New York is not a budget destination, although there are so many free sights and attractions in the New York City but most popular attractions charge an entry fee and it can be expensive. To get the right New York pass can be a little difficult because there are five different passes and they are not all the same. The ultimate of these passes which is the New York Pass can give you access and free admission to all the attractions, tours museums etc. and it will reduce living expenses in NYC and also save you time.
There different New York City passes; there are passes for 1 day, 2 days to even 10 days. There are also passes that are valid for two years from the date of purchase but what all these passes have in common is that they include a day Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus tour.
If you are planning on visiting several attractions in New York City, the good news is that you can buy of one of the several New York passes to all the attractions and by so doing you have saved time and money. Additionally, you will need to decide if each pass is worth it for your visit based on the attraction you want to see.
In this article, you would get to know all the New York City passes, their prices so you can compare which one to choose from when visiting the city. You’d also learn how much you can save with each pass based on some itineraries for a visit to New York City. At the end of this article, you’d know the best pass for your visit to New York City.
There are several New York City passes, and each of them offer different things and are available at different prices. There are two types of passes; there are passes which include a larger number of attractions (about 100) over a shorter time period (about 1- 10 days) and there are passes which offer a limited number of attraction (2-10) over a longer period of time (about 30- 60 days). I’ll explain this later in details
If you are in New York City for a few days, a week or less than a month, and you want to see as many attractions as possible, we recommend you go with the New York Pass which include larger number of attractions (about 100) because they are usually valid from 1 to 10 days. And there are several fun places to visit in NYC. But if you are going to stay for a few months or you are a resident of New York, you can go for the one with limited number of attractions over a longer period of time.
If you are planning on see the most important attractions in the city in a short period of time (3 days), the best city pass in this case would be New York Citypass but if you would like to use the Hop on Hop Off Buses, rent a bike in Central Park, then the best pass to get would be the New York Pass or the New York Freestyle Pass, the saving with these passes are the best in this case.
If you leisurely want to see the most important attractions, the best pass would be Sightseeing Flex Pass, Explorer Pass or New York Citypass. These passes are good if you are planning to stay for a week (5 -7 days) and visit all the most important attractions in the city gradually. The amount you save with any of these passes is not so much; it depends on which sights you would like to see most so it is very important you take a look at what is included in any of these passes.
If you want to see very few attractions, it is best you buy individual tickets instead of buying New York passes. There is no need buying New York pass if you would like to visit only few selected attractions or you want to decide what you will see on short notice, then you do not need a pass. To avoid standing in a long queue; we strongly advise that you purchase your individual ticket online in advance.
How the New York passes work
New York passes which are often called City Cards are offered specifically for tourists, these passes are sold at certain amount and can be used to visit different sights, attractions and museums. Also, you can take part in several guided city tours for free including various bus and boat rides. Like I earlier mentioned, there are two types of New York passes; they are Time-based passes and Attractions-based passes
• Time-based passes – These types of passes are valid for a specific amount of time, like for 3, 5, 7 or 10 days. And in these times, you can go to all the sights, tours and attractions included in the pass.
• Attractions-bases passes – These types of passes can be used for a certain number of sights and attractions. For example, you can purchase these passes for 5, 7 or 10 attractions and they are more flexible time-wise
When you purchase any of these passes, you will get an email with a mobile pass so you can show this email on your smartphone all these sights. Alternatively, you can also print out the pass if you do not have a smartphone or don’t trust your battery-life.
There are five different New York passes available;
1. New York Pass (many attractions for a few days)
If you want to see many attractions in New York, New York Pass is the best option for you. It is our favorite pass for Sightseeing in New York City because it offer so much. With the New York Pass you can save up to a hundred dollars but this pass depends on how much time you have in the city. With this pass, you can gain free entry to over 115 attractions across the city. This include places like Statue of Liberty, Top of The Rock, Empire State Building, One World Observatory, 9/11 Memorial Museum, Hop On Hop Off Bus etc. It also includes walking tours, boat cruise, bike rentals, and Yankee stadium tour.
New York Pass is one of the most expensive passes, a two day pass costs as much as $189 per person but if you would be visiting all the attractions without this pass including taking Hop on Hop Off Buss, Water Taxi, you may spend over $300 including attraction entry costs. So this New York Pass saves you over $100.
Using this New York Pass is more beneficial because with it you will gain access to several places that would have been too expensive and you would end up doing so much that you would not have done just because they are included in the pass.
The New York Pass is available either as a physical copy (hard copy) or as a mobile copy (soft copy). I’d advise you purchase yours in Advance here. The passes can be activated up to 24 months from the date of purchase.
Benefits of New York Pass
• You will have access to all the attractions in the city ( over 100) which include Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Top if the Rock, One World Observatory, etc. and more than 30 museums
• You will have 1 day Hop-On-Hop-Off Buses with Big Bus
• You will have access to 1 boat ride with Circle Line
• Skip-the-line: This pass includes skip long queue at different attractions in the city. So addition to saving your money the pass can also save you time.
• Discount: The pass includes discount for theater tickets, shopping and dining options.
How much does the New York Pass cost?
On the official website of the New York Pass, there is a sale across the whole year. This means that you do not have to pay the regular prices for the pass, there is a 20 to 30 % rebate on the regular price.
1 day – $128
2 days – $173
3 days – $203
4 days – $228
5 days – $258
7 days – $298
10 days – $339
Advantages of the New York Pass:
• The longer the pass is, the cheaper it is per day
• You will get a very large selection of attractions
Disadvantages of the New York Pass:
• It is slightly non-transparent pricing
• It has only one day Hop On Hop Off Bus
Buy the New York Pass here
2. New York Explorer Pass
If you know you would not be able to commit to most of the attractions in the city then you should go for the New York Explorer Pass. With this pass you can choose the number of attractions in the city you want to see you can choose 2, 3, 5, or 10 attractions in the city. The price of this pass depends on the number of attractions you want to see.
The New York Explorer Pass covers over 90 attractions in the city, however you can only visit the number of attraction you pick and the good thing about this pass is that you do not need to pick the exact attraction in advice, just the number of attractions you want to visit. Also, this pass is valid for a long time (up to 60 days) so if you are going to be in New York for a while you do not need to rush to see everything in one or two days, you can actually take your time to see all the attractions in the city you want to see with this pass.
The more attractions you choose with the New York Explorer Pass, the more money you save so to get the most value go for the highest priced attractions. With the New York Explorer Pass, it is possible to save up to 50% on attraction entry. This pass will require you to think carefully about the attraction you plan to visit.
This pass is only available for purchase online and you can display it on your smartphone but you can still print it out if you want to. You can purchase the New York City Explorer Pass here.
Benefit of the New York City Explorer Pass
• You can choose the number of attractions you want to see
• Attractions include, the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, and so many more
• 16 museums are included in the pass
• You can choose 1 Day Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus with Big Bus as an attraction
• There are various boat ride included in this pass
How much does the New York Explorer Pass cost?
With the New York Explorer Pass you can only decide on the number of attractions you want to see within 60 days.
2 attractions – $69
3 attractions – $94
4 attractions – $129
5 attractions – $147
6 attractions – $169
7 attractions – $189
10 attractions – $224
Advantages of the Explorer Pass
• It is valid for 60 days so no time stress
• All the major NYC museums are included in this pass
• The pricing is fair because you only book as much you need
• One World Observatory and Empire State Building is included
Disadvantages of the Explorer Pass
• Hop-On-Hop-Off Buses are not standardly included; they are only bookable as an attraction.
3. New York Sightseeing Pass
New York Sightseeing Pass is the most extensive of all the New York passes, it offers two types of passes; all-inclusive attractions pass which allows you to choose how many days validity you want and there is another one which allows you choose from a number of attractions you want to see.
The day-based pass makes more sense for most visitors because it includes access to over 150 attractions in the city so you can cover the majority of attractions most visitors would like to see. New York Sightseeing Pass includes Hop-On-Hop Off sightseeing bus tour, Bronx Zoo and so many more.
The New York Sightseeing Pass have different price range and that can be activated up to two years from purchase date so you have enough time to use them. Like most passes it can be purchased online and show it at all the entry points at the attraction or you can print it out. You can purchase it here
Benefits of New York Sightseeing Pass
There are over 100 attractions are included in the New York Sightseeing Pass such as Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, One World Observatory, Top of the Rock, etc.
• There are about 30 museums included in the pass
• The new viewing platform Edge is included in the pass
• Several boat rides are included in the pass
• There are unlimited use of the Hop-On-Hop-Off Buses from Grayline
• There are numerous tours included on the pass
How much does the New York Sightseeing Pass cost?
This is the only pass that has two different variations, they are;
• Day Pass – This is the normal Sightseeing Pass, it is valid for a certain number of days and on these days you can see all the attractions
• Flex Pass – This is the alternative Sightseeing Pass and with it, you can decide how many attractions in New York you would like to visit with the pass beforehand. With Flex Pass, you have up to 30 days to visit all these attractions.
1 day – $139
2 days $199
3 days – $279
4 days – $309
5 days – $349
6 days – $389
7 days – $419
10 days – $459
2 attractions – $74
3 attractions – $94
4 attractions – $124
5 attractions – $147
6 attractions – $164
7 attractions – $184
10 attractions – $249
12 attractions – $264
Advantages of the Sightseeing Pass
• One World Trade Observatory and Empire State Building is included in the pass
• All the popular museums in New York City are included
• There is an unlimited use of Hop-on-Hop-off-Buses with the Day Pass
• There is also Hop-on-Hop-off-Bus in Brooklyn
• It has the best offers of all passes
Disadvantages of the Sightseeing Pass
• The two model prices can be confusing
• It is expensive
4. New York CityPASS
This pass offer a great value for money, the New York CityPASS offer admission to a specific number of attractions, usually the most popular ones in the city. The CityPASS comes in two different variations. There is a standard CityPASS that offers five attractions for kids and adults at different prices. There is a C3 version that offers visitors 3 attractions as well as 5 attractions version.
The CityPass is valid for nine days from first use so you have time but the pass does not cover many of the most popular paid attractions. It is available either as a booklet or as a mobile pass. It is sold online and you can purchase it in advance
Benefits of the New York CityPASS
• There are 8 attractions included in the pass but you can visit only 5. Two of those attractions are fixed
• Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History is included
• Top of the Rock or Guggenheim Museum
• Ellis Island and The State of Liberty or boat ride with the Circle Line
• Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum or 9/11 Memorial and Museum is included
How much does the New York CityPASS cost?
The different prices for adults and children; for adults it costs $129 but for children it costs $109. The C3 pass costs $87 for adults and $67 for children
Advantages of the CityPASS
• Many important attractions are included in the pass
• It has simple pricing
• It is flexible because of the long validity period of 9 days
Disadvantages of the CityPASS
• There is no Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus
• The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and One World Trade Center are not included
5. Freestyle Pass
This used to be one of the New York passes but for whatever reason it is no longer available. We do not know if it will be available again but for now it is not. We just want to share what is contains just in case the pass becomes available again and if other changes are made when it we will do well to update you.
Benefit of the Freestyle Pass
• Statue of Liberty, One World Observatory and Top of the Rock are included in the pass
• All major museums are included in the pass
• There are several tours included in the pass
• There are 40 attractions included in the pass
• You can select the number of attractions you want to visit depending on which variation of the pass you choose
• The Freestyle Pass offers a 72 hour ticket for the Hop-On-Hop-Off Buses from Grayline and within these times you can use three bus lines as much as you like
There is a night ride and Hop-On-Hop-Off Boat ride are included
Advantages of the Freestyle Pass
• The pricing is simple
• It has a good Hop-On-Hop-Off offer
• All major museums are included in the pass
• One World Trade Center is included in the pass
Disadvantages of the Freestyle Pass
• There is no mobile pass so you will have to exchange your voucher for a pass
• Empire State Building is not included
You have to visit all the attractions included in the pass within 72 hours
New York Attraction Passes that include Transport
None of the New York attraction passes include transport; however, most of the New York City passes include Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus tour, boat tour, and bike rental and airport shuttle. This gives you the option to get around with the pass but it is not a public transport.
New York Attraction Passes Best for Family
If you are visiting New York City as a family and would like to visit all the attractions in the city, please be aware that it can be a little costly but the good news is that many attractions offer lower prices for those traveling with children. Nonetheless, free admission and child discount vary depending on the age of the child and from attraction to attraction.
For instance, The Empire State Building offers free admission for kids under the age of 6 but there is a discounted admission for those from 6 to 12 but those from 13 and older pay the same as adults. The admission really depends on the attraction you want to see and also the child’s age. Below is a list of passes that are family friendly
• The New York Pass – Includes child pass for children aged 3 to 12 years
• New York Explorer Pass – Includes child pass for children aged 3 to 12 years
• New York CityPASS – Includes child pass for children aged 6 to 17
• New York Sightseeing Pass – Includes child pass for children aged 3 to 12
You can go for any of these passes depending on the age of your child. The New York CityPASS is your best option if your child is older. This is very important to note when traveling as a family so you can know which pass is best for your family. Also, many attractions in New York are free for those children under the age of 5.
Make sure you have an ID or any proof if you are traveling with a child or anyone that qualifies for any discount.
New York Passes Prices, Comparison & Features
Below is an overview of each New York pass and the major highlight it includes and the price range from adult
|The New York Pass||New York Explorer Pass||New York CityPASS||New York Sightseeing Pass|
|Attractions included||Over 110||2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 10 from over 99 attractions||5 from 8||Over 150|
|Discounts included?||Yes, discounts on shows, dining and shopping||Yes, discounts on shows, dining and shopping||Yes, discounts at stores at listed attractions||Yes, discounts on shows, dining and shopping|
|Public transport included?||No||No||No||No|
|Skip the line access?||Yes, at most attractions||Yes, at most attractions||Yes, at most attractions||Yes, at most attractions|
|Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus included?||Yes||Yes, but optional||No||Yes|
|Walking tours included?||Yes||Yes, but optional||No||Yes|
|Boat cruise included?||Yes||Yes, optional||Yes, but optional||Yes|
|Best suited for?||Someone that wants 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 to visit||Someone on a longer trip or with specific attractions in mind to visit||Someone that wants 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||$142 – $349||$69 – $224||$136||$154 – $489|
There is no need for the attraction pass if it doesn’t cover the attraction you want to visit. Below is a list of the main attractions passes for New York and 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|
|Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Whitney Museum of American Art||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Empire State Building||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Top of the Rock||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|American Museum of Natural History||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|9/11 Memorial Museum||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|One World Observatory||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Museum of Modern Art||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Metropolitan Museum of Art||No||No||No||No|
The most popular attractions are included in most passes apart from the CityPASS. The right pass for you will depend on the attraction you want to visit so you have to make sure that your pass includes those attractions you want to see.
Difference between New York Pass & New York Sightseeing Pass
New York Pass and the New York Sightseeing Pass are the two most comparable passes, both of them offer similar set of attractions and works almost the same way but the main difference is the price. Below is a comparison between New York Pass and the New York Sightseeing Pass, the price given is this article is a retail price, it doesn’t include any promotional price so you can always check their website to confirm the recent prices.
|The New York Pass||New York Sightseeing Pass|
|1 Day Pass||$142||$107||$139||$129|
|2 Day Pass||$189||$149||$214||$184|
|3 Day Pass||$219||$170||$284||$220|
|4 Day Pass||$249||$184||$319||$250|
|5 Day Pass||$279||$195||$259||$264|
|6 Day Pass||N/A||N/A||$279||$270|
|7 Day Pass||$319||$209||$419||$280|
|10 Day Pass||$349||$233||$479||$329|
A 2 Day New York Itinerary Price Saving Example
Let’s give you an example with a 2 day New York itinerary so let assume you will be visiting the following attractions in two days
• Day 1 – State of Liberty and Ellis Island, Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge, World Trade Center Station, Top of the Rock, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Wall Street and Boat Tour
• Day 2 – Central Park, Empire State Building, Museum of the City of New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grand Central Station, Guggenheim Museum and New York Public Library
Some of these attractions are free but you will have to pay for some of the as well. The prices are not fixed which is why you have to check their website.
• Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island – $24
• Empire State Building- $47.91
• 9/11 Memorial & Museum – $30
• Top of the Rock- $43.55
• Museum of the City of New York- $20
• The Metropolitan Museum of Art- $25
• Guggenheim Museum – $25
• Boat Tour – $44
Now with this itinerary, let’s see which pass offers the best cost saving. (Comparing between 2 adults)
The total price for the attractions above will be $259.46 per person, for two adult it will be $500. Now let’s see the prices for each pass we recommend as well as the associated saving.
• A 2 Day New York Pass
• A 2 Day New York Sightseeing Pass
• A 7 Choice New York Explorer Pass
• A CityPass + individual attraction tickets
|The New York Pass||New York 7 Choice Explorer Pass||New York CityPASS||New York Sightseeing Pass|
|Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island||FREE||FREE||$24||FREE|
|Empire State Building||FREE||FREE||FREE||FREE|
|9/11 Memorial & Museum||FREE||FREE||FREE||FREE|
|Top of the Rock||FREE||FREE||FREE||FREE|
|Museum of the City of New York||FREE||FREE||$20||FREE|
|Metropolitan Museum of Art||$25||$25||$25||$25|
|Total Attraction Entry Without Passes for 2||$518.92||$518.92||$518.92||$518.92|
|Cost of 2x Adult Passes||$378||$378||$258||$458|
|Total Additional Cost for 2||$50||$50||$176||$50|
|Total Cost With Passes and Attraction Entry for 2||$428||$428||$434||$508|
As you can see on the table above, all the passes offer some kind of price savings. Two passes offer the same price saving of $90.92 for this 2 day itinerary for two adults. And New York Pass is best because it includes more attractions.
You will have to choose between some options with the CityPASS so it’s better to use the pass for a higher price option but you will save more when you choose New York Pass.
The New York Sightseeing Pass also offers good savings but not as much as the New York Pass so for a 2 day itinerary in city, I strongly recommend the New York Pass.
However, this might not be the same case if your itinerary changes so it depends on the type of trip and how many attractions and sightseeing you want to do
If you are going to be in New York for 2 or 3 days and you want to see 3 to 4 paid attractions each day, the New York Pass is the best fit; alternatively, the New York Sightseeing Pass is also a good option.
If you are planning to visit fewer paid attractions each day or you will be in the city for a longer period of time, its best you spread out your sightseeing, then the best option is the New York Explorer Pass or New York CityPASS. However you may have to pay for some additional attractions but in general the savings is better
In conclusion, if you are planning to visit a number of cities during your time in the United States, it is better you go for the Sightseeing USA pass. With this you can choose from 5 to 30 attractions from a list of 300 across different cities in the US. This might be a good option for depending on your time in the country.