When you’re planning your first trip to New York, seeing the big sights usually rates highly on the to-do list. Although I’d been before, I could barely remember anything I did on my first visit almost 15 years ago (and was only there for a couple of days, so didn’t even do that much).
Attraction ticket prices can swiftly add up if you’re trying to visit New York on a budget, so we decided to get a New York Pass, which covers entry to a range of attractions. But with different options on offer, what’s the best pass to get, and is the New York Pass worth buying? Time to find out!
New York Pass or CityPass?
First things first, there are a few different pass options to choose from. One choice is the CityPass, where you can access six (or three) attractions from a set list for £66.67, valid for nine consecutive days. I’d originally planned to go with this one, but I wasn’t bothered about the MoMa inclusion and wanted to see if the New York Pass would be better value.
The New York Pass works differently, as you buy it for between 1-10 consecutive days, during which you have access to a much bigger list of included attractions. As we wanted to see as much as possible, we chose this option. We bought 2-day passes for £139 each, and the passes are delivered digitally – you can show them on your phone to avoid carrying printouts round.
If you’re happy with the limited choices on the CityPass and just plan on visiting a few attractions across a longer stay, it’s pretty good value for money. If you want to pack in as much as possible and in consecutive days, I’d recommend the New York Pass.
New York Pass Prices
The standard prices for the NY Pass (2019) are:
1 day pass: $134
2 day pass: $199
3 day pass: $274
4 day pass: $299
5 day pass: $339
7 day pass: $379
10 day pass: $469
Budget Travel Tip: The New York Pass Website often has offers on that make the passes cheaper. Other vendors also sell the pass, and we found the best value at the time was actually Attraction Tickets Direct. I also got £4.17 cashback via TopCashback – bonus!
What’s included in the New York Pass?
All the ‘major’ New York sights are included, including the Statue of Liberty Ferry & Ellis Island, Top of the Rock, Empire State Building and 9/11 Museum. You also get access to the Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour.
The pass also encouraged us to try out some attractions that we might not have chosen to if we were buying tickets individually, that actually turned out to be a lot of fun.
Madame Tussauds wasn’t on my to-visit list (or anywhere near, to be honest), but with a spare hour in Times Square being pelted by rain, we decided to duck in. And actually, cheesy as it was, it was kind of hilarious. The National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey wasn’t particularly mindblowing – but again, it was something that we wouldn’t have done normally, and a fun enough way to while away an hour while it rained.
Color Factory was a real highlight for me – but I wouldn’t have paid the $38 entrance without knowing how fun it was. And a late-night visit to the Museum of Sex was entertaining and pretty funny – especially jumping around on a bouncy castle of boobs…
Walking, bike and bus tours with the New York Pass
Walking, bus and bike tours can be quite expensive in New York City – but there are quite a few included with the New York Pass. As comic book movie fans, we took the Marvel and DC Superheroes walking tour, which was really fun and informative.
Other walking tours you could take with the pass include: Fashion Windows Walking Tour, Central Park TV Locations, Chinatown Walking Tour, Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tour and a whole host of food and alcohol tours.
Planning your time
One thing I’d suggest with your New York Pass is planning your days out, in order to get the best value from it. Some of the attractions (e.g Empire State Building) allow you to skip the line, but for the 9/11 Museum, we still had to join the ticket queue which got HUGE not long after we’d got in it – so if you’re choosing that one, I’d advise going down early.
Other tips for the New York Pass
- Prioritise the expensive attractions: If you miss out something you really want to do on the pass that’s only $10 normally, it’s better value than missing a big ticket attraction.
- Check out some of the late or early opening attractions to squeeze in some extra value – like the Top of the Rock and Museum of Sex.
- Use your pass first thing in the morning, as it’s activated as soon as you use it.
- Some of the attractions, like the walking tours, are specifically timed – so plan your day around these if there’s one you’re really keen to do.
- A handful have limited pass access, where you need to book in advance (The Ride) or arrive early (Color Factory).
Attractions we visited with the New York Pass
Statue of Liberty Ferry & Ellis Island (value: $19); Color Factory (value: $38); Top of the Rock Observatory (value: $39); Madam Tussauds (value: $37); National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey (value: $43); Museum of Sex (value: $21); 9/11 Museum (value: $26); Empire State Building (value: $39); Marvel and DC Superheroes walking tour (value: $35).
So, is the New York Pass worth it?
For us? Definitely yes. The pass cost £139 for two days, and the value of the attractions we visited was $297, which is about £227 – so an £88 saving if we’d visited all the attractions individually.
The New York Pass really worked for our travel style – a couple of super busy exploring days, combined with some more relaxed exploring for the rest of the trip. If you don’t mind fast-paced, jam-packed days, and want to see as many New York attractions as possible, it can work out a fair bit cheaper and open your mind to things you might not normally try.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed pace, and only have a couple of must-see attractions, maybe check out the CityPass instead, as it’s less time-limited.