New York

New York City Passes

What’s a New York City Pass?

A New York city pass is a sightseeing pass that allows you to visit numerous attractions in New York without having to buy additional tickets. Some city passes include 100+ attractions that you can visit for free, including top sights such as the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, and a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Many museums are also covered by major New York passes, including the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and many others. At some of these museums and attractions, a city pass allows you to skip the lines at the box office.

A New York city pass can often be used for sightseeing tours on the Hop-on Hop-off buses, ferries and cruise ships. Most city passes also cover a variety of walking and cycling tours. However, unlike in other cities, no New York city pass includes a public transportation ticket.

New York City Pass: Time-based vs. Attraction-based

The most important city passes show great similarities with each other. However, there is a big difference between time-based and attraction-based passes.

Time-based means: Visit as many attractions as you like in a limited time of one to ten calendar days:

These passes cost between $131.00 and $490.00. The longer they are valid, the more expensive the passes are. However, there are often discount offers, so you will rarely pay the full price for these two city passes.

Attraction-based means: When you buy the pass, choose the number of attractions you want to visit. You will never be pressed for time:

These passes cost between $65.00 and $264.00. The more attractions you can visit with a pass, the more expensive they are. In general, attraction-based passes are cheaper than time-based passes – but you can do far less sightseeing with them.

Where Do I Get a New York City Pass?

You can buy any NYC city pass on the Internet. Some are also available in local stores in New York, but it’s usually worth buying online as you’ll benefit from frequent discount promotions. It also gives you more time to make your reservations for guided tours.

Often there is an app and/or a travel guide available for purchase to help you plan your trip. The better you prepare your trip, the more you will benefit from a city pass.

You can use all major New York passes digitally on your phone. This means, after the purchase, you can get started right away.

This page contains partner links. This means that we receive a commission when you buy a product through an affiliate link (e.g. a NYC city pass). This does not make the product more expensive for you.

When Is a New York City Pass Worthwhile?

  • When You’re in New York for the first time

    A New York city pass is most worthwhile for visitors who are visiting the city for the first time. All passes cover New York’s top attractions and only if you visit at least some of those will a city pass be worthwhile for you.

  • When you’d like to do intensive sightseeing

    Especially the two time-based city passes (New York Pass and New York Sightseeing Pass) are suitable for doing a lot of sightseeing in a short time. The more attractions you visit in the time available, the more worthwhile a New York city pass is.

  • When you spend several days in New York

    Although the purchase price increases with the duration of a pass, the price per day decreases considerably. Therefore, the longer the validity of the time-based New York city passes, the more worthwhile they are. The same applies to the attraction-based passes: they are also more worthwhile the more attractions you can visit with a pass. In addition, sightseeing with these passes is more relaxed because they allow you plenty of time.

  • When You’re Interested in Museums

    All New York city passes include the city’s major museums: 9/11 Memorial & Museum, MoMA, The Met, the Museum of Natural History and many others can be visited with a New York pass. The passes are especially worthwhile for the expensive museums.

  • When You Enjoy Hop-on Hop-of Buses

    Tourist Hop-on Hop-off buses are a key element in some passes, as they can be very expensive if you buy individual tickets. With city passes, on the other hand, you pay nothing extra for the buses. The Sightseeing DAY Pass even lets you ride the Hop-on Hop-off buses within Manhattan for as long as your pass is valid (that’s up to 10 days).

  • When You Like to Join Walking Tours

    With three out of four New York passes, you can take part in a wide range of walking tours. These are often quite expensive if you book them individually. But with the passes they are free of charge. You still have to make a reservation online in advance to secure your spot.

  • When You Know What You’d Like to See

    All New York city passes are most worthwhile if you prepare your trip well and know exactly what you want to see in the Big Apple. Because this way you can calculate exactly how much the trip will cost you with and without a city pass. This way you can avoid disappointment and use your city pass as efficiently as possible.

  • When You Travel Unprepared

    Some customers do not aim to save money with a New York city Pass. Rather, they use their all-inclusive sightseeing pass to be inspired. That’s because the time-based passes with 100+ attractions include many sights and tours that not everyone has heard of yet. So you might find something that will surprise you.

  • When You Don’t Want to Buy Single Tickets

    Whether you’re saving money or getting inspired by what a pass has to offer, a New York city pass is a very convenient product. With just one purchase you’ll get a ticket for up to 100 sights, bus and boat rides and walking tours in New York City and you can use this ticket conveniently on your smartphone.

All New York City Passes at a Glance

In the following section we briefly introduce the four most important tourist cards for New York.

Please click on the respective icon.

Benefits of the Sightseeing Pass

  • Visit 100+ attractions free of charge
  • Hop-on Hop-off bus in Manhattan and Brooklyn
  • Free walking and cycling tours
  • DAY Pass: valid up to 10 days from activation
  • FLEX Pass: up to 12 attractions in 60 days
  • Incl. travel brochure, city map + app
  • Available for smartphones or printing

Benefits of the New York Pass

  • Visit 100+ attractions free of charge
  • Incl. Hop-on Hop-off bus and boat cruises
  • Free walking tours and bike tours
  • Valid for up to 10 days from first use
  • Incl. travel guide, city map & app
  • Available for smartphones

Benefits of the New York CityPASS

  • Free entry to 6 out of 9 top attractions
  • Incl. Empire State Building & 9/11 Museum
  • Skip the line at some attractions
  • Valid for 30 days after first use
  • Instantly available on your smartphone

Benefits of the NYC Explorer Pass

  • Choose up to 10 out of 90+ attractions
  • Including Hop-on Hop-off bus and boat cruises
  • Free walking and cycling tours
  • Valid for 60 days from first use
  • Download to smartphone, ready, go!

New York City Passes Compared (Table)

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Last update: 08/2020

*These are regular prices. However, the New York Pass and Sightseeing DAY Pass are almost non-stop offered at discounted prices, so you will rarely pay the full price.

Differences Between City Passes

The table above contains a lot of information, but in the beginning you don’t know what to look for. Since most city passes are similar in many characteristics, we would like to point out the main differences in this section:

Time-based vs. Attraction-based: We have mentioned it before and we do it again, as it is the biggest and most important difference between the New York passes: The New York Pass and the New York Sightseeing DAY Pass are so-called time-based passes. This means that of the included 100+ attractions you can visit as many as you like. The only restriction is the limited time from 1 to 10 days.

On the other hand, with the attraction-based passes you have up to 60 days, but you have to decide how many attractions you want to visit (between 2 and 12) when you buy them. Both options can be worthwhile. What you choose is a question of personal taste.

Fast Track Entry: All New York passes advertise fast track admission at many attractions. But in recent years these privileges have been reduced more and more. Nowadays you enjoy fast admission to only very few attractions. Only the New York CityPASS still keeps this promise quite well. At five out of nine attractions you’ll enjoy fast track admission.

Included Attractions: The passes hardly differ in the attractions they cover. They all contain mostly the same top attractions, bus and boat tours and walking tours. The only significant difference is The Edge, the viewing platform. This is exclusively included in the New York Sightseeing Pass.

Hop-on Hop-off bus: A key attraction in three out of four New York passes is the Hop-on Hop-off bus. The offers differ both in the operating bus company and in the validity and routes. The New York Pass and the New York Explorer Pass each include one day on the Big Bus company’s buses. The pass is valid for the Uptown and Downtown routes in Manhattan.

The New York Sightseeing Pass, on the other hand, includes several trips on City Sightseeing buses. With this pass you can hop on buses in Brooklyn for one day as well as several days in Manhattan (Uptown and Downtown). The offer is therefore much more comprehensive. However, the City Sightseeing buses are rated a bit more negatively by customers than the buses of Big Bus.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Pass

Advantages of the Sightseeing Pass

 Almost all of New York’s top attractions are covered by the Sightseeing Pass.

The Sightseeing Pass is not only valid for classic sights, but also for Hop-on Hop-off buses, walking tours, boat trips and bicycle tours.

Starting at a validity of three days, the pass promises significant savings. The longer the pass is valid, the more you’ll save.

The Sightseeing Pass is available in two types: DAY Pass and FLEX Pass. This makes the pass more flexible than other city passes.

You can either use the Sightseeing Pass on your smartphone or print it out.

Disadvantages of the Sightseeing Pass

The Sightseeing DAY Pass is hardly worth it for only 1 or 2 days. You would have to do too much sightseeing in a very short time.

Reservations are required for most walking and cycling tours. These are always made online though, which is convenient.

Fast track admission is only available for very few attractions. Most of the time you will have to queue with other visitors at the box office.

Advantages of the New York Pass

 Almost all of New York’s top attractions are included in the New York Pass.

The New York Pass includes not only attractions but also Hop-on Hop-off buses, boat cruises, walking tours and bicycle tours.

Provided you’ll use the New York Pass for at least 3 days, large savings are possible.

You can use the New York Pass digitally on your smartphone – that’s convenient.

If you lose your New York Pass, it will be replaced free of charge.

Disadvantages of the New York Pass

 The Edge is not included in the New York Pass.

Reservations are required for most walking tours and bike tours.

The Hop-on Hop-off bus ticket is only valid for one day.

The New York Pass is hardly worth it, if you want to use it for only 1 or 2 days.

Fast track admission is only available for very few attractions. Most of the time you will have to queue with other visitors at the box office.

Advantages of the New York CityPASS

 The CityPASS includes only a few sights, but almost all of the city’s top attractions.

With a CityPASS you will save money compared to buying single tickets.

You have 30 days to use the services of this city pass. This is an exceptionally long validity.

At some attractions, with the CityPASS you’ll benefit from premium services (e.g. two visits to the Empire State Building).

You can reserve your Top of the Rock visit online. This is not possible with other city passes.

The pass can be conveniently used on your smartphone or printed out.

Disadvantages of the New York CityPASS

 The CityPASS does not include Hop-on Hop-off buses or walking tours like any other New York city pass.

The options are somewhat limited. You have to choose 6 out of 9 attractions but sometimes you need to choose between two attractions at a time.

You should be interested in museums to make the CityPASS worthwhile.

Shipping of the booklet is very expensive (using the digital pass is free though).

Advantages of the Explorer Pass

 The Explorer Pass includes almost all of New York’s major attractions. So you are spoilt for choice.

For attractions that cost $30.00 or more when purchased individually, you will save money with the Explorer Pass.

With the Pass, you only pay for the attractions you really want to see.

The Explorer Pass can be easily used on your smartphone or printed on paper.

Disadvantages of the Explorer Pass

 Most variants of the Explorer Pass are not worthwhile for attractions that cost less than $30.00.

The new platform The Edge is not included in the pass.

You must keep track of how many attractions you have visited with your Pass.

Fast track admission is only available for very few attractions. Most of the time you will have to queue with other visitors at the box office.

Which New York City Pass is the Best?

It is not easy for us to choose the best New York city pass, as all the passes presented here are pretty good. They all contain the main attractions of the city and with all of them you save money compared to buying single tickets. If you want to purchase a time-based pass, we see slight advantages for the Sightseeing Pass over the New York Pass.

If you don’t know which pass to choose, we would like to offer some guidance. Click on the statements that apply to you to read our recommendation:

If you only want to visit a few sights, an attraction-based pass is the best choice. The New York Explorer Pass, the Sightseeing FLEX Pass and the New York CityPASS are suitable for you. With the latter the choice is very limited, but the attractions included are all very popular. The other two passes allow a wider choice.

If you want to do as much sightseeing as possible in a short period of time, one of the two time-based passes that allow you to choose from 100+ attractions is suitable: the New York Pass and the New York Sightseeing DAY Pass.

It is not self-evident that you can save significant amounts of money with a city pass, but in New York this is possible with all four passes.

Basically, with the time-based passes you can save more money, because it is up to you how much sightseeing you can do in the limited time. But unfortunately, it cannot be said that you would save more with one pass than with another.

It all depends on the purchase price of the pass and which sights you want to see. However, we have calculated several scenarios on our site to show you what savings are realistically possible:

The four New York passes cover the city’s major museums and some offer even more. The New York Pass, for example, covers almost 30 museums.

But the number of museums alone doesn’t tell you very much. With the New York CityPASS you can only visit up to four museums. However, you’ll receive an audioguide, and you can visit a special exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History. These extras are not included in every city pass.

Three city passes offer an extensive portfolio of walking tours: New York Pass, Sightseeing Pass and Explorer Pass. With the attraction-based passes, each walking tour is considered an attraction. With those passes, the city walks are often only worthwhile if they cost significantly more than $30.00 when purchased individually. Only the New York CityPASS does not offer any walking tours.

None of the city passes presented here include a ticket for the New York Metro.

The New York Sightseeing Pass offers the most comprehensive Hop-on Hop-off services. With the DAY option, you can use City Sightseeing buses in Manhattan as often and as long as your Sightseeing Pass is valid. In addition, you can hop on the buses for one day in Brooklyn.

With the FLEX Pass you can use the Manhattan buses for 72 hours.

The time-based passes are only really worthwhile after 3 days. Therefore, if you’re planning a short stay in New York, you’d better choose an attraction-based pass with four to six attractions. You should consider the Sightseeing FLEX Pass and the Explorer Pass. The prices and included attractions are similar.

An alternative is the New York CityPASS, which is valid for 9 days, but only allows you to visit six attractions (the pass is worthwhile when you visit at least four or five attractions).

From 3 days in New York, the time-based passes (New York Pass and Sightseeing DAY Pass) are worthwhile, provided you want to do a lot of sightseeing in the time.

For a little less sightseeing in the same time, the attraction-based passes (Sightseeing FLEX Pass, Explorer Pass and CityPASS) offer the better value for money.

For a longer stay in New York, you can save the most money with the time-based passes (New York Pass and Sightseeing DAY Pass). Even if you buy the passes at the regular prices, you only need to visit attractions worth about $40 to $50 a day to make the passes worthwhile. If you buy them at a lower discount price, you will save even more money.

However, if you want to do little or select sightseeing in the abundant time available, you can use attraction-based passes such as the New York CityPASS, Explorer Pass and Sightseeing FLEX Pass.

Children pay slightly less than adults for all New York passes presented here. However, the savings are never spectacular, because even the attractions included in the passes often do not offer large discounts for children. Unfortunately, there is not the one pass that would be particularly suitable for families. Therefore, we recommend that the decision for or against a pass is not dependent on the kids.

New York can also be explored wonderfully without going inside any of the attractions or without taking part in commercial walking tours. You might as well stroll through Central Park or explore Times Square on your own.

If you prefer this type of sightseeing, you don’t need a New York city pass at all. We recommend that you buy individual tickets for the few attractions you want to visit.

FAQ About New York City Passes

No, you can only take up each offer once, with a few exceptions. For example, the Hop-on Hop-off buses can be used several times in one day or even several days. The New York CityPASS allows you to go up the Empire State Building twice: during the day and in the evening when it’s dark.

No, you cannot use public transport with any of the four New York passes.

All New York passes are available online. You can download them all to your smartphone after purchase (some require an app). Some passes can also be mailed to your home or you can pick them up at a central location in New York.

No, on the contrary. The city passes are sometimes more expensive on site, because there are always discount campaigns online. Especially the New York Pass and the Sightseeing Pass are often offered online at reduced prices. You only benefit from the discounts when you buy online.

Yes, passes for children are slightly cheaper than passes for adults. But the price differences are only moderate, as there are only small discounts for children for some attractions in New York.

This varies from city pass to city pass. It also depends on where you buy them. Some passes can be bought at Get Your Guide. There they can almost always be cancelled free of charge up to 24 hours before departure.

If you buy the New York Pass on the official site, there’s a 30 day Money-Back-Guarantee as long as the pass has not been activated.

You can’t cancel the Sightseeing Pass just like that – unless you buy some kind of cancellation insurance for 4% of the purchase price. In this case you can decide to return the passes within 24 months after purchase.

The three most important observation platforms in New York are the Empire State Building Observatory, Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center and the One World Observatory at One World Tradecenter. The entrance fee is about $40 each.

Top of the Rock is included in every New York city pass. The platform is popular because it is located in midtown Manhattan and you can look over Central Park on one side and see the Empire State Building on the other.

The view from the Empire State Building over Manhattan is also nice, but a little less varied. The viewing platform on top of the Empire State Building is included in every city pass. The New York CityPASS even allows two visits: during the day and in the evening of the same day when the city is illuminated.

The One World Observatory is located at the southern end of Manhattan. So you can look at the city as well as at the water and the Statue of Liberty. This platform is included in the Explorer Pass, the New York Pass an the Sightseeing Pass.

The latest addition to New York viewing platforms is The Edge. This one is exclusive to the New York Sightseeing Pass.

No observation platform is better than another one. It is a question of personal taste which building you want to visit. Since Top of the Rock is included in all passes and is located close to the Empire State Building, we recommend visiting One World Observatory as a second viewing platform.

Alternatives to New York City Passes

None of the New York passes are suitable for you, but you still want to go sightseeing in New York? In this case you could buy online tickets for your favorite sights. These tickets are sometimes cheaper than at the box office, and often you will be allowed fast track admission with an online ticket: