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It’s no secret that sightseeing in New York City can be expensive. Admission prices for most attractions are $25 and up, then add in a bad exchange rate for us Canadians, and a trip to New York can quickly end up costing a small fortune.
To help save money during our 5 days in New York City, we looked into buying one of those sightseeing cards that give you free admissions, discounts, and skip-the-line privileges. There are few different NYC attraction passes on the market, but we decided to buy the New York CityPASS.
Buying and Using the New York CityPASS
To help you determine if the New York CityPASS is worth buying, we used our experience to put together this guide. In it we answer some frequently asked questions about the New York CityPASS, break down what we spent and saved, and share our review of the New York CityPASS.
We hope this New York CityPASS guide helps you decided if the New York CityPASS is worth buying for your trip.
What is the New York CityPASS?
The New York CityPASS is a sightseeing card that includes free admission to 6 of New York City’s most popular attractions, saving up to 42% off regular box office prices.
The CityPASS helps you make the most of your time in New York City by allowing you to skip ticket lines (not security lines though), thereby freeing up more time for sightseeing.
Where Can I Use the New York CityPASS?
The New York CityPASS includes 3 preset tickets and 3 option tickets (where you choose between 2 attractions). The tourist attractions included in the New York CityPASS are:
The Empire State Building ($61 value)- Includes general admission for the AM/PM Experience. You can visit the 86th floor during the daytime, then return that same night to admire the city lights.
The American Museum of Natural History ($28.00 value)- Includes general admission to the museum, Rose Center for Earth and Space, plus the Space Show or giant screen film.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art ($25.00 value)- Includes admission to the Met exhibitions, the Met Breuer, and Met Cloisters.
Top of the Rock Observation Deck ($38 value) OR Guggenheim Museum ($25 value)- Choose between general admission to the Top of the Rock or the Guggenheim’s collection and special exhibits.
Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island ($19.25 value) OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise ($31.00-41.00 value)- Choose between visiting Liberty Island and Ellis Island (with an audio tour at each) or taking a Landmark Cruise, Harbour Lights Cruise, or Liberty Cruise with Circle Line Sightseeing.
9/11 Memorial and Museum ($26.00 value) OR Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum ($33.00 value)- Choose to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum, or the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum which includes the Space Shuttle Pavilion, the Growler submarine, and the film Story of Intrepid.
If you want to visit both places on the option tickets, you can use the included coupons to get a few dollars off admission at some of the optional attractions.
*Values above do not include tax and were updated March 1, 2020.
How Do I Use the New York CityPASS?
The CityPASS is very easy to use. You simply head to the ticket holder entrance and present your CityPASS ticket to be validated. The staff may then issue their own ticket and you’ll be able to proceed to the security line (if there’s one) and into the attraction.
Once you use your first ticket, you have 9 consecutive days (including the day of first use), to visit all the included attractions. Tickets are good for one time admission, unless otherwise noted.
The only important thing you need to remember, if you chose the booklet option over e-tickets at the time of purchase, is not to remove the perforated tickets from the booklet ahead of time. They’ll be considered invalid if you do. The staff at each attraction will remove the tickets for you.
How Much Does the New York CityPASS Cost?
The New York CityPASS costs $191.98 for adults, as of March 1, 2020. For youth (ages 6-17) the pass costs $158.10.
Where Can I Buy the New York CityPASS?
You can buy the New York CityPASS online or at the participating attractions after you arrive in New York City. To save time, we recommend buying your pass in advance so you can take advantage of the skip-the-line benefit at the first attraction you visit.
When you buy online, you’ll get the option to have your tickets emailed to you or shipped. Shipping costs apply for the booklet, so the email option is more budget friendly. Plus, ticket delivery is instant via email. Then you can just show your tickets on your mobile device and not have to carry around a booklet (but you can still print them if you want).
After you buy a CityPASS, you have 1-year from the purchase date to start using the tickets.
Did We Save Money With the New York CityPASS?
In our experience, the New York CityPASS was worth buying because it did save us a lot of money. We were extra happy to have got it on sale- a good benefit of visiting at the end of January when it’s low-season.
Since not everyone will be able to buy the pass when it’s on sale, we’re going to use the regular price when calculating how much we saved using the CityPASS in New York. Here’s a breakdown of what we spent and saved with the New York CityPASS.
New York CityPASS Purchase Price= $126 (in 2018)
Empire State Building AM/PM Experience= $54.85 value
American Museum of Natural History= $28.00 value
Top of the Rock Observation Deck= $39.20 value
Circle Line Sightseeing Landmark Cruise= $37.00 value
Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum= $33 value
Total Savings: If we were to pay for all those entrance fees, it would have cost us $192.50 each. Subtract the $126 to buy the pass and we saved $66.50 each, or 35% off the regular box office price.
This is a significant amount of savings considering we only used the pass to visit 5 of the 6 possible attractions (we skipped the Met).
However, it is worth noting that the American Museum of Natural History has a pay-what-you-wish option, so the $23 general admission fee is just a suggestion (but that doesn’t include the show that comes with the $28 value CityPASS ticket). Even without the pass, we probably would have paid the full amount anyways, since we don’t mind supporting such a fantastic museum.
Our Review of the New York CityPASS
We sometimes regret buying city sightseeing cards, either because they don’t save us money, or we have to rush around visiting a lot of places to get our money’s worth. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with the New York CityPASS.
We loved using the CityPASS in New York City because it saved us a lot of money, plus we got to skip the ticket lines. Admittedly, the lines weren’t too bad when we visited in late January, but we could see that many of these attractions are set up to accommodate huge crowds of people.
Another thing I liked about the New York CityPASS was that it was straightforward and easy to see how much money we would be saving. It included all the main attractions we wanted to visit, and not a lot of stuff we weren’t interested in. Plus, since we had 9 days to use our tickets, we didn’t have to rush around trying fit everything in.
Since the pass included free admission, we didn’t have to carry around a lot of cash or lose money to credit card foreign transaction fees at every site we visited.
Even though we didn’t make use of the additional coupons included with the CityPASS, we did appreciate that they were available to us.
Should You Buy the New York CityPASS?
Since we had such a great experience using the New York CityPASS, we have no hesitation recommending it. It was a stress-free, easy way to save money visiting New York’s most popular attractions.
While the New York CityPASS may not be right for everyone, we think it’s worth considering for the following types of travellers:
- people on their first trip to New York City who want to visit all the main attractions
- budget travellers who don’t want to sacrifice their sightseeing options but still want to save money
- people who need to make the most of a short trip by not wasting time in ticket lines
- people visiting during high season (like summer or Christmas) when ticket lines are longer and some admission prices are higher
If any of the above scenarios describe you, then it might be worth buying the New York CityPASS.
Before you buy the New York CityPASS, make sure the included attractions are of interest to you. If you have no desire to visit a few of the places included, then there’s no point in buying the pass. However, in our experience we still saved money even though we didn’t use one of the included tickets.
Tips For Buying and Using the New York CityPASS
Buying a New York CityPASS: Here is where you can buy a New York CityPASS online.
- You can choose to have your tickets emailed or shipped to you. Shipping is available in the US, to Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. Shipping charges apply.
- You can also buy a pass at the participating attractions.
Get the Most From Your Pass: To maximize your savings, choose to visit the most expensive attraction available on each of the option tickets. You can then make use of the included coupons to visit some of the remaining options, if you wish.
Accommodations in New York City
For your convenience, here is a list of hotels in New York City. Please consider booking your New York City accommodations through the included link. It costs nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!
Information was updated March 2020, but can change without notice.