Is the New York Pass a good deal?

Are New York Passes a good deal?My kids and I hit Manhattan this summer with a fistful of complimentary 10-day New York Passes to find out if they were a good deal for visitors.

Had we paid for them, they would have cost $254.15 each.  This isn’t a small amount of money to families who also have to pay for a hotel and meals.  Then again, New York isn’t cheap.

So, are they worth it?

Here’s what we managed to cover in 10 days, and the adult price we would have paid if we had just walked up to each attraction without trying to find a discount online:

American Museum of Natural History                       $22
Empire State Building Observatory                             $32
Madame Tussaud’s                                                                 $37
Top of the Rock                                                                         $30
MoMA                                                                                            $25
Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum                          $24
The Met                                                                                         $25
Clipper City Tall Ship Cruise                                             $45
Wall Street Walks                                                                    $35


Total walk-up retail price                                                 $275

So, the answer to the question, “Is the New York Pass worth it?” in our case is: yes.  Not by much, but still worth it.  It’s worth noting the following extenuating circumstances:

1.  We were there in July, and the temperature was a wilting 90 degrees most days.  This is not conducive to hard-charging tourism.
2.  My daughter was not always available for sightseeing, because she was doing a teen internship at the Central Park Zoo.  We tried to accommodate her schedule so she wouldn’t miss anything.

If we had been free all day, every day and chock full of stamina (or if it had been 10 degrees cooler), I probably would have squeezed in the following attractions too:

Grand Central Audio Tour                                                  $9
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Museum             $28
911 Museum                                                                            $24
The Cloisters                                                                            $25
New York Transit Museum                                                 $7
New York Botanical Garden                                           $20
Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise                                       $41


Total walk-up retail price                                                 $154

This would have brought the total walk up price equivalent to $429, which makes the New York Pass totally worth it.  You may be adding up these attractions, dividing by 10 days, and thinking that my family is just a little wimpy  for hypothetically only managing an average of only 1.6 attractions a day.

Fair point, but we were doing other, non-pass things too, such as taking food tours, visiting the Tenement Museum, shopping in Soho, going to Broadway shows, comparing various kinds of pizza, and walking all over Central Park.  And sleeping and eating.

Is the New York Pass worth it?

The pass covers 80 attractions in all, but you probably won’t be able to comfortably hit more than 2-3 a day — especially not with kids.  It’s worth browsing the New York Pass website to see how many of the attractions you really want to see.  This will help you decide which passes to get, should you decide to buy them.

My tips for getting the most out of your New York Pass:

1.  Know each attraction’s rules.  Some attractions allow you to make advance reservations (thereby guaranteeing you a spot); others don’t (which means you’ll have to arrive early and stand in line).  At least one (The Ride) even requires you to come when they first open in order to pick up limited tickets.  All terms and conditions are detailed in the guide you are given with your passes.  Study it.

2.  Be an obsessive planner.  Get out your map and make your plans according to geography.  Bike in Central Park and visit the American Museum of Natural History on the same day.  Do a Wall Street Walk and a statue cruise on the same day.  And so on.

3.  Don’t waste time on lunch.  Whatever you do, don’t spend your prime sightseeing hours sitting down to lunch!  Grab a pretzel or a hot dog from a food cart, fill your backpack with granola bars, or pop into a deli for a bagel.  There will be plenty of time for a nice relaxing meal in the evenings.

4.  If an attraction is open at night, go at night.   A few New York City attractions, like the Top of the Rock, Madame Tussaud’s, and the Empire State Building are open late.  Taking advantage of this means you’ll have more daytime hours to visit other places that close at or around 5pm.  Planning to go out on a cruise in New York Harbor to see the Statue of Liberty?  A daytime sail with Manhattan by Sail is included with your pass, and in the summer, the late-ish 4:30pm sailing will help you maximize your daytime sightseeing hours.

The New York Pass is available in 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7, and 10-day versions, and is a convenient chip card that is activated when you first use it.  Discounts are often available on their site.

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