Getting seats to the best Broadway shows usually requires a lot of planning in advance. But if you need to find last-minute Broadway tickets—for shows the same day, or just a few days away—you do have some good options. It all depends on how much you are willing to pay, how much you are willing to wait and how much risk you are willing to take. If everything goes your way, you might even luck into cheap Broadway tickets, great seats or a chance to see hit shows that you would never have been able to get into earlier. (Hello, Hamilton!) Here is our procrastinator's guide to buying last-minute Broadway tickets.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to all Broadway shows
1. Line up at TKTS
The big red steps in Duffy Square, on Broadway at 47th Street, mark the flagship location of TDF’s TKTS Booth, the standard destination for discounted same-day tickets to Broadway shows. All but the biggest Broadway smashes are on sale there, many at 50 percent off; if you are not looking to see a musical, there is a "Play Only" window that will cut down your wait time. To see what is available on a given day, download the TKTS app or visit its website.
If you don’t want to deal with the crush of Times Square, consider visiting one of TDF's offshoot TKTS booths elsewhere in the city. The one at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium (Broadway at 62nd Street) is indoors, so it saves you from dealing with rain, cold or heat. The other is at South Street Seaport (corner of Front and John Streets). Both non–Times Square locations sell matinee tickets a day early.
2. Try TodayTix or discount codes
If you don’t feel like standing in line at TKTS, or you want to make sure you can get seats to a specific show you have an eye on, there are other ways of finding last-minute Broadway tickets for less than full price. The handy TodayTix app helps you find discounted tickets through your mobile phone on the same day as the performance (or up to week in advance). You may also be able to take advantage of discount codes offered by individual shows. One reliable online source for cheap tickets is nytix.com; good discount codes can be also be found at BroadwayBox and other sites.
3. Rush the theater
Many shows offer special same-day rush tickets, which in some cases are the only way to get tickets at a reasonable price for shows that are otherwise sold out. Rush tickets to Broadway and Off Broadway shows can sell for as little as $20 apiece. Go to the theater's box office as soon as it opens on the day of the performance; that means 10am on most days, and 11am or noon on Sundays. If you don’t mind being on your feet, you can also try for standing-room tickets. To find out which shows offer rush tickets and lotteries (see below), consult the guide at Playbill.
4. Play the lottery
A small number of productions, notably Wicked, offer cheap day-of tickets through an in-person lottery, with names drawn at the box office a few hours before curtain time. But most Broadway shows now conduct these lotteries digitally, either on their own or through the TodayTix app. The Hamilton lottery offers 46 seats every day for just $10 apiece; the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child lottery draw is held once a week, on Fridays.
5. If at first you don't succeed, look again
If there's a specific show you want to see on a certain date, but you've looked online in the past and no tickets were available, check that same show's Telecharge or Ticketmaster again closer to the date of the performance; you may find that some of the best seats in the theater are suddenly up for grabs. All Broadway shows have allotments called house seats, which are set aside for friends of the production. But if those house tickets are not used, they go back into the pool for general sale, between 96 hours and 24 hours before the show. The same applies to premium seats, which are reserved for sale at higher prices but get bumped down to regular price if they haven’t been sold. If possible, visit the box office in person to find out when house seats and premium seats might wind up for sale at normal prices; if you’re nice, the box office manager might give you some tips. (Bonus: If you buy directly at the theater, you’ll save the fees that the websites tack on.)
6. Hit the cancellation line
Not every seat to every performance ends up being claimed. If you line up at the theater, you may be able to buy cancelled seats right before curtain time. There's no guarantee you'll get in, of course, but you have a reasonable chance, especially if you are willing to get to the theater a couple of hours early—cancellation lines are first come, first served. (Although it’s not legal to sell tickets right outside the venue, you can sometimes see vendors lurking around anyhow. Be careful, though: Tickets you buy through such channels may be fraudulent, and are obviously not refundable.)
7. Try the secondary market
For better or worse, the practice of buying tickets and reselling them for profit—once known as scalping, now more politely euphemized as the secondary market—has gone legit in the past ten years. Sometimes these sellers are the only ones with tickets to the most popular productions, because they buy seats early in bulk. So if you simply must see a certain show, and money is not an object, see what you can find at Broadway.com, StubHub, VividSeats or even Ticketmaster itself, which has areas devoted to resale. Depending on the show and the seller, the markup can be very high indeed. But if you check the sites very close to curtain time, the prices sometimes fall dramatically, as vendors try to avoid taking a total loss on tickets they haven’t sold yet.