When planning my first ever trip to the infamous New York City, I knew there was a LOT that I wanted to see and do. I also knew I only had about 4 or 5 days there so wondered how I would fit everything in.
While doing my own research online, I came across an attraction pass called The New York Pass that I’d never heard of before. It’s a pass available for either 3 days, 5 days, or 7 days and includes access to over 90 attractions, tours, museums, and more. It also means you can skip the lines at some attractions, and they give you a free little guidebook with lots of great information.
I had a good look at every attraction that the pass included and compared it to my list of attractions I had as ‘must do’s for New York City and worked out how much it would cost me to pay for each attraction ticket separately. I calculated that I would save myself at least $50 by buying the 3 days pass so I thought it was worth purchasing. As I talk about a bit later on, I even went to attractions that I didn’t necessarily include in my ‘must-do list when calculating so it was a bonus to get extra stuff essentially for free and I ended up saving myself almost $200!
Because the passes are done by day, and not by the number of attractions you want to go to, I naturally wanted to make the MOST of my three-day pass. I would NOT suggest doing everything I did in three days as it was really rushed and I’m also a solo traveler so could go at my own pace. If you’re traveling with others, or want to see everything in more detail, then you’ll definitely need more than three days!
Tip: Keep an eye on the website for special offers – when I purchased they were offering 20% off so I saved myself almost $50 off the original ticket price. The pass doesn’t start until you validate it at certain attractions so you can purchase it weeks or months before you even arrive in New York!
Here’s a little run down of what I did, in alphabetical order for you so you can skip to the parts you want to read about. Also, the prices mentioned are what you would normally pay if you went without the New York Pass. Simply show your pass at every attraction you want to go to and get your admission ticket for free.
P.s. Don’t forget to check out the Shop part of my website for a free $25 from Booking.com!
9/11 Memorial and Museum: $24
One of the most harrowing, but interesting museums I’ve ever been to. 10/10 would recommend but be ready for some possible tears. You could spend a good 2-3 hours here.
9/11 Tribute Museum: $15
A few blocks away from the memorial and you learn more about people that were directly affected by the tragedy. 6/10 would recommend it. If you go to the previous one and find that’s enough for you, then I’d say skip this one. I spent less than an hour here.
American Museum of Natural History: $23
One of the funniest and interesting history museums I’ve ever been to! 8/10 would recommend. Large and could easily spend more than 3 hours here.
Big Bus Hop-on/Hop-off Tour: $60
The informative tour that goes all over the city (different routes available so you can pick what one/s you want to do). The bus is open top so it could be very cold in the winter but there are seats downstairs too. Also, customer service was not great by both team members I dealt with (one in the office and another on the street). 6/10 would recommend it. Time varies depending on how many routes you want to do.
Central Park Sightseeing Bike Tour and Rental: $45
Amazing bike tour with a great guide pointing out hot spots in Central Park as well as giving lots of interesting information about the area. 10/10 would recommend. Takes about 3 or 4 hours total.
Empire State Building: $37
A classic must do when you’re in the Big Apple. 8/10 would recommend. Waiting to go up to the top can take a little while (anywhere from an hour to 4 hours) so plan this in advance.
Grand Central Terminal Audio Tour: $9
Sitting on the grand stairs in Grand Central Station and listening to an audio history guide was a great way to wind down after a hectic day of sightseeing. If you’re not interested in the history of things then skip this one, but I did enjoy it. 7/10 would recommend. Takes less than an hour.
Madame Tussauds New York: $37.02
Full disclosure: I didn’t plan on doing this one originally but because it was already included in my ticket price and I was nearby with some time to kill in the evening, I thought why not?! I quite like celebrities so I enjoyed this attraction but if you’ve visited Madame Tussauds elsewhere (e.g. London like I have) then you could maybe skip this. 6/10 would recommend. You can spend 2-3 hours here.
Madison Square Garden: All Access Tour: $28.00
Something I never thought I’d be interested in but one of my favorite things I did in NYC! I was lucky and that no one else signed up for the tour I did so I had a one-on-one tour with an awesome guide who let me do and see things other people might not. I also found out the Knicks were playing the following night (which I wouldn’t have known otherwise) and so I went back the following night and saw LeBron play (extra cost, not included with NY Pass). 10/10 would recommend. Tour takes about 1-1.5 hours.
MoMA (Museum of Modern Art): $25
In all honesty, visiting MoMa and The Met museums in NYC made me realize I just don’t really care for art. I’m not a creative type of person and I never studied any History/Classics etc. in high school so half the famous artwork I was clueless about. If you’re into art, especially modern art, then this place is probably heaven for you. But it wasn’t for me so I’m going to be rough and give it a 4/10. It’s kind of on the small side so you can spend anywhere from 1-3 hours here.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Immigration Museum: $25.50
Another very classic NYC thing to do but again one of my favorites. Your ticket with the pass includes the ferry to the Statue and Ellis Island and back to the city, as well as an audio tour of both. I absolutely loved the Ellis Island audio tour as I am a permanent resident of the USA without being born there so I loved learning about how I would’ve gone about this back in the day. 10/10 would recommend. Visiting both islands, doing the audio tour of both and the ferry could take up to five hours.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET): $25
See the description under the MoMa for why I wasn’t the biggest fan of this place. 6/10 would recommend it. You could spend up to 10 hours here if you are a huge art fan, and wanted to look at every single piece. I would say the average tourist spends 3-4 hours here.
Top of the Rock Observatory: $34
I did this one as I quite simply wanted to see what the Empire State Building looked like from the top of another tall building! 8/10 would recommend. I spent approximately an hour here.
So that concludes all the attractions I did within three days using the New York Pass. BUT there’s so much more to see and do in NYC! I only had about a day and a half spare outside of the days I was doing the pass attractions so not much time but I managed to go to the following:
Got me feeling like Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl going across here. A must-do for every new visitor to NYC. 9/10 would recommend. I only walked halfway across and came back the same way but you can walk all the way across to Brooklyn. The halfway round trip takes about 30 mins.
A visit to New York is not complete without visiting this place! There weren’t too many people around when I went but I have heard it gets a little crazy.
New York Stock Exchange
I wanted to see where all the magic happened and also see if it was as exciting as the movies. It wasn’t. 6/10 would recommend it. I just stood outside the beautiful building and took a photo so only took 5 mins!
The High Line
A former railway for trains, the High Line is now a 2.3 km (1.45 miles) long walkway that includes gardens, artwork, and other fun stuff. I wasn’t a huge fan of this but it was also super cold when I was in NYC and I was on a time frame so couldn’t walk aimlessly and enjoy it! 6/10 would recommend it. You could spend up to 1-1.5 hours here.
I’ve already mentioned how much I like celebrities and the TV show Friends is no exception. I had to pay a visit to the outside shots of the apartment building while in the area!
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a very creative/artistic type. I wasn’t sure whether I would enjoy a Broadway show and didn’t want to buy stupidly expensive tickets. After using StubHub to get cheap Macklemore tickets in both LA and NYC on this trip, I thought I’d try for Broadway tickets too and succeeded. I paid just under $70 USD for a ticket to Wicked about two hours before it started! And I did really enjoy it 🙂
Have a cronut where they invented cronuts
After arriving at the ferry for the Statue of Liberty faaaarrrr too early, I had some time to kill. Nearby was the cafe Dominique Ansel Bakery so I just HAD to try one from the birthplace. They do a flavor of the month for $6 each. Worth every penny!
The event at Madison Square Garden
Depending on the season, you can see anything from basketball, ice hockey and wrestling matches to Billy Joel live in concert (who has been performing once a month in the arena since 2014 and has said he will keep going until the demand is no longer there). I bought my tickets off Stubhub a few hours before the game and got to see LeBron James play so I would 10/10 recommend going to see whatever is on while you’re there.
I hope I’ve helped you plan your New York City vacation and even if you don’t end up buying the New York City pass, my descriptions of each attraction have helped in some way!