The New York version of the popular tourist discount book called the CityPass is quite simply a book of tickets that will get users into six of New York’s top attractions at a reduced rate. Similar to the “coupon books” sold by many fund-raising groups, the CityPass will save you money if you plan to visit New York and do some sightseeing and want to stick to its major attractions.
The CityPass can be purchased either online (as an e-ticket that you redeem in the City) or once you get to New York (all attractions that accept the CityPass also sell/distribute them). It is valid for 9 days following your acquisition of the physical book. Each subsequent ticket can then be redeemed at the sight in question for a “real” admission ticket through that sight’s will-call window.
The CityPass is a really great option for tourists with specific agendas in New York as far as sightseeing in concerned and is the cheapest of the three options that we outline. However, like the other two, there is fine print to the CityPass that you should be familiar with before deciding if it is the right option for your trip.
What does the New York CityPass include?
The book of tickets that you will receive in New York contains more than just half a dozen coupons. There will be two distinct “types” of tickets in the CityPass booklet: basic admission and option tickets.
Four of these coupons will be the basic admission tickets, you can redeem at the will-call window of four specific attractions. These are: The Empire State Building, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The American Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
The last two coupons will be “option” tickets that give you a choice of two attractions. The first will get you a ticket for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or the Circle Line Cruise. The other grants admission to NBC/Top of the Rock or the Guggenheim Museum.
In addition to the coupons, the booklet will include maps to all of the attractions, retail discount coupons such as $5 off a City Sights bus tour and 15% discount at Bloomingdales, transportation information and traveler tips for making the most out of your New York experience.
The CityPass also allows its users the ability to “skip” ticket lines through its will-call pick-up option. The booklet will clearly explain where to go to get your tickets for each sight and how to claim them, which generally includes by-passing the main ticket line.
How much does the New York CityPass cost?
The New York CityPass has two price points, adults and children. Unlike other New York passes, the CityPass is only required for children ages 6 and up. Children 5 and under are admitted free of charge to all the attractions included in the CityPass. However, at many attractions, it is still necessary to acquire a “free” child ticket and this may or may not require standing on the general admission line.
The price for the full booklet is $79 for adults and $59 for kids ages 6-17. And, as we mentioned before, it is valid for 9 days following its first use.
What is the value of the New York CityPass?
The full retail value of admission to all six sights contained in the CityPass is $147 and $111 respectively. This makes buying the CityPass the equivalent of saving 47% off of the admission to these sights.
However, unlike other New York tourist pass options, the physical “tickets” that are contained in the CityPass booklets have no tracking device and are basically the same as cash. Therefore, losing the full CityPass book is the equivalent of dropping $79 on the ground. So it is important to keep good track of your tickets.
The key to reaping the most value from the CityPass is in visiting all six (or at least 5 out of 6) attractions. If you are unsure of what you want to see in New York, buying a CityPass ahead of time is probably not such a good idea.
Who should purchase the New York CityPass?
One of the distinct benefits of the CityPass is its simplicity. There is no secret to realizing its value if you plan to visit the sights that it includes. Of further benefit is that it gives you ample time (nine days) in order to achieve this.
Basically, any type of travel personality can benefit from the CityPass as long as its attractions are appealing. So you need research what is offered and take some time to figure out what else in the City you may want to see. Three or four CityPass tickets are for museums, for example. So if you don’t really have a whole lot of interest in museums, there are better tourist pass options for you to take advantage of while in New York.
Travelers who do not plan on spending more than a day or two in New York may not benefit much from the CityPass either for the same reason. Museums can (and should) take a lot of time to go through. MoMA, for example, contains 150,000 individual art pieces, 22,000 films and 4 million film stills. To properly view all of this art can take hours and you may want to take the whole day to go through this museum as well as the others.
On the flip side to this equation, if you are primarily interested in visiting museums on your trip, this pass offers a really excellent value since the four included here. The Met, the Museum of Natural History, MoMA and the Guggenheim, are by far the best (and most expensive) museums that the city has to offer.
Another bonus is that weather will not impede your ability to go to these attractions, allowing you to plan your other visits to the Empire State Building and to the Statue of Liberty or Circle Line around sunny days. If you have a week or more in New York, this pass will be invaluable in allowing you flexibility without too much preplanning.
Bottom Line: If your trip to New York is going to last more than 2-3 days and you have specific, priority interest in at least five of the six attractions offered by the New York CityPass, the value of this purchase is unbeatable. You save almost 50% off of regular admission prices to some of the best sights in New York and you are given a good amount of time in which to visit them. The preplanning for this pass is minimal since there is little difference in purchasing it in New York versus online and it gives you flexibility in terms of seeing other attractions in and around the Big Apple. However, if you have little interest in visiting museums, the value of the CityPass is greatly reduced and there are other options for tourist passes that may better suit your tastes.
All in all, deciding on the New York CityPass over other New York City tourist options is a personal decision that only you can make.
Empire State Building
Museum of Modern Art
American Museum of Natural History
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
or Circle Line River Cruise
Top of the Rock
or Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum