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Five Tips for Planning Theater Trips

The lights shine bright on Broadway, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. Groups flock to New York’s theater district every year to see world-class musicals and plays, making theater-themed tours a staple of many successful affinity travel programs.

Whether you use a ticketing agency to get seats for exciting shows or work with a full-service receptive tour operator that handles every element of your trip, here are the essential things you need to know before taking your group to Broadway.

1) Be smart about your dates.

New York City is full of visitors and activity throughout the year, but groups planning Broadway trips should keep several factors in mind when planning the timing of their trips.

Shows play year-round on Broadway, but the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the busy Christmas shopping season make late fall and early winter pricey times to be in the city. And during summer, the area is packed with family tourists.

“I think the best times for adult groups are the end of September and October,” said Eric Gordon, owner of tour company Beyond Times Square. “The weather is really comfortable. April and May are also great, and you’re getting good prices, but there are also more student groups in the city that time of year. In September and October, there aren’t nearly as many student groups.”

Gordon also said fall trips allow groups to find out which new shows have been nominated for Tony Awards, which are announced in May; they can then focus  on getting tickets to those productions.

2) Think seasonally.

The bad news is that you’re probably not going to see “Hamilton” — the hit show is still sold out, and the Broadway production doesn’t even offer group tickets. But the good news is that pretty much every other popular show is available for groups that book far enough in advance.

“Our average booking time is about three or three and a half months out,” said MaryCatherine Sughrue, group sales director for Your Broadway Genius, a ticketing agency. “But really popular shows book almost a year in advance. ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ is already selling out for April through June next year. The sooner you know what you want to see, the better. I would jump on getting the Broadway tickets. And if there’s a certain show you want to see, I would check into the availability before making other travel plans, because you might need to change your dates to get tickets.”

Even if you don’t score seats for “Dear Evan Hansen,” there are dozens of other critically acclaimed shows playing on Broadway.

3) Plan ahead.

There may be a certain production you can’t wait to see in New York, but don’t let that be the limit of your group’s Broadway experience. Local theater experts can help you identify additional shows that would be a good fit for your travelers or even find ways of satisfying multiple interests at the same time.

Sughrue said many groups will try to fit two or three shows into a New York trip, and her agency specializes in helping them identify the best ones.

“We like to call ourselves Broadway geniuses because we know everything and anything about the shows that are on Broadway,” Sughrue said. “We see every single show on and off Broadway, and we love to know what type of group you’re bringing because then we can help select shows that would be better for your group.”

Beyond Times Square helps groups arrange tickets for various shows in the same evening, allowing individuals to choose the option that sounds best to them.

“The first night we might do a group show that everyone is going to see, with a nice dinner beforehand,” Gordon said. “Then the next night might be a choice of shows.”

4) Add interactive experiences.

There’s a lot of magic on Broadway, both in the history of the theater district and in how talented people come together to create over-the-top performances. During the day, when they’re not seeing shows, groups can learn about other elements of the theater during Broadway tours, cast meet-and-greets and theater workshops, all of which are offered by both Beyond Times Square and Your Broadway Genius, as well as similar organizations.

“Our Broadway walking tour is like a historical gossip tour,” Gordon said. “There are so many funny, weird stories. You take an hour-and-a-half walking tour along the lower part of the theater district. You learn about the shows that were there and maybe hear a crazy story about how they found a lead actor.”

Broadway workshops have been growing in popularity with groups as well.

“Our most popular one is a song and movement workshop,” Sughrue said. “You go into a studio with a teaching artist and a cast member from the show of your choice. You do some team building and learn some songs and choreography.”

5) Search for creative ideas.

No matter how much your travelers love the theater, it’s important to make sure they can experience other parts of New York, both classic and less-publicized attractions.

“In a city like New York, people have to have free time to pursue their own interests,” Gordon said. “And we also include some of the basics, like seeing the landmarks or going to One World Observatory and the 9/11 Museum. Those will always be part of the program.”

Sughrue said groups should make a point to get outside of the theater district and Times Square.

“See as much of New York as possible,” she said. “It’s a wonderful city that has a lot of hidden gems that most people don’t see.”