- 1 How do New York City sightseeing passes work?
- 2 What are the benefits of using an NYC pass?
- 3 What New York City sightseeing passes are there?
- 4 CityPASS
- 5 New York Pass
- 6 Explorer Pass
- 7 Sightseeing Pass
- 8 Freestyle Pass
- 9 New York City Passes Comparison Charts
- 10 Tips for Visiting New York City with a Sightseeing Pass
- 11 What major attractions are not included in the best New York City passes?
- 12 Which is the best New York pass to buy for my trip?
- 13 Can you see New York City sites without a pass?
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If you’re planning a trip to New York City, you probably already know that it’s hard to find a decent deal on hotel accommodation, and even harder to organize the logistics of your itinerary. You know all the sites you want to see, you might even know how to get there, but how will you plan out your days? And, everything is so expensive, can you bundle entries for discounts? Enter New York City sightseeing passes.
There are many different types of New York City sightseeing passes. Some are good for a limited time period, while others are good for a fixed amount of days, or even a fixed amount of attractions. If you’re looking for a New York City pass that allows you to save money on your excursions, you need to take a look at the variety of options.
Take a look at my New York City passes comparison guide to choose what’s best for you and your group!
How do New York City sightseeing passes work?
Although each discount pass has its own unique offers, they all basically work the same way. For a fixed price, you can access admission to a set of attractions that you choose.
What are the benefits of using an NYC pass?
There are several benefits to including a pass in your New York City sightseeing plans.
- Savings on time and additional costs – These passes save you time, since you’re purchasing a number of entries at once, and money since there’s a saving to bundling your admission to several locations.
- Flexibility with choices and offerings – You get to choose! Pick from the list of the pass’s participating attractions to customize your experience.
- Helps plan your New York City itinerary – You know of the big sites you want to see, but not sure of others? Use your sightseeing pass’s offerings and time limitations as a guide to planning your itinerary. Some passes even have sample itineraries on their websites to inspire you!
What New York City sightseeing passes are there?
There are five major New York City sightseeing passes to choose from:
But within the big five, there are two different types of passes–day-based passes and attraction-based passes.
With a day-based pass, you can visit multiple attractions (in some cases, unlimited attractions) over the course of a day based on its rules, but it will expire after a set number of days.
With an attraction-based pass, you can visit multiple attractions per day or over the course of several days, but you can only visit a set number of attractions offered.
The New York CityPASS is a great attraction-based pass choice for you if you know which major sites you want to visit ahead of time.
How much does the CityPASS cost?
What are the features of the CityPASS?
- Attractions: It offers nine iconic attractions from which you can choose to use your pass for six. These include the American Museum of Natural History, Empire State Building, Top of the Rock Observation Deck or Guggenheim Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum or Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. With the C3, you can only choose three sites.
- Validity: This pass is valid for nine consecutive days once you activate it for the first time. Once you buy it, you can start using it at any time within one year from the date of purchase.
- Returns: If you can’t use your pass in that year, you can seek returns for it at any point within those 365 days—as long as you have not already activated it.
- Savings: You can save nearly 41% on expenses as compared to buying admission tickets individually from ticket booths at the attractions.
Pros of the CityPASS
- You can save a lot of money by buying this New York attractions pass for yourself. You will pay 41% less than what you usually would while buying individual tickets.
- You have the option of skipping long queues at some of the attractions if you possess this pass, allowing you to save plenty of time.
- It allows you to have an adaptable and workable schedule. You can visit the select attractions in the order of your choice. You also have nine whole days to cover all the places so that you don’t have to rush too much.
- You can use it for nine days at any point within the year of your purchase. If you cannot, you can easily get your money back.
- If the attractions of your choice match the attractions offered by this pass, you can simply opt for this pass and enjoy a flexible schedule.
Cons of the CityPASS
- If you want to visit attractions beyond the ones mentioned here, you will need to buy tickets separately.
- There might be some additional alterations depending on the location itself. For example, you might need to make a prior reservation beforehand for some attractions.
How to Use your CityPASS
You will first need to buy the tickets online, after which the tickets will be delivered to you digitally. Then, you can go ahead and make your reservations for the attractions and start visiting them.
Why should you choose a CityPass?
The CityPass is a worthwhile choice for your New York trip if you’re looking for ways to minimize your expenses and maximize savings. The attractions are also fixed for you, so you don’t have to spend time figuring out where to go.
The GO City New York Pass is another great option when it comes to New York sightseeing passes. These day-based all-inclusive passes allow you to visit as many popular attractions as you want to in a time period of your choice.
How much does the New York Pass cost?
There are several cost options for the New York Pass depending on the number of days you want to purchase the pass for.
|Ticket Type||1-Day Pass||2-Day Pass||3-Day Pass||4-Day Pass||5-Day Pass||7-Day Pass||10-Day Pass|
|Child (aged 3-12 years)||$99||$144||$154||$164||$179||$199||$224|
Check their website for any discounts available.
What are the features of the New York Pass?
- Attractions: Purchasing this pass allows you entry to over 100 attractions using a single pass depending on how many days you buy the pass for. You can visit as many landmarks as you want within the given time period.
- Validity: The validity of your pass depends on the length of pass you purchase. Remember, there are options that range from one day to ten days. However, once you activate it, you have to use it up within the time period. The New York Pass can be used at any point within two years of its purchase.
- Returns: There is a 90-day cancellation period, which means that you can return your inactive pass and get your money back if you request it within 90 days of purchase. If that return window isn’t long enough for you, you can purchase extra insurance.
- Savings: You can end up saving nearly 40% on your expenses or approximately $400 as compared to buying tickets individually.
Pros of the New York Pass
- There are multiple cost options that you can choose from depending on the length of your stay or visit. This allows you to manage your costs effectively as well.
- The pass is accompanied by a guidebook about the locations that can give you more information about them. It also comes in various languages such as English, French, German, Dutch, Mandarin, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.
- You can essentially get access to nearly all the major landmarks in New York City through this pass, allowing you to handpick your attraction choices while saving a ton of money.
- You can use it at any point within two years of its purchase. Once you activate it at your first location, you will have to use its days consecutively.
- You can skip long lines at a few of the locations, giving you an opportunity to save time and energy.
Cons of the New York Pass
- The 90-day free cancellation period is a bit limited. If your trip gets canceled or postponed beyond this period, you will not be able to get your money back unless you paid for extra insurance.
- Since you have the opportunity to choose between 100 locations, it can be a bit overwhelming to cover as much as you can within the limited number of days.
How to Use your New York Pass
You can buy the pass online and then download the app on which your tickets will be delivered. Either make reservations in advance or simply walk into the location to begin your sightseeing.
Why should you choose a New York Pass?
If you want to visit as many major New York City landmarks as possible in a given time period, going with a New York Pass is a fantastic choice which will grant you access to over a hundred locations.
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With a selection of attractions handpicked by experts, the GO City Pass Explorer Pass New York is a great attraction-based choice for thrifty and tech-savvy travelers.
How much does the Explorer Pass cost?
There are several cost options that you can choose from:
|Ticket Type||2-Choice Pass||3-Choice Pass||4-Choice Pass||5-Choice Pass||6-Choice Pass||7-Choice Pass||10-Choice Pass|
|Child (aged 3-12 years)||$51||$70||$89||$107||$124||$139||$175|
Discounts might be available separately on the website.
What are the features of the Explorer Pass?
- Attractions: Depending on which number choice pass option you choose, there are over 90 attractions that you can visit.
- Validity: You can use this pass at any point within 60 days of activating it. Further, the pass itself is valid for two years, so you can choose to use it for 60 days at any point within the two years.
- Returns: You can cancel the pass and get your money back within 90 days of purchase as long as you have not yet activated it. This will, however, include a processing fee that you will need to pay.
- Savings: You can save up to 50% on your expenses if you opt for this pass as compared to buying at the regular ticket price for each attraction.
Pros of the Explorer Pass
- It is a highly flexible option since you can not only choose how many attractions to visit but you can also do so within 60 days, giving you plenty of time to carry out other activities as well.
- You can end up saving plenty of money and time with this pass since you only need to pay for a certain number of attractions that you know you want to visit.
- Since it is valid for two years, you get plenty of flexibility when it comes to choosing when you want to activate it.
- It comes with a booklet with information about the sites in various languages such as English, Spanish and German.
- You do not need to decide which locations you want to visit beforehand; you can simply decide as you go along.
Cons of the Explorer Pass
- While you can choose from over 90 locations, you can only visit a minimum of two and a maximum of ten in a period of two months.
- You cannot cancel or return the pass after 90 days of purchasing, which limits your timeframe in case of any cancellations or postponements.
How to Use your Explorer Pass
Once you purchase the pass online, you will need to download the app to access your tickets. You can then simply show your mobile ticket at the location. In some cases, you might need to make a prior reservation.
Why should you choose an Explorer Pass?
If you only have a limited amount of time to visit some of your favorite attractions in New York City, then an Explorer Pass is an excellent solution for you. It also give you two whole months to explore after activating it.
From walking tours to interactive experiences, the Sightseeing Pass offers a diverse set of experiences, in addition to the standard attractions.
How much does the Sightseeing Pass cost?
The New York Sightseeing Pass is unique in that it has both a day-based pass and an attraction-based pass. There are two options to choose from:
With the Sightseeing DAY Pass, you choose the number of days you want the pass to be active for and once activated, there’s no limit to the number of attractions you can visit. If they’re a partner of the Sightseeing Pass, you can visit it.
|Ticket Type||1-Day Pass||2-Day Pass||3-Day Pass||4-Day Pass||5-Day Pass||6-Day Pass||7-Day Pass||10-Day Pass|
|Child (aged 3-12 years)||$129||$184||$220||$250||$264||$270||$280||$329|
With the Sightseeing FLEX Pass, you choose a set number of attractions you want to visit throughout your trip.
|Ticket Type||2-Choice Pass||3-Choice Pass||4-Choice Pass||5-Choice Pass||6-Choice Pass||7-Choice Pass||10-Choice Pass||12-Choice Pass|
|Child (aged 3-12 years)||$64||$88||$112||$134||$155||$174||$224||$262|
While a DAY pass expires at midnight on the last day of its cycle, a FLEX pass is active for 60 days after its first use. Both types of passes become active at the time of their first use.
Find available discounted rates on their website.
What are the features of the Sightseeing Pass?
- Attractions: With more than 90 attractions, you’re sure to find several that interest you. There are also 8 sites listed exclusively with the Sightseeing Pass–the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Intro To New York – Live Interactive Presentation & Prizes, LOL Times Square Comedy Club, LOL Times Square Magic, National Lighthouse Museum, NY Aquarium, and the St. Patrick’s Cathedral Tour’s Gold Pass.
- Validity: You can purchase this pass up to 24 months in advance. This pass is valid for nine consecutive days once you activate it for the first time. Once you purchase it, you can start using it at any time within a year.
- Returns: All unused passes are available for returns up to one year after purchase, as long as you’ve bought Sightseeing Pass insurance with it.
- Savings: With a DAY Pass, you can save up to 70% instead of buying individual tickets, or you can find attractions coming in as low as $22 per visit with a FLEX pass.
Pros of the Sightseeing Pass
- Both the Sightseeing DAY and FLEX passes have some of the best savings values compared to the other passes.
- If you really love visiting observatories in NYC, they’re the only pass to include four options.
- With the FLEX Pass, you have an exclusive Product Voucher Option. You can use one of your attractions to receive a $40 credit to use at CitySightsNY.com.
- They have free maps and a guidebook that you can download on their website to help you plan your trip.
Cons of the Sightseeing Pass
- Since you can choose over 90 locations, it can be a bit overwhelming to cover as much as you can within a short period of time.
- With a DAY pass, you must use the pass in consecutive days once the pass is activated.
How to Use your Sightseeing Pass
You can either use their app for a mobile pass or have a paper copy of your pass available at check-in.
Why should you choose a Sightseeing Pass?
The Sightseeing DAY Pass is great for first-time tourists who have at least 10 of the top attractions on their bucket list. But if you’ve already been to New York City before for sightseeing, the Sightseeing FLEX Pass is perfect to catch some of those sites that you haven’t seen yet at a discount.
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The attractions-based Freestyle Pass allows you to opt for a certain number of sites that you can then explore in a given period of time.
How much does the Freestyle Pass cost?
The cost differs based on the number of attractions you opt for:
|Ticket Type||3-Choice Pass||5-Choice Pass||7-Choice Pass|
|Child (aged 3-12 years)||$89||$114||$149|
What are the features of the Freestyle Pass?
- Attractions: You can choose from more than 50 attractions if you purchase this pass. Depending on the cost option you go with, you can get access to any three, five, or seven of this list of attractions.
- Validity: You will need to use this pass within 72 hours of activation. You can, however, activate it at any point for 72 hours within 14 days of purchase.
- Returns: You can redeem this pass within one year of purchasing it. However, this pass with online tickets is also non-refundable, which means that you will not be able to get your money back in case of cancelations or postponement.
- Savings: You can end up saving up to 40% on your expenses and is a lot more convenient than purchasing individual tickets from each attraction visit.
Pros of the Freestyle Pass
- You can hop on and off any of their tour buses as many times as you want within 72 hours.
- You also get access to a Night Bus Tour and a hop-on and hop-off ferry service.
- You have a pool of over 50 locations that you can choose from, depending on where you want to go and how many attractions you want to visit.
- You can redeem the pass within one year of purchasing it, which allows for some amount of flexibility.
Cons of the Freestyle Pass
- You must use up the pass within 72 hours of activation, which might lead to a packed schedule without too much room for flexibility.
- There are no refund options available for this pass. Once you buy it, you cannot get your money back even if you cancel your trip. This can waste the money that you spend on buying it.
- Even though you receive an online voucher, you must visit one of their visitor centers to exchange the voucher for your tickets to then use at your chosen sites, which can be a hassle.
How to Use your Freestyle Pass
You can buy the pass online, after which you will receive a voucher. Once you arrive in the city, you will need to exchange your voucher for tickets at any of their centers in New York. You can then start exploring any of the attractions on offer based on how many tickets you have.
Why should you choose a Freestyle Pass?
If you only have a short trip planned but want to choose from multiple locations, then the Freestyle Pass is a great addition to your trip.
New York City Passes Comparison Charts
What major landmarks are included in each pass?
What pass can you use at the best observation decks in NYC?
|Name||CityPASS||New York Pass||Explorer Pass||Sightseeing Pass||Freestyle Pass|
|Empire State Building||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Top of the Rock||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|One World Observatory||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|The Edge at 30 Hudson Yards||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|Statue of Liberty Crown Access||No||No||No||No||No|
|The Summit at One Vanderbilt||TBA||TBA||TBA||TBA||TBA|
What popular New York City tours can you take with each pass?
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Tips for Visiting New York City with a Sightseeing Pass
- Utilize New York City’s public transportation – While it might be tempting to jump into a taxi, public transport is actually the fastest mode of transportation in the city! I have a whole guide to learning how to use the subway for you if you need help.
- Take note of individual entry instructions – Many locations require you to wear masks, show proof of vaccination, or have social distancing guidelines that need to be followed. Check online or ask when you arrive to make sure you comply with each site’s rules, and make sure to check hours of operation for each of your attractions in advance.
- Stay hydrated – It’s important to stay hydrated with all of the walking you’ll do. You should always keep a reusable water bottle on hand. If you can’t find a public refill station, you can “buy” filtered water at Starbucks for free! If you need more suggestions on what to add to your travel style, check out my top travel essentials list.
What major attractions are not included in the best New York City passes?
- A MetroCard for the New York City subway – None of the five passes listed here include a MetroCard for you to get around the city. However, since taking the subway is the best way to get anywhere, you need to consider what makes the most sense for your trip. As I go over in my subway navigation guide, an unlimited weekly MetroCard costs $33 for 7 days of unlimited rides on the subway, but you can’t share the card with anyone else, which means that each person will need their own. Since each swipe costs $2.75, if you plan on taking the subway at least 12 times (or 6 roundtrips), you break even. Honestly, I highly recommend you take advantage of this flexibility when you’re using a New York attractions pass!
- Tickets to a Broadway show – One of the most iconic things to do in the city isn’t included in New York sightseeing passes! Picking the right show for your trip is a very personal choice, based on you and your group’s interests and preferences, which is why you won’t find a pass adding show tickets anytime soon. And, you need to choose a performance that fits into your schedule! While I’ve shown up at a theater and purchased tickets 20 minutes before showtime before, if you only have a limited time in New York City, I would make sure to purchase your tickets in advance. You can check Playbill for its updated weekly schedule of currently running Broadway shows.
Which is the best New York pass to buy for my trip?
Quite frankly, after comparing all of the New York City sightseeing passes, they each have their own unique benefits. They are each a great choice depending on your needs! However, these are my recommendations:
- The Overall Best Pass for New York City – With more than 90 major attractions, sites, and experiences, the GO City New York Pass offers the best city passes for New York. There are no limits to the number of attractions you can visit as long as your pass is active, and because there are so many different ways to see New York City, this pass gives you access to everything from walking tours to museums and experiences.
- The Best Pass for a First-time Tourist to New York City: – With nine top choices in New York City of which you can choose six, the CityPASS offers the best “bang for your buck.” It’s the least expensive option relative to the number of attractions included–and with major sites included like the Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there are plenty of reasons why you should consider this pass.
- The New York Attractions Pass with the Most Observation Decks – Both the Sightseeing DAY Pass and Sightseeing FLEX Pass options include four observatories in New York City, more than any other pass.
Can you see New York City sites without a pass?
Yes, you can visit all of the top NYC attractions without a pass! You just have to purchase each attraction individually, which can mean long ticket lines and extended wait times.
However, now that you’ve read our full New York pass comparison of all the different options available, you know the benefits of purchasing a pass, even for one day of jam-packed sightseeing. You can visit some of the most expensive attractions in New York City with a cost-savings sightseeing pass.