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Local Insight: New York City Pass vs. New York Pass, Which One to Get and Why?

Anytime my friends visited me for the first time in New York and were totally high-spirited about seeing as many tourist sites as possible, I always recommended grabbing a New York City Pass, especially if you want to save money in New York. Depending on how long you have in New York or what your budget is, you have the many awesome options of the New York City Pass, New York Pass, or New York City Explorer Pass.

They, of course, sound all quite similar, and they do offer the same major attractions. However, their prices and additional offerings vary slightly. Depending on how much time you have in New York or how much money you want to spend, you might not need all the extra perks that comes with some of the passes. Keep reading to find out the differences the New York passes, and of course, which one you should get.


Want to quickly buy some passes? I recommend the New York City Pass. See the quick conclusion here.

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Quick Comparison of the New York City Pass, New York Pass, and New York City Explorer Pass

Here’s a quick comparison of each pass, which includes their prices, how many attractions it gets you into, how long they last, and how much it saves you. I’ll get more into detail about exactly which attractions they get you into after this!

Note that these prices are as of 10/25/18 and are subject to change.

New York City Pass

Adult age 18+: $126.00

Youth age 6-17*: $104.00

Gets you into: 6 top attractions

Lasts for: 9 days

Saves you: $89 for an adult; $92 for a child

New York Pass

Adult age 13+: Varies from $127 to $425 depending on number of days

Youth age 4-12*: Varies from $94 to $285 depending on number of days

Gets you into: 100+ attractions including cruises, tours, and more

Lasts for: 1-10 days depending on the number of days

Saves you: At least $50 a day but the more attractions you go to, the more you’ll save

New York Explorer Pass

Adult age 13+: $88 or $126.00

Youth age 3-12*: $66 or $94.50

Gets you into: 3 or 5 attractions from a list of 75

Lasts for: 30 days

Saves you: over $70 depending on which attractions you choose for the five-attraction option

*There are many attractions that children under six can get into for free or a discounted pass so you may not need to buy a whole separate New York Pass for your child. Head below to see a quick overview of the major attractions that have a free or discounted policy.


New York City Pass vs. New York Pass Comparison

new york pass empire state building

The New York City Pass gives you access to six attractions:

  1. The Empire State Buiding
  2. American Museum of Natural History
  3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  4. Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
  5. Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  6. 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

The New York Pass gives you access to over 100+ attractions, which include all 9 that the New York City Pass gives you. This might sound awesome with all the choices you get, but consider how many attractions you can physically handle going into one day and the travel time it takes between each attraction you want to visit.

Why Choose the New York City Pass over the New York Pass

If you’re only in New York for three days and want to enjoy the city by going out to eat, checking out markets, or going to Central Park or the High Line Park, then I’d opt for the New York City Pass because it is cheaper than a three-day New York Pass ($126 vs. $273). Also, if you have a teenager, he/she can still count as a Youth and buy the Youth pass, which is $104 vs. $273 as an adult-priced New York Pass.

Getting the New York City Pass gives you the option to fit in two to three attractions a day on a three-day weekend, which is a comfortable pace to explore in New York considering the travel time in between attractions.

Get the New York City Pass here.

Why Choose the New York Pass over the New York City Pass

The only reason I would recommend the New York Pass over the New York City Pass is because it gives you access to over 100+ attractions. If you absolutely love cramming in sites and tours, there are multiple sites on the New York Pass list that isn’t on the New York City Pass list, and budget isn’t an issue, then I’d go for the New York Pass. Just be mindful of how long it takes to travel around New York City (see travel tips below).

Get the New York Pass here.


New York City Pass vs. New York Explorer Comparison

The New York City Pass gives you access to six attractions:

  1. The Empire State Buiding
  2. American Museum of Natural History
  3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  4. Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
  5. Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  6. 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

The New York Explorer only gives you access to five attractions but lets you choose from a list of 75 places, which include the nine above.

Why Choose the New York City Pass over the New York Explorer Pass

Between these two passes, I would choose the New York City Pass. Here’s why:

  • For adults 18 and up, both the tickets cost the same amount of money. If you are a teenager, it is actually cheaper to get the New York City Pass at $104 over the New York Explorer Pass, which considers 13+ as adults.
  • The extra 66 attractions that the New York Explorer Pass offers aren’t considered to be of utmost important when visiting New York City. Tours and attractions like Food on Foot Tours, Central Park Bike Tour, or Madame Tussauds don’t offer much more value. For example, you can easily do a food tour yourself by food hopping around or join in on a free walking tour.
  • The extra 21 days the New York Explorer pass gives you is not that much more beneficial than the 9 days you get with the New York City Pass. Who really goes on vacation to New York for 30 days?

Conclusion on Which New York Pass Should You Get

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Out of all three passes, I would personally get the New York City Pass because you’ll still be able to visit six top attractions in while having time to experience what makes New York, New York. Some of these things include:

  • grabbing a pizza pie at Joe’s Pizza on West 4th Street and eating it at Washington Square Park while people watching,
  • heading to Times Square at night to watch the lights glow without hordes of people everywhere,
  • stopping unexpectedly to listen to an incredible street musician or watch amazing breakdancers, or
  • walking along the High Line Park, a park built on top of old subway lines, to see the city from a new angle.

There are even free walking tours that you don’t need to pay for (except for tip), which makes it unnecessary to have access to 100+ attractions. Really, the six out of nine choices is all you need unless you absolutely love to cram in attractions and tours from day to night and would rather use the pass than research on your own, but still, you will be plenty entertained regardless.

Get the New York City Pass here.


Important Tips on Using Your New York Pass

subway new york pass

My most important tip for you is to plan your attractions in one area at a time. New York is HUGE. To get from downtown to uptown would sometimes take me 45 minutes depending on where I was going and if I had to transfer subway lines. That’s also a good time with me knowing the subway lines and how to expertly navigate them.

Do not expect to easily go from the 9/11 memorial (Downtown) to the Guggenheim Museum (Upper East Side) back down to Ellis Island (Downtown). Plan wisely, and group things in one area to minimize travel time.

Not buying a youth pass for your child under six may save you money (see section below), but it can add time to your day if you have to stand in line to get your child a discounted or free pass since you may be able to skip the line with your own New York pass. It may be worth buying a youth pass just so you and your whole family can skip the line.

Some of these attractions may not allow you to bring in a bulky backpack, which may cause you to stand in line for a long coat check. To save time and hassle of carrying bulk on your back, pack as minimally as possible.

For other good local tips to follow while traveling in New York, head to this post about 10 things not to do in New York City. I consider this a must-read before visiting New York for the first time!


Getting a Youth Pass for Your Child Under Six Years of Age

Some attractions have free or discounted prices if your child is under the age of six. As a result, you may not need to get a city pass depending on which sites you’re going to see.

However, some attractions may make you stand in the main line to get a free or discounted ticket, which defeats the perk of having a pass and being able to skip the line at some places. If you have the money, it may be worth still getting a youth pass purely so everyone can be in the same line.

Here are a few attractions that have a free or discounted admission for children under six:

  • Empire State Building – Ages 5 & under, free
  • American Museum of Natural History – Ages 2-5, $16.50; 1 & under, free
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art – Ages 5 & under, free
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck – Ages 5 & under, free
  • Guggenheim Museum – Ages 5 & under, free
  • Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island –  Ages 4-5, $9; 3 & under, free
  • Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises – Ages 3-5, $31; 2 & under, free
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum –  Ages 5 & under, free
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum –  Ages 3-5, $24; 2 & under, free

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Very Helpful Travel Tips for New York City

New York is the best place to eat, and you don’t even need that much money to eat well. Check out this post on 15 cheap places to eat in New York City or even delicious cheap eats under $5.

If you don’t have wi-fi or data, make sure to download an offline version of Google Maps, and star the locations that you want to go to beforehand. That way you have a handy map on hand so you don’t get lost.

You can also use Google Maps to help you navigate the subway system along with some other useful apps.

Last but not least, do not forget to read this helpful post on 10 things not to do in New York City. It’ll make your trip much more seamless.


What I Carry Around New York City Every Day

I like to be prepared at all times for the most common city situations, which is why whenever I left the house, I’ve always had these items on me:

  • Non-bulky portable charger so your phone is always charged
  • Foldable, reusable bag ’cause it’s nicer to carry your jacket in than your arm; if you get a paper bag and it rains, this replaces it; and of course, you have a green bag for goods you buy
  • Small, inexpensive and unassuming day pack to carry everything in that’s not bulky
  • Cash because a lot of stands and shops don’t take card

Also, because you’re mostly on foot in New York, I always wore comfortable sneakers. Do not try to wear your brand new boots or sneakers to be stylish without wearing them in. The average New Yorker walks 5+ miles a day!


I hope this post helps you decide which city pass is best suited for your needs.

Thanks for stopping by! xo.


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