City Guides

New York Pass Review — A Good Value or a Waste of Money?

We do the math to see if the New York Pass is worth the money.

Product Reviews

Here at The Savvy Backpacker we mainly focus on Europe — but after living in New York City for over two years we decided to do our own New York Pass Review since we can give an insider view.

NYC is packed with things to experience and the New York Pass can certainly help you see a lot of what this amazing city has to offer. But is the New York Pass a good deal or is it a waste of money?

The answer — well, it depends on your travel style. Some people end up saving a lot of money but others find it a little too restricting. Keep reading to learn more about the pass and if it is a good deal for you.

Considerations

New York Pass Review - Boat
You have to explore Central Park!

New York is expensive. No doubt about that. Almost every museum is $25 and most other attractions cost anywhere from $18-$35 — so even visiting two or three things a day can easily cost you $75+. But half the fun of NYC is exploring all the neighborhoods and Central Park — which are obviously free. Also, a few museums (Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History) are pay-what-you-wish and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is free Friday evening from 4:00 to 8:00 so those are a few things to consider when planning your travels.

Quick Review

Too lazy to read this guide? Don’t worry!  Here are the broad strokes.

The New York City Pass is a GOOD deal if:

  • You want to see a lot and you don’t mind packing your day with activities.
  • You’re only in NYC for a few days.
  • You’re a first-time visitor.
  • You’re already planning on visiting the most of the expensive attractions.
  • You want to use the Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour.
  • You want to skip the ticket lines at multiple attractions.

The New York City Pass is NOT A GOOD deal if:

  • You’re on a super tight budget.
  • You only want to see a few paid attractions.
  • You’re in NYC for an extended period of time so you can spread out the sightseeing.
  • You have a valid student ID — many museums have student prices but you’ll want to double check.

New York Pass Basics

NYC Pass Review - Henry
Henry loves NYC and Central Park!

The New York Pass gives you entry to over 90 attractions so pretty much everything you want to see should be covered by the pass — including Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial, MoMA, Guggenheim, MET, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New Museum, a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, bike rentals, and a handful of walking tours — there are also a handful of other lesser-known museums as well.

Price of the 2017 New York Pass

Adults (ages 13+)

  • 1-day: $119
  • 2-day: $189 ($95/day)
  • 3-day: $259 ($86/day)
  • 5-day: $309 ($62/day)
  • 7-day: $349 ($50/day)
  • 10-day: $399 ($40/day)

So, as you can see, the pass isn’t cheap… but it can end up being a good deal. Click here to see if there are any specials.

New York Pass Highlights & Main Attractions

New York Pass review
Make time for a drink

As we said before, the pass covers over 90 attractions. Some aren’t worth your time but pretty much all the major attractions are covered. Here are the highlights…

Note: Click here to see everything included in the New York Pass.

Attractions

There are a handful of attractions on the New York Pass but these are the three most popular.

  • Top of the Rock (Rockafeller Center Observation Deck): $37
  • Empire State Building Observation Deck: $34
  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island: $18

Museums

New York has a crazy amount of museums and the New York Pass covers most of the must-see ones.

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET): Pay what you want (suggested donation is $25 but only suckers pay that) — we usually do $5/person.
  • Museum of Modern Art (MoMA): $25 (Free Friday evening, 4:00–9:00 p.m)
  • American Natural History Museum: Pay what you want (suggested donation is $25) but we usually do $5/person.
  • Guggenheim: $25
  • 9/11 Memorial: $24
  • Whitney Museum of American Art: $25
  • Brooklyn Museum of Art: $16
  • New Museum: $18
  • Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum: $24

Tours

There are a lot of tours included in the New York Pass — including multiple walking tours, river cruises, many self-guided bike rentals, and a few building tours (Yankees Stadium, Madison, Square Garden, etc.).

  • Hop-on-hop-off bus tour (one day): $53
  • Circle Line Harbor Cruise: $41
  • Various Tours and Walking Tours: Most tours included in the pass are valued around $30-$50.
    • Food on Foot Tours
    • SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown Tour
    • Greenwich Village Walking Tour
    • Central Park Tour
    • Central Park Bike Rental and Tours
    • Hudon River Bike Rental Self-Tour
    • Madison Square Garden Tour
    • Yankees Stadium Tour
    • A bunch more

Let’s Do The Math — Is The New York Pass Worth The Money?

Obviously, there are hundreds of combinations when it comes to choosing what attractions to visit. However, we’re going to list out the most popular but you’ll have to do some of your own planning based on what interests you.

Note: You get to skip the lines at most attractions — which is certainly a bonus.

One Day Pass — $119

Alright, let’s see how much you’d need to do to make the one day pass worth the money.

  • Top of the Rock (Rockafeller Center Observation Deck): $37 [visit in the morning]
  • Hop-on-Hop-Off Bus Tour: $53
  • Museum of Modern Art: $25
  • Empire State Building Observation Deck: $34 [visit at night]
  • TOTAL: $149

The key to getting value from the One Day pass is hitting the expensive attractions. If you don’t mind visiting the observation decks for Rockafeller Center and the Empire State Building on the same day then it’s fairly easy to get your money’s worth. We threw in the bus tour because it’s a really good way to see a lot of the city — especially if it’s your first time. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is an excellent museum so you’ll want to see that.

If you didn’t want to do the $53 Hop-on-Hop-Off Bus Tour then it get’s a little trickier because it’s such a big-ticket item. If you replace that with something like the Guggenheim ($25) then you’re pretty much breaking even. When it comes to the observation decks, you can replace that with a walking/bike tour or another museum.

One Day Pass Conclusion: This pass can be worth the money if you don’t mind packing your day with multiple of the expensive activities (i.e. observation decks), a museum, and you want to do the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour. Otherwise, you’d have to visit many less-expensive attractions to break even.

Two Day Pass — $189 ($95/day)

The Two Day pass is a little more interesting because it lets you travel at a slightly less frantic pace than the one day pass and you don’t have to cram in all the expensive things into one day.

Day One

  • Top of the Rock (Rockafeller Center Observation Deck): $37
  • Hop-on-Hop-Off Bus Tour: $53
  • Central Park Bike Rental/Tour: $30
  • Guggenheim: $25
  • TOTAL: $145 ($92 w/out the bus tour)

Day Two

  • Museum of Modern Art: $25
  • Circle Line Harbor Cruise: $41
  • Whitney Museum of American Art ($25) or a Neighborhood Walking Tour: $30
  • TOTAL: $93. You could add easily add a late night Empire State Building Observation Deck ($34) so that total would be $127.

Two Day Pass Conclusion: The Two Day pass can be a good deal — especially if you add in a few of the expensive attractions. You’ll still have to fill your day with sights but it’s certainly manageable.

Three Day Pass — $259 ($86/day)

A three-day pass is a solid option because it allows you to see a lot of things without having to jam-pack your day with stuff.

Day One

  • Top of the Rock (Rockafeller Center Observation Deck): $37
  • Hop-on-Hop-Off Bus Tour: $53
  • Central Park Bike Tour/Rental: $30
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art: $5 (pay what you want) or the Guggenheim: $25
  • TOTAL: $125-$150

Day Two

  • Circle Line Harbor Cruise: $41
  • MoMA: $25
  • Whitney Museum of American Art: $25 (if you have the energy)
  • Neighborhood Walking Tour: $32
  • TOTAL: $100-$123

Day Three

  • 9/11 Memorial: $24
  • Neighborhood Walking Tour: $32
  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island: $18
  • New Museum: $18
  • TOTAL: $92

Three Day Pass Conclusion: It’s pretty easy to it the $86/day mark with the three-day pass. That said, you still need to add in a few of the high-value attractions to get the full worth.

Five Day Pass — $309 ($62/day)

For travelers on an extended tour of NYC, the five-day pass can be a really good deal — especially if you plan on doing a few attractions every day. And you won’t feel rushed because you really only need to see two or maybe three things to make it worth the money. Plus, it gives you a chance to explore Brooklyn for a day.

Day One

  • Top of the Rock (Rockafeller Center Observation Deck): $37
  • Hop-on-Hop-Off Bus Tour: $53
  • Central Park Bike Tour/Rental: $30
  • MET: $5 (pay what you want)
  • TOTAL: $120 ($67 without bus tour)

Day Two

  • Circle Line Harbor Cruise: $41
  • MoMA: $25
  • Neighborhood Walking Tour: $32
  • TOTAL: $98

Day Three

  • 9/11 Memorial: $24
  • Neighborhood Walking Tour: $32
  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island: $18
  • New Museum: $18
  • TOTAL: $92

Day Four

  • Guggenheim: $25
  • Whitney Museum of American Art: $25
  • Neighborhood Walking Tour or Bike Rental: $30
  • TOTAL: $80

Day Five

  • Brooklyn Museum of Art: $16
  • Brooklyn Bridge Bike Rental or Tour: $32
  • Brooklyn Botanical Gardens: $12 or a walking tour of Williamsburg: $32
  • Empire State Building Observation Deck: $34
  • TOTAL: $94

Five Day Pass Conclusion: This pass ends up costing you $62/day so it’s not hard to at least break even. You really only have to do two or three things to come out ahead. This is a great option if you enjoy walking tours since one tour + one museum a day ends up costing over $60.

Seven Day Pass — $349 ($50/day)

At only $50/day, a seven-day pass is a good option if you’ve got a whole week to fill and you want to see a lot of stuff. It’s also a great option if you enjoy walking tours and you only want to see a few things a day. One problem with this pass is that you may want to spend a day or two not doing museums or other attractions — which would make the pass not as good of a value.

Ten Day Pass — $399 ($40/day)

The ten-day pass is the granddaddy passes… coming in at $399 — which is $40/day. If you’re you’re up for seeing a few things each day then this is a really good value. It will allow you to pretty much see all the highlights of the city, do a ton of walking/boat/bike tours, and get some great views of the city. The main problem with this pass is that someone visiting NYC for 10+ days will probably want to spend a few days doing very few/no “touristy” things — which would eat away at the value of the pass.

Conclusion

The New York Pass can be a really good deal for travelers wanting to see a lot of what New York City has to offer. However, you’ll have to decide how much you want to see and if your travel style aligns with getting the most value out of the pass.

The pass becomes a great deal if you want to do the expensive Empire State Building Observatory, Rockafeller Observatory, and the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus tour and/or River Cruise. It’s also a great deal if you love walking and bike tours because they’re expensive and there are about a dozen included in the pass.

Conversely, if you’re only interested in museums and you don’t want to pack your schedule then you’re better off buying tickets separately.

Tips For Maximizing The New York Pass’ Value

NYC Pass Review - Food
The New York Pass helps you save money for food

Consider Time of Year: New York City is a city that’s bustling all year round so there is always something to do. However, you’ll spend a lot more time in museums during the dead of winter but you’ll probably spend a lot less time doing outdoors things like walking tours and Central Park. You might also not be interested in the Hop-On-Hop-Off although they are covered when it gets cold) and the water cruises. And, during the summer, you might be less inclined to do as many indoor things (unless it’s really hot).

Do the Expensive Attractions: You really need to hit most of the expensive attractions to get the most value out of the New York Pass. This includes the Empire State Building, Rockafeller Center, hop-on-hop-off bus, river cruise, and a few others. If these attractions aren’t interesting to you then it’s probably best to skip the pass.

Museum Overload: New York has a ton of amazing museums but you have to be careful about museum overload. We prefer to visit a max of two museums per day and we like to break up museum days so we’re not only doing museums — of course, this is personal preference.

Start Early: The best way to fit everything into your day is by starting early. Plus, if you hit of the most popular sights first you won’t have to deal with all the people.

Plan Your Day: Being smart about what sights you see will save you a ton of time. For example, it’s better to see sights that are near each other so you don’t waste time and energy going all over the city. Also, check opening times so you don’t show up when something is closed.

Pay What You Want/Free Days: The MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) and the American Museum of Natural History are pay-what-you-wish — the suggested donation is $25 but we usually only pay a few dollars. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is free Friday evening from 4:00 to 8:00. These three museums are on the pass so you can probably skip the line but take this into consideration when determining the value of the pass.

Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus: We recommend doing the H.O.H.O bus the first day so you get a general overview of the city. Also, don’t use this bus as a way to get around the city — use the subway for that.

Maximize Sightseeing & Get A Shorter Pass: One strategy is to knock out the bulk of your sightseeing in a day or two and then take it easy for the rest of the trip. With this strategy, you can buy a one or two day pass and end up saving a lot of money without shelling out for a longer pass.

Activate Your Pass In The Morning: Your pass is activated as soon as you use it — so your first day starts even if you use it at night. So don’t waste a day by using it at night.

Buy Your New York Pass

The best and cheapest place to buy the pass directly from the New York Pass website. You can also purchase online and then pick them up in NYC for free.

No Funny Business

We want to be fully transparent that this post may contain affiliate links. That means we receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking the link — it doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps support the site.

Thanks For The Support! — Susan and James

Questions? Learn more about our Strict Advertising Policy and How To Support Us.

Product Reviews

Related Reads

City Guides

Choosing Travel Insurance

Packing Checklists

Back to Top