We have found that flying to NYC from Saturday-Wednesday is our cheapest option and we think we have perfected it. The only prep it takes is a hotel and pre-booked show tickets for Sunday for the show you absolutely must see. Here’s how to maximize your weekend and not break the bank.
Nothing says NYC like a big slice!
Depending on your arrival time on Saturday you can see a show but do not book tickets ahead of time because NYC is notorious for afternoon storms that do not allow for planes to land. When you do land, grab an Uber and head to your hotel. Use this time to buy tickets on Stub Hub, Today Tix or Goldstar. As show time gets closer, tickets on Stub Hub go down. We usually arrive with a list of 5 shows and the number of tickets that were still on sale on Friday night. Here are some of our favorite Broadway shows apporpriate for kids. Mobile downloads are our first choice but if you have to do a pick up the Stub Hub office in midtown is not hard to get to. We have bought first row Aladdin tickets and Sponge Bob on Stub Hub for far lower than face value. If there isn’t anything decent available, Today Tix is the next best option. We buy the cheapest option and move forward in the theatre after the show starts. If it is on Today Tix it isn’t a sold out show and you will have flexibility to do this. Goldstar has a more limited selection of seats but you can check before you go to know if there are possibilities. You should not spend more than $100/ticket for this night.
Once you arrive in the city with your newly purchased tickets you have time for a quick bite before heading to the theatre. My absolute favorite, and the first place I always go, is Adel’s Halal food truck, kitty corner and a couple blocks down from Radio City Music Hall. It opens at 6:00pm and is close enough to the theatres to walk. Personally, I think the chicken with yellow rice, doused in white sauce for $6.00 is the way to go. I actually share it with a kid so it is an even better deal. There is a lovely courtyard behind it to sit and eat. Do not fall for another truck because it will not be as good (I swear I have tried them all). If you don’t have time for this grab a slice or two (pizza) closer to the theatre.
Note the location so you can find Adel's easily!
Shows start at 8:00 so get to the theatre, order a drink (this may break your budget depending on the theatre) and enjoy. After the show, you may feel like you should go to the hotel to sleep, but you will be energized (either from the show or the hustle and bustle once you leave). Go to Junior’s and have a late night cheesecake or two. There are a couple locations in midtown so depending on your theatre (and hotel) you have options. This is also a great time to head back to Adel’s for a late night snack (don’t judge, I have done it several times).
Sunday morning get up and head to brunch. It doesn’t get more NY than this. Because you already have your show tickets (likely for somewhere around 2:00pm) you can linger and enjoy your meal. If you want a cheaper breakfast, you can't go wrong with a NYC bagel lathered in cream cheese. Our favorite is the Brooklyn Bagel Company, in Chelsea on 8th and 24th, where an amazing bagel goes for about $2. After a relaxing morning, head to your show and be swept away again by the magic of Broadway. This is usually the 8th show the actors have done in the week so send them your best vibes! Sunday’s are a great day to wait at the stage door to meet the cast (if it is the show you most want to see this could be even more appealing). Ask where the stage door is when you arrive and make a quick exit plan. This is one of our favorite Broadway things to do because everyone we have ever met has been amazing, and so sweet to our kids. They will sign playbills, or the poster you bought at the show, or anything else you have.
Izzy was star stuck when she met Anthony Boyle, from the original Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Cast
After the show, get out of Times Square and head to a new neighborhood for dinner. Brooklyn, Harlem, Upper West Side or West Village are all great options. Here are some of our favorites. Take the subway: it’s cheap and the way the locals travel.
Monday morning is a "dark" day on Broadway so you will have all day and night to sightsee. (There are a few shows that do play if you want to see another one. If you do, see Tuesday for directions on rush tickets). We decided to head to Governer’s Island for our Monday excursion and it was fabulous. Take a subway down to Battery Park, pay $3 for your roundtrip ticket and hop on the 8 minute ferry to the island. Once there you will be greeted with open space, cool breezes and an oasis from the city. Rent bikes, ice skate, grab a coffee and chill in the chairs all around the island. All you need is a few hours and you will be recharged. Here are our top ideas for a day trip to Governor's Island. You can hop on a ferry to Brooklyn from here for a bit of strolling and dinner. If you need an earlier night to recover tonight is the night.
Governor's Island unlike Manhattan is the full of grass, open spaces, and a lovely break from the crowds.
Tuesday morning head to a theatre with a bagel and coffee to purchase rush tickets for a show that night. Check Playbill Rush Policies to get specifics for each show, and here are our tips for getting Broadway show tickets at incredible prices. Usually if you are there 90 minutes before the box office opens you will get them, but people camp out for nights for the hardest to get tickets (Hamilton had a 70 hour wait at one point). A sure way to know is to stop at the box office on Sunday and ask what the lines have been like. Each person in line can buy two tickets, so plan accordingly based on how many you need. I love talking to people in these lines because most of them are local and love Broadway. You can either talk shows you have seen, get info about shows you should see, or get great restaurant ideas. While waiting in a line for a couple hours sounds like a drag, it is actually a fun way to start your morning. There has only been one time that I have done this and left without tickets so it is always worth it in my mind. You will leave having spent $35-$50 per ticket and will often times be sitting next to someone who has paid $200 -$500 for their seat.
This is a ticket lottery 90 minutes before a show. We prefer the rush lines to this because the odds of getting a ticket are better.
Using the rush lines means that at 10:30am you will have tickets and the rest of the day to enjoy Manhattan. Pick another area and explore and eat while you are there. We loved our day touring the lower east side on our recent trip which can take anywhere from a few hours to half a day, and barely set you back any money. Here are the top things our family likes to do in the Lower East Side. You have until 7:00pm when your show starts. After the show, head to a cupcake shop or to Schmackary's for a cookie.
The lower east side is filled with tenement buildings.
On Wednesday, if you are not showed out (which we never are), repeat the rush ticket directions from Tuesday and buy matinee tickets. Wednesday is a 2 show day so depending on your departure time, you may have the option of going to a matinee, the evening performance, or both! Do some shopping and grab some food near Times Square. We prefer the restaurants on 9th avenue (in the 40s) for this as it gets you a little bit out of the crowds. Here are some of our favorite places to eat in NYC with kids. Another option is one more full day to explore yet another area of the city.
Our favorite vegetarian spot in Hell's Kitchen, right by Times Square
After the show, fit in whatever else you didn’t do yet and head to the airport. By the time our 10:30pm flight leaves we are all zonked out and fulfilled from our amazing days in the city.
If you are less interested in Broadway shows to fill your evenings, most other touristy sights are open late, sport options are plenty, and music venues and comedy shows are everywhere as well.