Should you buy a New York CityPASS?

Posted By Allison on May 4, 2015


This post may contain affiliate and sponsored links. We donate 10% of our sales commissions to charity.

Hello!

CityPASS is a discount program available in 12 major North American cities and it is a great way to save money at New York City’s top attractions. You can bundle and save on admissions by purchasing a New York CityPASS ticket book.

Purchase the New York CityPASS online or at any of the included attractions. Many popular attractions offer skip-the-line benefits for CityPASS holders. You don’t need to buy a ticket, because you already have one. Finally, CityPASS is good for nine days after first use, giving you the time and flexibility you need to do it all.

Here is what you need to know to decide if a New York CityPASS is right for your family:

Should you buy a New York CityPASS? Tips for making the most of this money-saving option in New York City | tipsforfamilytrips.com | things to do in New York City | NYC for families | New York with kids | budget travel

Attractions

Every attraction on the New York CityPASS was on our to-do list, so it was a no-brainer for my family. We received two CityPASSes from sponsors, but if we hadn’t, we would have purchased them anyway.

Here are the attractions that are included in the New York CityPASS, with tips and links to my full reviews:

  • Empire State Building Observatory – This is the most expensive and popular attraction on CityPASS. Your ticket includes two same-day visits (morning and night).
  • American Museum of Natural History – This famous science museum is a fun place for families to see and learn about dinosaurs, ancient cultures, sea life, space and much more. Includes General Admission and one IMAX or planetarium show.
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art – The treasures of the world are housed here. You could spend a whole day 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, which is moving and powerful. 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.

Even if you don’t visit all six attractions, we found that the New York CityPASS may still be worth the money. Here are the details.

A first-timer's guide the the American Museum of Natural History in New York City | tipsforfamilytrips.com

American Museum of Natural History

Cost

An Adult CityPASS is $114 for ages 18+ and a Youth CityPASS is $89 for ages 6-17. We didn’t make it to the Empire State Building ($46 per adult), and CityPASS still cost less than paying the adult price for the other five attractions ($114 vs $149). If you visit all 6 attractions, you’ll save 42%. The Youth CityPASS is an especially good deal for teens, who will be counted as adults at many attractions.

We did not purchase CityPASS for our two children (ages 7 and 10) because we were not planning to visit the Empire State Building, and the Museum of Modern Art – which was on the CityPASS instead of the 9/11 Memorial Museum at that time – is always free for kids, so we didn’t save money with the pass. The cost was about the same. However, if we were making the decision today, we would definitely purchase the Youth CityPASS because we would have saved money at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

The bottom line: Look at your itinerary and do the math to decide if the New York CityPASS is right for your family.

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Time

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 new 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 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 also find CityPASS in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Toronto.

Disclosure: We only promote products and destinations we have personally experienced and genuinely recommend. We received complimentary adult CityPASSes from NYC & Company and CityPASS. This post contains affiliate links. Using these links does not increase the price you pay, but does help us provide free content. Thank you for your support!

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Allison
Hi there! I am the founder of Tips for Family Trips. I am a married mom of two children, ages 10 and 12, living near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our first child on a two-week road trip when she was four weeks old and we have been traveling as a family ever since. We love to get out of the house to see and do fun things, both far away and in our own neighborhood.

16 Comments

  1. We’re going to NYC this weekend and definitely gettiing the CityPASS!

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  2. what a great tips article – I appreciate your hard work!

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  3. We love the CityPASS experience! We just wrote about our experience using the Seattle CityPASS and previously have used both the Houston and New York versions! A great discount and opportunity to see some landmark attractions in these cities.

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  4. I love your suggested itinerary! I haven’t brought my kids to New York City yet and this post is making me want to just that!

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  5. I think if you plan to hit all or most of the attractions CityPASS is a great deal. We used it in Atlanta and New York this year. It’s a great savings. I will say, though, that tackling all or even most of those attractions in New York is daunting. We’ve been to New York several times and have separately visited most of the attractions so we had no desire to revisit anything besides the Met and MoMA on our June visit. But this year was our first visit with our son and we wanted him to experience the typical tourist spots in the city. Having the pass worked well for us, but even though you can skip lines the line at the Empire State Building was still an hour wait to get up. I definitely second the advice to visit first thing to start the day.

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    • Thanks for sharing your experience! I agree that whether or not the CityPASS makes sense hinges a lot on your interest in the popular tourist attractions and how much time and energy you have to visit them all. We spent a satisfying six days in NYC, but there are still a lot of new places I’d like to visit next time.

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  6. How did you receive complimentary adult CityPASSes from NYC & Company and CityPASS? How can I get them?

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    • If you are a travel writer, you can submit a media request to NYC and Company at http://mediarequests.nycgo.com and they may be able to assist you. I had a direct contact with CityPASS, but I have found that many travel brands and visitors bureaus have a press page on their website.

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  7. We almost always get CityPass when available. Just note the ages for each type of pass when your kids get to be teens!

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  8. We have used CityPass in New York (and in other cities) – it’s a great way to see the major sites for less money!!

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  9. I love how you provided a sample itinerary on how to make the most of CityPass. We used it for the first time in San Francisco this year and found it a great savings.

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