The first thing on my hit list once we got settled into our hotel was to get a New York CityPASS. As the trip was a surprise birthday present for M I didn’t want to plan a strict itinerary but create more of a list of all the places that I thought he & I might like to do, so that we could share the fun in deciding what we did each day.
Five of the six attractions on the CityPASS were on my list, so I thought it would probably make for a wise purchase, giving us some structure to our weekend by giving us some main attractions to aim for and planning other sites around them.
Also, strict itineraries are just not our style. Inevitably, you end up spending more time than expected trying to hunt down a Cronut (only for them to be sold out, grr!) and less time at the expanse of the Met where you planned on getting cultured (whatever that means).
Don’t get me wrong; I love some structure, especially in terms of grouping sites by location so we’re not wasting time travelling to the same area multiple times. It’s just I’ll pass on the minute-by-minute itineraries that you can find online that specify a mere fifteen minutes to soak up Central Park. Next!
Adult tickets cost $114 each, allegedly saving you 42% off the total ticket prices, provided you go to all of the sites. Although you can buy the City Passes online in advance, I decided to purchase mine at the box office at the Rockefeller Centre. After checking my online bank statement, this cost me £153.79p, including a £4.12p charge by my bank (Natwest) for a foreign purchase fee. I am guessing that I could of saved the bank charge if I booked online in advance, but time-wise you will still have to go to a box office to pick up you booklet of coupons if you book in advance, so no major time saved here.
The pass allows you to choose six attractions. Non-negotiable sites are The Empire State Building, The American Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can then choose three of the following: either the Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR the Guggenheim Museum; Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR a Circle Line sightseeing cruise; 9/11 Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
I’ll be writing a more detailed post on all six of the sites we visited on the CityPASS, but as a summary, we went to the first three non-negotiable sites plus The Top of the Rock observation deck; the Circle Line sightseeing cruise (we chose the Landmark Cruise which had great views of the Statue of Liberty) and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, the latter of which was not on our list and in truth we didn’t much care for (we’re just not that into aircrafts…), however it was right next to the ferry terminal so we thought oh go on then.
Do I think the CityPASS was worth it? Yes i’d recommend it for first time travellers to NYC. I don’t think it saves you that much money but it did save precious time in buying individual tickets and I actually bought it mainly for this reason. Skipping ticket purchase lines is one of the CityPASS’s main selling points: While this is true, I had in my mind the idea of strolling into the attraction bypassing any queue (little old naïve me!). However, what I didn’t realise is that you still have to queue to exchange your coupon for an entry ticket, which was sometimes a hefty wait as most people seem to have also bought themselves a Pass, and so not quite as mega-efficient as I initially thought, although still time-saving.
New York is sprawling – if you haven’t been before and want to see the main sites, come from a comparatively small city like London (never thought I’d describe London as small but there you go!) and have a reasonably short time frame (we were there for 4 nights) you might appreciate the ease of which the CityPASS allows you to tick a good few of those must-see places off your list.
Don’t create a strict itinerary broken down by the hour, but create a list of all of the places you would like to go, grouped by area, leaving plenty of time for little gems that you stumble upon. If you’re old school, you can buy or print a map of the areas you’re visiting and circle each attraction you want to visit in one colour, and then the area in another. Or create a Google ‘My Places’ map where you can drop virtual pins onto the sites you want to visit.
For the Empire State Building, definitely go as early as you possibly can. They’re not lying when they say it’s quieter between 8.00-10.00a.m. We went at 8.30a.m. on a Friday, and we breezed through. Woooo. The long, snaking and somewhat endless rope partitions we walked past were a stern reminder to set your alarm, people (This is the only time you will hear me saying ‘set you’re alarm’ – trust).
You can go up twice to the Empire State Building observation deck with the CityPASS. This was a nice opportunity to get some night-time cityscape shots with my new DSLR.
You will be photographed at most sites. Just go with it, you’ll get no pressure to buy the prints. In my opinion, the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller looked incredibly cheesy and Photoshopped, but the one we had taken in front of the Circle Line Cruise Boat was pretty nice. I still didn’t buy it though!
Over to you
Have you bought a CityPASS before, for NYC or elsewhere? What did you think of it?
Thanks for reading!