Best Off-Broadway Shows Playing in NYC for Kids

Off-Broadway Theater for Kids: Stomp, Blue Man Group, Gazillion Bubble Show, Puffs, That Physics Show
The Gazillion Bubble Show will amaze the whole family. Photo courtesy of the show

Taking kids to a Broadway show is an exciting and memorable experience. It's also a pricey one. That's why it's worth looking beyond the Great White Way to Off-Broadway, where there are a handful of long-running, kid-friendly shows that are less expensive, more offbeat, but no less special.

From a surefire toddler hit to a Harry Potter parody for tweens to those world-famous blue dudes, there are options for all ages and interests, and we've even shared ways you can get deeply discounted tickets. All of these Off-Broadway productions make great birthday party activities, too.

Take note: There are two amazing Off-Broadway ticket deals coming up. From Tuesday, January 23 to Sunday, February 11, you can buy $20 tickets 20 minutes before curtain (subject to availability) to a bunch of Off-Broadway shows (including four of the ones highlighted below) as part of 20at20. Meanwhile, Off-Broadway Week takes place Monday, February 12 through Sunday, February 25 and offers two-for-one tickets to a host of productions.

The Gazillion Bubble Show is larger than life. Photo by Thien Nguyen August 

Best first show for toddlers: Gazillion Bubble Show! — Midtown West
New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues
Save on tickets: Check Goldstar, or try to snag $20 seats as part of 20at20 for performances taking place from Tuesday, January 23 to Sunday, February 11. Note that $20 cash-only lap seats are always available for children under age 3 at the box office.
So the title pretty much tells you everything you need to know: It's 60 minutes of bubble tricks. High art it's not. But this was the first Off-Broadway show my daughter saw at age 18 months and she was enthralled. Me? I was happy seeing the expression on her face. To be fair, some of the tricks are pretty neat, like when audience volunteers are engulfed in a giant bubble. And of course it ends with a big bubble finale that spills out into the seats. It's the perfect first show for super-young theatergoers, and gives them a chance to experience the wonder of live entertainment without your fellow patrons shushing your kid. After all, they're probably there with their toddlers, too. There's no minimum age and special birthday party packages are offered. Read our full Gazillion Bubble Show review.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Showtakes puppeteering to the next level. Photo courtesy of the show

Best for picture book-loving preschoolers: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show — East Village
DR2 Theatre, 103 East 15th Street between Union Square East and Irving Place
Closes Sunday, May 20
Save on tickets: BroadwayBox has a discount code, or try to snag $20 seats as part of 20at20.
In 2016 we raved about this interactive, hour-long show based on four of Eric Carle's popular picture books. Now it's back for an encore run with new adapted stories, so it's practically a brand-new show. This time around, Brown Bear, Brown Bear; The Very Lonely Firefly; 10 Little Rubber Ducks, and the title tale leap from the page to the stage courtesy of four performers and more than 75 larger-than-life puppets. While there have been other shows based on the legendary author-illustrator's tales, this version boasts high production values, including lively visuals that capture Carle's unique artistic style. Read our full The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show review.

Best for kids who love everything loud: Stomp — East Village
Orpheum, 126 Second Avenue between 7th Street and St. Marks Place
Save on tickets: BroadwayBox has a discount code, or try to snag $20 seats as part of 20at20.
You don't have to worry about your kids making a ruckus at this show. This 100-minute cacophonous celebration of percussive music and dance will drown out any noises they make! Plus there's lots of audience interaction so come prepared to clap and snap to the beat. Many of its famous routines—like performers jumping around with garbage can lids on their feet—have been seen on late-night TV talk shows, but the athletic feats are even more impressive in-person. Because the volume is turned up to 11 throughout, it's best for school-age children who aren't sensitive to noise. Even if you think your preschooler can handle it, children under age 4 aren't allowed in the theater. Read our full Stomp review.

RELATED: Best Broadway Shows for Kids and Families

Blue Man Group gets messy fast. Photo courtesy of Blue Man Group

Best for kids who embrace silliness: Blue Man Group — East Village
Astor Place Theatre, 434 Lafayette Street near Astor Place
Save on tickets: BroadwayBox has a discount code.
Three literal blue men engage in a series of wacky, laugh-out-loud antics without ever uttering a sound—although they do play some mean music on tubes that seem to be hanging everywhere. I saw this show three times solo, but only got around to taking my daughter this past summer. Although some bits have been updated to reflect 21st-century life (giant iPhones make an appearance), the show still feels like something that came out of the downtown '80s performance art scene (which it did), and I mean that as a compliment. Even if you've seen their gags before, your children probably haven't. Kids always crack up as the three guys make spin art by spitting paint, ooze Twinkie dough from their chests, cover the audience in toilet paper, and manipulate volunteers into doing whatever they want without saying a word. Note: Blue Man is definitely the messiest show on this list, which is why there's a "poncho section." If you don't want to get hit with various liquids, request tickets further back. Children under age 5 aren't allowed in the theater. Read our full Blue Man Group review, which we first caught in Boston!

RELATED: Best Puppet Shows and Theaters for NYC Toddlers and Kids

Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic goes deep into Harry Potter territory.

Best for kids who love Harry Potter: Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic — Midtown West
New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues
Save on tickets: BroadwayBox has a discount code, or try to snag $20 seats as part of 20at20.
Attention all muggles: You don't want to miss this long-running Harry Potter-inspired romp about the aspiring wizards who toil in the bigwig's shadow. Although it's an original story about the also-rans at the Hufflepuff House, it's filled with inside jokes for Potterheads that reference both the books and the movies. While the show is normally a bit risqué for the series' youngest fans, Puffs has instituted special kid-friendly matinees on weekends that are unofficially rated PG, with toned-down language and less sexual innuendo. Even so, this fast-paced, in-your-face comedy is still best enjoyed by tweens and up. Read our full Puffs review.

Best for STEM geeks: That Physics Show and That Chemistry Show — Midtown West
Playroom Theater, 151 West 46th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, 8th Floor
Save on tickets: BroadwayBox offers discounts for That Physics Show and That Chemistry Show.
Performed in rotating rep at the same theater, these shows demonstrate the "magic" of physics and chemistry live onstage. Each production is led by a charismatic educator who really knows how to get kids (and their parents) excited about science via cool "tricks," like a candle that moves water, a paper cup that won't burn, balloons bursting into flame, and lasers lighting up the room. Admittedly, these shows are higher on enthusiasm than production values, but the demos are pretty eye-popping. Sure, you can see these experiments on YouTube, but they're so much more impressive in the flesh—and a lot more fun than sitting through summer school. Read our full That Physics Show review.

There are, of course, many more great shows for families, both on Broadway and off. If you're looking for inexpensive seats, be sure to read our post about snagging discounted theater tickets and also check's comprehensive list of cheap rush and lottery tickets.

This article was first published in 2013, but was recently revised and updated.

Blue Man Group at the Astor Place Theatre
434 Lafayette Street
10003 New York , NY 40° 43' 45.9372" N, 73° 59' 32.6112" W
New York
Gazillion Bubble Show and Puffs at New World Stages
340 West 50th Street
10019 New York , NY 40° 45' 46.1772" N, 73° 59' 15.5256" W
New York
Stomp at the Orpheum Theater
126 Second Avenue
10003 New York , NY 40° 43' 41.5056" N, 73° 59' 15.09" W
New York
That Chemistry Show and That Physics Show at Playroom Theater
151 West 46th Street
New York , NY 40° 45' 30.3192" N, 73° 59' 2.796" W
New York