DIY Broadway Tour: A musical day in New York

I love musical theatre. I first went to see a show (Beauty and the Beast) when I was about 8 and have been a regular attendee ever since. Whenever I visit New York I make sure I see at least one show, normally through discounted tickets. Over three trips I have been to see:

  • Billy Elliot
  • How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
  • Pippin
  • Les Miserables
  • The Newsies

But it’s not just the shows to see in New York if you want to get a real feel for theatre in the big city – you can spend a whole day doing so! And that’s what I’ve organised here, putting together a Broadway-themed itinerary that you can do yourself with very little supervision. The times below are approximate to give you an idea of how long to spend in each place. If you’re travelling solo, put together a playlist or search Spotify for musical theatre to listen to during the day.

Itinerary

Get discounted theatre tickets

10:30am: Get yourself down to South Street Seaport. At 190 Front Street you will find a red TKTS booth where you can buy discounted same-day tickets at up to 50% off. Unlike at Times Square you can buy tickets for the evening shows immediately, rather than wait in a long winding queue in the middle of the afternoon. The booth opens at 11am so you’ve got time to review what shows are available on the electronic boards and queue up.

Once you’ve got your tickets, double check what time you need to be at the theatre then take the subway from Fulton Street for just over 20 minutes up to Central Park North.

Note: The South Street Seaport booth is closed on Sundays. You can go to Times Square in the afternoon and try there, or if there’s a particular show you want to see find out if they do a daily lottery at the box office.

Discover broadway history at mcny

“The Rivals” theater still, 1896, Baker’s Art Gallery. From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York.

11:30am: Walk about 10 minutes through Central Park around Harlem Meer Lake to the Museum of the City of New York. Suggested admission is $18 ($12 for students & seniors). The museum holds a theatre collection of over 190,000 objects, documenting theatrical performance in New York from 1785 to the present day. Spend a couple of hours here browsing the scripts, costume, photographs and sheet music – not to mention the other exhibitions and collections.

When you’re done picnic in Central Park, then return to Central Park North station and take the subway ten minutes south to Times Square.

Explore the theatre district

2:30pm: This is it. This is Times Square. This is New York. If you’re going to stop and stare (and let’s face it, you probably should) make sure you’re out of the way of people who want to get out of the subway station. Once you’ve recovered slightly from the lights and the noise and the sheer volume of people,  make your way towards the famous red steps. Walk smugly past the long lines at the main TKTS booth and take a seat, then rest your feet for a while as you people-watch. If you need it, grab a takeaway coffee or hot chocolate.

3pm: Up you get, you’re off again! Not far this time, on a theatre tour. Your options vary here:

  • If you have the New York Pass (which I would highly recommend), there is a Broadway walking tour included. Currently this is the 2 hour Inside Broadway Tour 4pm. Due to tight timings, you will probably want to do the diner below at breakfast or lunch instead. Phone up the company the day before to reserve and get to the meeting spot 15 minutes early.
  • There are many other walking tours of the theatre district available. If you can find one that will actually get you inside a theatre and behind the scenes of a show. Once again, reserve in advance.
  • Go for the budget-friendly option and DIY it completely! Get a map of the theatres & current shows like this one and start exploring. As a minimum you’ll be able to see the outside of many theatres all set up for their shows. Hopefully you’ll also be able to look inside the lobby as well – plus this is all completely free!

Dine while being serenaded

5pm: Walk a few minutes to where Broadway meets 51st Street and join the inevitable queue for Ellen’s Stardust Diner. This is a 50s themed diner with their unique stardusters, aka singing wait staff! Some of their alumni have gone on to star in Broadway shows like Mamma Mia, so there’s real talent here. It’s  an experience you have to see (and hear) for yourself. They only take reservations for groups of 25 or more, so you’ll want to be there early. Try to go on a weekday if you can. If you’re on a budget probably best to go for the soup.

Experience the real broadway

7pm (approx. – dependent on your ticket’s show time): The time has come – head over to your chosen theatre to see the Broadway show you’ve been waiting all day for! Breathe in the singing and dancing and magnificent sets – just try not to hum along.

When it’s all over, if you’re not too exhausted see if you can get your playbill signed at the stage door as the cast leave. Walk back over to Times Square to see just how much the lights and adverts illuminate it, then get on the subway and make your way back to your hotel or hostel for a well-deserved rest. Tomorrow, you might want to sleep in.

Costs per person

  • Discounted theatre tickets: $50-100
  • Museum: $12-18
  • Picnic lunch: $3-8
  • Coffee stop (optional): $3-5
  • Organised theatre district tour (optional): $30-60
  • Dinner: $10-25

If you’re a student on a budget you can pack your day full of Broadway activities including a show and meals for only $75 (£60). Or if you really want to go to town and experience everything Broadway has to offer, get behind the scenes on a tour and sit in incredible front row seats for $215 (£175).

Broadway (or New York in general) is never going to be a budget activity – but if you save on other areas you can make it work. A DIY Broadway tour is just one way to do it.

What’s your favourite theatre show? Any other tips on visiting Broadway? Let me know in the comments below!

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