Best Broadway Shows for Kids and Families
Whether you're visiting NYC or live here year-round, taking in one of these Broadway shows is a special family experience. Kids are sure to remember it vividly, and chances are parents won't soon forget the credit card bill. That's why it's important to pick a production wisely, especially when bringing young children to their first Broadway performance.
While Disney juggernauts The Lion King and Aladdin are popular options, there are other kid-friendly choices that aren't as obvious. We've rounded up our top Broadway shows for families and organized them by age appropriateness. As a bonus, we've also got the scoop on how to save big bucks on tickets to some of our picks.
If you're looking for more performing arts options, peruse our Family Activity Calendar for additional family theater performances, and bookmark our Guide to Children's Theater for reviews and recommendations.
Subscribe to our newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox.
COVID Protocols for Broadway Shows
As of July 1, 2022, Broadway theaters have dropped their vaccination requirements and masks are optional, but encouraged. Of course, these rules are subject to change. Before purchasing tickets, please check the official site for the Broadway show you plan to see for up-to-date protocols.
Other rules to note: The official minimum age at most Broadway shows is 4, and every audience member needs a ticket. Although parents have certainly sneaked preschoolers into productions, you're better off waiting until your kids are old enough to sit silently for long periods. For young children new to live entertainment, start with more interactive offerings like off-Broadway's Gazillion Bubble Show or the lovely productions at The New Victory Theater, which begins its new season in mid-October. You'll save money and, perhaps, your sanity.
The Lion King is an excellent first Broadway show for elementary schoolers. Photo courtesy of the Disney Theatrical Group
Best Broadway Shows for Kindergarteners and Up
1. The Lion King – Minskoff Theatre
This long-running Tony-winning musical is based on Disney's animated blockbuster about the coming of age of a young cub. I saw it three times when it opened in 1997, long before I became a mom. I've since visited with my daughter in tow, and I'm happy to report that, despite a different cast and theater, it's as thrilling as ever. The Lion King is a low-tech wonder filled with eye-popping puppets, exuberant production numbers, and a gorgeous African-inspired aesthetic. The "Circle of Life" opening as the animals parade down the aisles toward the stage is exhilarating and an ideal way to introduce school-age kids to the magic of Broadway. The Lion King's official recommended minimum age is 6, but a well-behaved 4- or 5-year-old should be fine. Watch the movie in advance and book a matinee. Note: Children under 2 will not be admitted.
In Aladdin, one lamp and three wishes make infinite possibilities. Photo by Matthew Murphy
2. Aladdin – New Amsterdam Theatre
Much as my daughter and I enjoyed Aladdin, this Disney-based hit doesn't deliver the jaw-dropping wonder of The Lion King. The exposition-heavy first half of Act I is slow. However, once the title character uncorks the incredible Genie, the show takes flight on a magic carpet ride. His introductory number, "Friend Like Me," is hilarious and references other famous Broadway songs. And while the character is outrageously funny, he's nothing like Robin Williams in the film (a smart move since the movie role was so specific to the late comedian's talents). The show also boasts some thrilling special effects, including a flying carpet. Aladdin's official recommended minimum age is 6, and it's best to watch the movie in advance and book a matinee.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a hit with fans and Muggles alike. Photo by Matthew Murphy
Best Broadway Shows for Ages 8 and Up
3. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Lyric Theatre
Magical is the word that best describes this eye-popping sequel to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. In The Cursed Child, the boy who lived has become a middle-aged dad to a young wizard who's sick of being in his father's shadow. While the show is a must for fans of all ages, even those unfamiliar with the books fall under its spell. The play stands on its own as a self-contained tale (though there are plenty of references throughout that elicit gasps from those in the know), and with separate storylines for the kids and the parents, it's relatable to all ages. Plus, some of the illusions will have you rubbing your eyes and scratching your head, wondering, how did they do that?! Formerly a two-part play, it was transformed into one streamlined production post-shutdown. The official recommended minimum age is 8, which seems about right. However, if your younger kids are old enough to have read the books, they should be fine.
Wicked gives you a new perspective on the witches from The Wizard of Oz. Photo by Joan Marcus
4. Wicked – Gershwin Theatre
Wizard of Oz-loving kids get a whole new take on Glinda the Good and the so-called Wicked Witch of the West in this stunning musical that shares their backstories as BFFs turned romantic and political rivals. With two strong female protagonists, it features lots of girl power, not to mention powerhouse songs by Stephen Schwartz such as the Act I closer "Defying Gravity." The costumes and sets are amazing—especially the massive dragon hanging above the stage—and the moral that you should never judge a person by their skin color is poignant. Wicked's official recommended minimum age is 8, which makes sense because the show runs nearly three hours and has a few scary moments. Note: Children under 5 will not be admitted.
Best Broadway Shows for Tweens and Up
5. & Juliet – Stephen Sondheim Theatre
You may not recognize the name Max Martin but you certainly know his work: he's co-written hits for Britney Spears ("Oops I Did It Again," "Baby One More Time"), the Backstreet Boys ("Larger Than Life," "I Want it That Way," "Shape of My Heart"), Céline Dion ("That's The Way It Is"), NSYNC ("It's Gonna Be Me"), and Katy Perry ("Roar," "I Kissed a Girl," "Teenage Dream"). All those numbers and more are featured in & Juliet, a jukebox musical smash from London that changes the fate of Shakespeare's tragic heroine as she skips suicide and goes on an empowering journey of self-discovery. With the clever recontextualizing of familiar songs, a hilarious script by a Schitt's Creek writer, and a contemporary story centering women and LGBTQ characters, & Juliet is poised to be on the next big teen thing.
6. Funny Girl – August Wilson Theatre
Talk about life imitating art: Lea Michele returns to Broadway as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl... the same role her Glee character Rachel Berry portrayed on Broadway in the series. Admittedly, the casting comes with controversy, and this revival was panned when it opened earlier this year with Beanie Feldstein. But with Michele as Ziegfeld Follies star Fanny Brice, who was plucky on stage but unlucky in love, this bio-musical about "the greatest star" is sure to feel like a whole new production—they're even adding a song just for Michele. With classic numbers like "People" and "Don't Rain on My Parade," breathtaking tap-dancing, and its rags-to-riches-to-ill-fated-romance storyline, it's good old-fashioned escapism that should fill Glee fans with, appropriately enough, glee! Note: Michele does not perform on Thursday evenings, but word is alternate Julie Benko is fabulous.
RELATED: 50 Things to Do in Midtown with Kids
Hadestown brings a folk-rock reimagining to a Greek mythology storyline, but it's not for the faint of heart. Photo by Matthew Murphy
7. Hadestown – Walter Kerr Theatre
Anaïs Mitchell's evocative, folk-rock reimagining of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is short on plot but overflows with creativity. Seemingly set during the Great Depression, the musical chronicles the couple's ill-fated romance as she heads down to Hadestown to work in the mines with her crooning lover hot on her heels. Inventively staged with an on-stage band and a top-notch cast that slays the bluesy score, this unconventional tuner is utterly captivating, attracting crowds of angsty adolescents who love its inevitable unhappy ending. Although it's recommended for ages 8 and up, I think you've got to be past your first crush to really care. It's definitely the saddest love story on Broadway.
Our Founding Fathers rap for the revolution in the smash hit Hamilton. Photo by Joan Marcus
8. Hamilton – Richard Rodgers Theatre
Do I really need to tell you about Lin-Manuel Miranda's historical hip-hop blockbuster? Chances are if you have tweens, they already know all the lyrics by heart and have watched the stage capture of the original cast on Disney+ countless times. Yes, it's long (almost three hours), and yes, it deals with some pretty dense subject matter (the American Revolution and the birth of our nation), and yes, there is some profanity. But it's an exhilarating and educational experience for ages 10 and up. Even though Miranda and the rest of the original cast left years ago, this is still a tough (and expensive!) ticket. Lots of theater sites have published Hamilton ticket tips, but honestly, the best way to get them is to enter the $10 digital lottery (hey, you never know!) or sign up for the show's email list to find out when a new block of tickets goes on sale. Bonus: You can enhance your Hamilton experience by visiting these five NYC sites related to Alexander Hamilton's legacy.
Kimberly Akimbo won rave reviews and many awards during its off-Broadway run at the Atlantic Theater Company. Photos by Ahron R. Foster.
9. Kimberly Akimbo – Booth Theatre
My daughter and I adored this show off-Broadway last season and we weren't alone—this bittersweet tuner won practically every best musical award and now it's transferred to Broadway. Written by the team behind Shrek the Musical, Kimberly Akimbo is based on David Lindsay-Abaire's play of the same name about a teenager (Tony winner Victoria Clark) who's literally growing up too fast due to a rare genetic disorder. But she also has other things to worry about, including family secrets and seriously unhinged relatives, as she attempts to find happiness before it's too late. This show is truly one-of-a-kind, a dark musical comedy about mortality that will make grown-ups (especially us middle-aged ones) cry. But adolescents should relate to it, too. Kimberly may look 60, but she's truly 16 at heart.
RELATED: New York City Visitors Guide for Kids
MJ the Musical delivers Michael Jackson's signature moves. Photo courtesy of the production
10. MJ the Musical – Neil Simon Theatre
I admit I walked into this bio-musical about Michael Jackson a skeptic. As much as my family and I enjoy his songs, I worried I would think about the horrible accusations against him the entire time. But I was able to set those aside temporarily thanks to the show's incredible singing and dancing. Set during the creation of Jackson's 1992 Dangerous World Tour, the musical acknowledges that he was a deeply flawed man with many problems, some of which are acknowledged (his addiction to painkillers, his perfectionism at all costs, his inability to hear the word "no"), while others are glossed over (it's set before the abuse allegations but there are still a few lines obliquely alluding to it). But this isn't an intense examination of a troubled genius. It's a celebration of all he created and the boundaries he broke—his music transcended so many, including race, class, and genre. If your tween's face lights up at the first few notes of "Thriller," you will not be disappointed. And the three performers who portray Jackson at different ages are uncanny—it really feels as if he's been resurrected. Although the official recommended minimum age is 8, I suggest middle school and up since there are scenes of Jackson being physically abused by his father.
11. SIX – Brooks Atkinson Theatre
If you've got a musical-loving adolescent in your life, you've probably heard all about this international sensation, a history-inspired concert in which Henry VIII's bedazzled wives belt out catchy pop songs about their dramatic lives with the moody monarch as each vies to become to lead singer of the girl group. Written by newcomers Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, SIX boasted a viral studio cast recording and multiple global productions before it arrived on Broadway. Now it's got two Tony Awards and a rabid international fan base. The conceit may sound gimmicky, but its execution is impressively effective. It's smart, entertaining, and, in centering on the Queens instead of the absent King, unabashedly feminist. Plus the all-women on-stage band seriously rocks!
How to Save Money on Broadway Tickets
There are many sites that list discount codes for select Broadway shows year-round, which can be used to purchase seats online or over the phone. If possible, print out the offer and bring it to the box office to avoid service fees. Popular sites include BroadwayBox, TheaterMania, and Playbill. If you go to NYC theater regularly, it's worth finding out if you're eligible to join TDF (hint: all kids qualify!), which offers deeply discounted tickets to shows on Broadway and beyond.
For last-minute deals, wait at one of NYC's TKTS by TDF Discount Booths to buy same-day theater tickets up to 50 percent off. Or try the app TodayTix, which offers discounted and full-price seats, and handles the online lotteries for many Broadway shows. Playbill also has a comprehensive rush, lottery, standing-room-only (SRO), and student ticket list that's frequently updated. Most lotteries are done online, so you don't even have to leave the house to enter.
Broadway Week: You can snag two-for-one tickets to a host of Broadway shows thanks to this biannual deal, which (despite its name) typically takes place for three weeks in January/February and September. Many shows sell out within minutes, so you need to log on the first day right when tickets go on sale. Seating restrictions and blackout dates apply. To avoid additional fees, go directly to the box office if possible. To find out when Broadway Week tickets go on sale, sign up at the official website.
Kids' Night on Broadway: Another two-for-one Broadway ticket deal, this one is specifically for families. Buy one full-price adult ticket to a kid-friendly show and snag a FREE child's seat (ages 6-18). In 2023, Kids' Night on Broadway is taking place on Tuesday, March 21. Sign up for the Broadway Fan Club to get on the info list.
This article is updated regularly.