Use a city pass to visit your own city

Published on: September 5, 2013 | Last Updated on November 3, 2018
The Isabel cocktail at Robert

The highlight of our city pass day was a Circle Line Tour around lower Manhattan.

On a breezy day in September, we drove into Manhattan from our home in Westchester County. After a wonderful brunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Robert, at the Museum of Arts and Design, we were tourists in our own hometown.

With throngs of others who were visitors from all over the world, we went to see the James Turrell exhibit at the Guggenheim and then took a Circle Line boat tour around lower Manhattan.

We were tempted to keep on going and see more for our money but decided to call it quits at the end of a longish day.

If you live in a large city, you may want to purchase a city pass to explore your own backyard. It’s also something to keep in mind when your traveling to other cities or have tourists coming to see you. It could potentially ease the stiff entry prices at some of the nation’s most iconic tourist sites and make for an exciting adventure.

City passes in New York City

I found out about two types of passes, both sold by private companies rather than municipal government, that are available in New York City:

New York Pass

The New York Pass™ provides a “smart card” that allows you to visit more than 80 tourist attractions across the five boroughs, including walking tours, museums, parks, gardens, boat rides, bike rentals and more.

New York Pass

New York Pass Smart Card

The card offers free entry to many of them, including the Empire State Building Observatory, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Madame Tussaud’s, and Top of the Rock, and discounts to scores of others. The pass comes with a free 200-page guidebook to help you plan your itinerary and get there.

A one-day pass (for one calendar day rather than 24 hours) costs $85 per adult and $60 for children. The per-day rate is reduced for multi-day passes.

The New York CityPASS

The New York CityPASS includes prepaid admission to the Empire State Building Observatory, the American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, Top of the Rock or the Guggenheim, and The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise.

The pass is $106 for adults and $79 for youth ages 6-17, and is valid for 9 days from its first use.

Some tips if you are thinking of purchasing either pass:

  • Read the fine print on the websites before you buy to find out what’s covered and what’s not.
  • Figure out how much time you’ll have for sightseeing, which free entries and discounts you want to use, and whether or not the pass will actually save you money.
  • Although many passes allow you to move to the front of the line, through a VIP line, try to choose days when lines are shorter (e.g. not during heavy vacation periods). There iconic attractions attract many visitors.
  • Passes often come with complimentary smartphone apps or booklets that offer practical tips and itineraries for your visit. Take advantage of them.
  • Get a good night’s rest the night before your outing, and wear comfortable walking shoes and layered clothing.

It’s a great way to take advantage of the sights in your own backyard or when touring another city—without having to reach into your pocket each time you arrive at an admission booth.

*CityPASS is also available in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Hollywood, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and Southern California theme parks.

After publication of this article, I learned of two more NYC passes that should be added to this list.

New York Explorer Pass

The Explorer Pass allows visitors to choose 3, 5, 7 or 10 attractions from 50 sites and tours, and visit them any time within 30 days—including the Hop-on/Hop-off double-decker bus. Prices start from $79.99 for adults and $57.99 for children ages 3-12

Downtown Culture Pass

The Downtown Culture Pass offers three days of unlimited admissions to eight downtown museums in lower Manhattan (all within walking distance), gift shop discounts, plus a walking tour. Priced at $30 ($15 for children ages 13–17; $5 for children ages 6–12; free for children 6 and under)

For additional information on these and other discount opportunities to see New York City, visit, the official guide to NYC.

This post is part of a blog carnival on the subject of “Fall” sponsored by One Road at a Time.

OUR SLIDE GALLERY – Here are views of some of the wonderful architectural gems of Manhattan as seen on the Circle Line.

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  • Reply
    Neva Fels
    September 7, 2013 at 12:17 am

    New York has so much to see and I loved going on your tour through your pictures.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2013 at 12:47 am

    You made me miss NYC. I went to high school with a guy whose father was the director of the Guggenheim in the early days. I remember my first time there was, I thin, a Monday when they were closed. We had the place to ourselves. All I wanted was a pair of roller skates so I could skate down that spiral ramp.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your post and linking up!

  • Reply
    September 8, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Will have to get to Nee York one of these days, but thank you for your photographic journey today 🙂

  • Reply
    September 9, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Great tips, Irene. These passes are a great way to see the city but I know I’d lose money because I could never do everything in one day. I like to linger.

  • Reply
    September 10, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Irene, I like the part where you mentioned being a tourist in your city. I like to do that here in Reno as well. Wow, but New York City….it would take a lifetime to go do and see everything. Which is what makes it so amazing to me (haven’t been there yet) 🙂

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 10, 2013 at 3:38 pm

      I live in the suburbs so my fantasy is moving into the city to be able to visit a different spot (and restaurant) every day:-)

  • Reply
    Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer)
    September 12, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Irene, I’m a bad example of your fantasy of moving into the city. When we became Empty Nesters, we sold our “this too big old house” and moved to a rental apartment in Center City Philadelphia. I’m shocked at all the things I don’t (but could) do. I admit that we probably do eat out a tad more than we did when we lived in the suburbs.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 13, 2013 at 8:28 am

      Perhaps, it will just take more time to get settled?

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