April 2020 How to Experience Broadway Like a VIP

How to Experience Broadway Like a VIP

Follow the (neon) signs: Broadway banners shine in Times Square.
Follow the (neon) signs: Broadway banners shine in Times Square.
Photo by Eloi_Omella/Getty Images
For the theater kid in the family, few experiences are more thrilling than watching the curtain rise on a sold-out Broadway musical from seats near the stage.
But there’s one that tops even that – a VIP meet-and-greet tour after the curtain comes down.

With our high school tenor in tow on a recent New York City visit, my wife and I felt like celebrities as an unmarked stage door opened outside the Gershwin Theatre and a Wicked cast member called out, “Right this way!” Our musical- loving 15-year-old? For once, he was at a loss for words.

Apparently, what’s true in showbiz is true in travel too: Success is all about who you know. Case in point: After our travel advisor worked with Virtuoso on-site connection Beyond Times Square to craft a family Broadway itinerary worth singing about, we got the sort of access and acclaim (as parents, at least) that normally require a different sort of agent.

“There’s a reason the Great White Way is alluring to visitors of all generations,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Limor Decter. “Broadway never gets old and always creates lasting memories. But it absolutely helps to have an in.”

From the best pre-theater noshes to sleeping in the city that never does, here’s how to stage a standing-O visit to Broadway and beyond.
The West Side Story cast. 
The West Side Story cast. 

Act I: Well Planned & Well Seated

You can see a show anywhere, but Broadway is in a class all its own, which means there’s rarely an off season. As soon as you know your NYC dates, book theater tickets through your travel advisor and build your trip around the sweet anticipation. The first several rows of the mezzanine often afford better views than the mid-back of the orchestra, though seats designated “best in the house” are a satisfaction guarantee for truly special occasions. To avoid late nights, families gravitate to matinees, normally set for 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Wednesdays, and 3 p.m. on Sundays, but Tuesday evenings are a secret workaround. “Most Tuesday shows start at 7 p.m., an hour earlier than other nights,” Decter says. Another pro tip: Use the restroom at your hotel or restaurant to avoid notoriously long theater waits, and arrive at least 30 minutes before showtime.
Worth showing up for: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Worth showing up for: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Generating buzz lately is a new one-act revival of West Side Story (at the Broadway Theatre), along with Six, a pop-concert-style musical belted from the perspective of Henry VIII’s six wives (Brooks Atkinson Theatre). Movie-turned-musical Mrs. Doubtfire (Stephen Sondheim Theatre) will open soon, though older kids might still try to drag you to Hamilton (Richard Rodgers Theatre). For little and middle ones, it’s hard to go wrong with the tried-and-true: Aladdin, Frozen, or Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We thought we’d seen Wicked, having sat through numerous regional and school performances, but watching it up close and meeting the cast on a private tour of prop rooms and costume areas elevated it to an all-time vacation highlight.
The observation deck at Edge, 100 stories above Manhattan.
The observation deck at Edge, 100 stories above Manhattan.

Act II: All the City’s a Stage

Whether it’s an old-school revival or a new production, bookend your theater outing with other immersive city experiences to extend the razzle-dazzle. The recently renovated Empire State Building observatory features a gleaming new 102nd-floor perch with eight-foot windows. Ask your travel advisor to arrange an exclusive private visit, such as a sunrise experience that includes breakfast and views to forever. Beyond Times Square offers a new vintage-car private sightseeing tour that ferries visitors around town in antique roadsters from the 1920s and ’30s, with ragtime and swing providing the soundtrack to your guide’s captivating stories about New York, then and now.

The Hudson Yards retail and dining complex and the northern section of the High Line pedestrian walk are great to explore with a private guide who knows the hidden art and food spots in the bustling area. Just so you know: A visit there doesn’t officially happen without an Instagrammed family selfie from the Edge observation deck, which opened above Hudson Yards in March. The 360-degree view through the glass floor on the 100th floor might just be the most magnificent in New York City.

Even Muggles will be charmed by the wonders under one roof at the new Wizarding World. The first official Harry Potter flagship store opens this summer, spreading its magic across three floors and more than 20,000 square feet of house wands, personalized robes, and Every Flavour Beans. Need an exit plan? Breathe deep and intone, “Alohomora!”
Dinner at Casa Nonna.
Dinner at Casa Nonna.

Act III: A Bite of the Big Apple

There’s pre-theater dining and then there’s pre-pre-theater. With so many delicious options in Manhattan, it’s wise to eat often and start early, especially before a matinee. Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side opens at 8 a.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. on weekdays for the city’s best potato latkes and chocolate babka French toast, though lines form quickly. For “a classic New York experience,” says Danielle Savarese, director of sales at Beyond Times Square, head to Theater District staples such as Carmine’s, Becco, Victor’s Café, Bond 45, and Junior’s restaurant. Kid-favorite Ellen’s Stardust Diner doesn’t take reservations, and lines can stretch for one to two hours, so have your advisor work with Beyond Times Square to arrange “line-waiter service.” (Yes, your “line waiter” will actually hold your place in the queue so you have more time to explore!)

Elsewhere, reservations are essential, especially on weekends or pre-theater from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. For something different and less touristy, but still fun for families, Savarese’s picks include Casa Nonna, just outside Times Square in the Garment District; Burger & Lobster in Bryant Park; and Bill’s Bar & Burger in Rockefeller Center. Be sure to build in a few extra minutes before your show begins: “You need time to absorb the sensory overload as you wander back through Times Square,” Decter says.

Encore-Worthy Experiences and Red-Carpet Stays

See

Your travel advisor can work with Beyond Times Square to create immersive, personalized New York City activities that include a meet-and-greet at your hotel or dinner with a cast member. During its Backstage on Broadway experience, guests catch a performance, then go behind the curtain to meet cast members and get an inside peek at sets, prop rooms, and costume areas. 

New York City Hotels

Virtuoso’s 26 NYC hotels offer experiences and digs as dramatic as anything you’ll find on the Broadway stage, including these worthy options:

High tea at The Palm Court inside The Plaza is a perfect afternoon activity that channels Eloise with decadent French pastries and finger sandwiches. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 spa credit. 

Not to be outdone, Midtown’s 238-room St. Regis New York serves Salvador Dalí-themed afternoon tea at its atmospheric Astor Court. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.

Guest perks at the 74-room Lowell include personalized Frette pajamas. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.

Hotels such as The Mark (150 rooms; Virtuoso travelers receive a daily $30 breakfast credit, plus a round of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, or, from May 1 to September 2, a prepared picnic for two in Central Park) and The Carlyle (190 rooms; Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 spa credit) are just steps away from Madison Avenue for serious shopping sprees.

For over-the-top spectacle, suites at the 244-room Mandarin Oriental, New York – located on levels 35 through 54 of the Time Warner Center – have floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Central Park and the Hudson River for overnights that will have the whole family yelling, “Bravo!” Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.

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