How to Get Broadway Rush Tickets: Seeing Great Shows on a Budget

You’re sitting in better seats than you’ve ever had in your whole life, in a gorgeous, real-life Broadway theatre.  The lights dim.  There is a rush of energy and an excited hush as the audience quiets and anticipates the beginning of the show.  And you?  You give yourself a congratulatory mental high-five, because not only is this awesome in general, but thanks to a little planning ahead on your part, you and your girlfriends also got these sweet Broadway show tickets for practically nothing.

You are feeling like one of those shoppers in commercials who gets complimented on her fancy outfit, and smiles and winks at the camera because only she (and the viewer) knows that said lady got her outfit at a discount store. YOU are the smug lady in this scenario!

How we found out about rush tickets:

Before heading to New York on our last girlfriend getaway, I checked in with a friend who used to live there.  When I inquired about waiting in line at the TKTS booth, she let me in on a little secret.  Don’t waste your time with TKTS.  Instead, if you know which show you want to see for sure, try to get RUSH tickets instead.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with TKTS, it’s basically a discounted ticket booth where tourists and locals can purchase same-day tickets to a selection of shows.  You never know which shows will have the best discounts until you visit the  booth.  It’s a great idea for people who don’t really have a preference of which show they see.

Obtaining rush tickets is a great alternative to this method of ticket-shopping for visitors who know which show they would most want to see.  It involves a little research and early morning wake-up calls, but it is definitely worth it.

once the musical rush tickets for our girls trip by get your travel on
once the musical rush tickets for our girls trip by get your travel on

Our guide to getting rush tickets to a broadway show:

1. Research shows.  Prior to our trip, we did some research about the best Broadway shows playing during our stay.  You can do this just by googling, or checking out Playbill.com for inspiration.  We had heard amazing things about the show Once: The Musical, so we set our sights on it and hoped our plan would work out.

Tip: It’s not a bad idea to actually google “how many rush tickets to [insert show name here]” before you go so that you know a ballpark number of tickets that might be available for you.  We did this for Once and found out that they usually offer somewhere around 20 discounted rush tickets every day.  Some shows are more popular than others, so keep this in mind when you’re forming your plan.

2. Form a game plan.  After you’ve done your research and have an idea of which show you want to see, check out the show’s website.  Each website will have some information about their rush, lottery, or standing room ticket policies that will help you form a plan for obtaining those tickets.  For example, here is the message we saw on the website for Once:

when the box office opens a limited number of rush seats will be sold each day for that day's performance. Tickets are $34.50 for all Tuesday - Thursday performances, and $39.50 for all Friday - Sunday performances. On 2-show days, tickets for both shows will be sold when the box office opens.

With this information, the next step is to find out when the box office opens.  In our case, it was 10:00AM, which meant no super late-night outings the night before.  We’re not 20 anymore...

3. Plan to get in line outside the box office early.  We got to the line at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre right around 8AM, and there were already several people in line.  Each person in line can purchase 2 tickets maximum, so keep that in mind as you wait. At this point, you might need to do some math to see if it’s worth staying in line or not. If we had arrived even before 8AM we would have been total shoe-ins for tickets.

For example, if you arrive and there are already 10 people in line, you're already pushing your luck.  If each person can purchase 2 tickets, then it is possible that the 10th person in line that morning will get the last one, leaving the rest of the line ticketless.  That's way it's important to take our advice and arrive as early as possible.

4. Bring entertainment.  In our case, the box office didn’t open until 10am, so once in line we had some serious waiting to do.  We recommend bringing a buddy.  If there are two of you, one can make a bagel or coffee run while the other holds your spot.  We saw people ahead of us in line watching movies on their ipads, students doing homework, and reading books.  Seriously, bring something to keep your mind busy for two hours.

5. Be prepared for anything. Once the ticket line starts moving things go pretty quickly.  You’ll know soon enough whether there are any tickets left, or whether the line gets cut off before you even make it into the office.

If you’ve planned enough ahead and successfully acquired rush tickets, chances are you’ve also saved yourself a ton of money.  In our case, full-priced tickets for Once can cost almost $200, and we only paid around $40 for ours.  If there was ever a hint of doubt or questioning the worth of waking up too early for rush tickets, we had forgotten it as soon as the special buying-something-on-sale endorphins kicked in.

Note: the seats we were assigned were partial-view, meaning that small parts of the stage were not visible to us from where we were sitting.  That being said, very few moments in the show were missed.

Here is a video of the cast of Once performing at the Tony Awards.  Sigh... So, so good.  We highly recommend this show!  It is the perfect choice for your girlfriend getaway to NYC.  We also recommend celebrating after the show at the Shake Shack.  :)

For more information about rush tickets, check out this article at Playbill.com to learn more about the history of Rush tickets, and to see a show-by-show breakdown of your ticket options.

Have you ever successfully acquired rush tickets on Broadway?  Leave us a comment below with your stories and tips for other readers!