Whether you are in town for the weekend or you live here year round, seeing a show can be one of the most exciting and invigorating things to do in New York City. While some people may plan on seeing a show months in advance, you may find yourself with a few hours to spare and a spur-of-the-moment impulse to see some theatre.
Luckily, there are countless ways to get last-minute tickets in the city. If you are visiting, you could always ask the concierge at your hotel or your tour guide, who can provide some recommendations, point you in the right direction, and even get the tickets for you, but there are also multiple options for getting tickets on your own, often while still going about the other plans you had already made for the day.
Buying at the Box Office
The most direct way to get tickets to any show is by purchasing them from the box office at the theater where the show is playing. You can do this online or over the phone by searching for the show's website or number for the box office, or in person by visiting the theater.
Pros: If you are unsure whether or not this is the show for you, this method allows you to speak directly to an agent who was hired by the production to answer any questions you may have. If you purchase at the box office, you won't have to pay any convenience fees you would otherwise accrue online.
Cons: You will likely be paying full price, perhaps even premium prices, for these tickets. If you are considering multiple options for the night, walking to each box office will take up valuable time that could be spent elsewhere.
TKTS Discount Booth
TKTS is a ticket sales service that offers discounted tickets (anywhere from 20%–50% off the original price) to same-day shows, as well as full-price tickets to future performances. There are 4 locations around Manhattan, with the two most popular (and most convenient) located at Times Square and the Lincoln Center. TDF, the not-for-profit that operates the TKTS booths, offers a mobile app where you can see which shows are offering discounted tickets that day and for how much.
Pros: In addition to the agents at the booths, the mobile app provides all the information you need on potential shows, such as performance schedules, descriptions and artists, the discount you would receive, and the original price of the ticket. All this information and purchasing power is consolidated in one location so you don't have to travel to multiple box offices. And, of course, the tickets are heavily discounted.
Cons: Not all shows are available on TKTS. A few of the most popular ones, such as Hamilton or Wicked, never offer discounted tickets through the booth.
TodayTix is a relatively new company, launched in 2013, that provides last-minute tickets "for the same day or up to 30 days in advance", usually at a discounted price. Though it is a similar service as the TKTS Booth, TodayTix allows you to research and buy tickets entirely remotely through their mobile app.
After making your purchase, you simply meet a TodayTix agent outside the theatre at showtime for your tickets. TodayTix also offers digital lotteries on several shows, which gives you the chance to purchase tickets at a much lower price.
Pros: Again, all the information you need to decide on a show is available in one location, and you can research and purchase your tickets from any location. You can also get not-so-last-minute tickets at a discounted price.
Cons: TodayTix does not show the price of the original ticket, so you will have to do some research to see how much it is actually being discounted (if you care). Just like TKTS, not all shows will be available, but there is usually a larger selection here.
Lotteries and Rushing
The last way to get last-minute, heavily discounted tickets to shows is through any lottery or rush policy that individual shows may offer. Lotteries can be digital (participants sign up for each daily lottery through a website provided by the show) or in person (at the box office a few hours before the show starts).
If you win the lottery, you are able to purchase tickets at a very low price for that day's show (depending on the show, they could be anything from $10 front row seats to $40 balcony seats).
On the other hand, rush policies provide tickets on a first-come-first-served basis when the box office opens, so people usually line up before that for the more popular shows, or shows with the heftiest discounts. Shows describe their rush policies on their websites—do your research, as some shows have special deals or tickets reserved for students, people under 35, etc.
Pros: These tickets are usually the cheapest out of all the options, and the seats can be really good sometimes. If you are less picky about what you see, you can enter all the lotteries and rush a bunch of box offices in the morning and just see what you end up with.
Cons: Sometimes, the seats can be partial views, so make sure to ask the agent what seats you are signing up for. Some shows also sell standing-room tickets in this fashion. There is also no guarantee that you'll get tickets—if you don't win any lotteries and rush tickets are all sold out, you may end up empty-handed (though with enough time to purchase tickets through any of the first three options).
© 2017 geoffreyko