Is the New York Pass 2016 worth it? We review prices and value here
New York City is a place everyone should visit at least once in their life, and while it has a reputation for being expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Unfortunately, the best and most famous attractions in the city are, on average, the most expensive in the world. Walking through Central Park will cost you nothing, but all the wonderful museums and tours are pricey.
The New York City Pass is an ideal solution for many people, as it allows you entry into over 50 of the cities best attractions and tours for a single price. That price seems high at first, until you do the math to see what it includes and how much you can save.
Further down the page we’ll recommend who should get New York Passes and who’s better off without them, but first let’s look at the current prices for everything. If you want more information about specifics take a look at main New York City prices page to see what hotels, food, transportation, and attractions cost, shown in any currency you’d like, at today’s exchange rates. And check out our recommended New York hotels list for great choices that offer excellent value.
Note: This article was first published in 2011, and has been updated with new prices and details on a regular basis since then. Last updated December, 2015.
Price of the 2016 New York Pass
Adults (ages 13+)
- 1-day: $90
- 2-day: $140
- 3-day: $180
- 5-day: $239
- 7-day: $279
- 10-day: $329
Children (ages 4 – 12)
- 1-day: $60
- 2-day: $110
- 3-day: $140
- 5-day: $155
- 7-day: $165
- 10-day: $175
Note: The New York Pass typically goes up in price in late January of each year. However, the pass is good for one year so you can buy now and validate it anytime in the next 12 months.
Note: If you decide to purchase you can buy the New York Pass here at the lowest available price.
(Discounts are sometimes available on the New York Pass site, and the above link will show you the current lowest price.)
For the above prices you get a card with a magnetic strip, which you present at the Will Call window or entry door of most attractions, meaning you can usually skip the often-lengthy ticket lines themselves. You also get a guidebook with hours, location, and description of everything included, which will help you plan your visit more efficiently.
Most popular attractions included with the New York Pass
- Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Ferry: $18
- Empire State Building: $32
- Circle Line harbor cruise: Up to $41
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: $25 (suggested)
- Museum of Modern Art (MOMA): $25
- Guggenheim Museum: $25
- American Museum of Natural History: $22
- Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum: $24
- Madam Tussauds Wax Museum: $37
- NBC Studio Tour: $24
- Top of the Rock observation deck: $30
Most of the other included attractions are at least a bit cheaper than those listed above, but these are the most popular (and expensive) ones that nearly everyone wants to visit. Interestingly, the New York Pass includes every one of the best attractions in the city. Most passes in other big cities don’t include at least one or two of the most popular sights, but this one is complete unless you want to do the Ground Zero Museum Workshop, which isn’t all that great anyway.
The New York Pass includes a free smart phone app that is very helpful
Any visitor to New York City might consider downloading the free New York Pass app for iPhone or Android. It’s well organized and a very comprehensive look at the most popular sights in New York City, complete with a map and the opening hours for each. I used the app on a visit in late 2014 and it was a great helper for using my New York Pass, but honestly it’s probably worth a free download even if you don’t buy a New York Pass.
The advantage of the New York Pass
Not only are you very likely to save quite a bit of money if you plan your day well, but you’ll be skipping most of the longest lines at ticket booths, which means you’ll have time for at least one more sight per day than someone paying for each one separately.
And since New York City can be so expensive on a quick visit, locking in literally all of your sightseeing funds at once can help you worry less about the ever-mounting costs. It can be shocking and depressing when the day nears its end and you realize each person has spent $100 on admission fees.
The downside of the New York Pass
Of course the price itself seems like a lot of money all at once, so those on tight budgets might be ruled out altogether. Another thing to seriously consider before buying a New York Pass is that doing even 3 or 4 main sights in a day is going to be busy and probably frantic.
There are plenty of free and cheap things to do in New York City, so for many people they are better off visiting perhaps one major sight per day and then spending the rest of the day shopping or visiting neighborhoods or taking photos. A trip like that might be more memorable in the long run, and it will certainly be more unique than rushing from sight to sight. If you prefer a more relaxed sightseeing schedule, don’t buy the pass.
Who SHOULD get the New York Pass?
- Visitors who want to see the most things in a short time
- Anyone who already plans on going to many of the most expensive attractions
Who SHOULD NOT get the New York Pass?
- Backpackers or those on very tight budgets
- Those who’ll be staying in New York City for over a week and would prefer to see sights at a slow pace
Important advice: Start early and plan ahead
Once in a while I’ll get a message from someone who bought the New York Pass and didn’t feel like it was good value. I’ve noticed that these unfortunate visitors tend to make two major mistakes, and if you can avoid them you should be very happy with your purchase.
1. Start early in the day, around 9am if possible
Believe it or not, even New York City’s top attractions tend to be somewhat uncrowded in the morning, so getting an early start is essential. If you can leave your hotel by around 9am you’ll have time for two popular attractions before lunch, and then time for two or three more before dinner. You’ll still have the whole evening open for dinner and other fun, or you can visit the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock observation decks for amazing views. But if you don’t get out until almost noon, you’ll feel rushed and behind schedule all day because every place you go will be crowded.
2. Plan your route ahead of time
Many of NYC’s top attractions are clustered together, so if you plan ahead you can see a few things in a short time on foot. The New York Pass comes with a free and handy smart phone app (you can download it before you even buy a NY Pass), and it has all the included attractions on one map, with the hours and description for each just one click away. If you plan your route before you leave in the morning you can see a lot, but if you only plan one thing at a time you’ll quickly get frustrated.
Should you get the hop-on, hop-off bus option?
The CitySights NY hop-on, hop-off bus tours in New York City are very popular and worthwhile for many visitors, but adding the bus package to your NYC Pass isn’t the best idea for everyone. Generally speaking, the HOHO bus packages are great for anyone who will be in New York City for perhaps 4 days or less because they allow you to get a quick look at most of the famous places in only a few hours. But if you are staying a week or more in NYC then you’ll probably end up seeing most everything just as part of your normal travel, so it may not be worth it to add the extra package.
Also, even though they are officially “hop-on, hop-off” buses, it’s really not advisable to try to use them as transportation between attractions. While they do come about every 15 minutes in Manhattan, they can get crowded and there are many stops where almost no one ever gets off. This means that you might wait 15 or 20 minutes for the next bus and then find that you’ll have to stand on the bottom floor (instead of the open deck on top), and you might have to squeeze in. My advice is to take each bus tour all the way around starting from one of the most popular stops, and then maybe ride it a bit more later if it looks to be convenient. That way you get the whole tour at once and if you use it again later it will just be a bonus. If you only need to go one or two stops to see your next attraction, it will be faster to walk. And if you need to go a longer distance you’ll find that the subway system is much faster and also very efficient. You’ll get more out of your New York Pass by moving quickly between attractions rather than waiting around for a tourist bus.
Is the bus package option a good deal?
The bus packages add between $30 and $40 to the price of your New York Pass, and the bus packages cost $49 if you buy them separately. In other words, if you think you’ll want to do at least one bus tour, then buying your bus package through the New York Pass will save you both time and money.
Short video showing New York Pass highlights
The bottom line
For the New York Pass, it’s actually a really good deal for many people. Honestly, the sights included are almost all very worth visiting, which isn’t true of the expensive sights in some other cities. For example when we investigated if the Paris Pass is worth it, the answer is no for most people. Our review of the London Pass shows that it’s actually very good value as long as you are interested in the famous attractions it includes rather than the many free museums.
On the other hand, New York City is a destination that many people will return to over and over, so you might consider pacing yourself on the major sights, only taking in a few on each trip.
It might also be worth considering getting only the 1-day or 2-day New York Pass, even if you are in town for much longer, and just planning on fitting as many things as possible into those days. It would be a mistake to try to see 4 major sights every day you are in NYC, so be sure to schedule some time to just wander around and take the city itself in.
Buy your New York Pass
If you decide to purchase you can buy The New York Pass here at the lowest price available.