Planning a trip to New York City? On a budget?
Our first trip to New York City wouldn't have been complete without visiting the Statue of Liberty, American Museum of Natural History, 9/11 Memorial Museum and more. However, those admission costs add up quickly for my family of four.
Here's where CityPASS saved us money. The New York CityPASS bundles those popular attractions into one ticket that saves up to 42% on admissions. However, at $100+ per person, CityPASS itself isn't cheap.
So, is New York CityPASS worth it?
For my family, it was perfect. Here's what you need to know to decide if New York CityPASS will work for your family.
How CityPASS Works
CityPASS partners with the most popular attractions in New York City and bundles those admission prices into one discounted ticket. You pay once and save up to 42% when you visit all six attractions, including the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty.
Your New York CityPASS is good for nine consecutive days. That's plenty of time to see every attraction on your list without feeling rushed, and do other activities on your list along the way.
New York CityPASS has two options.
- CityPASS – Includes six attractions. Save up to 42% on admissions.
- C3 – Includes three attractions. Save up to 25% on admissions.
The regular CityPASS costs more, but includes more attractions, offers more purchase options and gets you bigger bang for your buck. You need at least three full days to do all six attractions. This was the option we used.
The C3 option is less expensive and more flexible. You pick any three attractions on the list. It's a good alternative if you have less time or want to do more things in New York City that aren't on the CityPASS list.
Every attraction on the New York CityPASS was on our to-do list, which is why CityPASS was a no-brainer for my family. If we had not received CityPASS from sponsors, we would have purchased them anyway.
Here are the attractions that are included in the New York CityPASS, with links to my full reviews:
- Empire State Building Observatory – Includes two same-day visits (morning and night). C3 includes only one visit.
- American Museum of Natural History – Includes General Admission and one IMAX or planetarium show.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art – You could spend a whole day here and still not see it all.
- Top of the Rock OR Guggenheim Museum – We chose Top of the Rock, which offers great views of the Empire State Building and Central Park.
- 9/11 Memorial Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum – We chose the 9/11 Memorial Museum. However, it might not be the best choice for families with young children.
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Cruises – CityPASS does not include access to the Statue of Liberty's crown, which costs extra and requires advance reservations. A limited number of free CityPASS pedestal tickets are available, so arrive early. If crown access is a priority, purchase your Statue of Liberty tickets separately and take the Circle Line Cruise option.
CityPASS vs Other Passes
CityPASS is one of several ways to bundle and save in New York City. Other reputable options include
- New York Pass – Buy a number of days and do as many of the 100+ included attractions as you want in that time.
- New York City Explorer Pass – Pay for a set number of attractions. Select from a list of 80+ attractions.
- New York Sightseeing Pass – Choose between number of days or number of attractions. 100+ attractions to choose from.
CityPASS has fewer options than the others, but it included the attractions we wanted most. It's the least expensive of the passes for comparable days and activities. It's the only one of these passes where teens pay the child price.
Do the math
We did not make it to the Empire State Building during our New York City trip. It's the most expensive activity on the New York CityPASS, and it still cost less to buy a CityPASS than to pay adult prices for the other five attractions.
The math is not always as reliable for kids. They get in free or cheap at most attractions, and you may not save money if you skip a big one like the Empire State Building. The pass is intended for kids over age 6 because most of the attractions are free for ages 5 and under.
We did not buy CityPASS for our kids (ages 10 and 7) on this trip. Without the Empire State Building, we paid slightly less without CityPASS. However, we missed skip-the-line benefits because we had to stand in the regular ticket line. Factor in the convenience of CityPASS when you decide whether or not to buy for younger children.
You'll probably need at least three days to do everything in the New York CityPASS. Here is the CityPASS itinerary I suggest:
Day 1: Empire State Building. Go early to beat the crowds. Plan to see some of your other top NYC attractions during the day and then return after dark for a second trip to the observatory deck.
Day 2: American Museum of Natural History and Metropolitan Museum of Art. These museums are located directly across Central Park from each other, and it's a pretty walk.
Day 3: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Arrive in time for the first ferry from Battery Park and beat the crowds. Plan a visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in the afternoon. You can walk there, or it's one subway stop away.
Day 4: Top of the Rock. Located in Midtown Manhattan, Top of the Rock is within walking distance many other popular destinations like Rockefeller Center, Times Square, Broadway shows and the Museum of Modern Art, which is always free for children under age 17.
CityPASS is easy to use and a good value. We would consider it on a return trip to New York or in one of the other cities where CityPASS is sold. You can find CityPASS in other big cities across the U.S. and Canada.
Disclosure: We received two complimentary CityPASSes for the purpose of review from NYC & Company and CityPASS. My opinions are my own.
How to Buy
Buy New York CityPASS or C3 online at www.citypass.com. You can also buy CityPASS at the participating attractions. C3 is available online only.
Once you buy, you'll have the option of mobile or paper tickets. CityPASS will ship a booklet to you, if you prefer.
Click the button to visit the New York CityPASS website for more information.