Everything you need to know about City Pass New York. Is it worth the money?

Have you ever wondered whether to buy the City Pass New York or had questions about it? Here’s our complete guide to help you decide.

When we think about visiting New York (or almost any big city that we don’t know very well), a lot of times what comes to mind are the big attractions that we definitely don’t want to miss. They tend to be the most iconic sights and for people like me, who are looking to visit everything without waiting in long lines; there are solutions. In the case of New York City we have the City Pass and, although I had already visited the attractions, I wanted to try out the City Pass to see exactly how it was used and if it’s really as easy and convenient as they say.

The City Pass is basically a coupon book full of tickets where, for 9 consecutive days (including holidays), you are able to visit three attractions (the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum) and then choose three others (Top of the Rock or the Guggenheim Museum, Ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or a cruise around Manhattan, and the Intrepid Museum or the 9/11 Museum). For each attraction you choose, you will go up to the ticket desk (skipping the general line) and hand them your ticket book. They will give you a normal ticket for access to the attraction (later on I’ll go into more detail about the lines for each.)

What does the City Pass include?

The Empire State Building

We’ll start with the star of the City Pass: the Empire State Building. The first time I visited this emblematic building I have to admit that I was impressed. Was it because it has the best views of the city? Maybe not, because in my opinion the Top of the Rock has the best views. But just being there, above it all; I felt special and privileged. The architecture is as unique as the history of the building.

  • Recommended? Absolutely, yes.
  • Address: 350 5th Avenue and 34th Street, New York, NY 10118
  • Hours: 365 days a year from 8am-2am (the last elevator goes up 45 minutes before closing)
  • What does my ticket include? Going up to the 86th floor. If you want to go up to the 102nd floor you have to pay an additional $20 at the ticket office or on the 86th floor where they have a booth. You will also be able to enjoy a second trip up to the top at night on the same day that you go to the Empire State Building for the first time (from May-August from 10pm-closing and from September-April from 8pm- closing). Lastly, the visit includes an audio guide.
  • Do you get to skip the line? With the City Pass you pass directly through security and you go straight to the ticket counter, so you skip the main line. You will only have to wait your turn for the elevator.

The American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is, without a doubt one of the most impressive museums in New York both for its size and the number of artefacts you can find inside. We know that you’re already thinking about the dinosaurs (which impressed me, I have to admit) but there is a lot to see there. What’s more, it’s great for the whole family.

  • Recommended? If you are traveling with children, yes. Of course! If you are only traveling with adults, I would recommend that you don’t try to see everything because it’s enormous (unless you are a big fan of science and nature).
  • Address: Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY, 10024
  • Hours: Open daily 10am – 5:45pm. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day
  • What does my ticket include? At the ticket office you can pick up a ticket to the Space Show or the IMAX.
  • Do you get to skip the line? With the City Pass you can go directly to security and access the ticket desk. Normally the lines at this museum move quickly, although with City Pass, if you visit on a busy day it’s worth it to skip long lines.
  • Information about The American Museum of Natural History

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is home to one of the largest collections of art in the world. If you like classical art this museum is fascinating. The architecture of the building itself is beautiful and you will find works of art and artefacts from the Greeks and Egyptians, as well as paintings and sculptures from around the world. Artists including Rafael, Titian, El Greco, and Velázquez all have their own space.

  • Recommended? If you are traveling with small children, it might be boring for them if they aren’t used to visiting museums. If there are only adults in your group, I would recommend it if you like classical art. If not, you might go in to see the architecture and a few of the important works.
  • Address: 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, New York, NY 10028
  • Hours: Sunday – Thursday from 10am – 5:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am – 9pm. You must leave the galleries 15 minutes before closing. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and the first Monday of May.
  • What does my ticket include? The audioguide is available at the stand in the main vestibule of the Met in 10 languages. Your ticket also includes entrance during the same week to the Cloisters in the North of Manhattan. Note that if you use the City Pass first at The Cloisters, then you must visit the Met the same day.
  • Do you get to skip the line? Present your coupon book or the City Pass coupon at the ticket counter which is found at the left of the information table in the Great Hall. (There is no ticket book at the center) They will give you your general admission ticket to the Met Fifth Avenue, the Met Breuer and the Cloisters.
  • Information about The MET

Top of the Rock (choice between this and the Guggenheim Museum)

A lot of people who don’t know New York (or even people who live in the city) ignore this impressive view. For me it’s the best place in the city for views from up above. In addition to views of the Empire State Building, you have a 360º view of the city including the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and the famous buildings. I have visited the Top of the Rock twice already and both times I was completely blown away.

  • Recommended? Absolutely (unless you really want to visit the Guggenheim Museum).
  • Address: 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, New York, NY 10111
  • Hours: Open every day 8am-Midnight. Last elevator goes up at 11pm. Hours may vary during the vacation season.
  • What does my ticket include? If you have to wait your turn for your time to go up to the Top of the Rock, you can take the Rockefeller Center Tour. It’s a guided tour that lasts 75 minutes and they will tell you about the history of the building while you wait to go up to the top.
  • Do you get to skip the line? Yes. The first thing you have to do is go to the main ticket desk where they have a sign for the City Pass, which saves you time if there is a long line. There they will give you a ticket with the next available time to go up to the Top of the Rock. Once the time has arrived (five or ten minutes beforehand) you stand by the entrance and after passing through the security controls, they will show you the way to the elevator.

Guggenheim Museum (choose between this and Top of the Rock)

The truth is that when I think about it, it seems a bit unfair that they put the Guggenheim Museum as a choice between an icon like the Top of the Rock. I have visited on my own and I can tell you that I really loved it. Not only the architecture, but it is the perfect size and each gallery had a different exhibit of modern art that was very interesting.

  • Recommended? Competing against the Top of the Rock it’s hard for me to say yes, although I loved it, so I would suggest you visit when it is free. If you don’t have a lot of time you can visit just the ramps designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and see the permanent collection in less than an hour.
  • Address: 1071 5th Avenue at 89th Street, New York, NY 10128
  • Hours: Sunday – Wednesday and Friday 10am- 5:45pm. Saturdays 10am-7:45pm. Closed on Thursdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • What does my ticket include? Entry to the Museum
  • Do you get to skip the line? Yes. Show your CityPASS ticket book or coupon at the information desk to avoid the main line and receive your general admission pass for the collections.
  • Information about The Guggenheim Museum

Intrepid Museum (Choose between this and the 9/11 Museum)

The Intrepid Museum is designed for those who love aviation, submarines, helicopters and everything that has to do with the armed forces. What you can see there is unique and without a doubt interesting to adults and children alike. The submarine portion is really impressive and walking on the Concorde is another moment that you won’t forget.

  • Recommended? If you are traveling with family, I’m sure that the kids will love it because they will be impressed. For adults, it’s recommended if you like the armed forces and anything related to aviation.
  • Address: Pier 86, West 46th Street and 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10036-4103
  • Hours: From November 1st – March 31st open every day from 10am- 5pm. From April 1st – October 31st, from Monday to Friday from 10am- 5pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-6pm. Holidays 10am-6pm. The last visitors will be allowed in one hour before closing time. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
  • What does my ticket include? It includes two different pavilions. You can purchase guided tours separately. (Space Shuttle Enterprise, Explanation about the planes, the War in the Pacific and Intrepid 101 are $15 and the Concorde is $20). There are also simulators (Transporter FX, G-Force Encounter and XD Theater) that you can purchase separately for $9 each or all of them for $24 per person.
  • Do you get to skip the line? You pass through security and after that, present your City Pass booklet or coupon at any ticket booth to get your general admission ticket for the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid.

9/11 Museum (Choose between this and the Intrepid Museum)

The 9/11 Museum is one of the most emotional places (in the sense that it overwhelms you) that I’ve ever visited. In an effort to not forget anything about that fateful day, they show everything that we know about the attack on the Twin Towers. Memories from the victims, testimonials, videos, even fire engines or other things that were destroyed. I would warn you that it might be too much for some visitors.

  • Recommended? If you are traveling with children you should take care and explain what they are seeing because it might be shocking for them. I would recommend it if you are prepared to remember those moments and learn more about the attacks.
  • Address: 180 Greenwich Street, World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007
  • Hours: Sunday – Thursday from 9am- 8pm. Fridays and Saturdays from 9am-9pm. During the months of July and August City Pass is only valid from 2pm on. The last entry is two hours before closing. Not valid on September 11th. Commemorative Monument open daily 7:30am- 9pm
  • What does my ticket include? The entry includes visit to the museum and video explaining the events. The audio guide is $7 and you can organize a guided tour in advance for $20.
  • Do you get to skip the line? Show your City Pass booklet or coupon in the line so that you can be shown to the correct ticket window and receive the programed entry ticket to the 9/11 Museum. Remember that in July and August you cannot use the City Pass for this museum until after 2pm.
Lady Liberty from the cruise
Photo (by-nc-nd) by El Boqueron Viajero

Cruise to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (choice between this and the Cruise around the Island of Manhattan)

The Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic symbols of New York City. The ferry takes you to the Statue of Liberty, but if you aren’t going to go up to the pedestal or the crown, it is more or less the same view that you get from the boat. Ellis Island has a museum that I loved because it shows you more about the story of the immigrants that arrived to the United States and passed through that building. For the Statue of Liberty, I would recommend that you climb up to the pedestal if not the crown.

  • Recommended? I would recommend the Museum at Ellis Island before the Statue. If you are only looking to see the Statue of Liberty, I would recommend you take advantage of the cruise around Manhattan and take the free Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty.
  • Address: Battery Park (New York) or Liberty State Park (New Jersey)
  • Hours: Ticket booths open daily from 7:45am – 4:30pm. Ferries leave every 30 – 45 minutes. The first ferry leaves at 8:30am from memorial day weekend (the last Monday in May) through Columbus Day (October 12th) and at 9:30am the rest of the year. Closed Christmas Day.
  • What does my ticket include? It includes the visit to the island of the Statue of Liberty and the entry to Ellis Island. Access to the pedestal is not included. Although each day there are a limited number of passes to the monuments available without any additional cost that they will distribute on a first come, first serve basis at the ticket window for Statue Cruises. Access to the crown is not included and the only way to get tickets for the crown is by reserving ahead of time online at statuecruises.com
  • Do you get to skip the line? When you get to Battery Park, don’t go directly to the line for the ferry. First you have to go to the little castle that is in the middle of the park and inside you will find the ticket window to validate your City Pass and access the boat. From this point on you join the normal line and they will show you where to go.

Cruise Around the Island of Manhattan (choice between this and the Cruise to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island)

Circle Line Cruises are rather famous and they give you a chance to take a trip around the island, which gives you a different perspective of the city and it’s skyscrapers. There are different types of cruises depending on the areas you are more interested in seeing. Although, without a doubt, my favorite option is the racing boats.

  • Recommended? If you only want to see the Statue of Liberty, but not get off the boat, then this is a good option for you.
  • Address: Circle Line Cruises (Pier 83- Midtown, West 42nd Street and 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10036)
  • Hours: For an up to date schedule the best bet is to visit circleline42.com or call (212) 563-3200. The racing boat BEAST is available from May through September. Closed on Christmas day. Special schedule on Thanksgiving, 4th of July and New Years. Not valid for special events including Bear Mountain, 4th of July and New Year’s Eve
  • What does my ticket include? The Landmark cruise on it’s normal schedule, the Harbor Lights Cruise, the Liberty Cruise or the Hola Brooklyn Cruise. They all offer magnificent views of New York and the Statue of Liberty. You can also enjoy a ride on The BEAST, an exciting 30 minute ride on this racing boat (available May through September). You can also take any of the more expensive cruises (except the seasonal cruises and special events) for $5. You can also purchase Premier benefits which include a shaded waiting area, fast boarding, a private terrace and observation area, better seats, food and drink service and more. Price to add Premier benefits: Best of NYC Cruise: $25, Landmark Cruise or Harbor Lights: $15, Liberty Cruise, $10. (This price is added to the $5 for the upgrade if applicable).
  • Do you get to skip the line? Present your City Pass or coupon at the ticket window for VIP entrance to ride on any one of the cruises.

Where can I buy a City Pass?

You can purchase your City Pass through the official website or at the NYC & Company offices. If you buy the pass online, which we recommend, after your purchase you will receive an e-ticket. With your e-ticket you can go to the first attraction that you choose and they will give you a ticket booklet their with the rest of the attractions and entrance to that specific attraction.

You can also choose to have your City Pass sent to you, although we don’t recommend this option, as it might not arrive in time. With your e-ticket, it’s very quick and easy.

Is it worth the money to buy a City Pass?

I would honestly say, “Yes.” If you like the attractions that are included, you will save time and money, and since you have 9 days, you have time to visit all the attractions. Also, if you contact us, we can help you organize your trip according to what you’d like to see and we’ll even send you a plan with our suggestions on how to organize your time over the days you’ll spend in New York including the attractions offered in the City Pass.

Is it better to buy the City Pass than the New York Pass?

The New York Pass is a different concept. It includes more attractions, and it is more expensive, but the time you have to visit the attractions is more limited. The days you have the New York Pass you really have to take advantage of everything possible in order for it to be worth the money. If you want to visit the attractions without being overwhelmed, then the City Pass is your best bet.

Some of the attractions have a free day or are “pay what you wish.” How can that be worth my money?

It’s true that the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum are “pay what you wish” with a minimum of $1. The rest of the attractions do not have a free day or a “pay what you wish” policy. The Empire State Building costs $32. The Top of the Rock costs $32, visiting the Statue of Liberty costs $18, the 9/11 Museum costs $24, the Intrepid costs $33, the Guggenheim costs $24 and the cruise $37. So in the end, if you visit these 6 attractions, you are definitely saving money.

How many days can I use the City Pass for?

You will have 9 consecutive days to use the City Pass from the first time you use a coupon and one year from the date of purchase to begin using the City Pass. Keep in mind that there are some attractions, like the second visit to the Empire State Building or the annexes to the MET that should be visited in a certain order (see the explanation of each attraction above).

Top of the Rock
Photo (by-nd) by Ivan Velazco
Photos with license (by-nd).
Main Photo (by-nc-nd) by El Boqueron Viajero
Default image
Pedro Ramirez
I was born and raised in Málaga, Spain. After living in Madrid, Barcelona and New York, I've returned home to enjoy the sun! I love to share the places I discover and write about them.
Articles: 230

Leave a Reply