanine, you can pay a little extra to upgrade to orchestra seats. LincTix is a program for Lincoln Center Theater shows and will get you into any of their productions for $32. Both are free to join, and you can secure your discount seats right away. There are similar programs hosted by various other theaters. Manhattan Theatre Club, for example, has a 30 Under 30 program that will get you into any of their shows for $30, provided you are — you guessed it — under 30. Check out individual theater sites to find out about comparable opportunities.
8. Download TodayTix.
The TodayTix app is your friend (specifically your friend who has the hookup on cheap tickets). TodayTix offers heavily discounted rates, but it also has lotteries you can enter and rush tickets. For rush tickets, you have to tweet or Facebook a link to the app, but a little promo is a small price to pay for major savings. (You can also increase your likelihood of winning the TodayTix lotteries by sharing that you entered, which is an only mildly annoying trend you may have noticed on social media.) Let’s be real, the best thing about TodayTix is that it doesn’t require leaving your apartment — until your show, that is.