Over the last few years, we have made it a family tradition to see a show on Broadway with kids. It partially started because we used to live in New York so we like to return for an annual visit. As soon as Hannah was old enough, we introduced her to the joys of live theater by seeing a Broadway show. We have seen Mary Poppins, The Lion King, Annie, Aladdin, Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, and even Hamilton.
Even though it is fun to see Broadway shows locally, there is something extra special about seeing them in New York City. (See other suggestions for things to do in NYC with kids.) Since we weren’t able to get tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London (despite all our other Harry Potter adventures in London), I made sure to score tickets for when the show opened in New York.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in New York City
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As you may know, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is one of the hottest new shows on Broadway. After a few years in London, the show opened on Broadway in April 2018. The show is based on a new original story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. It picks up the story of our favorite Harry Potter characters about 18 years later, when Harry is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, about to send his second son Albus Severus Potter off to Hogwarts.
If you have read the play, you know that things didn’t go so well for Albus and his new friend Scorpius Malfoy. What follows is a wonderful adventure that revisits almost all of our favorite characters. Whether you like how the characters have evolved or not, it is impossible not to get sucked into their magical world.
Even though all theatergoers are asked to #KeeptheSecrets, there are a few things I can share. First, if you are a huge Harry Potter fan, this is probably something that you want to put on your bucket list. Second, while I thought some of the acting could be better, the special effects are amazing. And when it comes to the actors, Scorpius really steals the show.
After posting about our trip, I got a lot of questions about the show so I wanted to answer a few of them here.
How long is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is actually made up of two performances. They can be viewed back to back, or on consecutive days. It is recommended to get tickets for the back to back performances, which is what we did.
The afternoon performance starts at 2:00 pm and ends at approximately 4:45pm (with intermission.) The evening performance then starts at 7:30 pm and gets out around 10:00 pm (also with an intermission.) You need to arrive early to check in and find your seats so this really makes for a full day.
What is a good age to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?
I know Harry Potter appeals to all ages and it really depends on your child and your family when you first introduce the book series and movies to your children. For us, they started reading the first Harry Potter book when Hannah was in Kindergarten and, as a sensitive child, it scared her to the point that it took a while before we could try again. After revisiting Harry Potter a few years later, Hannah fell in love with the books just as deeply as we had.
However, I know that many children are comfortable with Harry Potter at a younger age. So you really need to use your own judgment. What I would suggest is that you have already either read all the books or watched all the movies (or both.) You really need to have a good understanding of the characters and background as many events in previous books form the basis of the plot for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
There is one scene with the dementors that is pretty intense and can definitely be overwhelming for sensitive kids. There are also some dark overtones (it is Harry Potter after all.) I asked Hannah what age she would recommend to see the play and she suggested eight to ten plus.
How do you get tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in NYC?
Since we couldn’t get tickets for the show when we went to London, I signed up to get alerts on the release of tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in New York City. Through Ticketmaster, I was able to register for a pre-release access code. Your access code is then randomly drawn to provide you with a purchase window.
I got lucky and received a morning purchase window. I made sure I was at my computer and ready to log in as soon as my ticket purchase window opened. If you quickly jump on and purchase tickets (have your preferred dates and budget range ready!), you can still get seats at decent prices. Unfortunately for friends who tried later in the day, they were left with only the most expensive ticket price options for their preferred dates.
New ticket blocks are released regularly so I would recommend the following tips for getting tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in New York City:
- Create an account with Ticketmaster and search for tickets through May 2019, or register to receive an alert for when new ticket blocks are released.
- Register for access codes for new ticket block releases and get online immediately as soon as your purchase window opens.
- If you are visiting NYC soon, you can always try to get tickets via the “Friday Forty” lottery. Every Friday at 1:00 pm ET, 40 tickets for every performance the following week are released for $20 per part. These are only available through TodayTix.com or the TodayTix app. You can enter each Friday from 12:01 am ET until 1:00 pm ET and you will be notified between 1:00pm and 5:00pm ET.
- As a last resort, you can line up in the cancellation queue before the performance to see if there are any cancellations.
Tips for Attending a Play on Broadway with Kids
Since we have attended quite a few plays, we have learned some tips for attending a play on Broadway with kids.
- If you are driving in, research parking options in advance and make a parking reservation as many of the nearby parking lots will fill up. I use a few different apps including Best Parking, ICON, and SP+ Parking.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get through traffic and park. Because so many people drive in for shows, there can be long lines to check in at the parking lots, even if you have a reservation. Plus, you always need to give yourself plenty of extra time when driving through Manhattan, even on the weekends when street festivals and parades can shut down streets.
- Arrive early at the theater. You will find people lining up starting about an hour before the performance. In fact, it is recommended to arrive one hour early Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
- Don’t bring bags. If you are just having a day trip in the city, you may want to go shopping. If you can, try to do your shopping after the show as you may be limited in bringing bags into the theater.
- Don’t bring outside food and beverages. Most theaters will not allow you to bring in your own snacks and drinks. Note that all bags/purses will likely be searched upon entry for security purposes. Instead, use your break to seek out these popular foods to eat in New York!)
- Be prepared to spend $$$$ on snacks and beverages, as well as swag. (Show sweatshirts are usually around $60+).
- As soon as you arrive, use the restrooms, even if you think you don’t need to. Keep in mind that if you leave the theater during the performance, you may not be allowed back in until intermission. Also, it is really important to learn exactly where the restrooms are located as the lines are incredibly long and you don’t want to waste time finding the restroom. For example, when we went to see Hamilton, there was only one set of restrooms on the lower level so we had to make our way all the way down, through the line and back up during the short intermission. In shows like Harry Potter, they won’t let you in once the performance has started. If you need to go at intermission, leave as soon as the lights come up.
- Dress nicely and wear layers. Gone are the days when people really dressed for the theater, but the people in jeans and shorts are the minority. You don’t need gowns and heels but a nice pair of pants or a skirt/dress are appropriate. After all, it is a special occasion. Just remember to bring a jacket or sweater. Some theaters get very cold and some are warm.
- If you have small children, request a booster cushion.
- Educate your kids before you go. You will want to tell them what to expect, as well as let them know that moving around and talking during the performance is quite frowned upon.
- Turn off your phone! And pay attention to rules about flash, video and still photography as some theaters do not even allow non-flash photos before the performance begins (and none will allow pictures during the performance.)
Where to Stay in the Theater District: The Knickerbocker Hotel
We received a media package from the Knickerbocker Hotel for purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.
With all the neon lights, Times Square is the epitome of sensory overload. Therefore it is no surprise that I’ve walked right past The Knickerbocker Hotel without it ever registering on my radar, despite its prime location at 42ndStreet and Broadway.
This old-New York landmark was renovated and reopened just a few years ago to offer an understated, luxury option in Times Square. The hotel purposefully doesn’t compete with the world of flash and glitz. The quiet calm that you find in the lobby extends upstairs to the guest rooms, making it easy to forget the craziness that is right outside the door.
We typically don’t love staying in the Times Square area, but when visiting with the primary purpose of seeing a Broadway show, The Knickerbocker is truly a perfect option.
This is especially true when visiting to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. As you know, this show is actually two performances, which can either be viewed on two consecutive days, or back-to-back matinee and evening performances. This means you will be spending a lot of time in the Theater District so you might as well have a convenient home base.
Since we were visiting on Memorial Day weekend, all of the hotel’s 88 double-queen rooms were fully booked, so we were upgraded to a Signature Junior Suite on the 16thfloor. The room was very large, although not with the most efficient use of space. It has a long hallway, a huge bathroom with a separate WC and walk-in shower, as well as a king bedroom with a small sofa. The sofa can be made up as a daybed, but it isn’t ideal for older children. The other downside of this room for families is that the bathroom wall facing the sofa is opaque glass. Therefore, if someone goes into the bathroom in the night and turns on the light, the light will flood the room and wake light sleepers.
Families will want to request either a double-queen room or one of the nine corner junior suites with sofa beds. For a splurge, you can also try the one-bedroom Caruso suite with a connecting room to make it a two-bedroom suite.
Despite those couple of drawbacks, we loved our stay at The Knickerbocker better than any other hotel we have stayed at in the Times Square/ Theater District. The room was surprisingly quiet and blackout shades easily shut out the bright lights of the big city. The service was excellent and, for a chic luxury hotel, it was surprisingly family-friendly.
In addition to the rooms that accommodate families, the hotel also offers check-in gifts for young children. When we were there, I saw clear backpacks with a little umbrella (it was raining that day) and a coloring book inside. Children staying at The Knickerbocker are also supplied with toys, coloring books, milk-and-cookies, and pint-sized robes. An Xbox is even available upon request.
Kids were also allowed at the St. Cloud rooftop bar (even at night), as long as they weren’t seated at the bar. The Knickerbocker also left us a nice welcome amenity, including a bowl of gummy bears for Hannah!
Where to Eat Before a Broadway Show: Charlie Palmer’s at The Knick
Since we had tickets for two back-to-back performances of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two, we only had two hours or less for dinner between performances in order to get back to the theater in time. The pre-theater, three-course price fixe dinner at Charlie Palmer’s at The Knickwas a perfect option (and not a bad deal either!)
We quickly went up to our room to relax for a few minutes and then headed down to the fourth floor to the restaurant. As soon as we were seated, our server asked if we were seeing a show and what time it started so that they could pace our meal accordingly.
We started with the Caesar salad and crab and tomato bisque, both of which were delicious. For entrees, we tried the pork schnitzel and tagliatelle pasta. After two courses we realized we could have easily ordered a la carte and still been full, but somehow we managed a few bites of the kumquat and chocolate tart. Even if you aren’t staying at The Knick, take a look at having an elegant but comfortable pre-theater dinner at Charlie Palmer’s.
A few of my other favorite restaurants in this area for a pre- or post-theater dinner include:
- DB Bistro (French bistro – try the DB Bistro burger!)
- La Masseria (Italian)
- Ortzi by Jose Garces (Spanish Tapas)
- Virgil’s Real Barbecue (Casual BBQ)
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