But aside from hiking the kids up the Empire State Building or over to Ellis Island, New York City can also be the source of some great cultural entertainment, the kind they probably won't soon forget. Broadway plays feature the best that American Theater has to offer, from sets, to music and of course, the actors and actresses. And while it's true that similar experiences can be had here at home---nearly every major Broadway production gets here eventually---there's something especially exciting about emerging from the Lincoln Tunnel and driving up into Times Square for a night at the theater.
Now Playing: Money Mia!
This can be an off-putting idea, given that theater tickets can cost as much as $110 a piece. But there are ways to enjoy the experience for less. First, check out Playbill.com, a great website that lists every play currently on and off Broadway, along with brief descriptions of the story line. You have to sign up to become a member, but it's free and only takes a minute. With membership, you gain access to a special "discounts" section at the top of the links on the home page's left side. When I checked recently, there were discounted seats available for as little as $40 a pop to 23 different Broadway shows, including the kid-friendly Mary Poppins, Phantom of the Opera, and The Addams Family, not to mention the latest version of the classic, West Side Story. No, the cheapest seats will not be in the first row, but if the show is enough of a draw for your kids, it may not matter. Some more popular shows may only discount the cheapest seats, but instead offer better deals on better seats. In these cases, though, you'll be paying a lot more, perhaps $80 to $90 for orchestra locations that regularly go for over $100.
If you're okay with "flying by the seat of your pants" a little, you can also take a stab at getting in line at the Theater Development Fund's "TKTS" ticket kiosk on the northern edge of Times Square at 47th Street. You'll have to stand in line, but each day, the kiosk offers left-over same-day tickets to dozens of shows. The discounts range from 25% to 35% to 50% off the list price, depending on seat location and demand. The hours are Monday-Saturday 3pm to 8pm for shows on stage that evening, Wednesday and Saturday afternoon from 10am to 2pm for matinees, and 11am to closing on Sundays. Available shows are listed on an electronic menu, but it's first come, first served, and there are only limited numbers of seats for each show, so there's no way to know what's available until you get to the front of the line. For more information, check out the Times Square Alliance website. Pay attention to additional opportunities, including heading to the box office of the theater housing a particular show you want to see. Last minute ticket distributions are not uncommon, but there or may not be a discount involved, and it's hard to tell ahead of time how many other people will be standing there vying for the same seats.
Times Squarin' It
While you're waiting for the show, take the kids to the Toys R Us on Times Square. There's a great Lego section with plenty of pre-built giant models, fitting for the venue. The indoor Ferris Wheel will cost you, though, and the line is usually long, so you might want to let the kids know that's out of bounds before you head inside. You can certainly dump a lot of money on food while in town, too, but you don't have too. There are fast food options on Times Square, and a few less expensive Pub options on some of the side streets in the mid 40s.
One of the more fun options for kids, in terms of shows, is Phantom of the Opera. We took my son and daughter when they were in about 6th and 3rd grade respectively, and while they needed a little coaching to keep them up with the story, there's plenty of action and cool stuff going on to keep them pretty interested. It is all-singing, though, pretty much, which could be a turn-off for some. 6abc is owned by Disney, so I've had a chance to see most of our company's offerings. I greatly enjoyed Mary Poppins, which is filled with visual tricks and razmataz, although my 12-year-old son was only half-interested. The kids liked The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast better, although my wife and I were a little bored, because the stories are very similar to the films (which we've seen about a gazillion times). Still, the quality of all three productions can't be argued with. Everyone tells me that visually, The Lion King delivers a big bang for your buck, but I've never seen it. Another fun show for older grade-schoolers and high school kids is Mama Mia, although the language is a little blue once or twice and the theme (divorce, kid born out of wedlock, woman with lots of boyfriends) may not be your cup of tea. All three of my kids really enjoyed it, though, and don't let the ABBA music stop you. You'll come out of the theater humming and singing shamelessly.
MORE TRAVELING WITH KIDS BLOGS:Cheap Eats Read more Parenting Perspective blogs by visiting the Parenting Channel on 6abc.com.