Which New York Attraction Pass is Best for You?


New York City is not what you might call a budget destination. Whilst there are many free sights and attractions in the city, most of the popular locations charge an entry fee, and this can be quite high. In our experience, attraction fees are one of the main costs of travel in the USA.

The good news is that if you plan on visiting a number of attractions in New York, you can take advantage of one of the various New York city passes that are available. If you take advantage of these passes, you can end up saving a lot of money. However, you will have to decide if each pass is worth it for your visit, based on the attractions you really want to see.

In this post, I’ll go through and compare the main attraction passes you can choose from when visiting New York City, to give you an idea of what’s on offer. I’ll also share an idea of how much you can save with each pass, based on some suggested itineraries for a visit to New York City.

By the end of this post, you’ll have an idea of whether a city pass makes sense for your visit to New York, and which New York city pass is going to be the best option for your trip.

Prices are correct as of time of writing, and as with all our content, we’ll do our best to keep them updated.

Overview of the Main New York City Passes

There are a number of attraction passes available for visitors to New York City. They each offer different things and are available at different prices.

Below, you’ll find an overview of the main passes you can choose from, and what they offer. There are two main types of pass – those which include a larger number of attractions (around 100) over a shorter time period (usually 1-10 days), and those which offer a limited number of attractions (2 – 10) over a longer period (30 – 60 days).

Which will work for you will very much vary on your trip and travel style, and what you hope to see. If you are visiting for only a couple of days and want to fit as much in as possible, then a pass that lets you visit a lot of attractions can be a good idea. Many New York attractions are open fairly late, so you really can see a lot if you have the stamina for it.

On the other hand, if you want to go a bit slower and just see a few attractions, or you plan to sightsee over a longer period of time, then a pass that offers fewer attractions over a longer time period might be best.

We’ve included both types of pass in this round-up so you can get an idea of what’s available.

 

The New York Pass

If you want a pass that has pretty much everything included, the New York Pass is an excellent option. This is our favourite pass for sightseeing in New York City, simply because it offers so much.

In fact, at the time of writing, the New York Pass offers free entry to over 100 attractions across the city. These include a lot of high value and popular attractions like the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, Hop on Hop Off Bus, Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Met, One World Observatory, and many many more.

The card also includes walking tours, bike rentals, rides at Luna Park – even a Yankees baseball game!

Of course, all of these attractions come at a price, and the New York Pass is definitely one of the more expensive passes on our list. A 2 day pass, such as you might need for our two day New York itinerary, costs $200 per person as of May 2020.

However, if you were to visit all the paid attractions in that itinerary, including taking the Water Taxi and Hop on Hop Off bus tour, you would be looking at over $300 in attraction entry costs. So straight away the New York Pass would save you over $100! See further on in the post for some suggested itineraries and examples of cost savings for each of the passes in this guide.

What we really love about the New York Pass is just how much it includes. When we use an all inclusive pass like this, we find that it means we often end up doing things we might not have done, just because they are included. So we don’t need to think twice about adding a museum or two to our tour, or taking a walking tour, or hiring a bike.

It also includes skip the line access at a wide range of attractions so in addition to saving you money, the pass can also save you time.

Finally, the pass also includes discounts, which include shopping, theatre tickets and dining options.

Overall, if you plan on visiting many of New York’s top attractions, we can highly recommend the New York Pass to save money.

The pass is available either as a physical pass or as a mobile pass. You can check prices, and buy yours in advance of your trip from the official site here.

We also recommend checking prices on GetYourGuide as sometimes they have better deals. Check prices for the New York Pass on GetYourGuide here.

Passes can be activated up to 24 months from purchase.

 

New York Explorer Pass

If you aren’t sure you want to commit to a pass that includes most of the attractions in New York, then you might instead consider the New York Explorer Pass from GoCity.

This pass has you choosing how many attractions you want to visit in New York. You can choose 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 10 attractions, and the pass is priced from $65 to $279 depending on how many attractions you choose.

The pass actually covers over 90 attractions in New York. However, you can only visit the number of attractions you pick. You don’t need to pick the exact attractions in advance – just the number you want to visit.

The pass is also valid for quite a long time—up to 60 days in fact. So if you are in New York City for a little bit longer, you don’t need to feel quite so rushed to see everything in two days.

To get the most value out of the New York Explorer Pass you will want to make sure you use it for the highest priced attractions that you want to visit. In addition, the more attractions you choose, the greater the savings.

It’s possible to save up to 50% on attraction entry using the pass. However, this will require you to think carefully about exactly which attractions you want to visit, and plan your use of the pass accordingly.

We think the New York Explorer Pass is a good option if you are a well organised traveller who likes to plan carefully. It’s also a good option if you have a little bit longer in the city, as you can spread out your sightseeing over a bit more time.

The New York Explorer Pass is only available for purchase as a digital product, which you display on your phone. However, you do have the option to print the pass if you prefer a physical pass to carry with you. We would advise this as a good idea anyway, so you don’t have to rely on your phone battery for a long day of sightseeing.

You can check prices for the New York Explorer Pass, and book yours in advance from the official website online here.

We also recommend checking prices on GetYourGuide as sometimes they have better deals. Check prices for the New York City Explorer Pass on GetYourGuide here.

 

New York CityPASS

We haven’t used the New York CityPASS, but we have used CityPASS products in a number of other cities in the United States, and find they offer great value for money.

The CityPASS products generally offer admission to a specific set of attractions, which are usually the most popular attractions in a city.

The New York CityPASS for example, offers the following:

  • Empire State Building
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
  • Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

You basically get access to 6 top New York attractions for a fixed price, currently $136 for adults and $1112 for children.

Obviously, to take full advantage of the pass savings you will need to visit all six attractions. This shouldn’t be too hard if you have at least 2 or 3 days in the city. The pass is valid for thirty days from first use, so you will have plenty of time do so. If you visit all the attractions, you can save over $100. This pass does cover many of the most popular paid attractions in the city, but it is obviously limited to just these attractions.

Passes are available either as a booklet or as a mobile pass. You can check prices, and buy your New York CityPASS online in advance from the official site here.

We also recommend checking prices on GetYourGuide as sometimes they have better deals. Check prices for the New York City Explorer Pass on GetYourGuide here.

 

The New York Sightseeing Pass

The Sightseeing Pass company offers two types of passes for New York. They have an all inclusive attraction pass where you choose how many days validity you want, and they have a pass where you can choose from a number of attractions you want to visit. You can compare these two passes here.

For most visitors, we’d say that the day based pass would make the most sense. It includes access to over 100 attractions in New York, so should cover the majority of attractions most visitors will want to visit in NYC.

It also includes walking tours, Hop on Hop off sightseeing bus tours, and more. You can see the full list of included attractions and activities here.

It also has some exclusive inclusions, like the Bronx Zoo. Passes range in price from $129 – $359 for an adult, and passes can be activated up to two years from purchase date, giving you plenty of time to use one.

The New York Sightseeing pass is a digital only product, however you can print out the pass at home if you prefer a physical pass you can use at attractions.

You can check prices and buy your New York Sightseeing pass in advance from the official site here.

We also recommend checking prices on GetYourGuide as sometimes they have better deals. Check prices for the New York Sightseeing Pass on GetYourGuide here.

 

Which New York Attraction Passes Include Transport?

Many attraction passes around the world actually include public transport, such as the Paris Pass.

For New York, none of the attraction passes we are aware of include any public transport. The good news is that public transport in New York is not expensive. See our guide to getting around New York here for more information.

However, most of the New York City passes do include Hop on Hop off bus tours, airport shuttles, and bike rental. So you still have options to get around with the pass, even if it’s not by public transportl.

 

Which New York City Passes are Family Friendly?

If you’re travelling as a family, you will no doubt already be aware that visiting attractions can quickly become a costly exercise. The good news is that many attractions offer lower prices for those travelling with children. However, free admission and child discounts varies a lot in terms of age requirements from attraction to attraction.

For example, the Empire State Building offers free admission for those under 6 and discounted admission for those age 6-12. Those age 13 and older pay the same adult admission price.

The Metropolitan Museum of art offers free admission for those aged under 11 and discounted admission for those aged 12-17.

Some passes might make less sense for families, depending on the child’s age and the specific attractions you want to visit. In terms of pass availability for children, they are as follows:

  • The New York Pass – child pass available for children ages 3-12 inclusive.
  • New York Explorer Pass – child pass available for children ages 3-12 inclusive.
  • New York CityPASS – child pass available for children aged 6-17 inclusive.
  • New York Sightseeing Pass – child pass available for children ages 3-12 inclusive.

As you can see, the New York CityPASS might be a good deal, depending on the age of your child as the age range it considers as a child is wider. So if you are travelling as a family, definitely keep this in mind when planning your trip. Many attractions in New York are free for those aged 5 and under, so a pass wouldn’t make sense in these cases.

If you are travelling with a child, or anyone else who qualifies for any kind of discount, make sure to have ID or other proof so you can prove eligibility if required.

 

Comparison of New York Passes: Prices & Features

Here’s an overview of each pass, and some of the highlights it includes, as well as the price range.

The New York Pass New York Explorer Pass New York CityPASS New York Sightseeing Pass
Attractions included 100+ 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 10 from 99+ attractions 6 from 9 100+
Discounts included? Yes, discounts on shopping, dining and shows Yes, discounts on shopping, dining and shows Yes, discounts at stores at listed attractions Yes, discounts on shopping, dining and shows
Public transport included? No No No No
Skip the line access? Yes, at some attractions Yes, at some attractions Yes, at some attractions Yes, at some attractions
Hop on Hop off bus included? Yes Yes, optional No Yes
Walking tours included? Yes Yes, optional No Yes
Boat cruise included? Yes Yes, optional Yes, optional Yes
Best suited for? Someone looking to visit all the major attractions and to fit a lot into their visit Someone on a longer trip or with specific attractions in mind Someone on a longer trip or with specific attractions in mind Someone looking to visit all the major attractions and to fit a lot into their visit
Separate adult and child passes? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Length of pass validity? 2, 3, 5, 7 and 10 days 60 days 30 days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7  and 10 days
Price range $134 – $490 $65 – $175 $136 $129 – $359

 

Of course, an attraction pass is no good if it doesn’t cover the attractions you want to visit. Here’s a list of the main attractions passes for New York along with the top ten most visited paid attractions in the city.

The New York Pass New York Explorer Pass New York CityPASS New York Sightseeing Pass
Top of the Rock Yes Yes Yes Yes
Metropolitan Museum of Art Yes Yes Yes Yes
American Museum of Natural History Yes Yes Yes Yes
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Yes Yes Yes Yes
Empire State Building Yes Yes Yes Yes
9/11 Memorial Museum Yes Yes Yes Yes
Museum of Modern Art Yes Yes No Yes
One World Observatory Yes Yes No Yes
Whitney Museum of American Art Yes Yes No Yes

As you can see, most passes cover the most popular attractions, with the CityPASS having a few exceptions. So choosing the right pass for you will likely be a question of which attractions you really want to visit, and ensuring your pass includes those attractions.

 

2 Day New York Itinerary Price Saving Example

Understanding which pass works for you might be easiest if you look at a sightseeing itinerary for the city. I’ll base this on our 2 day New York itinerary, which has you visiting the following:

  • Day 1: Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, Wall Street, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, World Trade Center Station, Brooklyn Bridge, Boat Tour, Times Square, Top of the Rock
  • Day 2: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum, Central Park, Museum of the City of New York, Grand Central Station, New York Public Library, Empire State Building

Obviously, some of these attractions are free. However, you have to pay for the following:

  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island – $20 USD
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum – $27 USD
  • Boat Tour – $43 USD
  • Top of the Rock- $41 USD
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art- $32 USD
  • Guggenheim Museum- $25 USD
  • Museum of the City of New York- $18 USD
  • Empire State Building- $46 USD

I think this is a fairly representative set of attractions that covers the highlights that most visitors to the city would be interested in.

I will also add that this is a very busy itinerary, and whilst achievable, some visitors will likely want to take a slower pace. When considering the value of a pass, you definitely need to weigh the cost against a reasonable list of attractions that you plan to visit.

However, assuming you do follow our itinearary, let’s see which pass offers the best cost savings. I’ll base this on 2 adults visiting.

The total attraction price for all the above would be $252 USD per person, or just over $500 for two adults. Let’s look at the prices for each pass we recommend and the associated savings. Specifically, for these attractions you would need:

  • a 2 day New York Pass
  • A 10 Choice New York Explorer Pass
  • A CityPass + individual attraction tickets
  • A New York Sightseeing Pass
The New York Pass New York 10 Choice Explorer Pass New York CityPASS New York Sightseeing Pass
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island FREE FREE $20 FREE
9/11 Memorial & Museum FREE FREE FREE FREE
Boat Tour FREE FREE FREE FREE
Top of the Rock FREE FREE FREE FREE
The Metropolitan Museum of Art FREE FREE FREE FREE
Guggenheim Museum FREE FREE $25 FREE
Museum of the City of New York FREE FREE $18 FREE
Empire State Building FREE FREE FREE FREE
Total Additional Cost $0 $0 $126 $0
Cost of 2x Adult Passes $400 USD $558 USD $272 $398 USD
Total Saving $102 USD -$56 USD $100 USD $104 USD

As you can see, three of the passes offer very similar price savings for this itinerary of around $100 for two adults, making each of them worth it. For the CityPASS, you have to pick and choose between some of the options, in which case I opted to pay for the lower priced option if both were on the itinerary.

I would suggest that for this 2 day itinerary, that either the New York Pass or the New York Sightseeing Pass would be the best value. All you would have to do is visit one more included attraction with either pass, or make use of the Hop on Hop off bus, to make the cost saving greater than the New York City Pass.

On the flip side, if you decide to skip something like the Guggenheim or Museum of the City of New York, then the New York City Pass will offer greater savings. As always, there’s no one size fits all – savings are always going to come down to your own itinerary and what you plan to see.

The only pass which doesn’t make a lot of sense for this itinerary is the New York Explorer Pass – it actually ends up costing you more. This makes sense – we’ve only visited 8 out of 10 possible attractions on the pass, which isn’t really designed for a 2 day stay. This pass has a much longer validity, and is better for folks on a longer trip wanting to spread out their sightseeing.

 

3 Day New York Itinerary Price Saving Example

Let’s look at a longer trip now, and a 3 day itinerary example. What we’ll do is take our 2 day itinerary and add in some sights. Of course, you can change this itinerary around to suit, but I think visiting these attractions in three days would work for most visitors to the city who don’t mind a busy time sightseeing.

  • Day 1: Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, Wall Street, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, World Trade Center Station, Brooklyn Bridge, Boat Tour, Times Square, Top of the Rock
  • Day 2: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum, Central Park, Museum of the City of New York, Grand Central Station, New York Public Library, Empire State Building
  • Day 3: American Museum of Natural History, Whitney Museum of American Art, Hop on Hop off bus tour, Walking Tour

The prices for all the above paid attractions are as follows:

  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island – $20 USD
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum – $27 USD
  • Boat Tour – $43 USD
  • Top of the Rock- $41 USD
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art- $32 USD
  • Guggenheim Museum- $25 USD
  • Museum of the City of New York- $18 USD
  • Empire State Building- $46 USD
  • American Museum of Natural History – $23 USD
  • Whitney Museum of American Art – $25
  • Walking tour – $35 (varies but this is an average)
  • Hop on Hop off bus tour – $55 (also varies depending on company)

In total you are now looking at $390 per person, or $780 for two adults. That’s a lot of money for three days of sightseeing!

Let’s look at the prices for each pass we recommend and the associated savings. Specifically, for these attractions you would need:

  • a 3 day New York Pass
  • A 10 Choice New York Explorer Pass
  • A CityPass + individual attraction tickets
  • A 3 day New York Sightseeing Pass
The New York Pass New York 10 Choice Explorer Pass New York CityPASS New York Sightseeing Pass
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island FREE $20 $20 FREE
9/11 Memorial & Museum FREE FREE FREE FREE
Boat Tour FREE FREE FREE FREE
Top of the Rock FREE FREE FREE FREE
The Metropolitan Museum of Art FREE FREE FREE FREE
Guggenheim Museum FREE FREE $25 FREE
Museum of the City of New York FREE $18 $18 FREE
Empire State Building FREE FREE FREE FREE
American Museum of Natural History FREE FREE FREE FREE
Whitney Museum of American Art FREE FREE $25 FREE
Walking tour FREE FREE $35 FREE
HoHo tour FREE FREE $55 FREE
Total Additional Cost $0 $76 $356 $0
Cost of 2x Adult Passes $552 USD $558 USD $272 USD $558 USD
Total Saving $228 USD $146 USD $152 USD $222 USD

When we add in the extra day, the difference between the types of pass becomes clearer. Whilst you will save money with all the passes, the all-inclusive New York Pass and New York Sightseeing Pass offer the greatest cost savings in this scenario.

The savings are high enough that even if you skip quite a few attractions for a more leisurely visit, you will still save a considerable amount.

 

So Which New York City Pass is Best?

The bottom line is that most visitors will save money with an attraction pass if they plan on visiting a number of attractions in New York city.

However, there is no one size fits all answer. As this post has hopefully shown, it depends on the type of trip and how much sightseeing you want to do.

If you are visiting New York for 2 or 3 days, and plan on seeing 3 – 4 paid attractions each day, then I would recommend either the New York Pass or the New York Sightseeing Pass. These are very similar in what they offer, and are also priced very similarly.

You will just want to check to be sure that what you want to see is included. I’d also add that both passes regularly run special offers, so just see which has the best offer for your trip.

If you plan on visiting fewer paid attractions each day, or are visiting the city for longer and want to spread out your sightseeing, then you will probably find that the New York Explorer Pass or New York CityPASS is a better choice. You may have to pay for some additional attractions, but the total cost saving will probably be better.

 

Further Reading

Hopefully this guide to New York attraction passes has given you some ideas on how to save money on your next trip to the city.

We also wanted to share some more content we’ve written on visiting New York City and travelling in the USA in general, to ensure you have all the information you might need. We’ve also got a few third party resources to recommend that we think you might find helpful for your trip.

And that’s it for this guide! As always, if you have any feedback, comments or questions, just pop them in the comments section below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Safe travels!



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