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Kids Night On Broadway

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Kids dancing to "Mamma Mia" at Fan Fest in 2013. (Photograph by Emile Wamsteker)

Having a birthday in late February has its advantages. If President’s Day falls late enough on the calendar, our kids’ winter recess from school just might overlap nicely with my “big day” — which means there’d be a chance I’d get the gift of travel as a present.

This year, however, there’d be no airline tickets wrapped in a bow owing to Superstorm Sandy.

Knowing that our first family vacation would have to wait until spring break, I reminded myself that you don’t have to board a plane or cross a state border to experience the joys that travel brings. That sense of exploration can be found right in your backyard, if you have the right attitude.

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“The Lion King” in Las Vegas. (Photograph by Joan Marcus)

So, when my family and I found out about Kids Night On Broadway (KNOB), we hatched a plan to play tourist in nearby New York City (we live 25 miles north of Manhattan) to mark my “forty-somethingth” birthday.

The Broadway League launched the program in 1996 to get kids excited about live theater and make Broadway accessible to the next generation. For this year’s KNOB, they were offering a free ticket for a child age 6-18 with every purchase of an adult ticket from February 25 to March 3.

Not every on- and off-Broadway show participated, but, as you might expect, all the more kid-friendly productions did, including Annie, Mary Poppins, Wicked, and Cinderella. Given that we are heading to Africa in the spring, we acted fast and secured four seats for The Lion King.

In addition to BOGO rates, each KNOB ticket included free admission to a pre-theater “Fan Fest” at the Discovery Museum in Times Square, parking discounts, and some educational materials for select performances.

Some theater district eateries even offered specials for KNOB ticket holders. Since we were celebrating my birthday, I picked one of my favorites, Casa Nonna. As expected, my boys loved their pizza (with truffles, no less) while my wife and I savored some delicious seafood with a bottle of wine. Better yet, as part of the promotion, the kids ate for free.

To make our night out even more special, we decided to treat ourselves to a stay in the city. The newly renovated Affinia Manhattan Hotel, conveniently located across the street from Madison Square Garden, seemed like a good bet. Ideal for families, the larger guestrooms include handy kitchenettes and a Wii game system that kept the kids up too late. When the boys were finally ready for bed, they got to have their pick from the “Dream Pillow Menu.”

But if you don’t live in the New York City area or missed out on this year’s event, have no fear!

Theaters in as many as 30 cities across the country participate annually, with different shows and venues putting their own spin on the event at various times throughout the year. Check for specific dates and locations.

Follow Rainer’s story on Twitter @JenssTravels.

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