When we got back from New York we had lots of questions from friends and readers of the website asking if it’s worth getting one of the attraction passes when you visit New York.
New York is an expensive city to visit and the cost of visiting the city’s attractions and museums for a family can quickly add up, so this is where a pre-paid pass like the Citypass and Sightseeing Pass can come in very handy.
So if you want to save money and time for your upcoming visit to New York then I’m going to share with you why you should look at getting a Sightseeing Pass (especially if you are a first time visitor) and how much money we were able to save by using it.
What is the New York Sightseeing Pass?
The pass offers an easy and discounted way to see many of the top attractions in New York. You purchase the pass online which provides entry into as many of the attractions as you like for the duration of the pass.
We found that the pass inspired us to visit places that we might have not have considered taking the children to places such as the excellent National Geographic Ocean Encounter in Times Square.
The Sightseeing Pass comes in two variations – a flex pass and day pass. The day pass is available as a one, two, three, four, five, six, seven or ten day pass.
The flex pass is attraction based rather than day based, where you can choose to visit two, three, four, five, six, seven, ten or twelve attractions – but the benefit of the flex pass is that it’s valid over a 30 day period.
We decided to get the three day pass to see everything we wanted to in New York which costs $199.20 per adult $99.00 per child including a 50% discount (there always seems to be special offers running for the Sightseeing Pass, so never try to pay full price).
The major benefit of choosing a pre-paid pass is that we could budget accordingly for our trip from home rather than have to pay on the gate prices each day – visiting attractions in New York City is not cheap.
What attractions are included?
Our 3 day pass gave us access to as many of the 100+ different attractions in New York as we could possible fit in, the only omission was entry to the Empire State Building.
I’ve also put the gate prices for these attractions that we visited (prices below are for 2 adults and 2 children) so as you can see it’s quite expensive.
Madame Tussauds New York FT $131.80
Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center $143.72
One World Observatory $152.52
National Geographic Encounter – Ocean Odyssey $158.43
Gray Line City Sightseeing Best of Manhattan Tour $336.00
Gray Line City Sightseeing Night Tour $206.00
Ripleys Believe it or Not FT $105.80 (you also get a free guidebook)
American Museum of Natural History – $71.00
Gullivers Gate – $126.00
Tip – The best way of making the most of your pass it to take advantage of your jet lag and the time difference by starting your day early to visit the popular attractions which will have little or no queues. We visited the Rockefeller Centre early and the observation decks were practically deserted which made for great pictures.
There were so many attractions available to us using the Sightseeing Pass that it was impossible to see them all but here are some of the other headline attractions that we didn’t fit in during this visit but were highly recommended to us by our community.
Woodbury Common Premium Outlets $126.00
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum $86.00
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island $82.00
The Ride $276.00
Central Park Zoo $38.00
Circle Line Landmarks Cruise $148.00
9/11 Memorial & Museum $86.00
Tip – Ask yourself which attractions are you planning on visiting and what will they cost? Add it up to see which Sightseeing Pass is best suited for you.
The pass also provides discount to different experiences when visiting New York, in fact it offers so much that it’s easy to miss these.
One example is that each pass is worth $40.00 per person towards a helicopter tour of New York City.
We missed this benefit of the pass and it’s something that we would have definitely used, as it would have provided a truly unique experience of seeing the famous New York skyline.
Other discounts included lunchtime dining ($15 toward the check) at Planet Hollywood, 10% off savings certificate at Bloomingdales and a 15% discount on purchases at Dylan’s Candy Bar (highly recommend visiting this with kids)
Instead of returning to the airport in a taxi, Uber, Gett or Lyft you can also use the pass to use the Airlink airport shuttle back to JFK, Newark or LaGuardia airports.
It will pick you up from your hotel as long as it’s below 125 street and your pass must still be valid on the date that you are using the shuttle.
Our 3 day pass expired the day before our departure so we couldn’t use this benefit but it could save you $70+ for your return back to the airport.
How does the Sightseeing Pass work?
It was so easy that was one of the key reasons why we highly recommend the pass. When the pass was ordered we received our four printable Sightseeing Passes which became our tickets to enter our chosen attractions across New York City.
Tip – Download the tickets to your phone. This allows you to find the tickets quickly and not deal with paper tickets that could get lost.
The pass is valid for 12 months from the date of purchase – so if you have a trip planned sign up for the Sightseeing Pass email list to find out when they are running special offers.
When you activate your pass at the first attraction this is when your card is activated – so if you have a 3 day pass like we did you have 3 consecutive days to use the pass.
One of the great things about the pass is that at some attractions the pass allowed us to skip the queue which was a welcome time saver as we didn’t have to wait in long lines with the kids.
We also found the printed guidebook and the mobile application (that contained details of the attractions on offer) really helpful and inspiring when choosing where to visit with the children.
Is it worth getting a New York Sightseeing Pass?
For us it was a definite yes, although it depends on how many and more importantly which of the 100+ attractions that you plan to visit – the key to save if you visit the expensive attractions.
If you are a first time visitor to New York then getting a pass like the Sightseeing Pass is highly recommended – but create a draft itinerary before you go and add up the savings that getting a Sightseeing Pass will give you before you decide – and be realistic just how many attractions that you can visit each day.
Tip – To make the best use of your pass, plan to group visiting your attractions geographically.
Did we save money getting the pass?
For us the cost of the attractions that we were able to visit was $1,277.75 and the cost of a 3 day family pass was $596.00 so you can see that we made a significant saving getting the Sightseeing Pass especially if you plan on using the hop-on –hop-off bus tours.
These savings could have even been greater if we used the pass for more attractions such as the highly recommended ‘The Ride’ but there is so much to see and do in New York where a pass is not needed.
During our visit we spent time in Central Park, went ice skating at Bryant Park and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
We also took in some of the sights including the Flatiron Building, the amazing Grand Central Station and walking the High Line – not forgetting shopping at some of the world’s best stores – kids in particular will love the new FAO Schwarz store (watch our video) and American Girl world (read more about our experience).
The best and cheapest place to buy the New York Sightseeing Pass is directly from the official Sightseeing Pass website.