Discover a Broadway actor's New York recommendations for the NYC theatre district and insider tips for attending a theater show.
Colin Israel knew he wanted to be on Broadway from the age of 14, when he became “smitten” with New York during a family vacation: “It felt like home.” After studying performing arts, he headed to New York, landing his first big gig in the national tour of High School Musical.
Now focusing on film and TV (he’s appeared on Blindspot and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, among others), Colin also works as a tour guide for Take Walks, leading visitors behind the scenes of Broadway productions and sharing his love for his East Coast home of 14 years.
Because of this expertise, we asked him to share his tips for visiting the NYC theatre district with us!
Around the Theater District
How to Get Last-Minute Broadway Tickets
Groups line up for theater tickets at the TKTS Times Square location in New York City. Photo: Amanda Voisard / TripAdvisor
Your best bet is to buy tickets ahead of time, especially if your heart is set on a particular show. But if you’re in a last-minute bind, Colin suggests going directly to the theater box office in the morning, where “some tickets are released at 10am.” The TKTS discount booth in Times Square is also worth a stop—here, you can score day-of tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway shows for up to 50 percent off. Because inventory changes throughout the day, Colin recommends arriving early and having three show choices in mind.
Best Places to Eat Before a Show
Pedestrians pass by Sardi's, an institution for pre- & post-theater Italian meals in New York City's theatre district. Photo: Amanda Voisard / TripAdvisor
You’re going to want to grab a bite to eat in the Broadway area before catching an evening show, and Colin knows just where to go.
For a quick bite: For “tasty and fast” traditional Thai food, Colin recommends Room Service on Ninth Avenue between 47th and 48th streets, just two blocks from the 49th Street Subway Station.
Best for kids: Stop by The Meatball Shop, located in Hell's Kitchen on Ninth Avenue and 53rd Street, about a 5-minute walk from the Neil Simon Theatre and Gershwin Theatre. This New York chain serves up all sorts of meatballs (including vegetarian varieties), plus salads and sandwiches. Consider Junior’s for diner fare and cheesecake.
Iconic spots near Times Square: Sardi’s, a famous pre- and post-theater hangout for locals, offers American fare along with its signature celebrity caricatures. Other popular spots near the Minskoff Theatre and the Majestic Theatre include Carmine's Italian Restaurant and John's of Times Square for pizza.
Performance Etiquette Know-How
Once you’re seated at a show, make sure your mobile phone is turned off. “We can see you. We can hear you. No matter how quietly you think you’re talking on your phone during a show, everyone can hear you,” Colin says. Also, the glow of the screen can be distracting to the actors on stage.
An Underrated Waterfront Neighborhood
“So much of the world is in New York, which means you can literally find anything you want,” Colin says. “The availability of everything you can do here is what makes me fall in love with the city.” Away from the buzz of Broadway, Colin suggests heading down to the South Street Seaport area, just east of Wall Street and set on the East River. This neighborhood offers views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty, and has recently undergone major renovations, with the addition of boutique shops like SJP (Sarah Jessica Parker’s shoe store), whimsical sweet treats from Big Gay Ice Cream, and local produce at the Fulton Stall Market.
Plus, you still get a feel of old New York. “On Schermerhorn Row, right where the docks are, you really get a sense of what 19th-century New York would have looked like,” Colin says. He adds that even though the neighborhood has experienced a revitalization, it remains less touristy and less trafficked than other areas of the city.
More Hot Spots to Explore
West Village: “It’s very quaint and upscale all at the same time. It’s one neighborhood where you never know where you are but you don’t really care because every street is more beautiful than the last one.” The area is a labyrinth of diagonally running streets that confuse even locals, so it’s best to keep GoogleMaps handy.
Bleecker Street: Stroll down Bleecker Street to hit up New York staples like Magnolia Bakery for cupcakes; the Bitter End, a rock ‘n’ roll institution where Bob Dylan once played; and the family-owned Village Apothecary for drugstore needs.
Brooklyn Heights: Venture across the river to grab a pie at Grimaldi's Pizzeria and walk along the waterfront esplanade for views of downtown Manhattan.
Learn more Broadway secrets
With Colin or another in-the-know pro, you'll go backstage on Broadway.
Get more from the Theater District visit than if you were to explore independently. This Disney on Broadway behind-the-scenes walking tour takes you along Broadway Avenue and through this popular district to learn about its landmarks and musical history. Then, go inside Disney’s New Amsterdam Theatre with an in-house historian to hear exclusive details about top Disney productions and to gain special access to the theater's props and costumes studio.
Michele Laufik is a writer and editor, covering topics such as travel, wellness, relationships, and event marketing for various print and digital outlets. She has called New York City her home for over 10 years and currently resides in Spanish Harlem. Michele has written for Glamour, the Today Show, Martha Stewart, PureWow, and ShermansTravel, among others.