There is a reason people write songs about New York City and Broadway. There is no other city quite as dynamic and no other theatre scene quite as vibrant. But taking a family to New York City can be an expensive proposition–unless you know the secrets of how to save money on events, hotel rooms, and theatre tickets.
These tips will help you take the kids on a theatre tour of New York without depleting their college fund. Read on to the end for some ideas of what to do in New York City when you’re not taking in a show.
1. Go surfing.
The travel industry has been struggling in recent years–bad news for business, great news for consumers. Google “great deals in New York City” and then wade through the 40-million-plus listings of hotel deals, meal deals, last minute travel deals and more. If the choices are too overwhelming, check in at nycgo.com for a more discerning list of deals and offers.
2. Do the free stuff.
There is nothing more affordable than free. Check TravelingMom.com for listings of free things to do in all 50 states, including several listings of free things to do in New York City. There’s even an entry dedicated to free theatre performances in NYC, some of which are aimed squarely at kids.
3. Get group discounts.
Getting a group discount doesn’t mean you have to invite Aunt Gertie, Uncle Roy and all your cousins to join you on your family vacation. Instead, get discounts by grouping the events or attractions you want to see by buying a New York Pass that entitles you to admission to 55 NYC attractions, such as a walking tour of the Broadway Theater District and a ride to the Top of the Rock. Equally wonderful: The pass allows you to bypass the long ticket lines at popular spots such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
4. Act like a local.
Don’t spend big bucks on a tour of the harbor that takes you past the Statue of Liberty. Hop on the Staten Island Ferry instead. “It’s a boat, it’s the water, it’s got great views of the lower Manhattan skyline and, of course, the Statue, and it’s totally free. Then you can save your money for a great night at the theatre!” said Charles Flateman, Chairman of the Entertainment/Attraction Committee for NYC’s tourism bureau. The Staten Island Ferry operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year between Whitehall Terminal near Battery Park at the south end of Manhattan and St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island. Coast Guard rules require all passengers to disembark and walk through the terminal to board again. The five-mile journey takes about 25 minutes each way.
5. Redeem miles for tickets.
It’s getting tougher and tougher to exchange frequent flyer miles for actual airplane rides, but it’s not tough at all to exchange them for hotel rooms and theatre tickets. Broadway even has its own loyalty program, Audience Rewards. You can even earn points by seeing Broadway shows in New York or around the country, playing trivia on the site, even buying additional points, said Josh Lesnick, president of Audience Rewards. In addition, the program works with partners, including Starwood Hotels and Delta Airlines, to accrue and redeem points. You also can visit Points.com to trade points accrued in other loyalty and frequent flier programs for Broadway tickets and upgrades. One suggestion: if you want to buy or upgrade tickets using Audience Rewards, you need to plan ahead and order your tickets online. It can’t be done the day of the show at the box office.
6. Don’t be so picky.
Some shows are best seen from the main floor, but many are just as good from the mezzanine and all of them are just as good on Wednesday afternoon as they are on Saturday night. “Go right to the box office or to Telecharge.com or Ticketmaster.com in advance to see what’s available — it’s surprisingly a lot for upstairs,” Flateman said. “And sometimes, especially for a musical, upstairs are secretly the best seats in the house.” If you really must have main floor seats, be flexible about the performance day and time. Even good tickets might still be available for mid-week or matinee performances.
If anyone is looking for parking in NYC they should visit Icon Parking who is offering coupons for parking in any one of their 200 locations in Manhattan. For a list of parking around the Broadway theatre district, visit here.
When you’re not at the theatre
So now that you’ve figured out how to make a trip to New York City affordable for a family, what are you going to do with the kids — especially those hard-to-please tweens and teens — when you’re not at the theatre? TravelingMom.com recommends these NYC attractions:
- If you’ve got a singing-dancing sensation in your family, check out Camp Broadway. These week-long day camps for kids ages 6-18 are open to kids regardless of previous acting, dancing or singing experience. Camps culminate in a performance that is sure to be the theatrical highlight of your theatre tour through NYC.
- Madame Tussauds New York in Times Square lets visitors vamp it up with Captain Jack Sparrow, Marilyn Monroe and Justin Bieber. Although Hollywood and TV stars are the big draws, so many Broadway stars are in movies and television that theatre-obsessed kids might just be happy to see celebrities. There are also sports stars and politicians. Just be sure to explain to your kids that while they can pose with the wax figures, if they encounter a real celeb, he or she might not be as accommodating.
- The annual costume exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a must-see for any kid who likes to play dress up. This year, the Met exhibit, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (through Aug. 7), celebrates the late fashion designer. The exhibit is not suited for kids under age 5, and strollers are not permitted. Be sure to also visit the roof garden at the Met (open, weather permitting, through Oct. 30), which this year features sculptures by Anthony Caro.
- Take your tweens and teens for a ride on The Ride. This multimedia bus tour and experience stays close to its pick-up and drop-off at the Marriott Marquis, roaming from 42nd Street to Central Park, with engaging street theatre throughout its 75 minute running time.
- Visit the Times Square Alliance website for the latest info on everything there is to do in or near the NYC theatre district each week.