As its name would suggest, Broadway is a wide street in New York City that runs the full length of Manhattan, from its southern tip at Bowling Green to its northern tip at Inwood and even on into the Bronx.

It’s the oldest north-south street in New York City, existing as a Native American path since before the city was first settled and called New Amsterdam.

Even though there are many famous sites along the several miles of Broadway, one small stretch comes to mind when most people hear the word “Broadway.” It’s the part of Broadway between 42nd and 53rd streets — including Times Square — that is considered the home of the American theater industry.

This famous section of Broadway is known as the Theater District. You will also often hear it called “The Great White Way.”

This nickname came about because Broadway was one of the first streets in the United States to be lit with electric lights. The nickname remains popular today because millions of lights on theater marquees and billboard advertisements still light up the night sky along Broadway.

The Theater District is home to 40 large professional theaters. Each of these theaters seats 500 or more people. They host a constantly changing variety of productions, including plays and musicals.

Many people believe the theatrical productions on Broadway are the best in the world. Each year, the best Broadway shows are awarded Tony Awards.

Broadway shows are one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City. In 2010, Broadway shows sold more than $1 billion in tickets!

Because many of the shows are popular and quite profitable, they often run for years and years, only closing when they stop drawing new audiences and become unprofitable.

The longest-running musical in Broadway history is The Phantom of the Opera. It opened on Broadway in 1988 and is still going strong today, giving more than 9,500 performances to date.

The Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera has made more than $715 million dollars, making it the most financially successful Broadway show in history. It also won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical.


38 Join the Discussion

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    • That’s AWESOME, Gracie! We agree with you…Broadway is AMAZING! There are so many talented people who all work together to make the productions great! :-)

  1. The music preview of the Lion King was so AMAZING! The music was spectacular! I still have the lyrics stuck in my head. Now that I think of it, the first song was weird. Can you email me back, wonderopolis?

    • Thanks for leaving this AMAZING comment to let us know you liked the video for this Wonder of the Day® about Broadway, Jamie! That song really IS catchy! :-)

  2. Hey! It’s Gracie again, I left the first comment a while ago. Well anyways, I think Broadway is very ordinary because it’s not just all lights and hot dogs, it brings memories to people that have seen movies that have been made into Broadway shows. For example, the Lion King was a spectacular movie, and then they made it into a spectacular show. I think that is why Broadway is so much different from any other place, because of the great shows, and of all the talent it has found during the past years. I think that people really want to go see shows there, not just because of where it’s at, because of all of the talented people in the show. I think that some people really don’t think about how lucky they are just to go see one show. I also want to thank you for reading this all. It really shows that you people here care about us commenters. Have a good day! :)

    • Thank you for your kind words, Gracie! We really DO care about every Wonder Friend who visits Wonderopolis and we appreciate every comment!

      Speaking of comments…yours was AWESOME! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Broadway. We like that you think people should appreciate how lucky they are if they get to see just one show. That part of your comment shows that you are an “appreciate life’s opportunities” kind of person. We’re proud of you for that! :-)

  3. I have always wanted to be on Broadway! I think it would be really fun! This wonder was very interesting though because I always hear people talking about Broadway but was never 100% sure of what, exactly, it was… now I know!! I also love watching movies like The Wizard of Oz or Mary Poppins with music that makes you want to sing along or get up and dance. A newer movie musical is High School Musical which isn’t a Broadway show but is still super fun to watch with your family if you’re in the mood for a funny musical! That movie night idea sure does sound like lots of fun!

    • We can picture your name in lights, Gracie! We love the magic of theater and the great tunes that accompany musicals! We hope you have a song-filled day and are planning a musical movie night with your family, too! Be on the lookout for more Wonders about that magical street… 42nd and Broadway! :)

    • Hey Josh, we’re glad you commented today! We are sorry to hear you didn’t love WONDERing about Broadway, but we hope you have a super day! We’d love for you to come back and visit us soon! :)

  4. I’m doing a report about the Lion King on Broadway, are there any cool facts and please tell me what makes Broadway so special it will help with my report. Thanks in advance!

    • WOW, that sure sounds like a SUPER assignment, Percite! We LOVE the music from the Lion King, and the costumes are very cool, too! We Wonder if you have checked out the “Did You Know” section of this Wonder? We have lots of cool information about Broadway, but it’s important to remember that you must put what you’ve learned in your own words. You teacher will want to hear what you’ve learned from all your researching and WONDERing! :)

  5. Wow broadway, well if I keep practicing dancing and singing then I guarantee I’ll make it to the top!
    Sincerely Danielle :)

    • Broadway performers are very hard workers– there is a lot of practice when it comes to singing, dancing and acting! We think it’s SUPER cool that you are excited about working hard and going after your Broadway dream, Danielle! :-)

  6. My grandmother used to dance, she was acually a Rockette so from that you can infer that she danced on Broadway. Cool, right. Can you believe that my grandmother was on Broadway. I guess dancing is in my blood.

    • WOW, what a COOL story, Kiley! We think it’s pretty awesome that your grandmother has performed in front of thousands of people on Broadway! We bet you’re right– dancing and rhythm is in your blood! Thanks for sharing your very cool story with us! :)

  7. I think you guys have done an amazing job describing what Broadway is. Ever since I was a little girl I have wanted to be on Broadway.

    • Well thanks so much, Wonder Friend Julie! We are thrilled that you’ve been WONDERing about Broadway with us today! We hope you’ll keep dreaming big… perhaps your name will be in lights someday! :)

  8. I have never been to Broadway but would love to go someday, it sounds really cool! I’m also really into acting so it would be a dream come true if I got to go! When I grow up I am definitly going to see a play there! You wouldn’t believe how many of my friends have been! One of my friends just moved from New York and said the shows they did there were AMAZING! I can’t wait to go one day!

    • We hope you get there in the future, CoolCarole2001! The Big Apple has a lot to offer, especially when it comes to theatre of all kinds! :)

    • WOW, you are one talented Wonder Friend, Chlo Chlo! We Wonder if you tapped while you were at Broadway Camp, or if it was more singing and dancing? :)

  9. What we did was we got split 7 years and younger and 9 years and older I was 7 and under. We danced to four songs for each age group. Then after every 30 minutes we drank sweet tea and ate chex mix, teddy grams, and maybe goldfish. We only had 3 days to learn the dances then we on Friday we did a show for our parents with all 8 dances! It was very exciting we sang and danced.

    • WOW, that sounds like one cool camp, Chlo Chlo! We bet it was a fun experience, full of new dance steps, choreographers and new friends! Keep up the great work! :)

    • Neither do we, Chlo Chlo! We know that term “break a leg” is used in theater often– it means “good luck”! :)

    • HOORAY, we are so glad you enjoy dancing and acting so much, Nia! We love the music of Phantom of the Opera, we hope you can see it in the theater sometime soon, or perhaps you can watch the movie! :)

    • Thanks for WONDERing with us, Smriti! We love Mary Poppins, too! There are so many great musicals on Broadway! Maybe one day you could get a chance to sing there? Wouldn’t that be WONDERful! :-)

    • Absolutely, Madeline! Staring on Broadway is a WONDERful goal to have, Wonder Friend! Good Luck, and “Break a Leg”! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What’s so special about Broadway?
  • Why is Broadway called “The Great White Way”?
  • What is the longest-running Broadway show of all time?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

If you’ve never seen a musical, you don’t need to travel to New York City to see one. Many musicals have been turned into movies over the years. Why not make tonight a family movie musical night?

Rent a movie musical from your local video store or kiosk, or head to your local library to borrow one for the evening. There are many to choose from. Some favorites sure to interest kids of all ages include: The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast and Grease!

No family movie night is complete without snacks. Do you prefer salty, buttery popcorn or smooth, rich chocolate? Maybe you have a special movie snack that’s unique to your family.

Whatever snack you choose, make sure there’s enough to share. Grab the remote, pop in the movie and enjoy a little bit of old Broadway right in your own living room!

If the mood strikes you, feel free to act out — or sing out — your favorite song or scene from the movie. Can you mimic the moves of the actors?

You never know when YOU might be called to the bright lights of the big city. Family movie night could be your first step toward Broadway!


Still Wondering

With ArtsEdge’s Disney Musicals lesson, you can learn about musical theater in America. Using examples from Broadway, explore the history, structure and elements of musical theater, as well as its role in making social commentary.


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Tomorrow’s crafty Wonder of the Day will teach you about the beauty that can flow from imagination, glue and “chewed paper.”

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