Alternatives to a Pass
If you aren’t sold on any of the three major New York tourist pass options, do not fear. There are many other ways to save money on your upcoming trip to New York. Whether you want to plan ahead or fly-by-night, there are different ways to save money through both traditional coupons as well as smartphone usage.
- The Entertainment Book
At only $35, choosing an Entertainment Book can be a really great option in terms of allowing for choice as well as savings on your New York trip. Really a throwback to the past, the Entertainment Book can save you its sticker price in dining discounts as well as deals on tours, attractions and shopping.
There is a real variety of savings to be had with these books but they are really heavy on the dining coupons. For that reason an Entertainment Book is really a great companion to any of the tourist pass options as well.
The Entertainment Book is often a best choice for couples or families, since many of its coupons are two-for-one, but there are also many deals available in terms of the final $35 cost. All Entertainment Books expire on November 1st every year. So, if you are travelling in August, September or October you can likely find the books at a steep discount.
- Discount Ticket Websites—NYTIX.com
One area not really covered by any of the tourist passes is show tickets. In fact many people travel to New York every year for the express purpose of going to Broadway, Off-Broadway, television show tapings as well as special musical and comedy performances. If this is the type of New York experience you are hoping for, then consider using discount ticket websites as an option for finding great deals.
Many shows will offer mid-week discounts in addition to prices that are reduced up to 50%. The website NYTIX.com is your best bet for these deals, since it shares online codes that can give you great prices on any Broadway show and can help you apply to receive free tickets to television show tapings like Dr. Oz, Martha Stewart, or The View. The website costs a fee to use for these free tickets, but it is well worth it if you are planning to travel from far away.
- New York Smart Save Map
Another throw back to pre-internet travelling, the Smart Save Map and its famous 20% off discounts at top attractions is available widely throughout New York City. However, if you want to plan ahead, you can print off the Smart Save 20% off coupon before you leave which will provide you with a scanable bar code that can be used at the ticket counter of sights such as the Guggenheim Museum, Circle Line Cruises, the BODIES Exhibition, Top of the Rock and several others.
- Groupon.com and other One-Day-Only Deals
Taking full advantage of modern day technology, those of you with smartphones or east internet access can benefit from one-day-only internet coupons during your stay in New York City by signing up at their websites. Groupon is the most popular of these sites and by using these deals you can save a lot of money on the fly. The biggest downside to this way of traveling is the inability to plan ahead, however.
- Consider a Group Tour
If you are staying for an extended time in New York and want to get a good snapshot of its sights without dedicating your whole trip to that endeavor (such as with the tourist passes) signing up for a 2-4 day group tour can be an excellent alternative. Through these tours you get the benefit of group discounts without a large party as well as guaranteed transportation in and around New York without having to rely on expensive taxis or the confusing (and often dirty!) subway system.
Companies such as CitySights (those with the double-decker bus that are also available as an appendage to the NY Pass) offer many different angles of New York, such as “All-Around,” “Uptown & Harlem,” “Downtown,” and “Brooklyn.” Many tours will also include specific sights such as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, as well as dining and shopping. Purchasing a tour pass may also entitle you to specific discounts at other sights as well. For example, CitySights’ Shop, Hop & Top tour is a 4-day pass that includes all of the lines mentioned before and also comes with free admission to the Museum of the City of New York, a cruise around the city's harbor on NY Waterway, entrance to an observation deck at the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock, and roundtrip bus ride to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets.
Another tour alternative—and one that you should definitely consider if you do not purchase a tourist package—are prepackaged, self-guided tours that allow for discounted access to one or two sights. Gray Line (another tour company) has a package that includes the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island and the Empire State Building for one price. There are several similar deals for popular attractions if you want to only see a few places.
Especially for tours, doing a basic internet search prior to leaving on your trip will reveal several deals that vary according to the season. Either way you are almost guaranteed cheaper entrance fees over the internet than going straight to a sight without a coupon. There is no reason to pay full price admission anywhere. Remember, though that Christmas and Summer are the most popular travel times, meaning that more people will be vying to get in to each sight and requiring more planning on your part. On the flip side, high tourist seasons also lend themselves to better deals as different companies compete for tourist dollars.
- Free and Alternate Attractions
The final thought to consider is whether or not “New York on a Budget” needs to cost anything at all in terms of entertainment. Whether you purchase a tourist pass or not, all of these ideas can and should be incorporated into any New York vacation.
First, there are many options, such as a visit to Times Square, Central Park, or Rockefeller Center at Christmas that do not cost a thing. Also, many of the best museums, such as the Met, do not actually charge admission so much as “suggest” a donation for entrance. If you are really hard up, there is no reason you have to give the full $20, $10 will suffice. Many museums also hold free admission parties on a weekly basis, so it may be worthwhile to check their websites and/or call ahead before you go.
You also need to consider that there are many sights that all of these tourist passes just do not cover. Most obviously is Broadway, and really no New York trip is complete without at least taking in a matinee. Even those places included in the tourist packages contain many “add-on” elements, such as ice skating at Rockefeller Center, that you may want to include. There are many neighborhoods such as Chinatown and Little Italy that are fun to simply meander through without any real agenda. The South Street Seaport offers concerts in the summer free of charge, as does Central Park. On any given weekend, especially in the summer, there are street festivals, fairs and farmer’s markets to wander through at leisure. There are walking and jogging trails all up and down the Hudson and East Rivers as well where you will get a picture of the “real” New York in a way that the crowds at Ellis Island miss.
And last, but certainly not least, one of the most unique aspects of New York is its people. Though sights are great, simply sitting on a blanket in Gramercy Park or at a sidewalk café in Greenwich Village and watching people pass by will never be a disappointment. In a city always on the move, those who take the time to slow down and watch will find the true spirit of the Big Apple. A spirit that cannot be matched and never imitated. A spirit everyone should slow down long enough to see.
Top Tourist Attractions & Tours
Circle Line River Cruise
Empire State Building
Harry Potter™ Exhibit
Statue of Liberty
New York Skyride
Top of the Rock
Museum of Modern Art
Food on Foot Tours
World Trade Center Heros Tour
All Included Attractions & Tours
American Museum of Natural History
Atlantic City Excursion on Academy Bus
Bike and Roll NYC Bike Rental
Bronx Museum of the Arts
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Children's Museum
Brooklyn Historical Society
Carnegie Hall Tours
Central Park Bicycle Rentals & Tours
Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
Clipper City Tall Ship Cruises
Manhattan By Sail
Dwyer Cultural Center
Dyckman Farmhouse Museum
El Museo del Barrio
Empire State Building Observation Deck
FDNY Fire Zone
Food on Foot Tours
Harry Potter: Exhibit at Times Square
Historic Richmond Town
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Jewish Children's Museum
Madame Tussaud's New York
Madison Square Garden, All Access Tour
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Museum of the City of New York
NBC Studio Tour
New York Botanical Garden
New York Hall of Science
New York Skyride
New York Transit Museum
New York Water Taxi
New York: Harlem Scavenger Hunt Tour
Noble Maritime Collection
On Location Tours
Queens Museum of Art
Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour
Real Bronx Tour
Manhattan By Sail
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Staten Island Botanical Garden
Staten Island Children's Museum
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Immigration Ferry
The Broadway Theater District Walking Tour
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine
The Cloisters Museum and Gardens
The Hispanic Society of America
The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Museum of Sex
The New York City Police Museum
The Paley Center for Media
The Studio Museum in Harlem
Top of the Rock
Tour at Lincoln Center
Tribute WTC Visitor Center
“Sails to Sales” South Street Seaport Tour
Edgar Allan Poe Greenwich Village Tour
Uncle Sam's Fifth Avenue Fashion Tour
Uncle Sam's Hamilton Financial Tour
Heroes of the World Trade Center Tour
Van Cortlandt House Museum
Weeksville Heritage Center
Whitney Museum of American Art