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New York Pass and other passes

Thinking of buying a New York City Tourist Card? Here are the best options, how they work, prices and whether they're worth it or not.

Alex Grande

Alex Grande

9 min read

New York Pass and other passes

Yellow taxi touring the Big Apple | ©Edoardo Busti

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. Here's a comprehensive comparison of the different passes to find the one that's perfect for you.

New York Pass: to see everything and make the most of every minute of your trip

Views of the city from The Edge| ©Hellotickets
Views of the city from The Edge| ©Hellotickets

When buying the New York Pass you should know that it 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 attractions).

The New York Pass includes 100 attractions, including New York's most popular attractions: 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.

More details: All about the New York Pass

What's included

  • 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 travels and see a lot in one day
  • Duration: from one to ten days
  • Price: from £100
  • You'll save up to: €450 (on a 7-day pass)

Buy the New York Pass

New York CityPASS: see the highlights of New York at a leisurely pace

The Empire State Observatory| ©Hellotickets
The Empire State Observatory| ©Hellotickets

The New York CityPass includes three fixed attractions and a choice of three attractions, making a total of five 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 its duration 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.

More details: Everything you need to know about the New York CityPass

What's included

  • 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 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 around Manhattan

Practical information

  • Recommended if: you are staying less than 10 days in New York and want to see the main attractions.
  • Number of attractions: 5 (New York's top attractions)
  • Duration: 9 days from activation
  • Price: from £107
  • You will save up to: €72

Buy the New York CityPass

New York City Explorer Pass: if you're spending an extended period of time in New York City

The Edge lookout| ©Hellotickets
The Edge lookout| ©Hellotickets

Purchasing the New York Explorer Pass is a perfect way to personalise 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 your 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 you're better off buying tickets separately.

More details: All the details about the New York Explorer Pass

What's included

  • Free choice of over 100 activities and attractions
  • Valid for 30 days
  • Queue-free entry to some 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

Practical information

  • Recommended if: You have a clear idea of which attractions you want to visit and you will 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 will save up to: €150 (on a 7-day pass)

Buy the New York Explorer Pass

New York Sightseeing Pass: the perfect option for those who have a clear itinerary for their trip

The sightseeing bus in Times Square| ©Hellotickets
The sightseeing bus in Times Square| ©Hellotickets

If you are buying the New York Sightseeing Pass you have two options: the Day option or the Flex option. The Day option 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 sites.

The Flex option 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. It is 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 a single day and you have 30 days to use it from the time of activation.

More details: What you need to know about the New York Sightseeing Pass

What's included

  • 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)

Practical Information

  • Recommended if: your second time in New York or if you are travelling on a budget.
  • Duration: one to ten days
  • Price: from £104
  • You'll save up to: €390 (on a 10-day pass)

Buy the New York Sightseeing Pass

Why it pays to buy a New York Sightseeing Pass

Entrance to Rockefeller Center| ©Hellotickets
Entrance to Rockefeller Center| ©Hellotickets

Buying a tourist card has several advantages, not least of which are saving money (you can get into 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.

Alex's Tip

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?

The ferry to the Statue of Liberty| ©Hellotickets
The ferry to the Statue of Liberty| ©Hellotickets
  • 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 the 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?

Access to One World Observatory with Explorer Pass| ©Hellotickets
Access to One World Observatory with Explorer Pass| ©Hellotickets

Depending on what you prefer to pay

Before we go any further, 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.

  1. Passes per attraction: You pay only for the number of attractions you want to see.
  2. 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, as you will avoid buying a pass that is too big for your stay in New York, or worse, too small. Depending on how long you are 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?

The Chrisler Building at night| ©Hellotickets
The Chrisler Building at night| ©Hellotickets
  • New York Pass If you're an all-rounder who doesn't want to leave anything untouched and you don't get tired of going all out during your trip, make the most of this "open bar" attractions pass.
  • New York 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 Pass If 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.
  • New York Explorer Pass If you're in New York for more than 10 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.

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

Views of Manhattan from the ferry| ©Hellotickets
Views of Manhattan from the ferry| ©Hellotickets

Which passes include fast-track access?

All passes have fast-track access at selected attractions. The CityPass has fast-track access at 5 out of 9 attractions, while the New York Pass has fast-track access 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 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 buy my pass?

You can purchase any of the passes conveniently online and receive all the relevant information in your email. There are usually two options: have the pass sent to your home or pick it up at one of the tourist offices in New York.

How do I activate my pass?

Generally, by using 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.

Latest tips

Buying a New York Pass, in most cases, means organising your trip very specifically. Plan 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.

Comparison table between the different passes

  • New York Pass
  • For intense trips
  • 1 to 10 days
  • 115 attractions
  • The best: You can see it all if you make the most of your time.
  • Book now
  • New York CityPass
  • The intermediate option
  • 9 days
  • 5 attractions
  • The best: covers the essentials
  • Book now
  • New York Explorer Pass
  • For those who want to take it easy
  • 60 days
  • 2 to 10 attractions
  • The best thing: you only pay for what you want to see.
  • Book now
  • New York Sightseeing Pass
  • For detailed itineraries
  • 60 days (Flex option)
  • 150 attractions (Day option)
  • The best: fully customisable
  • Book now

So far, a comparison of the different New York Passes you can choose from for your trip to New York. Now it's time to eat your way through 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 5 of New York's top attractions, the New York Pass gives you free entry to over 100 attractions but is limited by the duration 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!