In this New York City Explorer Pass review, we’ll explore how it works, what it costs, and whether it’s a good fit for you. Enjoy!
Are you planning a trip to New York City? Lucky you! There are endless things to see and do in the Big Apple, day or night. I mean, they don’t call it the City that Never Sleeps for nothing.
Whether you’re a repeat visitor or a first-timer, you probably know that NYC ain’t cheap. Sure, there are lots of awesome things to do for free, but there are just as many (or more) great attractions that will cost you a pretty penny.
Luckily, Club Thrifty is here to give you the 411 on one option to help you save money on NYC sightseeing: The New York City Explorer Pass.
The New York City Explorer Pass is one of several sightseeing passes available to help you take in NYC’s attractions for less. With access to over 80 sites, it can save you a lot of money if you use it strategically. But, that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.
Keep reading to get the low down on how this card works and how to make it work for you.
New York City Explorer Pass: How it Works
The New York City Explorer Pass is a way for travelers to save up to 50% on admission to some of NYC’s most popular sites and tours – 82 of them, to be exact.
You can purchase a pass for 3, 4, 5, 7, or 10 attractions. You don’t even have to choose which attractions you want to visit when purchasing the pass – although there is an option to do that and save even more. Just select the number of attractions you want to include, and choose where you want to go once you get there!
Using the New York Explorer Pass is simple: Instead of buying a ticket for the attraction you’re visiting, you simply show your pass at the ticket window. With it, you’ll receive “free” entry to the number of attractions you purchased.
Keep in mind that your pass is activated when you use it for the first time. From there, it is valid for 30 days – great for travelers who are staying in NYC for a while.
Top Attractions Included on the New York Explorer Pass
The New York City Explorer Pass gives travelers access to 82 different sites and tours. Here are some of the top picks from the list, including the regular adult admission prices:
- Empire State Building: $37
- Top of the Rock Observatory: $39.20
- Hop-on Hop-off Big Bus New York: Classic 1-Day Tour: $60
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Immigration Museum: $18.50
- Madame Tussauds Wax Museum: $37.02
- 9/11 Memorial and Museum: $26
- 9/11 Tribute Museum and Guided Memorial Tour: $35
- American Museum of Natural History: $23
- The Museum of Modern Art: $25
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art: $25
- Landmarks Cruise: Circle Line Sightseeing: $37
- Central Park Full Day Bike Rental: $40
- The Ride: $69
- Brooklyn Bridge Bike Tour: $45
- Food on Foot Tours: $49
These are only a small fraction of the attractions available through the New York City Explorer Pass. Check out the complete list of attractions here.
New York City Explorer Pass Pricing
We know a lot of the top attractions in New York are kind of pricey. So, what kind of savings does the New York City Explorer Pass offer?
Adult and child prices for each pass option are listed below (current as of May 2018).
|Pass||Adult Price||Child (3-12) Price|
|11 attractions (for a limited time)||$219||$169|
You can also “build your own pass” by selecting your attractions when you purchase. This could potentially save you some additional money!
Making the Most of Your New York Explorer Pass
It’s probably becoming obvious that the New York Explorer Pass can save you some serious cash. Still, you have to be strategic about the attractions you choose.
For example, buying a 4-attraction pass for $119 and using it at four museums wouldn’t make much sense. Since most of the museums cost around $25 on their own (either through tickets or suggested donations), you’d actually be losing money on the pass. However, there are plenty of ways to make it well worth your while.
The best value for your money comes when you use the pass on the most expensive attractions. The Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour costs $60 on its own, so that might be a great attraction to choose. Add the Empire State Building, the 9/11 Tribute Museum and Tour, and a Food on Foot Tour, and that $119 4-attraction pass saves you $62 per person. That’s over 34% off the listed retail price!
Pretty good, right?
Top Reasons to Get the New York City Explorer Pass
Save Money on Admission Prices
The biggest reason to consider the New York City Explorer Pass is obvious: Saving money. With the NYC Explorer Pass, you get to choose from over 80 of New York’s top attractions…and you’ll save money while doing it. If you know you want to see some of New York’s biggest sites but you don’t want it to take up your whole trip, the Explorer Pass is definitely going to deliver value for you.
Explore the City with the Hop-on Hop-off Big Bus Tour
The Hop-on Hop-off Big Bus Tour is one of the most popular attractions included with the New York Explorer Pass. It’s also one of the most expensive. The 1-day tour package included with the pass consists of three routes: Downtown, Uptown, and Midtown. You can hop on at any of the 25+ stops along the route, or stay on board and take in the city sights. Unlike most bus tours, this one has a live tour guide who will explain the history of key landmarks along the way. Hop-on and hop-off as many times as you want while your bus ticket is active. It’s a great way to tour the city, especially if you’re a first-time visitor.
Check Out Attractions at Your Own Pace
Relative to other sightseeing passes, one of the more attractive features of the New York City Explorer Pass is that it’s valid for 30 days. While passes offering unlimited access to attractions for a set number of days are great for heavy planners and sightseers, this pass might be better for people who know they want to see a certain number of key attractions but want to leave their schedules a little more open. This makes it easier to pursue activities that come up on the fly, and – in NYC – there is no shortage of interesting distractions!
Enjoy a Wide Variety of Tours
If guided tours are your thing, you’re going to love that the Explorer Pass gives you access to more than 35 of them. That’s a huge number of tours to make available on any pass! While tours might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they’re an awesome way to learn about the city from real New Yorkers while meeting other travelers. This might be especially attractive to solo travelers.
Other Benefits of the New York Explorer Pass
Streamlined entry to busy attractions – When you’re on vacation, you want to maximize your time exploring the city you’re visiting, not waiting in line for tickets. With the NYC Explorer Pass, you’ll get streamlined entry to some of the busiest attractions, saving you valuable time in the process.
Digital pass & free mobile app – When you purchase the New York City Explorer Pass, it’s emailed to you right away. You can print it at home, or simply download their free mobile app to access your pass directly from your phone.
Online or PDF guidebook – This pass also comes with a guidebook that provides info on all the attractions included on the pass. The online version is optimized for mobile phones, and – when you have location services turned on – you can see exactly where you are relative to the attractions you want to hit up. If you prefer to kick it old school, there’s also a PDF version of the guide you can download and print.
Additional discounts – In addition to the 82 attractions included on the New York City Explorer Pass, you also get discounts on additional attractions and at certain retailers – including 10% off Central Park carriage rides, 15% off at Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, and more.
Where the New York City Explorer Pass Falls Short
Although entry to the Statue of Liberty is included with the pass, entry to the pedestal and crown are not. If that’s something you really want to do, you’ll want to plan it out in advance.
Additionally, the New York City Explorer Pass does not include any transportation options other than bus tours. This certainly isn’t a deal breaker, but including subway access would make exploring the city even easier.
Who Is the New York City Explorer Pass Good For?
- First-timers – First time in the Big Apple? You’ll probably want to visit at least a few of the city’s iconic attractions. The New York Explorer Pass will help you do it for less.
- Repeat visitors – If you’ve been to NYC before, you might not be on a power-sightseeing mission. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few of the 82 attractions you’d like to see or do. The 3-attraction pass might meet your needs perfectly!
- Travelers staying awhile – While other passes offer unlimited sightseeing for a set number of days, the New York City Explorer Pass offers access to a set number of attractions and is valid for a full 30 days. So, if you’re staying in NYC for a couple of weeks, you’ll probably benefit from a 10-attractions pass…and you’ll have plenty of time to use it.
- Travelers who like flexibility – If you’re the kind of traveler who doesn’t like to have your days mapped out, the New York City Explorer Pass is probably a good fit for you. Since it’s valid for 30 days, just choose the number of attractions you think you’d like to visit, and hit them up at your leisure. You can spread your sightseeing out over as many days as you like.
- Travelers who like to spend a long time at each attraction – If you’re the type to spend a full day in a museum or another interesting venue, you’ll appreciate the New York City Explorer Pass because there’s no pressure to cram 3 or 4 attractions into one day.
Who Is the New York Explorer Pass NOT Good For?
- Power sightseers – If you love the idea of planning an itinerary for your trip that includes seeing multiple (think 3+) attractions every day, then you might be a power sightseer. If so, you may get more value from a pass that gives you unlimited access to attractions for a set number of days, like the New York Pass.
- Travelers not interested in typical tourist activities – Not everyone goes to NYC with a tourist agenda. If you’re not interested in sightseeing, the pass won’t offer much value.
- Extreme budget travelers – If you’re interested in pursuing mostly free activities in New York, then you’ll want to skip purchasing a sightseeing pass.
Tips for Using the New York City Explorer Pass
- Use the pass for the most expensive attractions that interest you. – This will ensure you get the best bang for your buck.
- Consider the value of the pass. – Obviously, you don’t want to buy more pass than you’ll use. Still, be aware that the 10-attraction pass offers the best value in terms of savings. The 3 and 4 attraction passes offer roughly equal value, but you start saving more as you move up to the 5, 7, and 10 attraction passes.
- Try to buy the pass on sale. – Extra savings are your friend!
- Visit attractions near each other on the same day. – New York City is massive, and it can take a lot of time to get from one side of the city to the other. When visiting multiple attractions in a day, be sure to visit those that are close to each other. That way you won’t lose much time in transit.
- Be aware that certain NYC attractions fill up or have scheduled entry times. – Take this into account and consider arranging tickets in advance when possible.
Where to Buy the New York City Explorer Pass
Convinced that the New York City Explorer Pass is a good fit for you? Buy your pass online here!
Your pass will be delivered by email as soon as you buy it, and you can either print it at home or keep it on your phone using the Go City Card app.
The Bottom Line: Is the New York City Explorer Pass Worth It?
The New York City Explorer Pass offers excellent value to travelers who want to take in New York’s best sites at a flexible pace. Just choose the number of attractions you wish to visit, and save up to 50% off the cost of admission. If that sounds like a good deal to you, go for it!
If you’re a heavy sightseer and know you plan to visit at least three attractions every day of your trip, you might want to weigh your other options (like the New York Pass) instead.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your trip to New York!
Have you used the New York City Explorer Pass? Tell us about your experience!