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Beyond Broadway: 7 cultural experiences in New York City

Broadway is part of the soul of New York City  – there’s no way to deny this fact. It’s that kind of experience that makes your trip more magical. I’m super in favor of trips being built primarily around experiences – whether in restaurants, free or paid attractions, or performances – and less around shopping. Because that’s what we will remember in the future. And that’s what Broadway is about. It is unique and part of the city’s cultural identity.

But when we talk about New York City, there are many cultural experiences and performances beyond Broadway. If you’ve already crossed off a musical from your bucket list – or want to add other experiences, you’re well served! In today’s post, I suggest 7 cultural experiences in the city beyond Broadway.

Off-Broadway

The term “Off-Broadway” emerged in the late 40s to refer to shows produced on the streets near Broadway. By 1956, the scene was so well established that The Village Voice created the Obie Awards to recognize pioneering work. Today, the term Off-Broadway primarily refers to the size of the theater where production takes place – with space for between 100 and 499 people – and the use of a specific syndicate. Even some Off-Broadway theaters are, geographically speaking, on Broadway.

Some of the city’s most famous shows started (and continue) as Off-Broadway productions. Many of them broke new ground, proving that hip-hop, rock, puppet, and taboo themes could pave their way to box office gold. Avenue Q, Sleep no More, Blue Man Group, and Jersey Boys are just a few examples of Off-Broadway productions – that is, those that take place in smaller theaters. The Off-Broadway offer is vast and even more intense than Broadway: there are dozens of plays and musicals in theaters, of the most varied genres.

Comedy shows

Such a New Yorker thing!  It’s a super classic thing to do among locals – plus, many celebrities started their careers in the city’s comedy clubs, such as Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Jon Stewart, Dave Attell, and Jim Norton. There are several places that promote comedy shows in the city but certainly one of the most famous is the Comedy Cellar – which has three clubs in the West Village, a super trendy and cool neighborhood. I strongly suggest making a reservation in advance online – admission starts at $14 (depending on the day and time of the show). The shows last about two hours and there are 4-5 comedians per show.

PS: good to remember that a comedy show will only be interesting if you have an advanced level of English!

Other comedy clubs I recommend checking out:

Jazz

Jazz is a tradition not only in New York City but in the United States and I think it’s the kind of experience that ends up to your trip – especially if you like music! There are several places to listen to jazz in the city. For a complete experience, I highly recommend Jazz at Lincoln, on Columbus Circle, which has several rooms and many jazz performances, on several days of the week. The tip? Choose a show in the Appel Room. The reason? The incredible view of Central Park. Prices vary – from $35 and worth every penny. See the calendar on the website.

For another super cool experience, I recommend Red Rooster – a restaurant specializing in southern US cuisine – or Soul Food – which usually has live jazz. You can book here and check for jazz performances.

In addition, it is also worth checking out the Cellar Dog – former Fat cat – a bar that has several game tables, such as billiards and ping pong, and also live jazz performances. It is an amazing spot to go with friends! Check the calendar here!

Ballet

Do you like dancing? How about a ballet performance? The New York City Ballet is probably the most famous ballet company in the city, with performances at Lincoln Center. One of their most classic and sought-after shows is George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, during the Christmas season. The New York City Ballet calendar has four seasons: winter (late January to early March), spring (late April to early June), autumn (mid-September to mid-October), and George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (from late November to late December).

In addition to the New York City Ballet, you can also check out the performances of the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

NY Philharmonic

Classical music lovers should check out a NY Philharmonic performance. It is one of the leading American orchestras popularly known as the “Big Five”. The concerts are diverse including classics like Mozart and Beethoven and even some others based on movies! You can check the schedule by clicking here.

Immersive Theater

Why settle for audience seats when you can get into the “stage”? This is the idea of immersive theaters. Certainly the most famous of them in New York City is Sleep no More. Don’t expect a stage with an audience. You are free to walk around and follow cast members as you wish. Each actor tells their own story, with other actors telling interconnected stories simultaneously in other rooms and other floors. You will not see everything, meaning each person’s experience will be unique. The plot is inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth and everything takes place at The McKittrick Hotel.

Magic shows

Yep, you didn’t read that wrong. There are quite a few magic shows in New York City and I’ve had the opportunity to check out two of them. One is The Magician at Nomad, which is simply amazing! I wrote a blog post about it and you can check it out here. I know that at the moment the performances are on pause, but I hope he returns soon! Also, I highly recommend the magic show at the McKittrick Hotel, the same place that Sleep no More takes place – this show is very intimate and has several magicians presenting different performances. Learn more here.

Last but not least I also highly recommend checking out Fever page! In addition to original experiences and exhibitions, there are shows and other performances available. It is worth browsing and checking the events calendar.

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