Planning your trip to NYC can be a little stressful. There are so many things to do and see! Packaged passes that allow you fast entry and admission to many attractions can seem like an easy way to navigate through your options. They can definitely be helpful but you really want to make sure you get your money’s worth since they can be pricey.
1. You’ll want to consider what type of “visitor” you are. By this I mean, how long you like exploring new sites. Some people are content to power tour through a museum in 1.5 hours while others like to spend 3 hours or more fully exploring. Knowing how you like to tour will help you keep a realistic expectation of how many sites you can see in one day. For some this will mean they can cram 3 or 4 into one day. While others may prefer to leisurely see 2 or 3. Some of the passes can include admission to 40+ attractions which can seem like a good deal but it’s better to consider how many you, personally, would realistically be able to see on your trip.
2. You’ll want to make a list of your top 10 “must do’s” in order of importance. If the pass does not aid you in completing your top 5 then it’s not going to be worth your money. Keep in mind that you won’t need the benefits a pass provides for some attractions. The following are good caveats to know:
*The Natural History Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art all have “suggested donation” pricing. This means you can choose to pay the full $25 suggestion admission or you can choose to pay $5 – it’s up to you! I go often and pay whatever I can at the time. The pass doesn’t save you money here per se.
*The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are only accessible via a paid ferry ride by Statue Cruises. If you don’t want to go to the island but only want nice photos of them, then you can take the free Staten Island Ferry which will sail past each island en route to Staten Island. You wouldn’t need the benefits of the pass for the Staten Island Ferry.
*Some museums have discounted or free admission days. The MOMA, for example, offers free Friday afternoons. It’s usually very crowded but if you’re on a budget it’s good to know!
*The fast passes to the Empire State and Top of the Rock will save you from skipping the ticket lines but not the security lines. If you’re pressed for time, it’s definitely worth it, but you won’t be skipping lines entirely. Also, if you’re visiting in “off season” the lines are not usually so bad that paying extra to skip to the front is worth it. It really depends.
3. Do you need or want to use a hop on/hop off bus to get you to and from attractions or are you willing to take the subway? It’s good to know what you’re most comfortable trying. For some, the subway is intimidating and the bus offers a more familiar mode of transportation. For others, the subway is a fun adventure. If you’re in that boat, then you wouldn’t need the added benefit of the bus from the pass.
A pass can definitely be a great time and money saver but only if you make the most of it and only if it fits your needs. In some cases, visiting attractions a la carte will make more sense.
Here’s a comparison for the top two NYC passes:
What it is: A booklet offering tickets worth 41% off admission to the city’s top sites.
What sites are included
- The Empire State Building
- American Museum of Natural History
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art*
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
- Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum* OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
How to use it: The booklet is valid for nine consecutive days starting with the first day of use.
Price: $126 adults / $104 children (age 6-17)
Perks: You can skip most ticket lines at the attractions. Keep in mind you’ll still need to pass through security lines
Good for: This pass is great for first time visitors to NYC and for folks who are only staying for a couple days.
*These sites have “free hours” or are donation based so the PASS may not necessarily saving you money on these sites
New York PASS
What it is: A smart card with a computer chip inside that gains you entry to over 80 sites.
What sites are included: A ton! Check out their website for the full list.
How to use it: With this pass you have to purchase the amount of days you’d like to tour: 1, 2, 3, 5, or 7. The time starts from the day you first use it. It’s not for 24hr periods though. For example: If you purchase the 1 day Pass but don’t visit your first attraction until 2p.m. the pass will still expire at midnight that day.
Cost: Pricing depends on how many days you purchase. A 1 Day Pass is $124 for adults / $94 for children
Perks: You can skip most ticket lines at the attractions. Keep in mind you’ll still need to pass through security lines. For an extra cost you can include the hop on / hop off bus.
Good for: The pass is great if you’ve already visited the top attractions and are looking to visit some smaller museums and sites that you didn’t have time to see before.
You can also check out passcomparison.com’s calculator to help you discern which pass is right for you!