City Tours - CityPass, New York City
New York has so much to see and a lot of it is very expensive and accompanied by long queues. One of the best things you can invest in is a pass that will let you see the sights you want for a discount, while letting you skip past some of the ticket queues. You need to shop around to find out which pass suits you best, as there are a lot of options, and be careful to read the small print about each offer.
For example claims that you can skip the ticket queue at the Top of the Rock doesn't mean much when the big queue is for the elevator. Also places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art only charge a suggested entrance fee of $25, but most of the passes just assume that you will pay that much when calculating your "savings".
I purchased a Go Select Pass, because I knew exactly what I wanted to see, and this had the annoyance of being sold as a Smartphone ticket, but after I downloaded it I was informed that I would have to print out the Empire State Building ticket. This meant I had to hunt down a printer and pay three dollars for the service, when I'd picked that ticket precisely because I wouldn't have to do that! Probably the ESB's fault more than the pass company, but they should make it more clear.
Trip Advisor has a great overview of the different options, and I used this to make my decision.
There are several different passes you can buy for New York City. Many cities have similar, a pass where you pay a flat fee to cover the entry fee for as many attractions on the list as you can fit in for a limited number of days, usually 3, 5 or a week. The more days you want it for, the more expensive it is and it's worth it if you have the energy to fit a lot in each day and rush from one to the next during opening hours. I've never found them worth it for me. I wouldn't break even.
I discovered one for NYC that's a bit different. The New York Explorer Pass by Smart Destinations. You pay for 3, 5, 7 or 10 attractions and it's good for 30 days. They have a list of over 50 sights, museums and tours that it covers with some limitations. It lets you skip the ticket line in many cases. You can also use it for discounts at a few shops like Macy's. Depending on what you want to see, it may be a better option. It is for us.
You book and pay for it and they send you (free shipping) a smart card with a chip on it. it keeps track of how many things you've used it for. You get a guide as well that outlines all the things you can do, locations, transportation to the site and if there are any rules, such as pre-booking. There are a handful of hop-on hop-off tours but you can only take one of them, that's one restriction.
We booked the 5 attraction pass since 4 of the things we wanted to do were on the list anyway and we'll decide on a fifth thing when we get there. We've got it narrowed down to two or three choices already. Our trip will cover 4 days so it'll be nice to spread the sightseeing out instead of cramming it in 3 days to do/see everything that would make the other type of pass worth while. For longer visits to the city, I think this would be your best bet.
Fondest memory: The website says the pass is on sale and it "ends today". It's been saying that the whole time I've been looking at it. Over a month. Never mind, it's a good deal. They ship to Canada, too, using Fedex so keep that in mind. There's also free cancellation insurance. You can display on your smartphone, too, instead of using the smartcard.
They also have a GoSelect card where you can specifically pick the attractions and they charge you discounted fees overall depending on how many you choose. Still good for 30 days. You can pick from pre-set packages or build your own.
Price as of today (April 2013) including the "sale" (all in US$) for the Explorer pass (cheaper for children):
3 days - $79.99
5 days - $116.99 (reg. $129.99)
7 days - $145.19 ($164.99)
10 days - $178.49 ($209.99)
Smart Destinations, New York Explorer passes
Don't forget your combined citypass and metro pass for the week. It knocks a lot off the entrance fees for all the attractions and allows you unlimited travel on the subway (the very best way to get around, although there are lots of steps, maybe not so good for the parents). It's a good idea to buy online (we picked ours up from the Hard Rock Cafe) so you get a good deal. You also do not have to stand in line, the ticket tells you where to go to get in faster.
As for food, opposite Penn Station (near the New Yorker Ramada hotel) there was a lean against the rail hot dog street bar, 75c a dog. Incredibly cheap but not spotless. The other end of the scale was a $40 per person full breakfast in a fancy restaurant.
I'd get a sandwich from a deli plus a drink and have my lunch on a bench near Battery Park. New Yorkers often eat lunch in a park outside, it's fine as long as you don't drink alcohol outside.
Lots of ice cream places for a sugar fix. Whatever you do, don't have one of those *wraps*. The two I had (different locations) tasted like cardboard.
Fondest memory: Oh, if you want to shop, take your passport to the customer services desk at Macy's and you can get a discount card. International shoppers can get a discount card good for 11% off most purchases at the Visitor's Center.
With dollar at $1.50 for £1 and the 11% discount, you can't really go wrong.
I think you can increase the quality of your NYC experience, good deals can be had and you can save money by:
- renting an apartment vs a hotel room;
- buying a CityPass
NYC / Manhattan hotels are mostly small and really expensive. Large nice ones (e.g. Grand Hyatt) can be $300-500/night in Manhattan.
Craigslist has apartments in the best neighborhoods (Greenwich Village, East Village, etc) for much less.
That is what I did & it worked out great.
I rented an excellent apartment in an upscale Greenwich Village brownstone with my own private terrace and full amenities for $150-175 a night.
Most of the apartment listings use PayPal for deposit & payment making it totally painless. I will never stay in a hotel again in NYC unless I want to and have bucks to burn.
Tip: Just make sure you screen the owner (if they are legit, they will screen YOU carefully), and don't pay full amount in cash upfront.
Most good Craigslist NYC apartment deals use PayPal or some other method to prevent both of you from getting ripped off.CityPass is available for about $65 and gets you into 6 NYC tourist sites, harbor cruises etc. without waiting in line.
If you know you're going to hit any three of these (imo a "no-brainer")
- Empire State Building Observatory (especially this one)
- Guggenheim Museum
- The Museum of Modern Art
- American Museum of Natural History & Rose Center
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters
- Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
then CityPass is definitely worth it.
If only one or two, imo pay as you go and skip the pass.
Fondest memory: Aside from all the great food, art, music, nightlife & streetscenes, strolling the neighborhoods and just sitting & relaxing quietly on the deck of a Greenwich Village apartment overlooking the garden with an old friend,
resting up for the next foray into the city.
Hitting Paris and NYC back-2-back in fall of 2005 was for me a really hedonistic & amusing comparison of cultures & style, and I would recommend it to anyone.
For $65 per person, New York CityPass lets you visit
- Empire State Building Observatory
- Circle Line cruise
- American Museum of Natural History and Rose Center
- Guggenheim Museum
giving you a savings of US$131. Valid for 9 days
Though New York is notoriously expensive, there are ways to enjoy the city for less cash. If you want to sightsee, you can purchase a City Pass -- it is only $65.00 ( if you saw all the attractions it would cost you about $130.00) and has tickets to 6 NYC attractions. You end up spending approximately 1/2 of what you would if you would have bought the tickets separately. Attractions include a 2-hour Circle Line Cruise of Manhattan, and the Empire State Building. (http://citypass.com/city/ny.html)
We found the 2 hour Circle Cruise saves you time as they will take you by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island for a good look if that's all that you want, so you don't have to take the Staten Island Ferry.
If you're in NYC for a week, you can purchase an unlimited subway pass for one week, which costs $24.00; your feet will thank you!
A few museums also have days where it's free entry; check with the museum you want to visit. For example, the Museum of Modern Art is free Friday evenings; usual entry fee is $20.00
There are many healthy food options for tight budgets, such as: Go Sushi, Pax Wholesome Foods, and Whole Foods Market (see my restaurant tips). Food in Chinatown is relatively inexpensive as well.
Pearl River Mart in Soho is a great place to find some inexpensive gifts and souveniers to bring home. I found the best deals for t-shirts at La Guardia airport; around $20.00 and much better quality than at the souvenier shops around town. You can also get high-quality souvenier t-shirts from Century 21 for great prices as well.
Want to see 5 of the biggest attractions in New York City at only half the entry price, plus you do not have to line up for entry tickets at each attraction, also you go to the front of the line for entry.
We regret not purchasing the pass, a good example we had an all up wait in line for 1.5 hours to purchase our ticket and gain entry to the Empire State Building Observatory. Time totally wasted. With the 2 hour Circle Line Harbour Cruise we waited 30 minutes and so on.
(707) 256 0490
Favorite thing: Offers admission to many popular attractions. You can buy online and pick up at Planet Hollywood in Times Sq, or else purchase once you arrive. Saved us around $50 each and you don't have to carry large amounts of money to pay enterance fees, and very often you can skip the queue to enter attractions.
Take a bus tour of the city. You'll get a great view if you sit top deck and take in most of the sights in relative comfort.
I strongly recommend buying a 'Lonely Planet' guide for every destination though. If you're limited by time you can pick out the places of interest and head straight for them.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory of New York was meeting one of the locals in Bloomingdales. It was a lady promoting a brand of perfume who upon hearing my accent, chatted to me for a good 45 mins! She was interested in England and asked for my point of view on various topics.
I found the people to be friendly and open and for me, it's the people that make a place.
Last time I was in NYC, I looked up walking tours (always a good way to get to know a piece of the city better). Since my travel was in November, most of the sites that popped up on google were not offering tours (they operate in the summer, basically). I did find, however, www.walknyc.com.
WalkNYC is run by a young couple and they have a very large array of walking tours to choose from. You can email them or call them, let them know when you'll be in town, how many people you are, and voila - your walking tour is set in motion!
James was our guide and the tour we did of the Upper West Side was very informative, fun, funny and enlightening.
Highly recommend it to anyone. Check out their web site for more info.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory of the walking tour of the Upper West Side was James's theory on why the accoustics are so good at Avery Fisher Hall (it has to do with selling more CD's and the occupation of the designer).
Purchase a City Pass. For $48 you can get tickets for the American Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim Museum, the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, the Empire State Building Observatory, and a Circle Line Harbor Cruise. www.citypass.net
Fondest memory: Hopping the subway around town, over-paying for a cup of coffee, people-watching in Central Park.
$49 for a 1-day New York pass includes:
• Admission to 40 top attractions in New York City, including:
Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, American Museum of Natural History, The Guggenheim, The Museum of Modern Art, Madame Tussaud’s New York, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, NBC Studio Tour, Circleline Sightseeing, Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour, The United Nations Tour, Madison Square Garden All Access Tour, and much much more!
• 125-page comprehensive guide book
• Discounts at 25 top restaurants and retailers, including: Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Hard Rock Café, World Yacht, Planet Hollywood, BB King Blues Club & Grill, Liberty Helicopters, just to name a few.
• Preferred access at many attractions allows card holders to “Go to the head of the line!”
For more details go to
All of the numbered avenues reach Houston Street, with the exception of Fifth Avenue, which runs into Washington Square Park. The avenues with even numbers run one way, north to south. The avenues with odd numbers run one way, south to north. However, the East side numbered avenues run the opposite way.
Fondest memory: There is so much to see even waiting in line at tkts (Times Square) to get my half price ticket to a show in Broadway was interesting.
CityPass is simple. The New York CityPass gets you into six famous New York City attractions. You have nine days to visit each attraction (once) beginning the day you first use your CityPass. You can purchase CityPass at any of the New York City attractions, or you can buy online here. Once you have your CityPass, simply present your booklet on your way into each attraction. The agent will remove that attraction's ticket, and you're in. (Tickets are void if removed from the CityPass booklet). For detailed information about each attraction, including hours, location and an Insider's Tip, please click on the attraction links located on the left hand part of this page.
MoMA has moved to Queens while MoMA Manhattan undergoes a 3-year renovation. CityPass includes admission to MoMA in Queens.
Fondest memory: The price for an adult ticket is $45.00, a $46.00 savings from the $91.00 it would cost without the pass.
Youth pass for ages 6-17 is $39.00, which is a $38.50 savings from the $77.50 cost without the pass.
Usually, just visiting a couple of these attractions make the pass worth the purchase. You can purchase them at any of the attractions or online at the following site.
I was looking for info on New York before I went and came across a site called "Big Apple Greeters" Thet claimed to be a free organisation who were willing to show you round New York absolutely free! Yeah right you think, what's the catch? Well the truth is there is no catch and they do exactly as they say! All you do is e-mail them with your information, like what date you will be there and what you would like to see e.t.c.
They even phoned me transatlantic to confirm my booking! Hows that for service.
Fondest memory: When you get to New York you simply phone your appointed greeter and then make arrangements to meet somewhere and they will give you a walking tour of the area.
I saw a side of Central Park that I would not have seen on my own, that's for sure!
My Greeter was able to explain in detail exactly what it is i was seeing as we strolled through Central Park e.t.c.