Insider Secrets of the TKTS Booth

Tips for beating the line for discount Broadway tickets

Long line at the discount TKTS booth in Times Square
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Ah, the TKTS booth. You're not really a theater junkie until you've spent a goodly amount of time in that serpentine queue in Duffy Square (the northern portion of Times Square and technically where the TKTS booth is located). The TKTS booth dates back to 1973 and is operated by the Theater Development Fund (TDF), offering same-day discounted theater tickets ranging from 20% to 50% off the regular price of the ticket. 

Of course, waiting in the line is part of the fun, talking to other theatergoers, comparing notes, getting recommendations, chatting with the friendly TKTS staff who work the lines. However, there are ways of beating the line and using the TKTS experience to your best advantage. Here are some essential tips: 

Get the App

TKTS offers a free smart-phone app that feeds live info about which shows are currently available at a discount. This is extremely useful not just while you're waiting in line, but also when you're deciding whether it's worth it to wait in line at all, say because the weather is pretty darned awful. 

Watch the Weather

On the other hand, if you're an intrepid soul, and you don't mind getting a bit wet or being a tad cold, the TKTS line will very likely be shorter on crummy days. Snowy days in particular. So if you happen to be in New York during a blizzard or a nor'easter, and you've brought your weather gear with you, you might just score some really choice seats at a bargain price. 

Skip Times Square

There are two other TKTS booths in New York City, one at South Street Seaport and one at Lincoln Center. The lines at these alternate booths are usually considerably shorter than the line in Times Square. What's more, these booths also sell next-day tickets for when there's a matinee the next day, which is something that the Times Square booth doesn't do. 

See a Play

Most of the people waiting in the TKTS line want to see the big flashy musicals. If you're interested in seeing something with a bit less bling, TKTS has a separate line for people who are only interested in plays. Even on a day when the regular line is ginormous, the play-only express line tends to be a mere fraction of the size.

Go Closer to Show Time

The longest lines usually occur right when the TKTS booth opens (which varies by location), the shortest lines an hour or so before showtime. Plus, tickets are released at various times throughout the day, so you don't necessarily have to be there from the beginning to get the best seats. Frequently, unsold "house seats" are released for sale closer to show time. ("House seats" are tickets that are reserved for friends and family of people involved in the show, and are often the best seats in the house.)  

Be a Return Customer

TKTS has a great repeat-customer service called TKTS 7-Day Fast Pass. If you've purchased a ticket at the Times Square TKTS booth, you can return within seven days with your TKTS ticket stub and use it to cut the line and walk right up to window #1. Really. 

Skip the Line Entirely

Keep in mind you can get discounted tickets online, too, although not through TKTS. Many of the shows that are listed at TKTS have online discount codes, and you can buy those tickets in advance. Also be on the lookout for reps from individual shows handing out flyers to people standing in the TKTS line. Sometimes shows have half-off deals directly at the box office, where the line is sure to be much shorter.