One of our Favorite Low-Cost Things to do in Philadelphia: Philadelphia Orchestra Community Rush Tickets!

Maybe we’re biased, but there are so many great things about our home city of Philadelphia. Besides its super passionate professional sports fan base, its mind-boggling array of amazing food, and its history that tells the story of the United States’ birth, it is seriously a world-class city when it comes to its arts. The Ben Franklin Parkway alone is said to be the most arts-dense stretch of road in the world! (And you can punctuate it with a run up the Rocky steps – where we got engaged, I might add – double win!)

One of our favorite ways to soak up some of this culture while we were living in Philadelphia was to see the Philadelphia Orchestra perform every few weeks at the relatively new and amazingly gorgeous Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. I know what you’re thinking, that was probably some financial investment to go every few weeks! Most people think of the orchestra as something you have to get dressed up fancy to go to, and pay premium ticket prices. While you probably don’t want to wear your gym clothes to the orchestra, and some of the tickets can get a bit pricey, these preconceptions aren’t necessarily the case, especially when you go for community rush tickets like us.

The Philadelphia Orchestra community rush program allots tickets to the majority of performances for only $10 a piece. Many times we would find that the seats next to us were valued at over $100, but we were getting them for a steal. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very important that they receive regular revenue to fund the orchestra, too, but we always felt pretty lucky to be seeing one of the world’s best orchestras for such an affordable price.

You’re probably thinking though, what’s the catch, right? Well, it does involve a little leg work to get community rush tickets. First, we would always check the community rush section of philorch.org for the month’s schedule of participating shows, which is usually determined in the first week of each month. Most performances, however, are included, excepting any special performances. They are typically also for Thursday evening (8pm), Friday afternoon (2pm), or Saturday evening (8pm) performances, which are usually the primary shows on the schedule. Those wishing to go for these tickets must purchase them in person at the box office (one per person) two and a half hours before the performance, and you typically want to get there around an hour before that to wait in line, as the number of tickets available vary week to week. So for an 8pm performance time, the tickets go on sale at 5:30pm and we typically get there between 4 and 4:30pm to wait in line.

It sounds like a lot of work, but we like to make a whole date night of it! We can still do something earlier in the day, the time in line really does go quickly and there is a perfect amount of time to go to dinner in the two and a half hours before the show, particularly as the Kimmel Center is located in Center City where there are so many choices of places to go. We were lucky to be able to fit in a show while we were home for the holidays and we didn’t even have to stand in line this time as they had enough tickets available that they gave us our red placeholder carnival-like tickets (which guaranteed us a ticket) and just told us to be back in line at 5:15pm. So we sat at a table in the quiet lobby area, read our kindles, watched a wedding party take their photos, and got back in line at the right time to purchase our tickets. We have gotten everything in the past from box seats on high and low levels to conductor’s circle (behind the orchestra), and this time we were row H in the orchestra pit – a value of at least $103/ticket!

I grew up playing classical piano and John has developed an interest in classical music in recent years. Even if we hadn’t had a strong interest in classical music though, it really is an enriching experience to go see some of history’s greatest and grandest music played by some of the world’s best musicians, particularly when it is within our budget. It is fascinating to watch the different musicians in person do their part or watch the magnificent conductors, particularly their lead conductor of the past five seasons, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who we (fortunately for him, unfortunately for us) now share with Montreal and the Metropolitan Opera and is one of the most commanding and mesmerizing conductors of his time. Even seeing the beautiful cello-shaped, rich mahogany Verizon Hall in the Kimmel Center would almost be reason enough to go at least once!

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We just wanted to share one of our favorite activities that we are really passionate about in case any of you are ever interested in checking it out during their September – May season – whether you live nearby or are simply visiting the city. It is truly a great way to experience just some of what Philadelphia has to offer and feel good about yourself and your wallet afterwards! 🙂

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