When planning a visit to NYC, it’s common to purchase tickets for Broadway shows weeks or even months in advance. While booking ahead is advisable for a large group or family outing, there are a surprising number of options for those who want same-day tickets and a more spontaneous night on the town. So if a last-minute trip has brought you to the City, or that coveted dinner reservation fell through, here are some of our favorite tips and tricks for scoring last-minute seats—they’re often more attainable than you might think.
For more than 40 years, the TKTS booth in Times Square (47th Street and Broadway) has been selling same-day discounted tickets. It opens at 3pm most days (in late morning on matinee days), and the discounts range from 20 to 50 percent on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Sometimes the line can seem daunting, but it moves quickly. These tips can save time and help you snag the best seats:
• While the kiosk starts selling tickets at 3pm, some theaters wait until 6pm to release seats to TKTS—so keep an eye out for your favorite show. If you plan right, stopping by later can mean a shorter wait time and good seats to a different production.
• Window #12, on the west side of the booth, is usually reserved for plays only (as opposed to musicals)—it’s often a much shorter line to purchase tickets.
• TKTS’s original Times Square location is no longer the only booth in town—there are three other sites, located in Downtown Brooklyn (near the Brooklyn Bridge), Lower Manhattan (next to South Street Seaport) and Lincoln Center (in the David Rubenstein Atrium). These satellite locations open and close earlier than the main booth, usually have shorter lines and offer matinee tickets for next-day shows (so they’ll sell you Saturday 2pm tickets on Friday).
Of course, technology is also a great way to get last-minute tickets. TKTS has an app with a complete list of shows selling seats that day. Those who sign up for TodayTix get same-day specials for select shows and can also access ticket lotteries. The general ticketing app StubHub also has same-day seats to some of the hottest Broadway shows, though sometimes for more than face value. The megahit Hamilton has its own app, where you can try your luck for $10 lottery tickets. (It’s for the next night’s show—the odds are long but you can dream.)
If you’re picky about your seat location and the shows you want to see, you can often find same-day seats on more traditional ticketing sites like Ticketmaster, Telecharge and even here on nycgo.com. There’s also luckyseat.com, which offers same-day lottery tickets to some of the hotter shows—like Springsteen on Broadway and Disney’s Frozen—and broadwaydirect.com, which sponsors lotteries for shows like SpongeBob SquarePants and Wicked.
Since the debut of Rent on Broadway more than 20 years ago, popular shows have offered rush tickets directly from the theater box office for same-day performances. The average price for these seats is around $40, but getting them involves investing some time and arriving a few hours before showtime to wait in line. Some rush tickets also require you to be a student or below a certain age. Playbill.com has a thorough listing of current Broadway shows offering rush tickets, with details on their policies and pricing.
SRO is showbiz speak for “standing room only.” When a show’s seats are sold out, some theaters offer SRO tickets for the back of the orchestra. These ducats run $25–$40 and are usually sold at the box office, though some shows—like Tony-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen—utilize an online system. To find out if a show has SRO available, check directly with the box office or consult its listing on playbill.com.
If you’re looking to get that golden ticket for a less-than-precious-metal price (Springsteen, anyone?), the cancellation line is the way to go. The box office will offer canceled tickets at face value. The only catch is that you have to line up outside the box office and wait; a minimum of two hours before curtain is the general rule—but check with the theater, as this varies for some shows (for Hamilton, the line forms at dawn). Inclement weather can lead to more cancellations than usual, especially in the winter.