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Broadway Shows 101: A Beginner's Guide

Category Guide

|by Suzanne Beaubien |

Here's how to make the most of your Broadway show experience

When it comes to New York City must-dos, a few attractions rise to the top of the itinerary: climbing the towering Empire State Building for breathtaking views of the city, taking in the sensory overload of glittering signs in Times Square and taking in a Broadway show are all on the list. While many Broadway shows are indeed popular enough to roam the country on tour, there’s nothing like the experience of experiencing these spectacles in the true birthplace of American musical theater. If you’re new to Broadway, the experience can be intimidating, from choosing seats and navigating the theater district to the theaters themselves, which are decidedly more historic, and formal, than venues for live entertainment in other parts of the country. That’s why is bringing you Broadway Shows 101: a complete guide to making the most of your Broadway show experience. Read on for our top tips. 

Headed to Broadway this season? If you’re looking for a deal, you’re in luck – you can save up to 50% on top Broadway shows like Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, The Lion King, To Kill A Mockingbird, Ain’t Too Proud, The Book of Mormon, Hamilton and more! Shop our Broadway show deals now. 

Here are top tips and tricks for first-time Broadway show-goers to New York shows like 'Wicked' (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Here are top tips and tricks for first-time Broadway show-goers to New York shows like 'Wicked' (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Book in advance — Seeing a Broadway show is not like a night at the movies; you can’t just show up to the theater on the day of the show and expect to get tickets! Instead, we suggest that you start doing your research as soon as you book your stay in NYC: do you want to see a classic musical like Wicked or The Book of Mormon, or a “straight play” such as To Kill a Mockingbird? Is seeing an A-list celeb on Broadway a big must for you? If so, and if you have your heart set on a particular show, we suggest reserving tickets right away. The most popular shows on Broadway do sell out, sometimes weeks or even months in advance (especially for weekend performances!) Browse our complete selection of Broadway shows.

Arrive on time — Actually, we suggest arriving early! Though Broadway tickets are reserved seats, if you’re picking up your paper ticket from the box office, you will want to allow a few extra minutes. Also, finding your seats can take a few minutes (not to mention the bathroom, which is usually on the lower level). If you arrive late, you may have to wait until there’s a break in the action for the usher to seat you. So if you don’t want to miss out on the opening number, give yourself extra time to get to the theater early!

No dress code...BUT — While a night out on Broadway doesn’t demand strict adherence to any dress code, many audience members treat the theater as a special evening. No one will turn you away for wearing jeans and a T-shirt, but if you want to dress up, go right ahead; you’ll be in good company!

Let the usher seat you — Broadway theaters employ ushers for a reason; they will show you to your seats — and give you the Playbill, which is the program for the show and a great souvenir that you don’t want to miss.

Dinner before? Broadway shows typically start at 7 or 8 p.m. and run 90 minutes to two hours long if there’s an intermission. So if waiting until 9-10 p.m. for dinner doesn’t sound doable to you, we suggest planning an early meal in the neighborhood. (But remember: allow lots of time to arrive early at the theater!). There are dozens of restaurants within walking distance of Broadway’s 40 theaters, including the French brasserie Pigalle (790 Eighth Ave) and the classic Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse (269 West 45th St.). If you want to keep it casual, we recommend John’s Pizza (260 West 44th Street), which (in our opinion) serves the city’s best classic New York-style pizza.

Or after? If you wait until after the show to eat dinner, you just might spot a Broadway star at the table next to you! Head to the legendary Theatre District establishment Sardi's (234 West 44th Street), which is a hub for Broadway actors, writers and producers. Meanwhile Joe Allen (326 West 46th Street) is a Restaurant Row regular for Theater District dwellers, and Angus McIndoe (258 West 44th Street) is another popular destination for Broadway actors. Owned in part by the veteran Broadway actors and BFFs Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, this American restaurant is popular among A-listers so keep your eyes peeled, and you just might spot the star of the show you just saw!

A little etiquette goes a long way — This is live theater and actors (even famous ones!) have feelings, so don’t leave during the curtain call. While you might want to beat the rush to the door, it’s considered bad etiquette on Broadway. Plus, the theater staff will open all the side doors when the lights come up, so it’s usually very quick to get out the door anyway after the last ovation has ended.

Stagedooring — Waiting for the show’s stars to make an appearance for autographs with fans after the show is one of Broadway’s great traditions. If you have any doubt about where the big stars will make their exit, just ask an usher or box office staff. That way you can get yourself in the best position possible before any of the actors make their appearance! But be prepared to wait: not only do the big stars have to change out of their costume and remove stage makeup, they might also have “notes” from the director, or need to visit with friends and family backstage. Also, keep in mind that many actors will only sign items from the particular show in which they are appearing right now, so keep your copy of the Playbill and once it’s signed, it will be a souvenir program you’ll want to keep forever!

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