Maximize Your New York CityPASS in Just One Day
My son was going to die in New York City. He’d been all over the world, ridden every kind of transportation, but walking down the sidewalk in NYC was what would do him in. I looked over at him and thought “It was nice knowing you kid. I’ll give your New York CityPASS to a random stranger who will appreciate it.”
He sure didn’t seem to care.
You see, at five-years-old, my son HAD to walk on that line running down the sidewalk. There would be no diverting from that path no matter how many business men in suits were barreling towards him.
Thankfully his bleach-blonde hair is a shining beacon warning people away. My voice reminding him to look up and come closer so I could protect him from the adults rushing to and fro sure didn’t seem to be working.
As anyone with a 0-9 year-old-child knows, listening is a skill that doesn’t develop until they are eight, nine, or even twenty-two years old.
But I digress. My son did not die that day, somehow his self-preservation has stood the test of time. On this particular visit to NYC, we had 24-hours to breeze through our CityPASS. If you have more than one day, there is obviously tons of ground to cover and enjoy. But even in one day, you’ll get your money’s worth.
Now, let’s dive into that New York CityPASS and see the best of NYC with Kids.
Should you get the New York CityPASS?
Yes, of course. Unless you live in Washington, DC or London, museums are expensive. New York City has some of the best museums in the country and you’ll want to explore them.
The NYC CityPASS covers top attractions like “Top of the Rock”, which provides views of the city that you can’t get anywhere else. And those views don’t come cheap.
Check out the CityPASS here
Let’s Do the Math:
Here’s the price PER attraction if you wanted to see and do it all. CityPASS gives you access to six. You can do the math on that kind of savings, right?
- The Empire State Building: $56 adult/ $52 child
- American Museum of Natural History: $23 adult/ $13 child
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art: $18 adult/ $12 child
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck: starting at $36 adult/ $30 child
- Guggenheim Museum: $25 adult/ Children under 12 are free
- Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island: $18.50 adult/ $9 child
- Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises: from $43 adults/ from $36 children
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum: $39 adults/ $30 children
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum: $33 adult/ $24 child
Price of NYC CityPASS (2018/2019): $126 adult/ $104 youth
Grab your CityPASS HERE
What is in the NYC CityPASS?
3 preset tickets + 3 option tickets come in the standard CityPASS booklet ($126 adult/ $104 youth). New York also offers the New York C3 mobile pass, giving you access to three attractions for a reduced price ($82 adult/$63 child).
- The Empire State Building
- American Museum of Natural History
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
- Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Empire State Building
The iconic Empire State Building, officially opened in 1931 and stood as the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years. The building is still fully operational to a number of businesses, despite the daily influx of tourists.
The main observation deck is housed on the 86th floor of the building and provides panoramic views of the city. See the Top of the Rock, the Hudson Bay, Midtown, all the way down to the tip of the Manhattan.
If you want to see New York from above without interruption, this is your best bet.
American Museum of Natural History
Dinosaurs. Really, need I say more? There are stunning still-life scenes of North American Mammals, African Mammals and the iconic giant whale in the Milstein Hall of Science Life. The Rose Center for Earth and Space is also a huge draw for older children.
Just prepare your kids ahead of time– this is not the same museum that they saw in the Night At the Museum films.
Although the exterior is the same in the movie, the interior was a set and there is no T-Rex in the lobby. You could spend all day in the museum, and if NYC kids have off for the holidays, you can expect a line out the door in the morning.
Try visiting later in the day when the crowds aren’t quite as bad. This trick also works in the summer months.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
If your kids have read any of the Percy Jackson books, love Greek and Roman mythology or have an affinity towards impressionist painting, the Met is the place for you. My son wouldn’t leave the Greek and Roman sculpture exhibits, no matter what else I wanted to see.
There was a spectacular photography exhibit on display for a limited time I wanted to see, but he wanted to look for Greek gods. That is the power of literature and art.
Thankfully, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, filled with Modern Art, European Paintings, Asian Art, Arms and Armor, Photographs, American Art and more, can satisfy even the most particular art critique in your family.
When in doubt, create a scavenger hunt—how many birds, suits of armor, little boys, etc. can you find in the room. It works every time.
Top of the Rock Observation Deck
One of the best places to see the New York City skyline, besides the Empire State Building, is the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. Personally, this is our favorite spot because we get great views of Central Park, as well as the Hudson.
Plus, we always seem to find ourselves around Rockefeller Plaza. You just never know what celebrities you will see since the TODAY Show shoots right there as well. Last time I wandered by I saw Rod Stewart getting cozy with Cyndi Lauper on a couch during Access Hollywood. It was a rather bizarre moment, if we’re being honest.
You can hang out inside the observation decks at Top of the Rock, but we prefer to go outside, to the very top. You really can’t say you’ve been to Top of the Rock Observation Deck unless you go to the top, right?
Get an early time ticket with your New York CityPASS so you can watch the sunset over Manhattan. It is one of the best, and most popular times to go up.
Up, up and up you go as you wind your way around the rotunda of the Guggenheim. The centerpiece of this Frank Lloyd Wright designed museum is a work of art in and of itself, but make sure you step into the side galleries.
Brancusi sculptures, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, as well as Degas, Gauguin, Kandinsky and Picasso are all on display.
Just remind the kids not to run. Sadly, this isn’t a race car track for them to speed down. Art is hanging on every wall.
Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
A visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is such a great family experience. Seeing the Statue of Liberty up close and in person puts your own life (and size) into perspective real quick.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum is incredibly moving and informative. In fact, I was blown away with how little I actually knew about that period in American history. There is a lot of space for kids to move around, just expect large crowds. Everyone wants a chance to see where their ancestors passed through to come to America. We already know Irish Ancestors came through Cork to get to America.
Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
If you want to get the complete picture of Manhattan from the comfort of your chair, a Circle Line cruise is just the way to do it. You’ll see nine New York monuments and three bridges that connect Manhattan to the mainland and boroughs.
Tour guides narrate the tale of this world-class city as you glide across the Hudson and East River, with plenty of time for questions.
9/11 Memorial and Museum
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a deeply touching tribute to the lives lost on September 11th, 2001. The museum focuses on the days before, the day of, and after 9/11. Due the graphic nature, the museum warns content might be inappropriate for children under the age of 10.
The memorial, which is free of charge, is situated in a beautiful park and easy for children of all ages to view.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Located along the West Side Highway in Manhattan, the Intrepid Museum is housed in the aircraft carrier Intrepid. The interactive education institution showcases exhibits on history, science and service. It is also home to space shuttle Enterprise.
If you have a space ship fanatic like we do, you know that this is a must when using your New York CityPASS.
Maximizing a New York CityPASS Itinerary:
- Morning: Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise and Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- Even if you don’t have time to go inside, make sure you walk around the 9/11 World Trade Center Memorial. It is free to access outside and are a powerful statement.
- Early Afternoon: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Guggenheim
- Late Afternoon: American Museum of Natural History
- Sunset: Empire State Building
- Evening: Guggenheim Museum (closes at 7:45pm on Saturdays)
Start Saving– Get Your New York CityPASS NOW
Photo credit: Statue of Liberty via Bicad Media/UnSplash