Choosing the right New York Pass to make the most of your visit to New York can mean the difference between a good trip and a great one. To that end, here's a comprehensive comparison of the different passes to find the one that's perfect for you.
How many tourist passes are there in New York?
Why it is worth buying a tourist card in New York City
Buying a tourist card has several advantages, not least of which are saving money (they allow you to enter the main attractions at a flat or reduced rate) and saving time, as most attractions have a special queue for pass holders.
All passes give you access to its main monuments, buildings and points of interest. What varies between passes is their duration and the number of attractions you have access to.
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 the passes usually include?
- Access to a sightseeing bus around the main areas of New York City
- A ferry to Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty is located
- Tickets to 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?
Depending on what you prefer to pay
Before we go on, the most important thing to note is that there are two types of New York Pass: by number of days, and by number of attractions.
- Attraction Passes: You pay only for the number of attractions you want to see.
- Day Passes: You pay by the day and during those days, you can enjoy New York to the fullest with an open bar of attractions.
Depending on the type of traveller you are
Finding the perfect pass for you depends entirely on the type of trip you are making to New York. This is very important to avoid buying a pass that is too big for your stay in New York, or worse, too small. Depending on how long you're going to be in New York and the type of traveller you are, I recommend one New York Pass or another.
OK, but... which pass should I buy?
- New York PassCityPASS: If you're an all-rounder who doesn't want to leave anything untouched 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 going for less than ten days. It includes the city's top attractions, is easy to use and will save you money and time compared to buying individual tickets for each site.
- New York Sightseeing PassIf you've been to New York before and want to see new things. This New York Pass includes the One World Observatory, plus some great discounts throughout the city and tickets to alternative New York attractions.
- Explorer Pass: If you're going to be in New York for more than ten days. This pass is perfect for eating up the city. 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 New York CityPass includes three fixed attractions and a choice of three attractions, making a total of six attractions, which you can visit in up to 9 days from the first use. It is the most popular pass for visitors to New York, as it includes admission to the city's essential landmarks and is suitable for most trips.
Compared to buying individual tickets to each attraction, you can save up to €72 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 New York CityPASS article.
- Tickets to the Empire State Building with audio guide, which will allow you to enter the building twice for a daytime and nighttime experience.
- Tickets to the Natural History Museum (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 this)
- 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 crowded).
- Tickets for the 9/11 Memorial and the 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 cruise through Manhattan
- Recommended: if you are staying less than 10 days in New York and want to see the main attractions.
- Number of attractions: 6 (New York's top attractions)
- Duration: 9 days from activation
- Price: from £101
- You will save up to: €72
New York Pass
The New York Pass is a day pass, and you pay according to the number of days of validity you choose. Be careful, because they are not 24-hour days, but from the moment you activate the pass you have until midnight before it counts as a full day, and your pass goes away in the carriage like Cinderella (or simply stops working on the rides).
The New York Pass includes 100 attractions, including New York's most popular: 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 between one and ten days for this pass, but my recommendation is to avoid the one-day pass as it will most likely not be worth it. You can read more in my article on the New York Pass.
- English-speaking tour guide
- Queue-free access to over 100 attractions and activities
- New York's top attractions
Practical information about New York City
- Recommended: if you like to go all out on your trips and see a lot in one day
- Duration: from one to ten days
- Price: from £87
- You'll save up to: €450 (on a 7-day pass)
New York City Explorer Pass
The New York Explorer Pass is perfect for personalising your New York experience as you can choose 3, 4, 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 your chosen attractions, 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 choosing attractions that cost €25 or more to maximise your savings. And again, if you want to save as much as possible, make a list of the places you want to visit and compare whether it's better to buy tickets separately. You can read more about the Explorer Pass here: New York Explorer Pass.
- Free choice of 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 Building
- The RIDE
- Clipper Sailing Cruise
- Luna Park Pass
- Big Bus Night Tour
- TV & Movie Bus Tour
- Hop On Hop Off
- Recommended: if you have a clear idea of which attractions you want to visit and you'll be in New York for a couple of weeks.
- Number of attractions: 3, 4, 5, 5, 7 or 10
- Duration: 30 days from activation
- Price: from £61
- You'll save up to: €150 (on a 7-day pass)
New York Sightseeing Pass
Like New York Pass, the New York Sightseeing Pass works on a daily basis and each day is valid from activation until midnight. It has some differences like the other passes, such as including credit to spend at attractions and a free meal at a restaurant of your choice from a list of popular New York venues.
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 worth it or not, etc.
- 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 (around £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)
- Recommended: if this is your second time in New York or if you are travelling on a budget.
- Duration: one to ten days
- Price: from £106
- You'll save up to: €390 (on a 10-day pass)
The New York Sightseeing Flex Pass allows you to pay per attraction rather than per day. Otherwise, it includes the same as the regular version, except for admission to the Empire State Building.
- 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 one day.
- Duration: 30 days from activation
- Price: From £54
- You will save up to: £200 (on a 12 attraction pass)
Alex's Traveller Tip
Passes are activated simply by using them for the first time at an attraction.
What you need to know before you book
Which passes include fast-track access?
All passes have fast-track access at selected 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 going through security checks.
Which attractions are free for children?
I recommend that you check each site's specific policy first. In general, most children under the age of 3 get free admission to all New York attractions. If your children get free admission to most of the attractions you plan to visit, don't buy them a pass!
How do I activate my pass?
Generally, use it at any attraction included in the pass. From that first use, the time on the pass will start to count and at 12 midnight that same day you will be considered to have used the pass for one day, and so on.
Buying a New York Pass, in most cases, means organising your trip in a very specific way. Plan very well what you want to see, on what day, and at what time. If you are the type of person who travels in a more spontaneous and improvised way, I recommend that you don't buy a pass.
So far, the comparison between the different New York Pass that you can choose for your trip to New York. Now, let's eat up the Big Apple!
Frequently asked questions
What are the differences between the different passes?
The key difference between the different New York City Passes lies in what they offer. The New York CityPass gives combined entry to 6 of New York's top attractions, the New York Pass gives you free entry to over 100 attractions but is limited in the length of the pass, and the New York Explorer Pass allows you to choose tickets to between 3 and 10 attractions of your choice.
What is the best tourist pass to buy?
It really depends on what you want to do and how much time you have in New York. If you just want to see the highlights of the city without a time limit, the best option is the CityPass or the Sightseeing Pass. But if you're only in New York for a few days, the smartest choice is the New York Pass for the duration of your visit.
What is the best value for money sightseeing pass in New York?
If value for money is what you're looking for first and foremost, our recommendation is to purchase the New York Pass, whose only limiting factor is the number of days it lasts. With this in mind, you can maximise the value of the pass by organising yourself to visit as many attractions as you can, but remember to enjoy your visit too!