Cheap Tickets: How to Catch the Area's Best Opera, Theater, Classical Music, and More Without Breaking the Bank

There’s no shortage of arts and entertainment in Washington—but tickets don’t always come cheap. Here are deals at area venues.

By: Chelsea Lo

Catch a dance performance at a discounted rate by ushering at Dance Place.

THE KENNEDY CENTER

Young people ages 17 to 25 can register online for the Kennedy Center’s Attend program—monthly e-mails offering discounted tickets, some as low as $10. To get “rush” ticket offers and more via text message, include a cell-phone number when registering.

For classical-music fans, the Washington National Opera’s Generation O program, also at the Kennedy Center, offers 18-to-35-year-olds discounts via e-mail for individual operas as well as lectures and other events. Subscribers can create their own package of at least three operas or concerts—the National Symphony Orchestra is also part of the program—for savings of up to 50 percent on orchestra seats. Another GenO option is Series O, a Friday-night full-season subscription for half the regular price. Go to KenCen’s Web site for details.

Don’t qualify for either of those programs? Try balcony seats, which can start as low as $20. No tickets are required for the free performances on the Millennium Stage, which take place daily at 6 PM. Sign up for a free online account in addition to a regular e-newsletter and the Kennedy Center will e-mail you when special offers are available in your areas of interest.

STRATHMORE

For budding classical-music fans, Strathmore has a lot to offer. Children ages 7 to 17 can attend National Philharmonic performances free, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra offers students $10 rush tickets for selected concerts. Buy them at the ticket office starting at noon on concert day; call 301-581-5100 for availability. For concert listings, go to Strathmore’s Web site.

WOLF TRAP

At Wolf Trap, students can get a 50-percent discount on rear orchestra seats for summer National Symphony Orchestra and dance performances. Call 703-938-2404 for ticket information from fall to spring, 703-255-1868 in summer, or visit Wolf Trap’s site.

CLASSICAL MUSIC

The Phillips Collection concerts are affordable ($20), and the concerts at the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, and the Freer are all free. Check venue Web sites for concert schedules and details.

BALLET & DANCE

Volunteer as an usher before and after shows at DC’s Dance Place and you get to see the performance free; call 202-269-1600 to sign up or visit Dance Place’s Web site for a performance calendar.

In the Washington Ballet’s “beerandballet” program, patrons get to watch a studio rehearsal and mingle with dancers afterward over beer. Each preview is $25 for non–Jeté Society members and usually runs before a major performance; call 202-362-3606 or visit washingtonballet.org for details.

THEATER

Theatergoers have plenty to choose from. At Arena Stage, half-price HotTix tickets go on sale at the box office 30 minutes before curtain. Students get 35 percent off, and patrons under 30 can take part in the pay-your-age program, with tickets on sale three months before the performance date; purchase by phone (202-488-3300) or in person. Arena Stage also hosts a number of specials, including Entourage Nights, one-night events for which groups of ten or more can get 30-percent discounts (some tickets are as low as $25) and network with other theatergoers. Call 202-488-3300. Treat kids to a night at Arena Stage with the Family Fun Pack, which offers four seats for $125; at least two patrons must be between ages 5 and 17. Southwest Nights offer discounted tickets on selected shows to Southwest DC residents. Go to Arena’s Stage’s Web site for show dates or call the sales office at 202-488-3300 for more information.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company offers pay-what-you-can for the first two performances of all shows, usually Monday and Tuesday. Buy tickets (cash or check only) two hours before curtain at the box office. Woolly also reserves ten or more side-balcony seats for most performances at $15 each; they also go on sale two hours before showtime. Twenty-dollar tickets are available to patrons age 30 or under and can be bought a week in advance. Call 202-393-3939 for availability or visit Woolly Mammoth’s Web site.

At the National Theatre, “rush” tickets are available for selected shows two hours before curtain for certain shows at up to 75 percent off. Students can get half-price tickets to selected performances, usually on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings or Sunday matinees. Visit National Theatre’s Web site or call 202-628-6161.

Studio Theatre sells $30 “rush” tickets 30 minutes before curtain; students can get a $15 rush ticket the day of the show. Deals are available at the box office only; visit Studio Theatre’s site for show listings.

At Shakespeare Theatre Company, patrons between ages 21 and 35 can subscribe to the Young Prose program, which includes a full-season subscription for as little as $20 a show as well as perks such as e-mail offers, free ticket exchanges, and priority access to special events. A limited number of $15 Young Prose single tickets are sold every Tuesday at 10 am by phone or at the box office, usually for performances through the following Sunday. Young Prose Nights, typically $30 or less, include the show and mingling time. Older patrons can try to get one of the discounted preview tickets, though numbers are very limited. Certain seats in Sidney Harman Hall are always $20; “C” or “D” seats, which usually have an obstructed view of the stage, are cheaper. The company also holds occasional open rehearsals for free. Call the box office at 202-547-1122 for availability or visit STC’s Web site for more information.

Ticketplace offers half-price tickets to performing-arts events, bought in advance or on the day of performance. They’re available at 407 Seventh Street, Northwest, or at Ticketplace’s Web site. The booth is open Wednesday through Friday 11 to 6, Saturday 10 to 5. Sales are by American Express, MasterCard, or Visa only; the service fee ranges from $3 to $8.50, depending on ticket price.

Another online source of discounted tickets is Goldstar, a nationwide half-price ticket service that works with local venues such as Arena Stage and the Verizon Center. Go to Goldstar’s Web site to sign up for a free membership and to browse shows.