/ The Baby Boomer Travel Guide
Baby Boomers, New York — By Tui Cameron on July 19, 2010 at 2:26 pm
Filed under: Broadway, New York, restaurant, theater, tickets, top-feature

Night Out on Broadway, New York

Mamma Mia signs light up BroadwayI recently visited New York City, where I had a fun-filled day capped off by attending the memorable Broadway show Mamma Mia! Based on the music of ABBA, the Swedish megapop group of the 1970’s, Mamma Mia! has been running at the Winter Garden Theatre since October 18th, 2001. While I don’t consider myself a huge ABBA fan, I walked out of the  upbeat show feeling like a dancing queen.

Mamma Mia! is about a young girl who is about to get married. Raised by her mother on an enchanting Greek island, she never knew who her father was. Unbeknownst to her mom, the daughter secretly invites the three most likely father candidates to the wedding, a decision which sets this lighthearted comedy into motion.

Buying tickets to Mamma Mia! on Broadway

There are two basic approaches to buying Broadway tickets. You can buy them in advance, or the day of the show. If you want to get your tickets to Mamma Mia! in advance, you may do so online.

Save by buying discounted tickets through PlanetEye!
From $84

Buying tickets in advance is a good idea if you want to go to a weekend showing when tickets can be harder to find. As with any Broadway show, going on a weeknight works in your favor for getting discounts, as opposed to going on a weekend. Tuesday performances are the most deeply discounted, simply because fewer people are out that night of the week.

On my visit to New York, savvy locals recommended buying tickets through TKTS, which is a good service. TKTS sells seats at deep discounts (up to 50%) and charges a mere $3 handling fee for each ticket.  With TKTS, it is possible to buy tickets the day before, or the day of a show, depending on which booth you go to. For evening shows, the Times Square TKTS booth is open Monday through Saturday from 3-8 pm.   On Sunday, you can buy tickets starting at 3 pm right up until 30 minutes before the show starts.

I loved our box seats at the Winter Garden Theatre

I loved our box seats at the Winter Garden Theatre

For Mamma Mia!, however, we decided that TKTS was not the best option. For one thing, we did not want to wait until 3 pm, when TKTS opens, to see what was available. Also, the lines at TKTS can be very long, because they sell tickets to nearly every single show out there.

Mamma Mia! has been running for years, so it made sense to buy tickets directly from the Winter Garden Theatre (1634 Broadway, New York ), where it is playing. The box office hours are Monday – Saturday 10 am-8 pm, and Sunday noon-6 pm.  We showed up shortly after the opening on a Wednesday and snagged a great deal on a pair of box seats.

The ticket booth operator cautioned that box seats would give us a partial view of the stage, but only once in the show did I feel that I couldn’t quite see all the action. Given the chance, I would opt for box seats again. The Winter Garden Theatre is a grand venue, and we felt like VIP’s in the intimate perch that we shared with one other couple.

Sightseeing before your Broadway show

Once you have your tickets it hand, it’s time to go sightseeing. I had a huge list of attractions I wanted to see in New York. Even though we got to the city at 9 am, and did not hit the subway home until after midnight, we barely made a dent in my list. I’m not complaining, though, I had a blast. I will say this, however: No matter what you choose to do with your day in Manhattan, make sure you wear good walking shoes.

Here are a few things you might want to add to your sightseeing list before curtain time:

Free Tour of the Federal Reserve Bank:  Did you know that roughly 25% of all the world’s gold is kept in a huge vault below Manhattan’s busy streets? The Federal Reserve Bank (33 Liberty Street, New York) gives free tours Monday through Friday, which offer visitors a glimpse into this little known cache of “Money, Money, Money,” located some 80 feet beneath all the hustle and bustle. Although free, these tours require some advance planning. Tickets must be requested online through the Federal Reserve Bank, and will be sent to you via snail-mail.

Visit the Scandinavia House:  In keeping with the Swedish influence of the rock group ABBA, pop over to the Scandinavia House (58 Park Avenue, New York). Here, you can enjoy exhibits celebrating everything from IKEA and smorgasbord, to high fashion, films and art installations.  The Scandinavia House also has a lovely cafe called the Smorgas Chef, where you can sample Swedish Meatballs and Lingonberries for $14, or a traditional Smorgas Board for $15.

Another Swedish restaurant to try is the highly-aclaimed Aquavit (65 East 55th Street, New York) In fact, this restaurant has teamed up with Mamma Mia! to offer a special three-course dinner and tickets to Mamma Mia!, starting at $139. While it’s a bit pricier than the Smorgas Cafe (Swedish Meatballs here are $19), you could always just pop in for some delicious Cardamom Poundcake ($10) and coffee before the show.

Mamma Mia!’s lovely island setting gave me a hankering for Greek food. An excellent restaurant near the Winter Garden Theatre is Uncle Nick’s Greek Restaurant (747 9th Avenue, New York).  This is a great place to go beforehand for an early dinner for a hearty slice of Spanakopita ($14.95), or to simply share a nice Tzatziki snack ($5.95) with your date.

Transportation tips for the Winter Garden Theatre:  The Winter Garden Theatre (1634 Broadway, New York) is in the heart of the theater district, and is within easy walking distance of many restaurants and sights. Whatever you do, don’t drive a car around Manhattan. There’s a reason people are always hailing cabs and hopping the subway in movies about New York – driving is miserable and parking is even worse.

An excellent site to view transportation options in New York is called Hopstop. It has tools, for instance, to calculate both the cost and the time required to take a cab from one place to the other. It also has subway and bus information.  Since traffic is always a factor in New York City, take that into consideration when using Hopstop’s cab calculator. It is always better to arrive a bit early to the theater, than to be late. If you are late, you may have to wait until intermission to take your seats.

I felt like a dancing queen after seeing Mamma Mia on Broadway.

I felt like a dancing queen after seeing Mamma Mia on Broadway.

Tips for enjoying your Broadway show

Get to the theater 30 to 45 minutes before the show starts. This gives you time to get settled into your seats and use the restroom before the curtain rises.

The Winter Garden Theater seats over 1500 people, so rather than trying to find your seats on your own, show your tickets to an usher. They will show you the quickest route, and give you a Playbill magazine full of information about the show and cast.

If you would like to get your Playbill autographed after the performance, ask an usher where the nearest stage door is.

After the show:  There’s no need to rush home after the performance. This is the city that never sleeps, after all. You may as well stop for pastries and coffee, then stroll along Times Square and enjoy some people-watching.

Tratttoria Trecolori (254 West 47th Street, New York) is a cozy Italian restaurant that’s just a hop and a skip from the Winter Garden Theater. Stop in for some Homemade Tiramisu $7 and coffee. If you’re lucky, you might recognize a face or two from the cast seated at a table near you.

As I mentioned before, I never considered myself an ABBA aficionado, but after seeing the heart-warming and energetic musical, Mamma Mia!, on Broadway, I find myself turning up the volume and singing along every time I hear one of their songs.

Photo credit: Tui Cameron

Tags: Broadway, New York, restaurant, theater, tickets, top-feature

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