We’ve been sharing a lot of secrets lately, like the Secrets of the Catskills. Here’s one more: you don’t have to go to Times Square and the Theater District in NYC to have an all-star Broadway experience that could still leave you singing your favorite tunes for months.
Theaters in many large cities in New York, including Buffalo, Syracuse, Binghamton, Rochester, and Elmira, have quality theater productions that you can tack on to your visits. If you don’t want to wait for (or pay for) tickets, below are some other “off-Broadway” ways to experience the joys of your favorite productions in New York State anytime you wish! BYO copy of the soundtrack for the ride.
"Carousel" - Binghamton
Photo Credit: Visit Binghamton
No one is more proud of an association with carousels than Binghamton, also called “the Carousel Capital of the World”, so it’s the right place to experience the musical Carousel (the latest revival receiving 11 Tony nominations in 2018). Six antique carousels on the National Register of Historic Places are within Greater Binghamton and each is free to ride. You’ll find them at Ross Park (where you’ll also find the Binghamton Zoo), Recreation Park (with 60 jumping horses and a Wurlitzer organ), C. Fred Johnson Park (the largest and fanciest), Highland Park (with a pig, dog, and two chariots to ride along with the traditional horses), George W. Johnson Park (a little speedier of a ride), and West Endicott Park (covered, perfect for rainy days). The city’s minor-league baseball team is even called “The Binghamton Rumble Ponies” in tribute to their collection.
"Hair" - Bethel Woods
Photo Credit: Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
While the musical Hair, nominated for two Tonys in 1969 and eight in 2009, takes place in New York City, there’s no better spot to honor the legacy of the 1960s than Bethel Woods, where the famous Woodstock Festival took place almost 50 years ago with performances by the Grateful Dead, Santana, Janis Joplin, the Who, and 28 other acts. The Museum at Bethel Woods hosts a number of engaging (and kid-friendly) exhibits that tell the story about the three-day cultural phenomenon of the festival and sixties' culture in general, including a psychedelically painted school bus and ‘60s-inspired merch in the gift shop. While you’re in the Catskills/Hudson Valley area, keep the good vibes going by visiting the hipster-heavy towns of Beacon, Phoenicia, and, of course, Woodstock itself.
"The Lion King" - Buffalo
Photo Credit: Nancy J. Parisi
There are several places to hang out with animals in New York State, and one of the best is the Buffalo Zoo, the third-oldest zoo in the country. The Buffalo Zoo is home to many animals that are featured in The Lion King, the winner of six Tonys in 1998. Six female and three male African lions, like Simba, Nala, Mufasa, and Scar, live there as well as six male meerkats like Timon, two hyenas like Ed, Shenzi, and Banzai, and even two hornbills (from whom kings don’t need advice) like Zazu.
Photo Credit: Jim Henderson
In “the greatest city in the world”, you can visit many sites associated with Alexander Hamilton, the star of the hit musical Hamilton, awarded with 11 Tonys in 2016. Start off at the Museum of American Finance in the Hamilton Room to learn about the impact the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury had on the country’s financial system. Pay tribute to Hamilton at his gravesite at Trinity Church, where he is buried alongside his wife Eliza, sister-in-law Angelica, and eldest son Philip, all featured in the musical. Afterward, toast to the Hamiltons’ greatness at Fraunces Tavern, objectively one of the oldest establishments in Manhattan, where Hamilton and his colleague/eventual dueler Aaron Burr were often found. If you’re more of a fan of the Schuyler sisters (also one of the musical’s catchiest tunes), you can visit Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, their childhood home in Albany, where Alexander and Eliza were married in 1780.
"Wicked" - Chittenango
Photo Credit: Genesee County Chamber of Commerce
Chittenango is proud to be the birthplace of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” author L. Frank Baum, which inspired Wicked, nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 2004. The first weekend in June is Oz-Stravaganza where the town goes all out with a parade (with Baum’s great-granddaughter as 2018’s Grand Marshal), a costume contest, an “Emerald City Idol” singing competition, live entertainment, a “Munchkin Mile” fun run, and “Toto’s Toddler Trot”. If you can’t make it to Oz-Stravaganza, the All Things Oz Museum is open year round, with memorabilia, props and costumes from “The Wiz” and other spin-offs, and stories galore. Just follow the yellow brick road...err...sidewalk.
"The Book of Mormon" - Palmyra
The Book of Mormon took home nine Tony Awards in 2011 including Best Musical and Best Original Score. Mormonism itself began right in the Finger Lakes in Palmyra and there are a few meaningful sites to members of the religion that are open to visitors. The Book of Mormon itself was first published at the Grandin Building, where you can take a free guided tour. Visit the farm of founder Joseph Smith, which takes guests back to the 1830s. The Hill Cumorah, where it is said the founder found the gold plates that began the religion, is open daily for hikes and panoramic views of Wayne and Ontario counties.
"Frozen" - Saranac Lake
The first ice palace at the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival was constructed in 1898, a full 120 years before Anna’s and Elsa’s home premiered on the Broadway stage in Frozen, nominated for three Tony Awards this year. In 2019, the famous carnival in the Adirondacks celebrating all things winter will be held from February 1 to 10. Events in previous years have included a chocolate festival, a curling exhibition, snowshoe races, ultimate frisbee games, face-painting, a pancake breakfast, and fireworks. We're sure if you asked, someone would build a snowman with you.