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How to get tickets to see the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in NYC (and bring home a souvenir)

Getting tickets for the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon– Back in New York City at last

I just saw the last test show for the new Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in New York City– basically the dress rehearsal for the premiere on February 17, and nearly identical to a regular show (UPDATE 7/9/14) : I added some recent reader observations to this post about when to arrive to pick up Tonight Show tickets– if you’ve been to the show, send me your tips!)

As the longest running entertainment program in the US (since 1954), the Tonight Show has a long legacy behind it, with iconic hosts like Johnny Carson and most recently Jay Leno. While it’s been taped in Los Angeles for the last forty years, the show is returning back to its original New York City location with new host Jimmy Fallon at the helm.

As a New Yorker, I thought it would be fun to catch an early show marking this transition back to my home city. Seeing a live TV taping is also something fun for a New York City tourist to do– with a little planning and luck, you might get to see a show (free!) too. The complete ticket-getting process was a little confusing on the website, so I am sharing my experience below.

1. Order your ticket for the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

First, order your tickets on the show’s website or follow the show’s Twitter feed for special announcements. Once the complimentary tickets are released, they are “sold out” very quickly, so move fast if you happen to hit the site when they are available. You can order up to 4 tickets under one name and are only allowed to attend one show every six months. No one under 16 is allowed in, so leave the kids at home.

If you don’t have advance tickets, you still have a couple of options– show up in person for a general stand-by line or join a separate line just for the test run of the monologue.

2.  Exchange your Reservation for Actual Tickets on the day of the show

Once you have your Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon Tickets secured, print out the entire reservation. There are several pages to the reservation, so make sure you bring them all in, not just the first page with the QR code.

30 rock rockefeller center nycArriving at the 30 Rockefeller Center Studios for the taping of the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

The Tonight Show is taped in the 30 Rock studios. On the day of the show, arrive with your reservation at the NBC Experience Store at 30 Rock between 2:30-3:45 pm.  If you don’t know where the store is, just look for this landmark– the Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink. The NBC Experience Store is across the street.

NBC Experience Store NYC Fallon

The NBC Experience storefront.

NBC page tonight show jimmy fallon nycOnce in the store, look for this staircase guarded by an NBC page. If you arrive before 2:00 pm the page will shoo you away and tell you to come back later. After 2:00 pm, you’ll be allowed upstairs to stand in line where you’ll exchange your reservation for a ticket.

There really isn’t a need to get there super early to wait in line though– you can pick up your tickets anytime before 3:45 pm.

Update: We’ve had readers fill us in recently about exactly when you should arrive to pick up your Tonight Show tickets.

One concern is that Tonight Show tickets may run out because of overbooking– reader Kate (see her full comment below) asked about this on her recent visit to the show and was assured that everyone in the party will get a ticket as long as they arrive within the specified time window.

Reader Bruce notes that they arrived at “about 2:30 and there were quite a few people upstairs waiting. There was a loose line and we stayed in it but in hindsight we should have moved more into the mezzanine . Our ticket number was 18 so I thought that’s pretty good. Anyway there were numbers and letters. When we lined up it turned out the letters went into the studio first followed by the numbers. When we finally got into the studio it looked quite full with all the lower levels already seated. We were placed on the side 2 seats in.” The show started at 5pm and was a lot of fun. We were done by 6:30. Roots was great. Security was tight and always on the lookout for anyone trying to take a picture. Anyway if you go have fun and just take in the experience. You may not get on camera or high five Jimmy but just enjoy. His show is awesome and funny. Best part was Ben Stiller as the panda.”

nbc experience store nycAnytime after 2:00 pm, you can head up this staircase. Reservation holders stand around in a loose line until ticket distribution begins. It’s not necessary for all of your ticket holders to be present to secure your place in line (though all must be present to receive tickets).

Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon line for live show

For some unknown reason, the upstairs waiting area was oven hot.

On the day we visited, most of the people standing in line around us were tv taping veterans, having seen Jimmy Fallon’s prior show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, before. The mood was relaxed and chatty, with a mix of locals, tourists, and a few foreign visitors.

tonight show starring jimmy fallon wristband nycAround 2:45 pm or so the Tonight Show staff starts the ticketing process. You present your reservation printout and are given an orange ticket and this Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon wristband. Don’t lose either or you won’t be let in!

After you get your ticket you are told to come back at 4:00 pm. If you’re a local, you can return back to your office until then. If you’re visiting, grab a snack or do some shopping in the area (Saks Fifth Avenue is right across the street).

At 4:00 pm you enter the 30 Rock building to stand in line again for the actual show. 

Editor’s Note: when you enter the 30 Rock building, please keep in mind this is not a place for tourists to hang out and congregate, it is a real office building where locals work! I used to work at a law firm in this very building and can tell you firsthand that there is nothing more irritating than dodging gawkers who stand in front of the revolving doors or loiter in the hallways when you are trying to get back to the office.

Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon billboard in 30 rockefeller centerThat said, if you are discreet and quick, you can take a quick photo of this Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon billboard in the lobby of 30 Rock (it’s located in an alcove in front part of the lobby). In fact, this is the only place where you can take any sort Jimmy Fallon-related photo.

We arrived a little later than 4 pm and went right up to the final waiting area. There were no more photos beyond this point (the staff joked about hidden snipers), so you’ll you have to use your imagination for the rest. After you pass through a metal detector and have your purse searched, you’ll be ushered into the actual studio.

3.  Seeing the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon live in New York- What to Expect

As you enter the studio, the NBC pages will direct you to a specific seat. I’ve been to a couple of other TV show tapings with hard seats and appreciated the cushy red leather (pleather?) audience seats at the Tonight show.

When you are sitting in the audience, you have a different perspective on the set, as you are completely surrounded by honey colored, maple wood acoustic wall panels. The wood panelling counters the tech feel of all the cameras and studio equipment, making the set feel zen-like and cozy. The photo backdrop of New York City behind Fallon’s desk is softened by small wooden replicas of New York City landmarks (Fallon joked that he made them out of toothpicks himself).

The Live Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Experience

Before the show begins, the warm up comedian primes the audience, expertly weaving in show “do’s and don’ts” in-between jokes. Next, the Tonight Show announcer, Steve Higgins, takes his place at his maple wood podium. The show officially begins with Higgin’s announcement of Fallon.

At my show, Fallon riffed on the Olympics, the Time Warner/Comcast merger (with an accompanying running joke about the past-their-prime movies shown on Starz) and Ryan Seacrest’s new clothing line.

The show continued with a celebrity interview (on my show, former Daily Show regular John Oliver) and a musical act (Roots, the spectacular house band, stood in for visiting musical act). We were also treated to a Thank You Notes segment and a spontaneous burst of song from Fallon.

 Jimmy Fallon on the Eve of a Monumental Debut

My show was a little different because it was a test show– the very last test show before the big debut. I loved the experience because it was a chance to watch Fallon (and everyone who works behind the scenes) on the eve before what is considered a monumental debut in the entertainment world– the passing of the Tonight Show torch.

My friend who attended the show with me had seen a prior Late Night taping and noted the marked difference between that show and this last test show.  While on that Late Night show, the overall vibe of the show was relaxed and easy going, on this show we both detected a bit of an edge.

At the close of every scene, producers swarmed the set and huddled together in small groups, presumably working out last-minute details.

Fallon himself was flawless and spot on as usual (with an especially funny bit on blind Mary from Little House on the Prairie), but a careful observer might detect just a hint of nerves. My favorite moment was when, in an aside from the actual show, Fallon looked up, and acknowledging the gravity of the upcoming debut said, “Tonight’s the last test show– the next show is in front of millions of people” as he put his head in his hands and ruffled his hands through his hair. It was such an adorably human moment, and shows why so many people love Fallon.

The show closed as quickly as it began, possibly the fastest hour you’ll ever sit through. The warm up comedian came back and provided entertainment as we filed out, reluctant to leave our comfy seats.

Souvenirs from the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

The Tonight Show staff takes away your colorful orange ticket, so your only souvenir of the show is your actual paper wristband.

Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon t shirts souvenir

These Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon t shirts glow in the dark.

You can head back down to the NBC Experience Store to pick up some new Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon souvenir merchandise, just in this week. The merchandise isn’t exactly subtle, with the full logo and branding over every item.

Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon souvenirs nycThe selection included tee shirts, iphone and ipad covers, hats and coffee mugs. Since the line just came in, it’s possible there might be more discreet items in the future. Until then, a coffee mug would probably be your best bet.

Want to read about more New York City souvenirs? Check out the best Black and White cookies in New York! or Find out where to get an authentic Egg Cream Soda at an old-school luncheonette!

Have you attended the new Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon? Share in the comments below and we’ll update this post with your comments!

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24 Responses to How to get tickets to see the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in NYC (and bring home a souvenir)

  1. Patrick 03/24/2014 at 11:28 am #

    Nice Article. Question…Is there a place for people without tickets to see the “stars” entering or exiting the building? Just curious. Thanks.

    • Kristin Francis 03/27/2014 at 3:22 pm #

      Not sure where– but there are always people milling about the sides of the building so there must be!

  2. Liana 04/02/2014 at 11:20 pm #

    Is there a way to wait in a line for tickets if you don’t have a reservation. Like for cancellations?

    • Kristin Francis 04/03/2014 at 8:47 am #

      Yes, there is a general standby line and an additional line you can wait in for a test run of the monologue.

  3. Lauren 04/26/2014 at 4:47 pm #

    Do you think the need to arrive early is different now that the show has exploded in popularity and it’s in full swing of taping “real” shows? I got a reservation for tickets, but I’ll be a visitor to the city and I want to know if I should expect to spend most of my day in the city wrapped up with the taping.

    ~Thanks~

    • Kristin Francis 04/26/2014 at 4:57 pm #

      Hi Lauren, this is exactly why I wrote the post– I wanted to let people know exactly how much of their day they needed to plan around this as the info was not entirely clear. You cannot get upstairs before 2 pm so even if you were being extra cautious, there is no reason to get there any earlier. I agree I wouldn’t push it by getting there at the last minute (like at 3:45). I hope you come back and report on your experiences, I’d love to update the post! : )

      • Kate 06/12/2014 at 2:29 pm #

        Hi. I was just at the 8pm taping on 6/11. I had read your post (very helpful) and wanted to mention that the staff reiterated multiple times that you do not need to show up earlier than the stated check-in time. Despite all the comments when you get a ticket reservation about overbooking, they said as long as your entire party shows up together within the specified window, you have a guaranteed seat. So you shouldn’t worry about having a regular ticket reservation and being there extra early for fear of not getting an actual ticket. From everything I could tell there was no benefit to showing up in advance of the announced time. (With that being said, the page at the bottom of the stairs let people upstairs more than an hour before the checking time and people did wait there but this was the first time they filmed two shows the same day I think)

      • Kristin Francis 06/12/2014 at 3:19 pm #

        Kate,

        Thanks so much for this detailed update! I’ll edit the review to add your comments, hope you enjoyed it! : )

  4. Alison Dobrowolski 04/30/2014 at 4:12 pm #

    Thank you Kristin for writing this! i’m seeing Jimmy on Monday and the whole “your ticket isn’t guaranteed because we overbook the show” statement i received scared me! I am so glad to have a little less anxiety knowing what time I should show up and what to expect.

    • Kristin Francis 04/30/2014 at 8:28 pm #

      Aww thank you! That’s exactly why I wrote the somewhat tedious play-by-play of the process– I didn’t want to get there super early (or at the last minute). I hope you come back and update us on your experience, and if anything’s changed, let me know and I’ll update the post!

  5. Bruce 06/04/2014 at 2:30 pm #

    Hi Kristn
    We’re going to the tonight show next week. Thanks for the information. Super excited but really want to know how we can score seats on the aisle or closer down to the front. Can you provide anymore information?

    • Kristin Francis 06/04/2014 at 2:43 pm #

      Hi Bruce, congrats on scoring tickets and have fun! Unless the process has changed, there is absolutely no way to request where you sit– believe me I tried! I was given a firm “no” when I asked if I could sit up front. Do report back and let us know how your experience turns out!

      • Bruce 06/17/2014 at 9:04 am #

        Hi Kristin,
        We attended the show last Thursday and had a blast. Your details are spot on and haven’t changed.
        We got there about 2:30 and there were quite a few people upstairs waiting. There was a loose line and we stayed in it but in hindsight we should have moved more into the mezzanine . Our ticket number was 18 so I thought that’s pretty good. Anyway there were numbers and letters. When we lined up it turned out the letters went into the studio first followed by the numbers. When we finally got into the studio it looked quite full with all the lower levels already seated. We were placed on the side 2 seats in. The show started at 5pm and was a lot of fun. We were done by 6:30. Roots was great. Security was tight and always on the lookout for anyone trying to take a picture.
        Anyway if you go have fun and just take in the experience. You may not get on camera or high five Jimmy but just enjoy. His show is awesome and funny. Best part was Ben Stiller as the panda.

      • Kristin Francis 06/18/2014 at 4:00 pm #

        Bruce, thanks so much for the detailed report! I will definitely add this to the main post when I have a chance! : )
        Aww you got to see Ben Stiller!! Sounds like so much fun. Thanks for the line tips too!

  6. Nicole Affinito 06/04/2014 at 6:39 pm #

    Is it acceptable to wear shorts (my bf wanted to wear khaki shorts and a tshirt) I can’t really find a dress code for the show. Thanks so much!

    • Kristin Francis 06/05/2014 at 12:57 pm #

      Hi Nicole! No dress code– but keep in mind that you might be seated in a less desirable area (I’m not saying this will happen, but it’s a possibility). When I attended David Letterman and the Martha Stewart Show, dressed up nicely both times, I was actually placed in the front in view of the cameras. I’m not sure if it works the same on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show.

  7. Jonathan Draper 06/30/2014 at 12:44 pm #

    When you go through the process of reserving a ticket, what additional steps do you have to go through? I’m asking because I may be on vacation w/ no internet access so I am going to have someone else reserve them for me and I’m wondering what info to leave them. Thanks!

    • Kristin Francis 06/30/2014 at 10:18 pm #

      Jonathan– did you get tickets? Because you can’t just reserve them, you have to keep checking until they are released.

  8. Kimberly Lombardi 07/09/2014 at 11:16 am #

    Hi Kristen:
    We have tickets for August in my name. Do I actually need to stay or can I just check in with my 3 others and leave but the 3 of them can still see the show? I cannot stay the whole time due to another commitment now.

    • Kristin Francis 07/10/2014 at 6:52 pm #

      Hi Kimberly– that’s an interesting question– and I don’t think they can make you stay, lol. I think you should go and check them in (as you are required to) then simply ask what would happen if you don’t make it back. I am pretty sure after you get your ticket, it doesn’t matter if your party is together or not, but I would hate to be wrong here– they were really nice and I can’t see why it would be a problem. If they indicate it’s no problem, then maybe they can offer your ticket to the standby line.

  9. Brittany 07/10/2014 at 11:13 am #

    Hey Kristin!

    I was able to reserve a ticket for a taping in August but it only gave me the option for 1 ticket but in the confirmation email I was sent it said make sure all people in your group are there. I was just wondering if the one ticket was only a reservation for my seat or if I can bring someone with me? I really wanted to bring my fiancé with me /: so if that’s the case that the ticket is only good for one person do you have any suggestions as to how I can grab him a ticket as well? Any feedback is super appreciated!! Thanks in advance!

    • Kristin Francis 07/10/2014 at 6:44 pm #

      Brittany-
      Unfortunately I am pretty sure the confirmation email is a just a form letter sent to everyone– no matter how many tickets you were able to reserve. I really doubt you are going to be able to get another ticket for your fiance– the only possible option would be to have him try the standby line and hopefully meet up with you at some point, but that’s no guarantee (and who knows if you’ll even sit together). Sorry about that! It’s hard when you get the one seat option, it’s definitely an experience you want to share with others!

  10. ann 08/07/2014 at 8:31 pm #

    Does anyone know the standby procedure? I have heard you need to show up really early to line up to be one of the first to get standby tickets that are given out at 9am .. then you come back and exchange that voucher for a ticket and then come back with the ticket. Does anyone know if there is an advantage to coming super early to get the standby ticket at 9am and then does that “early” in line standby ticket get you an “early” spot when you check in… it keeps saying first come first serve … trying to see if that means you have to be one of the first in line for the 9am ticket handout….immediately run over and stand in line waiting for the check in and then immediately run and hang out to one of the first in the final standby line. Would love to hear from someone who actually went through the standby process and can explain how I can maximize chances of getting in!

    • Kristin Francis 08/08/2014 at 12:03 am #

      Hi Ann, I’m hoping another reader sees your comment and can respond. I’m trying to update the post with new information if I can get a hold of anyone there so check back!

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