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Do you want to save money on the top NYC attractions? Then you need an attraction pass.
The Big Apple is not a cheap city to travel to, so the more you can save the better you’ll feel about having fun on your visit to New York City.
We spent two weeks in New York City at Christmas, soaking up the festive spirit and exploring one of my favorite cities in the world.
But, Christmas is one of the most expensive times to visit the city, which meant finding things to do that didn’t burn a hole in my pocket a challenge.
We saw all the free attractions such as Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge, and the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, but we waited until our last two days to visit the famous NYC attractions with a New York Sightseeing pass.
They were the only consecutive days where we had nothing else scheduled and we wanted to get the most out of the discount tourist card.
In other words, see as many attractions in New York as we could to get our money’s worth.
But is the New York Sightseeing Pass worth it? What’s the best attraction pass in the city? These are all questions this guide seeks to answer.
I was impressed with the value of these passes and I’m excited to share how to save money in New York with the attraction passes.
Go take a look…
What is An Attraction Pass?
An NYC attraction pass is a discount tourism card. What it does is it gives you discounts on some of the top attractions in the city and some other bonuses such as discounts at restaurants and shops.
We used the NYC Sightseeing Pass when we visited. There are two types of passes to choose from; the day pass and the flex pass.
The Day Pass allows you to have unlimited sightseeing for 1-10 days. This pass is ideal for first time visitors to the city who want to see as much as possible in little time. If you visit three attractions or more, you can save up to 70% on attractions.
The Flex Pass is more for locals or those who have been to the city before. It allows you to visit 2-12 attractions per day, over a 60-day period. This is great for those on a small budget or has just moved to the area. This pass can allow you to save up to 50% per day.
We were given complimentary passes from the New York Sightseeing Pass to use during our visit to New York. We were under no obligation to write this post, but we felt that the pass was pretty useful and can help you save money.
So why not share the love?
Sound interesting to you? You can book your NYC Sightseeing Pass before you visit.
What New York Attractions Does the NYC Sightseeing Pass Include?
The NYC Sightseeing Day Pass allows cash-free entry to over 150 attractions in New York City.
While it’s impossible to list them all here, I’ll share some of the top attractions in New York you may use this with:
- One World Observatory in the One World Trade Center (tallest building in New York City)
- 4 Double Decker Bus Tours, including hop on hop off bus tours and the night tour
- 2 River cruises
- Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
- Empire State Building
- Manhattan by Sail
- The Ride
- On Location tours
- Escape Rooms
- Many of NYC museums
- American Museum of Natural History
- Walking tours of NYC
Some exclusive NYC attractions with the pass are:
- The Bronx Zoo
- Central Park Zoo
- LOL Comedy Lounge
- NY Aquarium
In this post, I’ll also share the New York Pass which is another popular tourism discount card. I’ll outline more in detail below.
The Sightseeing Pass is the only NYC Pass that includes all Hop-on Hop-off buses for the duration of your Sightseeing Pass.
Which is the Best New York Attraction Pass?
There are several New York attraction pass companies. The most well-known are The Sightseeing Pass, the New York Pass (also referred to as the Explorer Pass), and the New York CityPass.
Which NYC attraction pass that’s best comes down to your budget and time frame, as well as what attractions interest you.
Planning a trip to New York does involve a bit of time and careful research. It is just too big and expensive, with so much to do that it’s not a good idea to turn up unprepared.
To help you out, here’s a little comparisson.
New York Sightseeing Pass Vs. New York Pass
We only experienced the New York Sightseeing Pass so can only share our thoughts on that from a personal experience.
However, I have done some research to highlight what the New York Pass may offer.
They are very similar, yet will have slight differences in what attractions are included.
As of August 2022, both passes include entrance to the 911 Memorial and Museum at the site of the Twin Towers.
These are what I think are the major differences that will help you decide which pass is best for your circumstances.
- The Sightseeing Pass had the One World Observatory ($34) whereas the New York Pass doesn’t. So in comparison to the World Trade Center attractions, the Sightseeing Pass will save you the most.
- Both passes include access to the 911 Tribute Museum ($15) (The Sightseeing pass has fast-track access). The Tribute Museum sounds amazing and I like how it supports the victims’ families. We were too exhausted after the 911 memorial and museum to visit.
- With The Sightseeing Pass we could reserve The Ride in advance, whereas with the other city sightseeing passes you can only turn up in the morning of the day and hope there is space on The Ride for that day. It’s a busy attraction and going in every morning to try and land a spot is a bit of a hectic time waster.
- The Sightseeing Pass is the only pass to offer the Gray Line City Sightseeing Double Decker Tour Pass and they have four different routes to choose from and the nighttime ride.
- The New York Pass has three different hop on hop off routes on The Big Bus. These are great overviews of the city and I do love hearing the history and stories as you travel through the city.
- The New York Pass includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET).
- The New York Pass includes entrance to The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
But, be warned, traffic in NYC can be mental, so a tour can take up a lot of your time.
We did the nighttime tour, which I enjoyed, however, it was freezing (as it’s an upper deck, although there are heaters so sit under the cover part) and the traffic drove me crazy.
As of August 2022, both passes have a digital pass which means you can use the pass from your phone. Gone are the days of picking up a paper pass from a location in New York. PHEW!
New York Sightseeing Pass Vs New York CityPass
We’ve already given you the rundown of the Sightseeing Pass, but for comparison, The New York CityPass includes entrance to 5 NYC attractions on purchase. It allows you to save up to 40% on attractions.
It’s a little cheaper than the Sightseeing Day Pass, but the day pass grants you access to more attractions in one day.
Here are some of the major perks of the CityPass over the Sightseeing Pass.
- The price of the CityPass is determined by the attractions you choose and comparing it to the price of that day’s box office, so you know you are saving.
- You can take the Staten Island Ferry to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty whereas the Sightseeing pass does not. You can also take the ferry to Ellis Island with the CityPass.
- The CityPass includes the Space Museum which is not included in the Sightseeing Pass.
- The CityPass is valid for 9 days, which is more than enough time to complete the 5 attractions. You can fill the time exploring some of New York’s neighborhoods such as Midtown Manhatten and Lower Manhatten or the meatpacking district.
However, with every perk, there is also a downside. Here are some of its pitfalls.
- You have to choose between attractions. The pass makes you pick between the 911 Memorial and Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum – what if you want to see both? You have to buy another pass. Likewise, you have to choose between Guggenheim Museum and Top of the Rock Observation Deck.
- Some attractions require reservations. You can reserve some on the app and some you cannot reserve on the app.
Personally, the Guggenheim Museum is an one of the top attractions in NYC. It was designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright and is a stunning piece of architecture.
The Rop of the Rock Observation Deck is also something not to be missed. You get 360-degree views of the city and Hudson River in the distance.
Choosing between these two attractions is not an easy task. But it’s a decision you have to make with the CityPass.
NYC Attractions Not Included on Any Pass
Of course, there are some fantastic attractions in New York City that you cannot miss and unfortunately, not all of them are included in these passes.
While there are over 100 attractions to choose from, the following attractions are not included:
- Broadway Theater
- Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
- Metropolitan Opera House
- Rockefeller Center Ice Rink
- The Henry Clay Frick House
Thinking of ice-skating at Christmas? This will cost you extra. Want to see pieces by Picasso and Van Gogh? Entrance to the MOMA is additional. Want to see a show in the theater district, this will also cost you more.
But there are some hidden gems in the city that don’t have to cost you a fortune.
You could walk along the East River to see some stunning views of the city skyline. You can explore Soho and Little Italy and pick up some cheap street food.
You can head to Grand Central Terminal and see the famous clock, or wander around Greenwich Village and see the boho, hippy district.
You can also get a free timed entry ticket to The High Line and Battery Park is free to enter.
How Much Do The NYC Attraction Passes Cost?
The Sightseeing Pass:
- 1 Day Pass is $144 for adults and $116 for child passes (4-12)
- 2 Day Pass is $189 for adults and $119 for children
- 3 Day Pass is $219 for adults and $134 for children
- 4 Day Pass is $249 for adults and $144 for children
- 5 Day Pass is $279 for adults and $154 for children
- 6 Day Pass is $299 for adults and $159 for children
- 7 Day Pass is $319 for adults and $164 for children
- 10 Day Pass is $359 for adults and $199 for children
The New York Pass (Explorer Pass):
- 1 Day Pass is $142 for adults and $106 for children (4-12)
- 2 Day Pass is $189 for adults and $119 for children
- 3 Day Pass is $218 for adults and $134 for children
- 4 Day Pass is $249 for adults and $143 for children
- 5 Day Pass is $279 for adults and $154 for children
- 7 Day Pass is $317 for adults and $164 for children
- 10 Day Pass is $349 for adults and $199 for children
The New York CityPass:
The prices vary depending on the attractions you choose and the prices listed in the box office that day.
You can expect to pay from $129 for adults and $109 for children.
So you can see their prices are very similar. So it just depends on which pass covers the attractions you most want to visit. Now that the Sightseeing Pass includes the 911 Memorial Museum, I think it is the better value card.
The CityPass can be worth it if you want to spread your attractions out over 9 days, but choosing between two top attractions makes it difficult to see the value in it. You ideally need to buy two passes so you can see all the attractions available.
There are undeniably fewer attractions on the CityPass but the ferry being one of the included ones is quite a bonus.
Tourism discount cards often have sales so be sure to check both passes before you purchase.
How Does the Attraction Pass in NYC Work
Most of the attraction passes work in the same way, so here’s a run down of what we discovered when we tried it with the NYC Sightseeing Pass.
The Sightseeing Pass
- Choose 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 or 10 days of Unlimited Sightseeing. The Pass can be used for consecutive calendar days. It becomes activated when it is used at its first attraction, then expires at midnight of its last valid day.
- The Sightseeing Pass is recommended for first-time visitors to NYC, as well as active travelers who like convenience and visitors with an open itinerary who like to control their sightseeing budget.
You purchase the pass online and receive it via email. When you turn up to attractions, you will see a box office with a sign for your pass. They will simply scan your pass and you’re free to enter.
The Sightseeing FLEX Pass
- Visit 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 10 Attractions – Choose from over 100 options.
- Valid for 60 Days.
- With The Sightseeing FLEX Pass, you select the number of attractions you would like to see and then build a custom itinerary to fit your exact interests as you go.
- This option is recommended for visitors who have already been to NYC and want to enjoy a more customized experience on their subsequent visits. It’s great for those who are short on time, or have a limited sightseeing budget.
2. Swipe your card at your first attraction. Your card is then automatically activated and validated.
3. You can pre-book some well known attractions or use special entrance lines with Fast Track Entry privileges at select locations.
- There are sample itineraries on site to help you plan
- You have 12 months from the date of purchase to activate your NYC Sightseeing Passes
- There is no daily limit to the amount of attractions you can visit per day. The more attractions you visit, the more money you save.
The New York Pass works the same way, except that you can only pick up the card from a location in the city, or pay extra to have it sent to you.
They only have day passes, they don’t have a flex pass like the Sightseeing pass does.
Is the Sightseeing Pass NYC Worth It?
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 add up!
Here are the tours and NYC attractions we did on the Sightseeing Pass with a cost comparison so you can see how you can save money in New York with them.
- Empire State Building ($36)
- OneWorld Observatory ($34)
- The Ride ($55)
- Circle Line Landmarks Cruise ($37)
- Gray Line City Sightseeing night tour ($59). You get access to all the hop on hop off tours, but we only had time for the night one.
Savings of $51.00
At the time, the 911 Memorial was not part of the pass, but with the inclusion of the 911 Memorial our savings would have been $75.
Since we only saw a few of the many attractions, The Flex pass ($129) may have worked well for us.
If you want to visit more NYC attractions, consider getting the day passes and perhaps more than one. The more days you purchase the cheaper the daily rate gets.
Some other tours and attractions that I think look awesome (or we did without using the pass) are:
- Bike and Roll – inside Central Park tour ($40)
- Central Park Tours – Bike Rental ($15)
- Food on Foot Tours ($49)
- Luna Park Coney Island ($69) for families in the summer
- Airport shuttle ($23)
- Plus entry to the biggest NYC museums
Here are some other reasons that make the NYC Sightseeing Pass worth it:
- Visiting the top 10 popular NYC attractions can save you up to 70% from buying the tickets alone! That’s the biggest saving in NYC.
- There is no limit on how many attractions you can visit. Whatever attraction is listed on the pass is yours to visit!
- Most of the attraction passes offer cheaper passes for children, so they can be a good option for people traveling with a family.
- You also get skip the ticket line privileges. This saved us about an hour at The Empire State Building. Some attractions have fast pass entry to skip the lines, which is super handy for some of these popular New York attractions. Be sure to find out which ones offer fast track so you can optimize your travel day.
- The pass also gives discounts to various other things like shopping and dining. We got 15% off our meal at Heartland Brewery. The food wasn’t great, but I did love their gluten-free beer.
- The passes come with guide books to help you plan your visit in New York.
I think it’s tempting to grab the pass for a few days because there are so many attractions and tours on it. It can be quite exciting.
However, visiting attractions in New York takes up a lot of your time, especially if there are lines.
We still waited for an hour to get into the Empire State Building and we skipped the ticket purchase queue – which saved us about another hour.
So you may not get time to do all the attractions.
It’s important to list your must-not-miss attractions. Work out the price of individual admission and figure out how much time you’ll need to cover them.
Then see which pass covers those for you and what the cost of that pass will be.
Now you’ll know whether to get the pass or just pay for the individual attractions. If the sightseeing pass saves you money, then if you have extra time, you can fit in some of the extra tours that come with it.
How to Get the Most Value from an Attraction Pass
- Research the passes carefully to know what they include and what NYC attractions you want to see are covered.
- Run the numbers and work out which NYC discount tourism card is best for you.
- Plan your day around the duration of your pass as they do have time limit restrictions. So we saved our NYC attractions for the last two days of our visit to New York as they were the only two consecutive free days we had.
- For the busiest and most popular New York Attractions, get there for opening.
- Pre Book tours and use your fastpass whenever you can.
- Lines can be long, so do your must sees first. Then have a list of other tours and attractions you are interested in to fill up the spaces in between.
- Try to limit the distance between each attraction to reduce travel time. So focus on exploring one section of New York at a time with your pass.
- Start early. You paid for the card, why not maximise your time, see more attractions and save more money!
FAQS about NYC Attraction Passes
Here’s what people usually ask us about the attraction passes.
The Verdict: Which is the Best NYC Attraction Pass
When it comes to picking the best attraction pass for NYC, there are two clear winners. The NYC Sightseeing Pass and the New York City Pass (Explorer Pass).
Both offer a wide range of attractions and allow you to save. There are a few different attractions on offer with both passes, so the final verdict really comes down to you and which attractions you want to see.
We personally used the NYC Sightseeing Pass and were amazed by the value we saved so we would recommend it to other travelers.
Sightseeing NYC videos
Check out our New York City playlist and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.
VISITING OTHER US CITIES?
If you’re traveling to multiple cities over a 30 day period, you may be interested in the USA Sightseeing Pass. Choose from over 300 Attractions in 12 USA destinations saving you up to 70% on attraction fees.
Planning a Trip to New York City
We’ve been traveling 20 years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time when booking accommodation, flights, and car rental.
Booking Accommodation in New York City
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