Plays, musicals, orchestras, concerts, dance-performances–we can’t get enough. For the first-time tourist or the returning traveler, New York’s artistic scene is never lacking. From the classic Broadway theater experience, to lesser known immersive experiences, New York will have shows to accommodate any age and any taste.
1. The obvious, number 1 on your list: Watch a Broadway play or musical. Broadway is timeless, and there are always a wide variety of shows to suit any taste.
If you’re looking for a comedy, there’s Book of Mormon or Wicked. For something more dramatic, Phantom of the Opera or Chicago. These shows can also be child-friendly and entertaining to adults, as well, such as Spiderman, Mary Poppins, Aladdin, or Lion King. There are classic Emmy-award oldies that continue running year after year, there are new shows everyone is raving about, and there are the small-cast, unique shows that have yet to be discovered.
Seeing a Broadway show can accommodate any formality you wish, as well. You can show up in a t-shirt and shorts for an afternoon showing, or arrive in a dress or tie for a Friday evening.
2. See an improv show. New York City is renown to be the “city of dreams” for performers of all kinds, and for good reason. Although you may not serendipitously bump into your favorite Hollywood star on the streets, you have the chance to see many up-and-coming comedic brilliants in intimate settings.
Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (UCBT) was the training ground of greats such as Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, and Kate McKinnon, and is frequented by comedians like Tina Fey and Conan for guest appearances. Now, many budding actors and trainees perform regular line-ups of improv sketches and stand-up comedy for typically only $5 a ticket. Similarly are the the People’s Improv Theatre (the PIT), Gotham, and Magnet Theatre.
3. Go to a television taping. Beyond traditional theatre or staged events, New York is also a mass center for television.
You can scramble to Times Square at 5:30 AM for Good Morning America, or grab tickets to live morning tapings like Kelly and Michael or the View. If you plan ahead and obsessively refresh your webpage, you can reserve tickets for Late Night Shows such as Seth Meyers or Jimmy Fallon, which are actually taped hours before they air on TV.
Sitting in the audience watching the preparation and behind-the-scenes action to your favorite talk-shows is one of the most unique experiences. It’s so thrilling to watch all the hosts and guests right in front of you, “performing” conversations that you realize are far rehearsed, pages shuffling around camera men and cueing the audience to clap.
4. Visit Sleep No More NYC—and it will be one of the most terrifying, yet riveting experiences of your life.
Instead of being simply seated and spooked, you are led around the fictional, “abandoned” McKittrick Hotel, where you are immersed in the horrors of the hotel and its inhabitants. Actors dressed in period costumes both lead the tour and act as the hotel’s occupants, performing the horrific events narrated directly as you move alone.
The show beautifully involves you in an interactive theatrical experience, quite unlike any other. Beware though—the show has earned its rightful name, as it notoriously keeps viewers up in fright for nights on end.
5. Eat at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. This legendary diner is not only awarded for having some of the best classic, comfort food—but also for its glamorous retro 50’s style. Surrounded by a circumference of Broadway theaters, the waitstaff is crew of musical personalities.
The diner décor is bright in colour and energy, perfect to match the spirits of the singing waiters to dance around you upon bringing your order. Instead of going to dinner, then a show, you can have an all-in-one experience.
This is another experience that immerses you into the atmosphere, because instead of simply eating while watching performers, they drag people out of their chairs for a twirl, hand you the microphone, or serenade you personally.
6. Take an Accomplice theatrical scavenger hunt. For the typical tourist, or even New York residents looking for some fun, this is one of the best ways to explore every part of Manhattan.
You are immersed into a detective sort of experience, where you are first handed a mission, then guided by clues and aided by actors along the journey. This show uses the entire city as its backdrop—making sure to hit the traditional landmarks, exposing the hidden gems, and providing historical background. As you crawl through old cafes and bars, and explore every street corner in the persona of a detective, you will definitely find new depth in the city.
The only downside is that tickets are a bit pricey at $80, but many say that the experience is well worth it.
7. Hop on The Ride. Described as part tour, part show, this is the perfect experience for a first-time tourist. This combines the standard tour of the main attractions of the city, but with the feel of sitting in a theater. While you sit side-facing in a massive, technologically amped up bus that cruises the streets, lights and sound-effects complete the full-effect of watching a real show.