From inspiring Lady Liberty lighting the way to freedom to the heartbreaking 9/11 Memorial and Museum, New York is full of unique experiences that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. One way to see New York’s top attractions is by purchasing the New York CityPASS. But is it worth it? Here’s how the math works out.
A special thanks to CityPASS for providing me with a complimentary New York CityPASS to New York’s top six attractions. I paid full price for my daughter’s CityPASS in New York. And you can count on me to always share my honest opinions, regardless of who foots the bill.
The number of tourists exploring New York City each year has doubled over the past two decades, catapulting the city into the coveted number one spot of most visited city in the United States.
Whether they are attracted to the:
- neon lights of bustling Times Square,
- colossal Statue of Liberty,
- outdoor ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center,
- inviting green spaces at Central Park, or
- one of many other NYC attractions,
approximately 60 million people flock to the Big Apple each year. To put that into context, that’s seven times the number of people who reside in New York’s five boroughs at the intersection of the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean. And, it’s more than double the number of travelers who explore San Francisco annually.
As might be expected, there is a lot to do and see in the nation’s most populated city. There are art museums, historical sites, Broadway plays, and more. Touted as one of the most convenient and affordable ways to explore the most popular sights and sounds of the Big Apple, we used CityPASS to visit six of the city’s most visited attractions.
How to Use CityPASS in New York
Immediately after purchasing a New York CityPASS, you’ll receive a digital version of your tickets via email. You can either print the electronic tickets or access them via your mobile device to visit your selected New York attractions.
Sage Advice: If you’re visiting New York during a busy time — during spring break, the summer, or holidays — be sure to plan ahead and make any necessary reservations.
What is Included in the New York CityPASS?
- Empire State Building – General admission entry to the 86th floor observatory, plus bonus same-night general admission (May through August between 10 pm and closing and September through April between 8 pm and closing)
- American Museum of Natural History – Admission to the museum and the Rose Center for Earth and Space, including the Hayden Planetarium Space Show or a giant-screen movie in 3D and 2D
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art – General admission, including three consecutive days at The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters, including an audio guide
- A choice between the Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR the Guggenheim Museum – We chose Top of the Rock which covered a general admission ticket
- A choice between ferry access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise – We selected the ferry access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island which included a round trip ferry ride from New York to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. It also included audio guides and admission to the Statue of Liberty Museum and Ellis Island Immigration Museum. It did not include pedestal or crown access at the Statue of Liberty. (More on that below)
- A choice between the 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum – My daughter and I toured the 9/11 Memorial & Museum through the general admission ticket included with the New York CityPASS.
Sage Advice: If the Statue of Liberty is part of your Big Apple itinerary, be sure to take your Passport to National Parks along to get stamped!
Related Article: Visiting the Empire State Building: 13 Things to Know Before You Go
Sage Advice: While it’s important to see sights like the Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Museum, and Empire State Building when you visit New York, I believe you really get to know a destination when you’ve crossed those attractions off of your bucket list and can experience hidden gems like these unusual things to see in New York City.
How Long is My CityPASS Valid?
You have one year to begin using your CityPASS in New York. Once you visit your first New York City attraction, the clock starts ticking. Then you have nine consecutive days to see the remaining New York City sights included in your New York CityPASS.
What If I Don’t Have Time to See Everything Included in the New York CityPASS?
It’s difficult to see all six New York CityPASS attractions in less than three days. So, if you are spending less than 72 hours in the city that never sleeps, consider a New York C3 ticket.
Instead of six New York attractions, the C3 ticket gives you choose-as-you-go, skip-the-line access to any three attractions you pick from a list of ten possibilities.
How Much is a New York CityPASS?
The New York CityPASS is currently $129 for an adult (anyone age 18 and older) and $109 for a child (anyone age 6 to 17).
The New York C3 pass is currently $87 for an adult (anyone age 13 and older) and $67 for a child (anyone age 5 to 12).
Yes, that’s right, the age ranges for adult and child tickets differ between the New York CityPASS and the New York C3 ticket, so don’t let that catch you off guard!
What If I am Traveling with Someone Under Age 6? (Or Under Age 5 If I’m Interested in the New York C3 Pass?)
While you can purchase a New York CityPASS or New York C3 pass for younger children, many times children four and under are eligible for free admission, which is the case at the Empire State Building, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But the sightseeing cruises, for example, require tickets for children over the age of two. And without a CityPASS, you’ll have to wait in line at the attraction to purchase a ticket for younger children.
Is There a Discount for Children or Seniors?
Discounted New York CityPASS tickets are available for children under 18. If you’re interested in a C3 pass, discounts are offered for children under 13. However, there are no discounts currently available for seniors, students, active-duty military or veterans, educators, or other groups that often enjoy discounts at attractions.
How Much Do You Really Save with a New York CityPASS?
We explored New York using one adult and one child New York CityPASS. To crunch the numbers, we made an “apples-to-apples” comparison evaluating the total cost of the attractions via the following options:
- New York CityPASS
- Attraction Websites
- Another Name-Brand Online Ticket Solution
The CityPASS website touts a savings of 44% when visiting New York CityPASS attractions. This is how it worked out for us:
- For the adult ticket, the New York CityPASS saved me 38% over the cost of purchasing tickets directly from the attraction websites and 41% compared with another online ticket provider.
- For the child ticket, the New York CityPASS saved me 21% over the cost of purchasing tickets directly from the attraction websites and 32% compared with another online ticket provider.
Of course, your savings may be different based on the attractions you select and the number of adult and child tickets in your party.
Sage Advice: Reference the section above for details on what’s included for each attraction with the New York CityPASS.
Is New York CityPASS Worth It?
Yes! The New York CityPASS will save you money when you visit the most popular attractions in New York.
The New York CityPASS will save you time and money in these ways:
- If you want to ascend the Empire State Building twice in one day — and because this is one of the best things to do in New York City with teens, you just might! One of the biggest drivers of savings provided by the New York CityPASS is the bonus second opportunity to visit the Empire State Building at night. If you aren’t interested or able to take advantage of this bonus offering, then the savings delivered by the New York CityPASS compared with tickets purchased directly from attraction websites drops to 24% for an adult ticket and 3% for a child ticket.
- If you want a one-stop shopping option. CityPASS is a convenient way to purchase all New York attraction tickets quickly and easily in a single online transaction. It certainly takes a lot more effort to visit six individual New York attraction websites and complete separate purchases.
- And while the savings is less if you are a senior or student (due to discounts offered by the attractions), you’ll still save money with the New York CityPASS. Evaluating the same six attractions we visited in New York, the senior discount totals $28 and the student discount totals $24.50. But the savings is smaller than what I experienced via a regular adult ticket.
However, the New York CityPASS may not be the best option for you if you are visiting New York with children six and under. While it’s convenient to purchase a child ticket for younger family members, you may be paying admission fees to attractions that don’t require a ticket for visitors that young.
Where to Purchase a New York CityPASS
If you purchase your New York CityPASS here at Everyday Wanderer, you’ll receive the same great rate available everywhere, but I’ll receive a small teeny tiny commission to help offset the costs of running this travel website. Thank you for your support!
Have You Explored New York with a CityPASS?
What attractions did you visit when you went to the Big Apple? Did the CityPASS save you money? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.
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