Affordable Sightseeing in New York

The “City that never sleeps”, also known as New York, is one of the most frequently visited cities in the world. It’s globally known for its incredible skyline, historic landmarks and tourist attractions such as Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building.

In 2016 the city welcomed a record of 60,3 million visitors! If you are planning on visiting New York, be prepared to spend money; businesses are gladly taking advantage of the large tourism flood, with prices that can get crazy! A great way to manage your budget and prevent large credit card bills is the New York Pass.

What is the New York pass?

The New York Pass is a great way to make the most out of your visit to New York. It’s pretty much your all-in holiday ticket; a ‘smart card’ (just like a credit card) that allows you cash free access to over 90 (popular) tourist attractions all over the city. You can also make use of additional discounts and benefits, like fast track entry and you can book 17 tours in advance to secure your spot. There are no restrictions to the amount of attractions you visit, but the card will only be valid for a certain amount of days. You can either choose a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 or 10 day Pass and it gets activated by first use (so no set dates)! 

They pretty often have promotions like the one you see here, so buying online will save you money. Although you might think it’s a lot of money, if you want to do a lot of sightseeing this is definitely the most affordable way to do so!

Which New York pass is right for me?

If you are deciding on which New York Pass is the right fit for you, you should consider your budget, the amount of days you will be staying in New York and what attractions you would like to visit. With over 100 attractions you have a lot of options to choose from.

Since we went to New York for 8 days and wanted to make the most out of it (it was our first time), we decided to go for a 5-day pass. This way we still had some days to wander around the city without a schedule.

Planning your itinerary

So next up is planning! When you order a New York Pass you will get a 200 page pocket guidebook (or you can just download it), with details of all attractions and special offers available for Pass-holders. They also introduced a Mobile Pass, so you don’t have to collect it in NYC or wait for the delivery. Another great thing is that there is a New York Pass App with an easy accessible list of attractions and promotions, integrated maps, suggested itineraries or a custom itinerary planner.

Based on my own experiences, I would advise you to make the best use of your time and plan in advance;  use the app and map to look for attractions close to each other (or just make use of the suggested itineraries). Don’t forget to check the opening hours, because some attractions are only open during certain days or times! Of course it’s all about personal preference and whether you want to take it fast-paced or nice and easy.

5 days with the New York pass

To give you a good impression of the costs vs. the benefits I will share our 5-day itinerary with you!

Day 1

THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE AND DUMBO NEIGHBORHOOD TOUR
NORMAL ENTRY PRICE: $35 (ADULT) / $28 (KIDS)

Experience the beauty and history of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge at an easy pace. During this two hour walking tour a charming tour guide will turn you into an expert on the history of the world-famous landmark while you enjoy amazing views of Manhattan. Across the bridge you will explore the trendy Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO, well-known for its high-end boutiques, art galleries, scenic waterfront views, delicious desserts and famous pizza shops.

Modern Museum Of Art (MoMa)
Normal entry price: $25

MoMa is one of the world leading museum that offers a wide program of exhibitions. For example, when we were there, there was a photography exhibition “The shape of things” by Robert B. Menschel, art by 19th century painter Francis Picabia, an exhibition about furniture from the 60’s and an exhibition that focused on some architectural and artistic responses to the refugee flood. Quite impressive, I loved it!

day 2

Chelsea Highline & Meatpacking Tour
Regular entry fee: $35

On Manhattans West Side you will find The High Line, a 1.6 km (1 mile) long linear park that is built on a section of the former elevated New York Central Railroad. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, nature, art or you just like watching people, it’s all there! The nearby Chelsea Food Market is also a place you can visit, as the tour starts there.

Inside Broadway Tours
Regular entry fee: $35

Learn all the secrets from an actor’s perspective! This 2-hour walking tour will take you into the ‘real-life’ drama and comedy of Broadway, the ‘must-know’ history and gossip. Actors in the business of Broadway will tell you about their personal stories as they search to be discovered in the world of stardom. You will not only hear about the history about the theaters, but you will also hear backstage stories to make them come alive! Our tour guide was this really bubbly actress that made sure we were entertained for the whole tour. It’s great to hear people talk with so much passion for their profession! I think that gave the tour an extra boost too.

The Ride
Normal fee: $55

This interactive sightseeing tour will take you on an adventure throughout the city while enjoying some live street entertainment and New York’s top attractions. The best time to do The Ride is at night because of all the lights it will be more spectacular. The crew on the bus really puts up a show and makes sure that you will have an experience of a lifetime! I don’t know if I would have payed full price for this, but that’s another upside of the card too; you get to see things you otherwise might have skipped!

day 3

Central Park Walking Tour
Regular entry fee: $24

This two hour walking tour takes you through the rich foliage, historic buildings, landmarks and cultural history of Central Park. The guide will inform you about the many interesting details and anecdotes while you stroll around the beautiful city park with many bridges fountains and statues. Of course you can do your own walk, but it was nice to learn something about this impressive city park.

Yankees Stadium Tour
Regular fee: $25

Get a inside tour at the Yankee Stadium! This tour will take you to the museum (where you will find a large collection of signed baseballs and trophies), gives you a glimpse into the VIP-lounges and gets you upon the field of this legendary New York baseball club.

Harbor Lights Circle Cruise
Regular fee: $41

Enjoy the city by night with this 2-hour cruise and see all of Manhattan covered in lights! Circle Line also offers other harbor cruises, like the Liberty Cruise or 30 fun-filled minutes on the fastest speedboat in NYC, all free with the New York Pass!

day 4

NYC Slavery & Underground Railroad Tour
Regular fee: $35

Learn about the dramatic history of slavery and the Underground Railroad in NYC. You will maks stops at historic places that were part of the Underground Railroad network and get to listen to tales about courage and triumph of real New Yorkers who risked life and property to help people escape from slavery. A really impressive tour with a important story!

New York Water Taxi
Regular fee: $35

Enjoy Manhattan, New Jersey, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge from another point of view. With stops at 39th Street, Battery Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park & Slip A, you can hop on and off this water taxi, but you can also go all the way and enjoy the 70 minute guided tour.

Museum of Sex
Regular entry fee: $18,50

This actually was a coincidence, because we passed it when we were walking back to our hotel. At the Museum of Sex you can explore the art, science and the study of sexuality. We also have one in Amsterdam, so I was pretty curious if it would be quite the same. Well, I can tell you, the description “Fascinating”  The New York Times used “and a “Must See” according to The Wall Street Journal pretty much covers it, lol.

day 5

Empire State Building Observation Deck
Regular entry fee: $34

The New York Pass is one of the few tourism passes in New York that will get you up to the Observation Deck at the 86th floor of the Empire State Building by fast track. If you want to go to the Observation Deck at the 102nd floor you need to pay an additional fee of $20.

Top of the Rock
Regular entry fee: $34

With the New York Pass you will have Fast track entry at the Top of the Rock. The journey starts in the elevator that will take you up to the top of the Rockefeller Center, where you will find three stories of spectacular views, including a stunning, open air, 360-degree view from the 70th Floor outdoor deck. We visited at night so imagine a view like that by night!

These are only a few of the possibilities. There are a lot more benefits, like discounts on Broadway shows or helicopter flights over the City.
You will find a full list of all attractions, benefits & promotions here!

restrictions

Pretty much everything comes with some sort of restrictions, and of course there are a few minor drawbacks here too, but they really don’t weigh up to the benefits. But this wouldn’t be a fair review if I didn’t mention them, so here we go!

Opening hours
As mentioned before you really have to check opening days and hours, especially during holidays and weekends. It might be the city that never sleeps, but a lot of attractions aren’t open at night or have different opening hours during holidays ad weekend. That means you have to check for the latest admission if you’re planning a visit.

Time
When in New York you will want to spend some time at the main attractions. And you should! So make sure you don’t make your planning to tight, because there is a big chance you will get caught up somewhere. Some attractions also have scheduled times, which makes it harder to plan around but will give you a better time-frame.

Limited spots
For certain tours there are limited spots for New York Pass holders. Just make sure you save yourself a spot and pre-book the tours you really want to do. This will mean you will have some time restrictions!

Long days
Once you have activated the New York Pass you must use it in consecutive days. So you are not able to take a day off. Sightseeing and traveling around the city will drain your energy level, so make sure you will rest enough (I know, I know, you’re in the City that never sleeps), make time to chill, the great meals New York has to offer and most important: have fun! 

is the New York pass worth it?

In total we paid $240 per New York Pass. All the entry fees for the attractions we went to added up to $431 each!! So yes, you sure can make your money back! Our days were pretty filled, but that way we got the most out of the New York Pass AND got to see so much of New York in just a couple of days. It can be pretty tiring, so I think we made a wise decision by having that extra couple of days, where we didn’t have to stick to any plans. You do have to plan out everything and sometimes you won’t be able to hold to your schedule, but if you visit 2/3 big tourist attractions a day the New York Pass can already be profitable!

This was our first time in New York, so it’s not like we managed to get everywhere right away. But the public transportation is amazing and you you can always take the Hop-On-Hop-Of Bus that’s also included in your card and heads for the city highlights.

so….

It may seem like a lot of money, but when you add up all the entry fees you will know soon enough know it’s more than worth it. The New York Pass really is a viable way to explore New York City. Besides a lot of great tourist attractions you can experience from way more benefits, like discounts! I do recommend having some days outside the validity of your New York Pass to stroll around the city at an easy pace. This way you can enjoy the best of both worlds; top attractions for less while enjoying more! ツ

Have you ever been to New York before?
What are your favorite attractions?
Or what attractions do you (still) want to visit?
Let me know in the comments!

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