There are so many choices available, it can be almost impossible to construct a perfect dinner-and-a-show night. Whether you live in Manhattan or are in town for the first time, it’s too easy to make a wrong turn, pick an unsatisfying restaurant or wind up chasing from one venue to the next. A single wrong turn can send you into a scramble, putting what should be the evening of your life at risk.
Plan ahead, even a little, and your theater getaway can be nothing short of amazing. There’s no reason it should go wrong, especially when you can think through the perfect night and put a few pieces in place before you step out the door. Keep in mind, a great evening, with no worries, may cost you a little more money, but predictability has value, so you shouldn’t expect it to be free.
1. Buy your tickets in advance
This seems obvious, but it’s not unusual to see a long line at the TKTS kiosk in Times Square or people shoving into the theater looking for discounted standing room only tickets. I did SRO once; my wife almost killed me. I didn’t want to admit it at the time, since I made the decision, but I wasn’t too happy either. If you order in advance, you’ll probably score better seats, and you won’t have any headache. In addition to convenience, you’re also buying some of your time back (no need to wait in line).
2. Consider something other than “Big Broadway”
New World Stages on W. 50th St. and Eight Ave. is like the theater equivalent of a major cinema. There are several stages, each of which home to a different production. The ticket prices are absolutely reasonable, and the productions are fantastic. I’ve seen several plays there and have never had anything other than a great experience. Unlike some of the really small stuff, you’ll still be in the Times Square area, so you’ll be near where you expected.
3. Start with a snack
Instead of showing up absurdly early for dinner or rushing through a meal to get to the theater in time, grab a drink and some appetizers before the show. The ideal spot varies with the show you’re planning to see and how much walking you don’t mind doing. I’ve always enjoyed raw bar offering at Thalia. It’s a great spot and understands the quirks of serving theater-goers.
4. Show up early
Don’t be so early that you’re standing on an empty sidewalk, but do give yourself 30 minutes or so before the show starts. If the extra time you’ll be in your seat will bore you to tears, bring a book. This is much better than having to shove your way through the crowd and risk not being able to hit the bathroom before the curtain goes up.
5. Nearby dinner afterward
Getting a taxi when a show lets out is like trying to get a stripper to buy you a drink. Don’t bother. Instead, have a later dinner (reservations should be easy). If you’re having trouble choosing a place, forget the coupons in the playbill. Before you go out, hit OpenTable and make reservations. You’ll probably find a kickass restaurant that wouldn’t have occurred to you otherwise. When in doubt, hit The Palm (W. 50th St. and Eighth Ave.); it’s convenient and the menu is fantastic.
6. Enjoy a last drink
Don’t finish the evening from your table at the restaurant. Rather, find a relaxing bar with comfortable chairs. If you’re a cigar smoker, you might want to try the Carnegie Club (on W. 56th St. between Sixth Ave. and Seventh Ave.). If you like your bars smoke-free, head up to the bar at the Hudson Hotel (W. 58th St. and Ninth Ave.).