Go City or CityPASS: Which sightseeing pass should you get in New York City?

When travelling to a new city, you’ll often find bundle ticket offers that help tourists visit many of the main attractions in that region for a discounted rate. These sightseeing passes can be great ways to save money, and even visit some attractions you may not have considered otherwise.

In recent trips to the Big Apple, I used two of these options – CityPASS New York and Go City New York – each offering different price points, destinations and conditions of entry. So which should you use? Well, it depends how long you’re in town for, and what your priorities are while you’re there! So let’s spend some time getting to know each of these offerings.

Meet: New York CityPASS

CityPASS first launched in San Francisco and Seattle in 1997, with New York City and Boston following the year after. It now exists in 15 cities around the US and Canada, and has become one of the most recognisable options in the region.

In New York, you have three options: the classic New York CityPASS, the New York C3, and the New York C-All.

The classic PASS gives you access to five destinations, with some choices to be made:

  • Empire State Building
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • 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

The C3 and C-All passes gives you 11 and 10 destinations to choose from, respectively.

  • Empire State Building
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck
  • Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum
  • American Museum of Natural History (C3 Pass Only)
  • The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
  • Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • City Cruises– Limited Days of the Week
  • Edge at Hudson Yards

For the C3, you pick three of the attractions, while C-All will give you access to ten, only omitting the American Museum of Natural History from the above list. The catch? From the time you use the first pass, you only have 9 days to use them. After that, any unused passes will be discarded. Thankfully, the discounts are substantial enough that even if you miss some of the attractions you’ll still save money on the classic & C-All passes – but you do need to use them all to get the full savings, which are up to 46%.

You can find a detailed breakdown of the three ticket options, as well as links to buy yourself a pass HERE.

It’s all done easily through the fantastic CityPASS app – which will even pop up and let you know when you’re approaching an attraction that accepts CityPASS. At all the attractions we visited, we pre-booked our time, and then had no problems getting in, and even were able to skip some queues in some instances.

Meet: Go City New York

A newer alternative to the CityPASS is Go City, which came to prominence in 2017 when Europe’s Leisure Pass and the USA’s Smart Destinations and New York Pass came together to form the new global brand. The Leisure Pass Group dates back to 1999, however, when they launched in their first city, so they are by no means new to the game.

Following decades of growth and the eventual merger almost 20 years later, Go City is now available in more than 30 cities in 5 continents, including London, New York, Singapore and Sydney.

The approach of this product, in contrast to CityPASS, is one of flexibility both in terms of amount of attractions on offer – there are dozens – and in terms of the amount of time you have to use up the voucher. You have two years to start using the passes, and 60 days from the time you use the first ticket.

Like with CityPASS, it can all be done through their app, which will provide you with a QR code to show on your arrival at an attraction.

In the case of both passes, some attractions do require reservations, so be sure to plan ahead of your visit. You can look through all the attractions that are on offer HERE. Oh and if you’re having any issues, just let someone know who works there that you have the pass and they may even allow you to skip a queue or two.

Both CityPASS and Go City are commonly used and each attraction I visited was familiar with the product and was happy to accommodate.

Do either actually save you money?

The level of discounts you will be able to take advantage of will differ from city to city. But looking just at New York, for CityPASS, the discounts are made transparent HERE. You’ll find 34-46% in savings, as long as you use all the passes.

For Go City, the savings are entirely dependent on which attractions you choose; if you only go for some of the more affordable options, you may not save much of anything. If you go for the more expensive attractions, you will save a lot.

Is there a difference in the experience checking in?

With a smaller roster of attractions, the CityPASS has streamlined the integration within most of their offerings, allowing you to order your timed tickets directly through the destinations.

Meanwhile, with the sheer breadth of attractions available through Go City, means that no two attractions will be the same. At the Museum of Sex, for instance, the ticket type wasn’t inclusive of all the experiences in the Museum, and you would have to pay extra to get access to some of the games and other experiences the Museum has to offer. But for most destinations, including the Empire State Building (pictured in header of the article) and the EDGE Hudson Yards, entry was easy and on par with what everyone else experience.

The Verdict

So which should you choose?

For first time visitors to New York, with at least a few days in the city, the CityPASS is the way to go. Though the options are limited, the ease of use, the transparency of the discounts, as well as the fact that so many of the city’s best attractions are included, makes it a safe bet for any visitor to the city.

For those who want more flexibility, aren’t strangers to New York, and perhaps are more in search of some of the city’s hidden gems, Go City would be a pick.

It isn’t just for tourists, but for locals as well. It’s designed to be flexible and with the ability to use it over a 60 day period, meaning it can be used over multiple visits to the city. My pass allowed me three choices, which I took in across multiple trips to the city. I used it for the Empire State Building, the EDGE at Hudson Yards and at the Museum of Sex, and had no problems checking in at any location.

Arguably, it wasn’t quite as convenient as the CityPASS, and at a location like the Museum of Sex the ticket type wasn’t all inclusive of the experiences in the Museum. But the sheer breadth of attractions, as well as the length of its expiry, meant that Go City ultimately provided the best bang for your buck of the two. And I loved that it took me to places I didn’t expect.

With thanks to both Go City and CityPASS, who provided their services for this article.

Headline photo provided by the Empire State Building, which is available for entry with either pass. 

While in New York we stayed at the Westin New York at Times Square.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.