Our boys are finally old enough (6 and 9 years old) that I thought they were the right ages for seeing a hit Broadway musical on our most recent trip to New York City. Aladdin and The Lion King seemed like obvious choices for kids, but which Broadway show is best for kids? In the end, I couldn’t decide, so we went to both shows, and now I can compare Aladdin vs The Lion King! Read on for a comparison of the storylines, sets, favorite songs, ticket prices, visual effects, and more. If you’re ready to pick up your own tickets, grab yours now for The Lion King or Aladdin. A quick note – we use affiliate links, which allow us to earn a small commission if you purchase tickets, at no cost to you.
What is the Right Age for a Broadway Show?
My boys were 6 and 9 when we went to see Aladdin and The Lion King. The 9 year old was able to follow along without needing much explained to him in either show. The 6 year old needed a lot more help. There was a lot of stage-whispered questions while he tried to understand what he was seeing. This happened significantly more in The Lion King than in Aladdin, which I will get into more in the “storyline” section below.
Both my kids loved the shows and were able to sit through the entire performance without getting bored, needing to use the bathroom, or having any other disruptions. I wouldn’t recommend a show for kids younger than 6 unless they are extremely well-behaved. The theaters are just not places where you can inconspicuously move around, or where fussy children won’t disturb lots of other theatergoers.
I would put the minimum age for Aladdin at 6 and for The Lion King at 8. The bottom line for The Lion King is that the pacing of the production, the abstract nature of the set design and costumes, and the complex storyline and more mature themes were too much for my 6 year old. Though he enjoyed watching the performances, he did not really follow or understand the story.
Aladdin vs Lion King: Storyline
For our kids, Aladdin wins on the storyline. The story closely follows Disney’s Aladdin movie, with a scrappy street-smart young man (Aladdin) and a princess with wanderlust who refuses to marry for duty (Jasmine). They meet, fall in love, and have to overcome the evil Jafar. The timeless story of Aladdin leads our main character into a cave filled with treasure, where he finds a magic lamp and unleashes a genie. The cave portion was the only scary part of this show for both my kids. There are some light and sound special effects when Aladdin gets trapped in the cave that were scary for both kids, so be prepared for this if your kids are on the young side. They did not really relax until everyone had escaped the cave.
We loved the genie character, who brought a lot of humor and spectacle to the show. For our kids, the most exciting part (which I was not expecting) wasn’t something like the flying carpet but rather was the sword fighting scenes that happen in the market and the palace. There are several choreographed fight sequences between Aladdin and his friends and the royal guards. Our boys loved these fighting scenes. They were interesting without being scary, so they were a perfect way to keep everyone interested.
What we liked most about the Aladdin storyline was that it was easy for young children to follow along with – there aren’t too many characters, and the story is pretty straightforward, even when Aladdin is playing as his alter-ego, Prince Ali. Even though it’s a timeless romance, neither kid got grossed out by the love story aspect. They loved the action, the magic carpet, and the comedic characters – namely the genie and Jafar’s lackey Iago. Iago’s performance is masterful, especially as it was adapted from the movie, in which Iago is a parrot!
Conversely, The Lion King is a much deeper show. Broadway audiences will see a show that explores many coming-of-age themes, including a search for identity, belonging, shame, environmentalism, sustainability, and what makes a good leader. It was a breathtaking spectacle, but it was too complex for my 6-year-old. My 9-year-old had some questions, but could generally follow along with the plot (though I think many of the more nuanced topics were over his head). Even I didn’t realize what happened initially when the scene changed from Simba the boy to Simba the young adult.
The pacing of The Lion King was a little less friendly for kids as well. To put it simply, Aladdin was more of a live-action version of the film, whereas The Lion King was a theatrical interpretation of the underlying story in the movie. The Lion King on Broadway had several scenes that were purely music and/or dance, and which did not really advance the plot. They added to the unforgettable beauty of the performance, but they were sort of lost on younger kids.
The Lion King had more “scary” elements for my kids. Scar and the hyenas, which feature prominently in the show, were menacing enough that I had both kids clutching at me for periods of time. The stampede that kills Mufasa was poignant for adults but scary for kids. It is done in a symbolic way, so you don’t actually see Mufasa die, but my kids both knew from the movie what was happening.
Aladdin vs Lion King: Set Design and Costumes
Both Broadway shows have beautiful sets, engaging costumes, colorful design, and immersive elements. The Lion King is more abstract, due to all the actors portraying animals through eye-popping puppets. Much of the set is also people, with people acting as rippling grasslands and other elements of nature. This was beautifully done, and I was amazed at how convincingly the performers could move like animals and manage the contraptions that controlled their animal limbs and heads. It all came together as an extraordinary theatrical event, and the set and costumes are why this show are highly regarded on Broadway for families.
The killer feature for The Lion King is that two or three times during the performance, the cast moves through the aisles, bringing audience members into the show. There are also two percussionists set up where private boxes would normally be in a theater, which is also fun for kids to watch and makes the performance feel more immersive. Due to all these moving parts, The Lion King is more interesting from a set perspective, but that’s not to say that Aladdin is a let down.
By contrast, Aladdin features gorgeous, bright colors and sets that evoke a bustling Middle Eastern market, a palace, and, of course, the sand dunes and mysterious cave that houses the genie. One of the most eye-catching moments is when the magic carpet flies Jasmine and Aladdin high into the air as they cement their relationship, all while singing “A Whole New World.” As far as Broadway productions go, Aladdin holds its own as far as the set and props.
Winner: The Lion King
Lion King vs Aladdin: Theater
The theater that a production is set in can add a lot to the performance. Aladdin is housed at New Amsterdam Theater at 214 W 42nd St in Times Square. The Lion King takes place at the Minskoff Theatre at 200 W 45th St, also in Times Square. Both theaters have some pros and cons, but ultimately, we liked the New Amsterdam Theatre better. It is a beautiful “jewel box” of a theater, with ornate details on the walls and ceiling. The boxes lining the walls made us envious of our own (admittedly great) seats, and the theater felt large enough to enjoy while small enough where everyone had a good view.
The best part of the Minskoff Theater is that it has been the home of The Lion King for so long, and the experience starts when you walk into the building. There is Lion King decor and motifs as you ride up the escalators from the entrance, which enhances the excitement. The Minskoff Theater itself, however, was less aesthetically interesting than the New Amsterdam, and with fewer seating options (no boxes, for instance).
Bathrooms got crowded with long lines at both theaters, and the seats were too close together for comfort. Both theatres offer booster seats for smaller children, which were easy to find (if you arrive early!) and very helpful for seeing over tall patrons in front or for the first few rows regardless. If you need a booster, I recommend getting to the theater at least 45 minutes before the show begins so that they aren’t all taken.
Ticket Prices: Is Aladdin or The Lion King Worth It?
Ticket prices depend heavily on performance dates, with higher prices falling on weekends and throughout high season. For Aladdin, we sat in the Orchestra section, row E, seats 111-114. We went over our spring break week in April, and paid $1,122 for our 4 tickets. For The Lion King, we sat in the Orchestra section, row J, seats 123-126. We paid $1,281 for those tickets, so about $150 more for The Lion King than for Aladdin, with seats that I would consider a little bit worse.
I was willing to pay a bit more for aisle seats at The Lion King because I had read that the performers come through the aisles and I thought the kids would love being part of that. If you have the choice, the best places to sit at The Lion King are definitely on an aisle in the Orchestra section.
At an average of $300 a ticket for premium seats, neither show is cheap. However, there are cheaper options in the Mezzanine section, where visitors often suggest getting the first row in the Mezzanine for an unobstructed view at a lower price. For a general audience looking to see the shows without breaking the bank, look for tickets in the Balcony, or upper section of the theater. You will still be able to see everything, but you will be further removed and have a less immersive experience.
For us, both shows were worth it at the price we paid, but I think we got a better deal at Aladdin – slightly better seats and for less money.
Musical Numbers: Which is Better, The Lion King or Aladdin
The magic of Broadway is, of course, wrapped up in the music itself, and both shows are excellent in this regard. From classics like Circle of Life and Arabian Nights to newer numbers adapted just for Broadway, Disney theatrical productions do not disappoint. It’s hard to pick a favorite here because both shows are so much fun and hit me with a lot of nostalgia. Ultimately, I’m giving the edge to The Lion King on the musical numbers because of the pageantry of it – The Lion King has a larger cast, so they are able to do more impressive ensemble numbers, and there is overall more music during the performance.
Winner: The Lion King
What to Wear to a Family-Friendly Broadway Musical
There is no dress code per se for a Broadway show, and I struggled a bit with what to wear. We went to evening shows, and we saw everything from evening gowns to shorts and sneakers…no joke! I personally like to dress up for special events like this, so I chose this sleeveless black silk shirtdress and black heels. I planned a different dress for the second night, but I loved the silk one so much I wore it to both shows 😀
I would say overall, smart casual or cocktail attire is best – it lets you show your appreciation for the cast and the experience, but you’re not so formal as to be uncomfortable. I dressed my kids in their “fancy” clothes – jeans instead of joggers and a button down shirt. My younger son has an Indian jacket that my husband’s parents gave him that he loves, so he wore that to both shows proudly.
One thing I would say not to wear (or carry) is anything more than you absolutely need. The theaters really pack you in, and there is very little space between you and the row in front of you. If you come in with packages or a large purse that you need to store at your feet, you’re likely to be a bit uncomfortable.
Which is the Best Musical: The Lion King or Aladdin?
Both are great Broadway shows, and in the end, I would recommend both. If I had to pick just one, I would recommend Aladdin over The Lion King. For the age of my kids (6 and 9), Aladdin was more understandable, moved at a faster pace, and had characters like the genie and Iago that brought in classic comedy elements that the kids loved. I also enjoyed the actual theater more at Aladdin, though that is a small part of the overall appeal. I agree with the multitude of reviews that say that The Lion King is a Broadway classic and a show that really pushed the envelope when it came on to the stage, and it is a beautiful, moving show. I just think it would have been better for our kids when they were a bit older…if they were 9 and 12, The Lion King would have been my winner. The best Broadway show for your family will definitely depend on their interests and ages.