We took our preschooler to her first Broadway shows and it was amazing!
It's Showtime! Our preschooler in front of New Amsterdam Theatre
In this article we take you with us to New York City for Disney on Broadway. Follow along as we share details of our journey, experiences, and thoughts. If you're thinking about taking your little one, keep reading. We'll give you some things to consider, what we learned, our recommendations, and if we thought doing Broadway with younger children is worth the time, money, effort, and sanity.
NYC Broadway 2022 || Seeing The Lion King
NYC Broadway 2022 || Seeing Aladdin
We adore Disney music and musicals, so when we started thinking about planning a couple day trips to see live performances of The Lion King and Aladdin, we were both extremely excited and nervous for our girl's introduction to Broadway. Excited to finally see these hit musicals together as a family, but also a bit apprehensive about taking a younger child to such long shows (each lasting around 2 hours and 30 minutes). After much deliberation, we decided to give it a go and started figuring out how to prepare for our trips to the theater. We also figured trying this out during Broadway week, when tickets were 1/2 price, was a good way to alleviate the pressure of feeling like we had to sit through the entire show. It made the option of just leaving if things went south a whole lot easier.
Things to consider
Both shows are intended for guests 6 and up and children under 2 are not allowed admittance. While both musicals are meant for audiences of all ages they are very long. They both last around two and a half hours (with intermission) and may be hard for really young children to sit through. You do have the option of slipping out at anytime during the show for a break in the lobby, but you may have to wait for intermission or certain points of the show before re-entering the theater and returning to your seats.
Latest Covid-19 guidance
At the time of our ticketed performances, masks were strongly encouraged, but optional, proof of vaccination was no longer required, and social distancing is a thing of the past. The theaters were operating at 100% capacity and crowds were quite large. While we didn't see many masks being worn among theater guests, both theaters continue to adapt to public health changes and have several safety measures in place, like: enhanced air filtration/ventilation systems, improved cleaning/disinfecting protocols, and contactless options for box office and entry.
Since we wanted to make these day trips and not overnight visits we opted for the matinée performances. Due to the length of both musicals, evening showtimes would have taken us well past our girl's bedtime, likely requiring overnight stays instead of coming home after the show. If your littles still require naps, midday breaks, or early bedtimes you might want to consider which showtimes work best around your schedules.
Outside food was not allowed inside the theaters, but a selection of food and drink options were available for purchase. We did have snacks in our bag, which was checked before entering both venues, but they were not taken by theater security. We don't have any special dietary needs or allergies so our snacks were pretty standard and easy to replace if forfeited. Some theaters will actually confiscate outside food so you might want to check your theater's concession policy if this is a big deal for your family. We lucked out and were able to keep our snacks and have them for our journey home.
We brought our light umbrellas stroller along just in case. It was easy to store overhead on the train and we were able to take it into both theaters. We were able to park it collapsed right outside the entrances of the auditorium of one theater and store it collapsed at the coat check for a small fee in the other.
Wanting to avoid the headache of gas, parking, and New York City traffic, we opted for the convenience of a train ride into Manhattan. Once there it was a 15-20 minute walk from the train station to the theaters.
It was a smooth ride on the train
We took an Amtrak train from our home station to Moynihan Train Hall (NYP) in Midtown Manhattan. Skip to our What we learned section for easy ways to save on tickets, if taking the train works for your family too!
We headed out the 8th Avenue & 33rd Street exit of the train station and were directly across the street from Madison Square Garden. On Eight Ave. it was a mostly flat walk for about half a mile before turning onto the street of the respective theaters. The walk was easy enough for a four year old handle but we did end up using our stroller for a bit.
The shows were based on Disney's animated feature films Aladdin (1992) and The Lion King (1994). Both movies and their soundtracks are beloved in our house so we knew the stage adaptation would be big hits with our little crew.
We were in complete awe of the ingenious larger-than-life puppets and gorgeous costumes we saw during The Lion King. This has been a show I've been wanting to see for over two decades so, it wasn't a surprise when I lost my cool and teared up with various moving and powerful performances throughout the show.
Ellie has been obsessed with the original cast recording of Aladdin for a while so, she was over the moon excited to see everything come to life on stage. She was literally dancing in her seat by the time we heard the overture to Aladdin being played. The breathtaking special effects and show stopping numbers during Aladdin had us entranced and absolutely believing in magic.
So excited to get our playbills
Along with the familiar songs we knew and loved from both movies, we were excited to hear some new songs that were exclusive to the live performances.
While our daughter was engaged for most of both shows, she did start getting fidgety around intermission. We were grateful for getting that built in break, it was exactly what we needed. However, during the second show (Aladdin at the New Amsterdam Theatre) the seats seemed a bit closer together and the crowd around us less willing to make space. It was harder to move in and out of our row so, we ended up staying around our seats, standing up and stretching as needed. We were very glad to have used the facilities prior to the show because it was actually easier to stay put during intermission of the second show.
What we learned
These were our first Broadway shows since the pandemic and first time taking a preschooler. We tried to approach this as thoughtfully as possible to make the most of our time and experiences together. In doing so we learned a few things we thought we could share.
Ways to save:
Click & Collect - save time standing in line at the gift gallery/merchandise locations by pre-ordering official show merchandise online (up until the end of the intermission of your ticketed performance) for pick up after the show. Look out for an email from DisneyonBroadway.com for a special link a couple days before your ticketed performance.
Opt for passenger rail (Amtrak) when possible - you get less traffic than driving and smoother rides with less stops than commuter/regional rails
Book train tickets early - Most deals involve buying your tickets weeks in advance. Special discounts for groups, students, military, and more can also be great ways to save when applicable. Definitely check out the various online promotions going on before booking.
NYC Broadway Week - A semiannual event (lasting much more than a week) giving you a chance to save big on many of Broadway's biggest shows by bringing you special 2-for-1 tickets.
TKTS Discount Booth (47th St. near Times Square) - Same-day theater tickets offered at 20-50% off regular prices. Ticket availability and inventory changes quickly throughout the day so getting here early is your best bet. Since what you get is what they have and you don't really know what that is until the day of the show, plus we had specific shows we wanted to see, we opted to save this money saving route for another time.
Here are a few things we thought might be helpful for other families interested in taking their preschoolers to Broadway:
Since gathering in enclosed spaces with big crowds for extended periods is still considered risky business, wearing masks is strongly encourage, but completely optional. We saw some for sale at one theater but not the other. Definitely bring yours if this is important to your family. Our family also decided to start our daughter on the Covid-19 series of vaccinations for children under 5 years about a month before our ticketed performances.
We got to the theater about half an hour before showtime. This gave us plenty of time to explore the theater, check in coats/strollers, find our seats, use the restrooms, grab snacks, and get settled without waiting too long for the show to start.
If your littles need a boost, snag available booster seats/cushions as soon as you see them. We saw plenty stacked around the entrances before the show but on our way out noticed they were all gone and wondered if there were enough of them to go around
Intermission goes by in a snap! It lasts about 15 minutes which is generally enough time to do what you need to do and get back to your seats in time. However, attempting this with little ones around the same time hundreds of other families are attempting the same makes for lots of lines/waiting and doesn't quite feel like enough time.
It was very helpful to know when intermission was coming (like after which scene or song) by asking the ushers or looking it up in our programs. It was also very helpful to know where the bathrooms and concession stands were before hand. We started making our way out of our row as soon as the Act I curtains dropped. We were able to beat the crowds and have a few minutes to relax and stretch before the curtains went back up. If you're able to take care of everything before the show and just stay in your seats during intermission, you can skip the mad rush and hassle of fighting the crowds all together.
We saw other family dressed up in fancy clothes and dressed down in everyday gear. It probably doesn't matter what you wear so long as the younger ones are comfortable in what they have on and it doesn't distract from the performance (like shoes that light up or accessories that make noise) disturbing others in the audience. If you plan on doing lots of walking like we did, comfortable shoe (or at least a spare pair for travel) are probably a good idea too.
Drinks and snacks are available for purchase at each theaters' in-house bar. If you're looking to save time, money, and don't mind a food court atmosphere, there are lots of dining options in the Food Hall of Moynihan train station as well.
There are a ton of places to eat in the theater district before or after the show. Here are a couple places we tried and enjoyed for it's delicious food, fast service, and reasonable price point:
BarDough (350 W 46th St.) This super friendly sit down spot on restaurant row in Hell's Kitchen was a short walk from the theaters and perfect for excellent New York Pizza. We had a tasty lunch here with a couple preschoolers in tow and the welcoming staff was very warm and accommodating.
All'antico Vinaio (729 8th Ave.) This place! The incredible smells of their fresh baked Tuscan bread wafting through the intersection of 8th Ave. & 46th caught our attention. When we saw the long line of eager patrons waiting patiently for their turn to make it inside this little sandwich shop we knew we landed on something special. We had no idea this was the first U.S. location of a famed Italian sandwich shop, originating in Florence and previously only enjoyed in Milan and Rome. We ordered a couple sandwiches for dinner and took them with us for our journey home. There is a small seating area in the shop but it's very small and constantly occupied. I got La Paradiso as recommended by one of the other customers in line and shared it with Ellie (one sandwich is ginormous and totally sharable). It was amazing! I've never seen my four year old devour any sandwich so ravenously and kept asking for more when we got home. We will definitely be going back for our next show!
Is it worth it?
Broadway can be pricey! Between tickets to a show, the cost of getting there, accommodations, and any food or shopping that comes along with visiting the vibrant city of New York, you can quickly rack up quite a bill. I was honestly unsure if we should risk wasting our money, time, and energy on such an extravagance with our daughter being so young and still a bit unpredictable.
We were a little nervous about the possibilities of disturbing the theater goers around us, missing lots of the show for needed breaks, having to leave the venue entirely or even scraping it all and bailing on the second show we had planned for the following week. The thing we were truly worried about and really wanted to avoid was having it all be too much too soon and giving our girl a miserable first Broadway experience.
So why on earth would we attempt this at all? With our daughter's budding passion for musicals, the familiar Disney stories we knew she'd enjoy, successful trials of sitting through shorter live performances, the fabulous NYC Broadway Week discount we got on our tickets, and turning this into day trips instead of overnight stays, we thought it was worth a shot. We did our best to follow her cues and happy to report both visits were a huge success. Even though she was younger than the shows' intended age, she was mature enough to sit through both spectaculars and really enjoyed them without disturbing other audience members with too much noise or movement.
If you have mature preschoolers who enjoy live performances and can sit happily entertained for a few hours, visiting Broadway with young children is not only doable but can be an amazing experience for everyone. Whether you're on a tight budget or have money to blow, if you get the chance to go, do it! It is 100% worth the cherished memories you'll create and share together.