Broadway is hot again. Not that New York’s mecca of musical theater has ever really been out of fashion, but with TV musical dramas like Glee and Smash putting show tunes front and center, it’s become cool once more to break into Broadway song for no particular reason. Not even Hurricane Sandy and the nor’easter close on its tail could dampen Broadway’s exuberance—most theaters are up and running again in the wake of the storms.
So it’s a perfect time for a performing arts-themed pilgrimage to New York, one in which you can give your regards not only to the musical extravaganzas of Broadway (and smaller-scale Off Broadway productions), but also to the multitude of New York’s toe-tapping opportunities, from down-at-the-heel jazz joints to plush concert halls.
Here are our favorite ways to spend a weekend getting theatrical amid New York’s performing arts riches.
If you want to stay in the heart of the Great White Way, you have a couple of stellar Times Square-adjacent choices: Check in to petite boutique Room Mate Grace or the larger, more lavish W New York Times Square. Grace is the place for those who dig the swinging lobby pool and budget-conscious prices, while the more—shall we say—dramatic W appeals to the hip and happening with sexy lounges and jazzy seafood restaurant Blue Fin.
Kick off your theatrical trip with a little drama on the plate with a pre-theater prix fixe dinner at Aureole. With a dizzying wine selection and Michelin-starred American cuisine (think pumpkin soup and olive oil poached salmon), this Charlie Palmer venture is conveniently close to Times Square, yet its sophistication feels worlds away from the throbbing neon lights.
Broadway junkies may not be able to resist hitting the top-flight theaters both weekend nights, and that’s certainly understandable, but we’d save the razzle dazzle for Saturday and instead explore either Off Broadway opportunities (an umbrella term for the hundreds of 99- to 500-seat theaters across the city—check playbill.com for what’s on tap) or a show in one of the city’s many stellar concert halls on Friday night.
Reserve tickets well in advance for a performance at one of our favorites, which include the venerable Carnegie Hall (where headliners run the gamut from the New York Pops to Michael Feinstein to Jay-Z), the New York City Center (a great spot for dance legends like Alvin Ailey and the American Ballet Theater), and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (avant-garde theatrical offerings, often with celebs among the cast).
Situated in an airy, modern room off the lobby of Le Parker Meridien, Norma’s is the diva of breakfast spots. Extravagant breakfast creations include everything from the foie gras brioche French toast to the $1,000 frittata (with lobster and caviar). Wash it all down with bottomless fresh-squeezed orange juice, and you’ll feel energized enough to join a chorus line.
Peel back the shimmering gold curtain (the largest in the world!) at Radio City Music Hall—home of the famous Christmas Spectacular with The Rockettes—with the Radio City Stage Door Tour. You’ll be treated to delights like meeting a real Rockette, exploring the plush Art Deco interiors, learning juicy secrets about things that have happened on the stage, and scoping out a nifty hydraulic backstage system that’s been in use since the 1930s. Tour tickets can be purchased from the Radio City Sweets & Gifts Shop at Sixth Avenue.
Pop in for a pick-me-up at Kurumazushi, a top-flight sushi spot with tasty rolls and great set lunch menus, including the chef’s selection of impeccably fresh sushi. Toshihiro Uezu is like the Steven Sondheim of sushi chefs—everything he executes is masterful.
Hop over to classic department store Saks Fifth Avenue to score a dramatic gown for your night at the theater (or, well, to do some window shopping). Head straight for designer dresses on Three and Four, and don’t forget a pair of heels to match—the shoe selection is one of the best in the city. (The footwear department is so big it even has its own zip code—10022-SHOE!)
If you don’t yet have tickets in hand for your favorite Broadway show, get in line at the TKTS booth in Times Square, where you’ll find tickets up to 50% for same-day shows. Lines can be long, but your wait time will be filled with fabulous people-watching in this famous, bustling Crossroads of the World.
Dash into the nearest location of Dashing Diva (177 Ninth Avenue in Chelsea) to get an All-Out-Diva Manicure.
Dine at our favorite theater district pick, Daniel Boulud’s lofty db Bistro Moderne. The American-inflected French menu elevates even the humble burger (a mix of short ribs, foie gras, and black truffles), and the $45 three-course dinner prix fixe (available 5:00-6:30 PM, Tuesday-Saturday) is one of the best pre-theater deals in town.
You’ve arrived! It’s show time! Settle into your song-and-dance extravaganza of choice in one of the many fabulous Broadway theaters. It’s an iconic New York experience!
We’re pretty certain you’ll be bursting with song after you exit the show, so why not keep the beat going with some after-hours jazz? Get in the mood with candlelight, live jazz (there’s a set at 11:30 PM), and a sultry cocktail at Bar Next Door at La Lanterna, and then catch the 12:30 AM set at the legendary Blue Note Jazz Club, where greats like Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, and Tito Puente once took to the stage and contemporary jazz geniuses still congregate. (Don’t be surprised if stars like Liza Minnelli or Quincy Jones make an impromptu appearance.)
The perfect cure for your jazzy hangover can be found at the Times Square branch of Lillie’s, a charming Victorian-Irish pub serving a full Irish breakfast—a calorific combo of fried eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, fried tomatoes, black and white pudding, sausage, bacon, and toast, along with a Bloody Mary, mimosa, or draft beer to boot!
Theater diehards will want to take the opportunity to catch a matinee performance (Public Theater in the East Village has quality year-round offerings). But if you’ve had enough of onstage spectacles, swing by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the city’s premier performing arts campus, for one of the unique tours such as “Art and Architecture” and “Jazz at the Lincoln Center.” It’ll give you a behind-the-scenes perspective on this iconic landmark showcased in movies like Black Swan and Center Stage.
Head to Lincoln Center-adjacent Rosa Mexicano for a hearty meal to wrap up the weekend. The architectural theatrics here (a 30-foot blue tile “water wall” and a “floating” staircase) are a show in and of themselves, but the headliner of course is the polished Mexican cuisine. Don’t miss the fresh guacamole (prepared tableside) or the tasty enchiladas suizas. Toast your fabulously theatrical weekend with a pomegranate margarita, and don’t be at all surprised if the liquid encouragement moves you to belt out a show tune or two. Broadway, olé!
For more information on these as well as many other chic venues in New York City, check out The Purple Passport’s New York Guide.
Photos courtesy of The Purple Passport.