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New York Pass and other passes

Are you thinking of buying a New York City Tourist Pass? Here are the best options, how they work, prices and whether they are worth it or not

Alex Grande

Alex Grande

9 min read

New York Pass and other passes

Yellow cab touring the Big Apple | ©Edoardo Busti

Choosing the right New York Pass to get the most out of your visit to New York can make the difference between a good trip and a great one. And to that end, here's a comprehensive comparison of the different passes to find the one that's perfect for you.

How many sightseeing passes are there in New York?

Why it's worth buying a New York Sightseeing Pass

Entrance to Rockefeller Center | ©Hellotickets
Entrance to Rockefeller Center | ©Hellotickets

Buying a tourist card has several advantages, most notably saving money (they allow you to enter the main attractions at a flat or reduced rate) and saving time, as most attractions have a separate queue for holders of these passes.

All passes give you access to the main monuments, buildings and points of interest of New York City. What varies between passes is their duration and the number of attractions you have access to.

Alex's Tip

It will be much easier to choose a pass if you make a list in advance of the attractions you want to visit.

What do passes usually include?

The ferry to the Statue of Liberty | ©Hellotickets
The ferry to the Statue of Liberty | ©Hellotickets
  • Access to a tour bus through the main areas of New York City
  • A ferry to Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty is located
  • Tickets to the Top of the Rock, Empire State Building or One World Observatory
  • Tickets to the 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Museum
  • Tickets for the Natural History Museum
  • MoMA tickets
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum tickets
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art Tickets
  • Madame Tussauds New York Tickets

How to choose between the four passes?

Access to One World Observatory with the Explorer Pass | ©Hellotickets
Access to One World Observatory with the Explorer Pass | ©Hellotickets

Depending on what you prefer to pay

Before we continue, the most important thing to keep in mind is that there are two types of New York Pass: by number of days, and by number of attractions.

  1. Passes by numer of attractions: You pay only for the number of attractions you want to see.
  2. Passes by number of days: You pay for days and during those days, you can squeeze New York to the fullest with an open bar of attractions.

It all depends on the type of traveler you are

Finding the perfect pass for you depends entirely on the type of trip you're taking to New York. This is very important, as you'll avoid buying a pass that fits your stay in New York too big, or worse, falls short. Depending on how long you are going to be in New York and the type of traveler you are, I recommend one New York Pass or another.

Okay, but... which pass should I buy?

The Chrisler Building at night | ©Hellotickets
The Chrisler Building at night | ©Hellotickets
.
  • New York Pass: If you're an all-rounder traveler who doesn't want to leave anything undiscovered and can't get enough of going all out during your trip, take advantage of this "open bar" attractions pass.
  • CityPASS: If it's your first time in New York and you're staying for less than ten days. It includes the city's main attractions, is easy to use and will save you money and time compared to buying individual tickets for each site.
  • New York Sightseeing Pass: If you have already been to New York and want to see new things. This New York Pass includes the One World Observatory, plus some pretty cool discounts throughout the city and tickets to alternative New York points of interest.
  • Explorer Pass: If you are going to be in New York for more than ten days. This pass is perfect for making the city your own. You can choose up to ten attractions from a list of ninety, and the pass is valid for up to 30 days from the time you activate it.

New York CityPASS

The Empire State Observatory | ©Hellotickets
The Empire State Observatory | ©Hellotickets

The tourist card New York CityPass includes three fixed attractions and three to choose from several options, making a total of six attractions, which you can visit in a maximum of 9 days from the first use. It is the most popular pass among people visiting New York, as it includes tickets to the essential "landmarks" of the city and its duration is adjusted to most trips.

Compared to buying individual tickets to each attraction, you can save up to $ 85 with this pass, as well as skip the line to buy admission at each site you visit. You can read more in depth about this card in my article at New York CityPASS.

What's included

  • Tickets to the Empire State Building with audio guide, which will allow you to enter the building twice for a daytime and evening experience.
  • Tickets to the Museum of Natural History (although free, you are expected to leave a donation at the entrance and upon presentation of the CityPass no one will ask you to do so).
  • Tickets to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (which is free on Fridays, but I advise you to avoid this day if you don't want to find the museum fully packed with people).

To choose

  • Tickets to the 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Museum or the Interepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
  • Tickets to the Top of the Rock or the Guggenheim Museum.
  • Ferry to the Statue of Liberty or a Manhattan cruise.

Practical information

  • Recommended: if you are staying less than ten days in New York and want to see the main attractions.
  • Number of attractions: 6 (New York's main attractions)
  • Duration: 9 days from the moment of activation
  • Price: from $ 135
  • You will save up to: $ 85

New York Pass

City views from The Edge | ©Hellotickets
City views from The Edge | ©Hellotickets

The New York Pass is a pass by number of days, and you pay according to the number of days of validity you choose. Beware, because they are not 24-hour days: from the moment you activate the pass you have until midnight before it counts as a full day, and your pass leaves the party in a carriage like Cinderella (or simply stops working on the attractions).

The New York Pass includes 100 attractions, including New York's most popular attractions: Manhattan Sightseeing Bus, 9/11 Museum, Manhattan Cruise, Statue of Liberty, Madame Tussauds Museum, Empire State Building and Top of the Rock. You can choose a duration of between one and ten days for this pass, but my recommendation is to avoid the single day pass, as it will most likely not work out for you. You can read more in my article about the New York Pass.

What's included

  • Travel guide in English
  • Queue-free access to over 100 attractions and activities
  • New York's top attractions

Practical information

  • Recommended: if you like to go all out on your travels and see a lot in one day.
  • Duration: from one to ten days
  • Price: from $ 116
  • You will save up to: $ 530 (on a 7-day pass).

New York City Explorer Pass

The Edge observation deck | ©Hellotickets
The Edge observation deck | ©Hellotickets

The New York Explorer Pass is perfect for customizing your New York experience to the fullest, as you can choose 3, 4, 5, 5, 7 or 10 attractions and pay according to the number of attractions you choose. From the moment you activate the pass, you have a full month to visit the attractions you have chosen, so you can take your trip at your leisure.

If you want to get the most out of the New York Explorer Pass, I recommend that you choose attractions that cost $ 25 or more to maximize savings. And again, if you want to save as much as possible, make a list of the places you want to visit and compare if it is better to buy the tickets separately. You can read more in detail about the Explorer Pass here: New York Explorer Pass.

What's included

  • Free choice from over 100 activities and attractions
  • Valid for 30 days
  • Queue-free entry to some attractions

The most efficient combination of attractions:

  • Top of the Rock
  • Empire State
  • The RIDE
  • Clipper Sailing Cruise
  • Luna Park Pass
  • Big Bus Night Tour
  • TV & Movie Bus Tour
  • Hop On Hop Off

Practical information

  • Recommended: if you are very clear about which attractions you want to visit and you are going to be in New York for a couple of weeks
  • Number of attractions: 3, 4, 5, 5, 7 or 10
  • Duration: 30 days from the moment of activation
  • Price: from $ 65
  • You will save up to: $ 177 (on a 7-day pass)

New York Sightseeing Pass

The sightseeing bus in Times Square | ©Hellotickets
The sightseeing bus in Times Square | ©Hellotickets

Just like the New York Pass, the New York Sightseeing Pass works for days and each day is valid from activation until midnight. It has some differences like the rest of the passes, such as including credit to spend at the attractions and a free meal at the restaurant of your choice from a list of popular New York sites.

I've also written a handy guide you might be interested in about the New York Sightseeing Pass, how to use it, whether it's convenient or not, etc.

What it includes

  • The only pass that includes the One World Observatory
  • Lunch or dinner at a restaurant of your choice (from a list of selected restaurants)
  • 40 credit (about $37) to spend on tours, attractions, Broadway shows and cruises
  • Access to 115 attractions (includes One World Observatory, Top of the Rock, Madame Tussauds, Madison Square Garden Tour and Radio City Music Hall Tour)

Practical information

  • Recommended: if this is your second time in New York or if you are traveling on a budget
  • Duration: from one to ten days
  • Price: from $ 141
  • You'll save up to: $ 390 (on a 10-day pass).

Flex Option

The New York Sightseeing Flex Pass allows you to pay per attraction instead of per day. Otherwise, it includes the same as the regular version, except for admission to the Empire State Building.

Practical information

  • Recommended: if you are interested in the discounts offered by the pass but want to explore at your own pace without having to visit multiple attractions in a single day
  • Duration: 30 days from the moment of activation
  • Price: From $ 71
  • You will save up to: $ 236 (on a 12-attraction pass)

Alex's Traveller Tip

Passes are activated simply by using them for the first time to access an attraction.

What you need to know before you book

Views of Manhattan from the ferry | ©Hellotickets
Views of Manhattan from the ferry | ©Hellotickets

Which passes include fast-track access?

All passes include fast-track access at select attractions. The CityPass includes fast-track access at 5 of its 9 attractions, while the New York Pass has it at 11 out of 100 and the Sightseeing Pass (in its two versions) at 10 out of 115. However, the fact that they have fast-track access does not exempt you from passing the security checks.

Which attractions have free access for children?

I recommend that you first check the specific policy of each site. Generally, most children under the age of 3 get free admission to all New York attractions. If your kids get in free to most attractions you plan to visit, don't buy them a pass!

How do I activate my pass?

Generally, by using it at any attraction included in the pass. From that first use, the pass time will start to count and at 12 PM that same day you will be considered to have used the pass for one day, and so on.

Last tips

Buying a New York Pass, in most cases, means organizing your trip in a very specific way. Plan very well what you want to see, what day, and at what time. If you are the type of person who travels in a more spontaneous and improvised way, I recommend you not to buy a pass.

This is it for the comparison between the different New York Passes you can choose for your trip to New York. Now, go take a bite of the Big Apple!

Frequently asked questions

  • What is the difference between the different Passes offered?

    The key difference between the different passes lies with what they offer. The New York CityPass, gives you combined entry to 6 of New York's top attractions, the New York Pass gives you free access to over 100+ attractions limiting you by the amount of days valid and the New York City Explorer Pass lets you choose passes allowing for 3-10 attractions of your choosing.

  • What is the best sightseeing pass to get?

    It really depends on what you want to do and how much time you have in New York. If you only want to see the best that New York has to offer, without a time limet than I think you should go for the CityPass or Sightseeing Pass. However, if time isn't on your side then I'd say purchase the New York Pass for the amount of days you can do.

  • In regards to value, what is the best pass to pick?

    If value is your main priority, our recommendation is to go with the New York Pass as you're only limiting factor is the amount of days it's valid for. With that mind you can maximise the value, by cramming in as many sights as possible, however make sure to enjoy yourself too.