New York attraction passes are a must-have for any New York traveler. The variety of passes and the differences between them are large. To help you decide, you will find extensive information on this site about the most important New York attraction passes. Before diving in, it’s useful to know how an attraction pass works. What is and isn’t included? When and where do you buy the pass? What types of passes are there? You can find all this information and more here.
The main advantages of an attraction pass are:
In this articleReading Time: 11 minutes
An attraction pass for New York is a digital or physical pass that gives a discount on attractions. You can gain access to all the included tours and attractions with one pass. When you buy a pass, you no longer have to purchase individual tickets or pay extra.
An attraction pass can also offer skip-the-line or fast track access at many attractions. This means that you can enter faster than when you buy your tickets upon arrival. Unfortunately, this fast track access doesn’t apply to all attractions. Each attraction has its own rules and collaboration with each attraction pass. In some places, you get priority with one pass and not with another pass. In other attractions, you don’t get priority at all. Whereas, at specific attractions you have to collect a ticket before you can enter. Additionally, lots of people use attraction passes when visiting New York. The result of this is even in places where there is “skip-the-line” access for pass holders; there is a chance you will still have to line up with the other pass holders in a separate queue. Despite this, you still gain entrance faster overall than those who purchase a ticket at the kiosk.
A pass always entitles you to ‘standard’ entrance. Sometimes it’s possible to purchase VIP tickets (such as tickets to the 102nd floor of the Empire State) separately, but these types of tickets are never included in the attraction passes.
You can buy one pass which gives you access to all the included tours and attractions.
An attraction pass is very efficient. You only need to carry one pass with you rather than all kinds of individual tickets. It is not necessary to buy separate tickets, as you can go anywhere with the pass. The passes are also very flexible when it comes to use; reservations or tickets at a fixed time are hardly required. This means you are free to decide the time you would like to visit an attraction while in New York. This can be very useful if you’d like to change your itinerary based on something like the weather. If it rains, you can change your planned visit to Top of the Rock with an afternoon at The Metropolitan Museum of Art so you won’t be bothered by the bad weather. When the sun shines again the next day, you can still visit Top of the Rock. This means there’s maximum flexibility!
The main reason for purchasing a pass is how much you actually save on costs. If you buy individual tickets for each attraction and tour you’d like to do, you’ll end up spending a lot of money in New York. Buying a discount pass is one of the ways to save money during your trip. As an example, when you buy an Explorer Pass for 10 attractions; you pay around $28 per attraction. An individual ticket for Top of the Rock costs $42. For the One World Observatory, you would pay $39. An attraction pass might seem expensive but as you can see, it can actually save a lot on admission fees!
|Pass & Ticket Options|
New York Pass
Sightseeing Day Pass
Sightseeing Flex Pass
Build Your Own
New York CityPASS
New York C3
|Empire State Building||$46|
|One World Observatory||$39|
|Top of the Rock||$42|
|Statue of Liberty||$19|
|Hop on Hop off Bus||$59|
|Circle Line Cruises||$44|
|Central Park Bike Rental||$63|
|American Museum of Natural History||$23|
New York Pass
Sightseeing Day Pass
Sightseeing Flex Pass
Build Your Own
New York CityPASS
New York C3
|Priority Line Access|
|Discount for Kids|
|Public transport card|
|Pass Type||day pass||day pass||attraction pass||attraction pass||attraction pass||attraction pass||attraction pass|
|Return Policy||all sales are final||all sales are final||all sales are final||30 days||30 days||365 days||365 days|
|Validity||1, 2, 3, 5, 7 or 10 days||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 10 days||30 days||30 days||30 days||9 days||9 days|
© Go City brand photos:
The first attraction pass for New York was the New York CityPASS. This pass was created in 1997 so it has been around for a long time. This makes the CityPASS a well-known name so as a result, it is often bought. Unfortunately, the CityPASS has not really kept up with the times. Consequently, there are now several other passes which are more worthwhile in New York.
The Leisure Pass group was established in 1998. This organization is responsible for, among other things, the New York Pass and the New York Explorer Pass (nowadays called Go New York Pass). They have been around for a number of decades but they have gained more popularity especially in recent years.
The latest addition of the selection of attraction passes is the New York Sightseeing Pass. This relatively new organisation has managed to gain a large share of the market in a short time. They are now at the top of the most wanted list.
Despite the wide range of attraction passes for New York, it is surprising how many people still prefer individual tickets instead of a pass. Perhaps the overly large selection of passes is to blame for this; travellers can no longer “see the wood for the trees”. As a result of this, they decided to purchase all the tickets separately. However, this isn’t recommended! A suitable pass can be chosen for everyone with a little research and advice. You can save more with a pass than without one!
City Pass, Inc.
Leisure Pass Group, Ltd.
Sightseeing Pass, LLC.
Overall, an attraction pass is worthwhile. The potential time you save not waiting in kiosk queues is a bonus. Although, this benefit is too small to be a main reason why you should purchase a pass. The financial saving is significant if you add up the costs for the individual tickets. Then compare the ticket costs with the cost of a pass; you can see that it’s a lot cheaper with a pass.
In addition to the passes that can be found on this site, there is also the NYC Eat and Play Discount Card. This was not included on the site as it isn’t an attraction pass. The Eat and Play Discount Card only offers discounts at attractions, restaurants and shops but it does not include full entry to attractions. This means you will always have to pay extra at attractions upon entry.
There are also several discount packages for New York available. These packages combine access to a number of attractions such as, a Hop-on Hop-off bus or water taxi. You still purchase separate tickets with these packages but you get a discount on the total amount. This differs from an attraction pass, as entrance with a pass is usually possible by scanning it upon entry rather than using individual tickets.
Finally, there is the New York Freestyle Pass from Gray Line. As mentioned previously, this is not a discount pass but we have included it on this site. It’s been included due to the pass being such an extensive package (it includes the main attractions, such as Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building and the Hop-on Hop-off bus). This means the Freestyle Pass is worthwhile for many people.
The attraction passes are mainly aimed at (as mentioned in the name) attractions. Therefore, most tourist attractions, tours and activities can be done with the passes. There are several things that you will encounter often during a trip to New York that aren’t included in the passes. For example, public transport (like the New York subway) is not covered by any attraction pass. You will always have to buy separate tickets for this. Mobile data is also not included. Lunch and dinner are not a fixed part of most passes but there are some passes that offer several possibilities. However, these meal options are not a main reason to choose a certain pass. These potential savings with lunch/dinner are a nice extra option if you have leftover attractions remaining on your pass.
You will receive information online about the included attractions and tours with each pass. However, there is no city map or other information included. It’s best not to expect a New York guide or additional tourist information.
Last but not least, there isn’t a pass that gives you access to helicopter tours, sports matches or Broadway shows without paying extra. These activities are sometimes advertised as ‘included in the pass’ but this is actually only a discount of the total price; the activity is never fully inclusive. In addition, the discounts offered on this are usually not worthwhile. It’s more beneficial to buy tickets online in advance. Purchasing tickets beforehand is often more worthwhile than buying the “cheap” last-minute tickets that some passes offer.
The most touristic attractions, tours and activities
Discounts on helicopter tours, sports competitions or Broadway shows are usually not worthwhile
© Sightseeing Pass brand photos:
It is recommended to buy an attraction pass online. As soon as you know when and how long you will be going to New York, along with which pass you’d like to buy; you can order it online. Afterwards, you will receive the pass by email. Most passes consist of a QR-code, which you can show on your mobile at attractions to gain entry. It is also possible to print the QR code in order to have a physical pass.
You can’t make a reservation for the attractions in advance. For example, if you plan to visit One World Observatory or the American Museum of Natural History, you can visit at whatever time you choose. It isn’t possible to make a reservation online in advance.
However, you (can and) have to book some of the tours in advance. After ordering the pass, you’ll receive all the information about the different tours and attractions by email. It also explains how you can participate in the various tours with the pass. If a reservation is necessary, it describes how you can do this directly.
We’ve created guides that outline all of the steps you have to take to be able to use the passes. From the online purchase to check-in at the attractions. You can find the New York Pass Guide here. If you would like to buy one of the New York Sightseeing Passes, check out the Sightseeing Passes Guide. There is also a guide with purchase information for the Go City Explorer Pass, which you can find here. If you’re interested in buying the New York CityPASS, you can take a look at the CityPASS Guide.
© CityPASS brand photos:
There are two types of discount passes: attraction passes and day passes. The attraction passes are those that you buy for a certain number of attractions, such as 5 or 7. You can customise these passes yourself by choosing from a long list of included sights and tours. For example, these attraction passes are the New York CityPASS, Explorer Pass, Sightseeing Flex Pass and the Freestyle Pass.
In addition to the attraction passes, there are also day passes. These work slightly differently in comparison to attraction passes. You can buy the day passes for a certain number of days, such as 3 or 5, and within those days you can visit unlimited sights and participate in tours. You can generally do a lot more with these passes than with the attraction passes, if you plan your days fully. The New York Pass and Sightseeing Day Pass are both day passes.
Example of how a day pass works:
Example of how an attraction pass works:
An attraction pass is a good choice for almost everyone. If you prefer not to plan your days too full and leave room for days where you hardly visit any attractions (e.g. a day shopping in Washington), then an attraction pass is always the best option.
The day passes are more expensive than attraction passes. They are especially worthwhile for those who want to get the most out of their trip. If you plan to do around 4-5 sights and/or tours per day, it’s usually cheaper to buy a day pass. It’s much cheaper than buying individual tickets! It’s good to keep in mind that you always buy a day pass for consecutive days. Would you also like to do something for a day that you don’t need a pass for? Plan this before or after the days with the pass.
New York is an expensive city but the passes can make it less so. For an individual ticket to an attraction or tour, you can easily pay $40-45. It’s possible to do the calculations, if you are in New York for 5 days and visit a few things each day. If you plan to do several things but you still decide not to buy a pass, it’s really a waste of money. The only situation in which a pass is not worthwhile is when you’re on a budget and you mainly plan to do free activities.
The best pass for you really depends on several factors. Not all passes have the same benefits so it depends on exactly what you would like to do in New York. The most suitable option also depends on how much you want to do, how many days you go for, etc. For personal advice, you can use the handy tool Eric’s Pass Picker. For a clear table with the main differences between the passes, look here. In the end, it is different for everyone regarding exactly how much money they want to save. It depends on what you use the pass for, but one thing is for sure: you will save money with a pass!
You might wonder if it makes sense to buy an attraction pass if you plan to visit several attractions which offer free entry times, or “pay-as-you-wish” (in which you determine your admission price). It’s true that some museums have times when you don’t have to pay an entrance fee, or when you can decide how much you pay for your ticket. This seems like a way to save money, but there are some drawbacks with these affordable entrance prices. Usually on the evenings when you can enter for free, it is always very busy. There are often long lines and the entire museum is not accessible; special exhibitions are generally excluded. It’s also inconvenient to schedule one specific moment in your itinerary for one free entry. Whereas, with an attraction pass you can visit at any time. If you have a pass, you can plan your museum visit whenever it suits you and skip most of the lines!
The ‘pay-as-you-wish’ tickets must be collected from the ticket counter which means you’ll still end up standing in a long line. If you have an attraction pass, you can usually skip this queue. Both these methods of entrance (free time slots or pay-as-you-wish) are also primarily intended to give less fortunate New Yorkers an opportunity to visit the museum. At The Met, this arrangement is exclusive to New Yorkers. As a visitor to New York who already spends a lot during their trip, it is considered normal to pay normal entrance fees. The cheapest way to do this is with a discount pass!
Finally, there are attractions like the Vessel that you can always visit for free. This is still included with some of the passes, with the pass you’re entitled to a ticket for the first available time slot without prior reservation. Normally, you need a paid ticket for this flexible entrance. Only tickets which are booked online in advance are free.
© The Leisure Group – New York Pass brand photo: