Theater District in New York is the center of the city’s entertainment. The Theater District extends from West 40th Street to West 54th Street and from the west of 6th Avenue to the east of 8th Avenue. It is crossed by Broadway and even runs through the iconic Times Square. The liveliness of New York undoubtedly finds its origin in this area. There are around 36 theaters in this small part of the city.
The heart of Manhattan is formed by the Theater District for a reason. The area owes its name not only to the large number of Broadway theaters housed there, but also to the many other entertainment companies such as recording studios, record companies, theater agencies and ABC Television Studios. However, this was not always the case. From the 60s to the 90s of the last century, Times Square was considered a dangerous neighborhood, thanks to go-go bars, sex shops and 18+ theaters. In the mid-90s, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani started cleaning up the area, closing these dark places and opening more tourism-oriented attractions. Walt Disney Co. played a major role in the new improved image of Times Square. They bought the outdated New Amsterdam Theater to renovate it and they improved the entire area from 42nd Street to 53rd Street and from 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue.
Broadway traverses the Theater District and is the oldest street running from north to south Manhattan, no less than 29 kilometers! The piece that runs through the Theater District is known as The Great White Way, known for its bright lights and billboards. There are a lot of Broadway shows to choose from, so there is something for everyone.
The difference between Broadway and Off-Broadway
The theaters within this area can be divided into two categories: Broadway and Off-Broadway. This is not literally about the location, but about the type of theater and the size of the show. Off-Broadway shows can accommodate one hundred to five hundred people and are therefore small-scale, often somewhat experimental, daring productions. Opposite are the Broadway shows; blockbusters that usually run for years and where more people can go. Think of famous musicals such as The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera and Chicago. Almost all of the 40 official Broadway theaters are located around the Broadway Street in Manhattan. Fun fact: if the Broadway show is not being performed in one of those theaters, the piece also has no chance of a Tony Award!
Obviously seeing the show is the best, but another reason to visit a show is the theaters themselves. The Winter Garden Theater, where some of the biggest shows ever made were staged, was originally intended as a horse market, but converted to theater in 1911. The two oldest still operating theaters in New York are the Lyceum and the New Amsterdam Theater, both opened in 1903. Lyceum is also one of the smallest theaters, despite having three floors. The New Amsterdam Theater is the most important theater for all Disney Theatrical Productions on Broadway. Aladdin is currently playing there. Rumor has it that it is haunting, at night a ghost would wander across the stage of a woman in a green dress, according to the stories a former showgirl. If you would like to find out more about the ghosts in the most famous New York theaters, I advise you to take the Haunted Broadway Tour. The New Amsterdam Theater is one of the most beautiful theaters in New York.
Broadway tours are the perfect way to find out more about the area. You can of course see a lot by walking around Broadway yourself. But if you also want to hear everything about the backgrounds, actors, buildings and secret spots, I advise you to book a guided walking tour on Broadway.
Want to know more about the ins and outs of Broadway? Then do this Broadway Theater Walking Tour. In two hours the guide takes you into the history of Broadway. You visit all important places, from statues to souvenir shops, and you hear all background stories. The guide has a tablet full of photos and videos to make the stories speak even more. A must for true Broadway fans!
For true Disney fans there is the Disney on Broadway tour. Hereby you will find out everything about the various Disney musicals on Broadway. A guide takes you on a one and a half hour walking tour on Broadway before you enter the New Amsterdam Theater, where you get a look behind the scenes and hear background information about Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. As icing on the cake you also get the chance to try different costumes yourself!
In the middle of the Theater District is Times Square. The tourist attraction of New York with its red staircase, yellow cabs and bright lights. Times Square is one of the most photographed places in Manhattan. It is often very busy, not everyone immediately feels at ease and many New Yorkers avoid this area altogether. But it is also the place where famous stores have their flagship stores and where you will find the large restaurant and hotel chains. There are hidden gems in Times Square that you only discover with a guide. If you want to know the inside information, do this three-hour tour on Times Square.