Much like visiting the Met on a rainy day, kicking a ball around Central Park or grabbing a slice on the street­­­ –catching a Broadway show is just another part of life for a New York City kid. However, ticket prices being what they are, it’s important to know when kids are ready for their first trip to the Great White Way. Here are some tips to help you determine when to go, what to see and how to make your Broadway debut a memorable event.

Who should go?
Live theater is an excellent parallel for kids already taking dance, music or theater classes. The dramatic sets will also thrill kids into art or constructing their own scenes. Theater is a great way to introduce kids to the possibility of real careers in the arts.

What’s the right age?
Be sure to check the running time to determine if your child can stay seated for the length of a performance. The average time for a Broadway musical is 2.5 hours with one intermission, which is just about right for an 8-year-old.  However, something shorter like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular–a 90-minute review packed with zingy costume and set changes–could hold the attention of younger kids.

What’s a good intro?
The Broadway League hosts Kids’ Night on Broadway where kids age 6-18 get free admission to a show with an adult.  Broadway Playhouse at the Kaufman Center performs sing-alongs and games to introduce kids age 4-11 to classic musicals. Kids can learn about choreography, music and staging through interactive workshops from Broadway Classroom. A free, outdoor and totally relaxed way to get a taste of what’s playing is the Broadway in Bryant Park summer series. We also got some tips from New York mamas who said Elf the Musical is a great show for beginners, though a heads up that it’s only playing through January 6, 2013.

How to engage kids before the show?
Prep kids on the general storyline by reading a book or watching a movie based on the show. Download a few tracks (or the entire album) and kids will groove along to their favorite numbers when the curtains go up.

What to see?
Right now: seasonal shows like Elf, A Christmas Story and Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Longer running and all ages: The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Annie, Cinderella (coming in January 2013), Matilda (opens spring 2013).  Pre-teen and older: Newsies, Once, Wicked and Spiderman.

Share your Broadway 101 tips and tricks in the comments section below. 

Written by: Laura House

Photos courtesy of  2stanley via Flickr, yuankuei via Flickr, The Broadway Playhouse Facebook, and Loren Javier via Flickr!