City Passes: New York CityPASS
City passes are cards that promise discounts on all of New York’s major attractions. There are many to choose from and each offers different attractions and prices, but they’re not necessarily for everyone. If you’re the spontaneous type, or if your plan is mostly centered around walking neighborhood streets and enjoying theater, music and food, then these passes probably aren’t for you. If you do want to devise an itinerary around NYC’s most iconic attraction, though, the New York city pass can be very advantageous. City Passes: New York CityPASS is part of our City Passes series, where we compare the pros and cons of each option so you can find the pass that works best for you.
New York CityPASS
The New York CityPASS is the simplest and smallest of the passes. It costs a flat fee of $114 for adults and $89 for children. It gives you a ticket book with admission to three major attractions and three more either/or attractions. One of the big advantages of New York CityPASS is that there is a nine-day window to use the card. For most visitors that’s plenty of time to see all the attractions on the pass and still have time for other things.
The three guaranteed attractions are the Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then there are three additional either/or choices. CityPASS lets you choose either the Top of the Rock OR the Guggenheim Museum. Then you can choose either the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR a Circle Line Harbor tour. Finally, you can choose the 9/11 Museum OR the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.
Citypass claims this adds up to $83 worth of savings, but that’s not quite accurate. Their Empire State Building package is actually an upgraded ticket that allows same day re-entry, as well as an underwhelming New York Skyride. They claim savings based on a $46 Empire State Building ticket price, but in reality, a standard ticket without the upgrades is only $32. Similarly, the Citypass Museum of Natural History ticket includes an additional specialty exhibit priced at $27, but the base ticket only costs $22.
There’s also a big price difference between some of the either/or options. The Statue Cruises ticket to Liberty and Ellis Islands costs only $18 while the Circle Line tours cost $36. Furthermore, the Statue Cruise ticket doesn’t guarantee access inside the statue —purchasing directly through State Cruises does. There’s also the issue of admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History.The standard Met admission even includes special exhibits, but the AMNH donation does not. Additionally, these museums charge admission using the donation model — aka you only pay what you’re willing to donate. So, you could theoretically see both museums for only a couple bucks.
This all means that you could actually see the same six attractions on the Citypass for $101 (plus whatever donation you choose to the AMNH and Met).
And finally, the Citypass advertises that you can skip the ticket lines and save time, but this is not always true either. At Statue Cruises and the 9/11 Memorial you’ll still have to stand in line to get a reservation time and then wait in both the security and entry lines, so you hardly save any time. I’ve seen 9/11 Museum lines for general tickets and CityPASS tickets that are almost identical. It’s a similar story at the Empire State Building, where the largest lines are for entry, not for tickets. And the ticket lines at the museums are so small that there’s no need to skip them.
So, if you do plan to see all six attractions and want to take advantage of their higher priced upgrades, you can save some money. Otherwise it is best to avoid the New York CityPASS.
Check out other NYTG City Passes articles here.