New York City Attraction Passes | Which One Is the Best to Buy

New York is a large city that is filled to the brim with exciting things to see and do.  Most people that visit like to see as much as possible, but paying individual admission at NYC’s most iconic attractions can really start to add up!  For this reason, several companies have created New York City passes that include admission to several attractions for one price.  Additionally, there are discounts to other attractions and tours.  Depending on what you have planned for your trip and how long you’ll be visiting, these New York City passes can really save you a lot of money. However, it can be difficult to know what will be best for your particular trip when it comes to purchasing passes. Which one (if any) is right for you? (en español) (auf Deutsch)

Which New York Tourist Pass is BestTo Buy or Not To Buy Tourism Passes?

There is a pretty wide assortment of passes available for visitors to NYC.  Depending on your travel plans, interests, tourism stamina and budget they can be a really good way to see some of the best that New York has to offer.  Most of them offer cheaper passes for children, so they can be a good option for people traveling with a family.  In general, having an idea in advance of what you would like to see/have time to see will help you choose the pass that is right for you.


Smart Destinations: New York Explorer Pass

Bus Tour Combo Packages

Other Passes

New York Pass

Smart Destinations: (à la carte)

CityPass


TIP: CitySights is offering a pretty good combo deal with their Freestyle Pass, currently $30 off.  Get 3 days of hop-on, hop-off bus service, a night bus tour, a hop-on, hop-off ferry and then then your choose of 3, 5, or 7 NYC attractions, including the Empire State Building, One World Observatory, the Statue of Liberty. Prices start at $139 adult and $119 for kids.  Must use promo code Fall15.


THE NEW YORK PASS

The New York Pass is a credit card-like pass that can be used at over 80 different New York City attractions.  The card has a microchip that will be read when it is swiped at each attraction.  New York Pass can be purchased as either a 1, 2, 3, 5  7 or 10 day pass.

To purchase, click New York Pass. Prices below are the regular price if you purchase the Pass while in New York City.  Purchasing the Pass online is often 15-20% less expensive.

Pricing

  • 1 Day Pass is $109 for adults and $89 for children (4-12)New York Pass
  • 2 Day Pass is $189 for adults and $169 for children
  • 3 Day Pass is $239 for adults and $189 for children
  • 5 Day Pass is $299 for adults and $209 for children
  • 7 Day Pass is $339 for adults and $219 for children
  • 10 Day Pass is $399 for adults and $239 for children

Sample 5 of 80 Attractions + Tours

Some Things To Know About New York Pass

  • The pass will be activated as soon as you use it at the first attraction
  • The number of days that the pass is good for refers to calendar dates, not 24 hour periods.  For example, if you use the 1 day pass for the first attraction at 1 pm, it still expires at midnight that night.
  • Can only be used once at each attraction, so it cannot be shared between two people.
  • Line-jumping privileges at 15 of the offered attractions.  For some attractions, such as Top of the Rock, this can save you quite a bit of time.
  • The New York Pass includes over 80 attractions.
  • Money back guarantee insurance is an extra 4.5% of the cost of the pass – (free with Go Card).

 

 

Benefits of the New York Pass

It is nice to have the different options for time increments.  The New York Pass also includes a pretty staggering array of attractions that can be used in any order, including some more off-the-beaten-path options.  If your trip allows enough time for you to take advantage of the New York Pass it can save you quite a bit of money.

Things to Consider

Should you buy the New York Pass?  That depends on how long your trip is and what you are interested in seeing. This pass certainly includes more than other tourist attraction passes do, but you have to have the time to do a lot in order to make buying it worthwhile.  Generally speaking, the 3, 5 and 7 day passes are better deals.  That gives you more time to really take advantage of the offerings.  The one and two day passes are a little pricey considering what you could realistically squeeze into your trip.  Also, for families traveling with children, the savings are significantly better for the 5 and 7 day child passes.  To purchase the pass, click here.

This pass is a good deal for avid museum-goers with several days in New York.  While The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History are suggested donation, private museums like the Whitney and the Guggenheim have fixed admissions that can really add up.  Both of those museums are included with the New York Pass, as well as a wide variety of others.

If you only have one or two days in New York and think that you can reasonably see enough attractions to make the pass worthwhile, then by all means: go for it!  If cost is a main factor, however, you can pay what you wish at two of the city’s best museums, take a pay-what-you-wish tour in a variety of neighborhoods with Free Tours By Foot, and then select maybe one or two attractions to pay admission for, like the Empire State Building.  It will keep your cost lower than a 1 Day New York Pass.  Likewise, Smart Destinations offers you the opportunity to save 20% a la carte style with a free money back guarantee.

Should you decide to go with a New York Pass of any duration, it is still a good idea to keep Free Tours By Foot in mind!  While New York Pass includes some walking tours, you can maximize your savings by using the pass for attractions (to which there are no pay-what-you-wish options available!) and then take one of our many walking tours (see our calendar for dates/times.)


 

THE SIGHTSEEING PASS

SIghtseeing Pass

Like the New York Pass above, the Sightseeing Pass offered by Citysights is a credit card-like pass that you can use to visit over 90 attractions, walking tours, cruises, bus tours, and more. You can choose from Choose a 1, 2, 3, 5, or 7 day pass.  A big highlight of this pass is that it now includes One World Observatory as an attraction.  They are also the only pass to offer the Gray Line City Sightseeing Double Decker Tour Pass.

Another perk about this card is that it includes a meal (lunch or dinner) and also includes prix-fixe meals and discounts at  popular NYC restaurants.  Finally, you receive additional discounts at select locations such as B&H Photo, one of the most popular shops among tourists, and discounts at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Many other discounts and coupons are included.

To purchase, click here.  After you make your purchase, you will receive an email confirmation with a link to your voucher. You can either print it out or, even more conveniently for those with a smartphone, take a screenshot of the QR code and use your mobile phone as your ticket!

Pricing as of 2017

  • 1 Day Pass is $119 for adults and $99 for children (4-12)
  • 2 Day Pass is $189 for adults and $169 for children
  • 3 Day Pass is $199 for adults and $149 for children
  • 5 Day Pass is $259 for adults and $169 for children
  • 7 Day Pass is $289 for adults and $169 for children
  • Purchase here.

Just some of the most popular attractions you can choose from

Click here for the complete list of attractions you can choose from.

Differences between the Sightseeing Pass and the New York Pass

  • The Sightseeing Pass offers 1, 3, 5 or 7 days.  New York Pass has a 10 day option  in addition to the 1, 3, 5 or 7 days.
  • Sightseeing Pass includes One World Observatory, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and Woodbury Common Outlets Super Saver Ticket. New York Pass does not include this attractions.
  • The Sightseeing Pass includes only 16 museums where as New York Pass includes 30.  Both include the Guggenheim and Whitney, but the Sightseeing Pass does not include Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) which is a highlight for many people’s visits to New York City and which costs a pricey $25 per person. However, we know how you can visit MoMA for free – see our post Free Entry to the Museum of Modern Art.

 


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SMART DESTINATIONS

Smart Destinations offers 3 different types of passes for visitors to New York.  You can choose which one might be right for you based on your travel plans.  Each has its own unique benefits.  There is no risk when purchasing a Smart Destinations pass.  If you don’t activate you pass, you get a full refund, no questions asked.

Go Select New York Pass – Build Your Own Pass (à la carte) Go Select card

This is a unique option in which visitors customize their own passes.  You can select as little as two attractions to add to your Go Select Pass, though you save more when you add more.  You customize your own pass from a list of options on their website.

  • Your pass is delivered instantly.  You do not need a card or even to print anything out. You can show the pass bar code at attractions directly from your Smartphone.  (Printable version is available as well.)
  • You customized pass is valid for 30 days (activated at first use.)
  • There are line-jumping privileges at several offered attractions.

There is no set price for this pass.  The price is dependent on what attractions you add to the pass. The more you add to it , the more you save.  Minimum is two attractions.

  • 2 choices = 15% off
  • 3 choices = 20% off
  • 4  or more choices = 25% off
  • more information

Should I get a Go Select Pass?

This is actually a really great, flexible option for a visitor to New York.  You don’t have to worry about paying for things that you don’t use, as with some other passes.  Because discounts are applied individually to the attractions that you select, you are guaranteed to be saving money. So if there are a few attractions that you know for certain that you want to see, go for it! Customize your pass and then explore the many suggested donation or free offerings in this city and you could have a relatively inexpensive and very fun-filled trip to New York!

Helpful tip before you buy your pass: DO THE MATH! 

Something to keep in mind when you do have specific sights you plan to visit: compare different passes as well as the cost of purchasing each sight individually. For example, let’s say your heart is set on these three activities:

  1. Taking a Big Bus 2 day hop-on/hop-off tour  – Regular price $58
  2. Visiting the Museum of Modern Art  –  Regular price $25
  3. Going to the Empire State Building – Regular price $34

That’s a total of $117.  But if you go for a Go Select New York Pass – Build Your Own Pass, these same three attractions will cost you just $96. That’s a savings of $21.  But wait…it gets even better! You can get the same three attractions by buying the New York Explorer Pass (below) with 3 choices for only $77. Wow. That saves you $40 over the normal prices!

While it may not be fun to whip out your calculator prior to your vacation, it can save you a lot of money. So go ahead. Do the math and you will be happier for it!


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 NEW YORK EXPLORER PASS

This pass, like the New York Pass, is a credit card-like pass that is micro-chipped to be swiped at each attraction.  The Explorer Pass does not charge per day, however.  You select a fixed number of attractions that you want to visit.

You can choose from a list of 49 options.  You do not need to decide in advance what you want to see in order to buy the Explorer Pass.

  • The pass will be activated with first use.
  • The Explorer Pass is valid for 30 days, so it is a nice option for those staying awhile.
  • You can skip ticket lines at certain attractions with this pass.
  • You can see the full list of your options at the Explorer Pass website.

Is the Explorer Pass Right For You?

Both of the passes offered by Smart Destinations are good for 30 days, so if you have a longer stay in NYC and want to see things at a leisurely pace, this could be a good option for you.  Because this pass offers a set number of attractions, it is probably better for those who have a pretty good idea of what they want to see already.   While you don’t run a big risk with this pass of paying for more things than you can see, you do want to be reasonably sure that your selected number of attractions will be enough.

Also, because you pay based on the number of things you do rather than different attractions’ individual prices, like with the Go Select Pass, you should look at the actual prices of the things you are most interested in seeing.  For example, if you buy a 3 Attraction Pass for $79.99 and then choose to go to the Empire State Building ($27), the Statue of Liberty Ferry ($18.00), and the Museum of Modern Art ($25), then you are actually paying more for the pass than you would to just purchase individual entry at each place. So the Explorer Pass can be a good deal for the right traveler, but it does require a little advance research.

Package DealsEmpire State Building

Smart Destinations has also put together 5 packaged deals.  These can offer a bit more savings, if what is in the package matches what you want to see, but you lose the flexibility of choice present in both the Explorer and à la carte passes.

  • Top 4 Attraction Pass – $99/adult, $75/child (34% savings on retail prices)
    • 24 hours of hop-on, hop-off bus tour
    • Empire State Building Tickets
    • A cruise past Statue of Liberty
    • 9/11 Tribute Center and Tour
  • Spectacular City Views – $49/adult, $39/child (28% savings)
    • Empire State Building Tickets
    • Top of the Rock Tickets
  • New York City Museum Pass – $58/adults, Free/child (23% savings)Guggenheim Museum
    • Metropolitan Museum of Art (entry fee is suggested, not required)
    • Guggenheim Museum
    • Museum of Modern Art
  • New York Sightseeing 5 Attraction Pass – $99/adult, $59/free (27% savings)
    • Empire State Building
    • Top of the Rock
    • Statue of Liberty Ferry Ticket
    • American Museum of Natural History (entry fee is suggested, not required)
    • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • NYC Land and Sea Pass – $69/adult, $55/child (32% savings)
    • Empire State Building
    • Top of the Rock
    • Landmark Cruise (2 hour cruise around Lower Manhattan)

 


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CITYPASS

CityPass is a booklet of 6 tickets that grant you admission into some top attractions.

City Pass Statue of Liberty

CityPass booklet prices and features:

  • $122  for adults and $98 for children (ages 6-17)
  • Good for 9 consecutive days (from the first day of use).
  • Purchase online or in person at any attraction included in the booklet.
  • Most of the tickets will also allow you to jump the line at attractions (can be helpful in crowded New York!)
  • There is a deal offered through CitySights, a hop-on, hop-off bus company that gets you the CityPass booklet and  3 days of hop-on, hop-off bus service in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, a night bus tour, a hop-on, hop-off ferry ticket and entry into the Museum of the City of New York or the New York Historical Society.  $150/Adult, $120/Child.

Attractions included in CityPass booklet:

The projected savings with an adult City Pass is $79 (if you paid full price at all 6 attractions).

Benefits of the CityPass booklet

The CityPass booklet is relatively flexible – you have 9 days to visit the included attractions in whatever order and at whatever times you would like.  The line bypass privileges can save you quite a bit of time for other sightseeing.  The booklet would grant you entry into many NYC “highlights,” which you could then supplement with our walking tours (see our calendar for dates/times).  If the price of the pass works for your budget and you have several days in New York it could be a good option for you.  To purchase, click New York CityPass booklet

Some Things to Consider Before Buying

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum actually do not have fixed admission.  The prices listed are suggested donations, so you can actually pay anything you like that works in your budget.  Also, the Museum of Modern Art offers “Free Fridays” from 4 pm to 8 pm, so if your trip includes a Friday, you could take advantage of that.  This means that half of the attractions included with City Pass could be free or very low cost.

If you are on a tighter budget for your trip you could forgo the City Pass and take advantage of the “Admission by Donation” policies or designated free hours offered by many museums (see our list of museums with free admission or free hours) and all of Free Tours By Foot’s walking tours.  That way you can decide what works best for your budget and maybe have some funds left over to splurge on attractions with a fixed price, such as the Empire State Building.  (Note: the savings calculated with the CityPass booklet for the Empire State Building are for the price of entry AND the audio tour.  Regular price for the Main Observation Deck is $32 for an adult.


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If the passes seem a bit pricey for you, don’t worry!  With some careful planning you can still see all the highlights of the city for a reasonable amount.  There are numerous “suggested admission” museums, museums with free days or free hours and, of course, pay-what-you-wish tours with Free Tours By Foot.  That will leave you some money in your budget to pay for some must-see attractions!  You may also want to check out our full guide to NYC on a budget. If you are looking for great free musical performances, don’t forget that New York City has some of the best subway musicians, buskers and performers. Our post about Where to find New York City Street Performers and Subway Music will lead you to right to them!


BUS TOUR COMBO PACKAGES

Many companies offer discounted rates on bus tours if they are purchased in combination with a boat or helicopter tour. For more information on all the combo packages available, check out our post on New York bus tours. 

FREE STYLE PASS

This pass is offered by CitySightsNY.  It includes the following:

  • 3 day bus tour ticket with unlimited hop-on, hop-off access to all the tours – Downtown, Uptown, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
  • The pass includes admission to your choice of 3, 5 or 7 attractions. Choose from over 40 of NYC’s top attractions. The 7 attractions option is a brand new feature that we have just recently launched.
  • Free access to the double-decker Night Tour.
  • Free access to the hop-on, hop-off Ferry Tour.
  • 5 and 7 day pass holders get free admission to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum in Times Square

Prices: 

  • Pick 3 Attraction Pass – $139/Adult, $119/Child
  • Pick 5 Attraction Pass -$159/Adult, $139/Child
  • Pick 7 Attraction Pass – $169/Adult, $149/Child

Click to purchase this pass.

TIP: Get 15% off the prices below with promo code FS15 through January 31, 2017.


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OTHER PASSES

Downtown Culture Pass – This pass specifically caters to people who are hoping to do a lot of sightseeing around Lower Manhattan. Customers who purchase the pass receive either discounted or free admission to many different museums in the area. Check out our post on the Downtown Culture Pass for more details and a full review.


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