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Everything You Need to Know About the NYC Explorer Pass

NYC Explorer PassDo you want to explore New York City, but aren’t sure where to start? With the NYC Explorer Pass, you’ll be able to visit the quintessential New York City attractions—all at a discount. Stroll around the Statue of Liberty, take a trip to the top of the Empire State Building, browse the collections at The Museum of Modern Art and more.

Using the NYC Explorer Pass

It’s easy to use the NYC Explorer Pass as it’s extremely flexible. Admissions come in bundles of 3, 5, 7 or 10 attractions, with over 50 options to choose from. Plus, the pass can be used up to 30 days so you’ll have plenty of time to sightsee without being rushed.

To use the Explorer Pass, you’ll first need to decide which pass is right for you. For my recent trip, I opted for the Pick 5 Pass as I would only be in the city for an extended weekend. It gave me the maximum benefit at a minimum cost, saving me over 35% off of gate price. I knew in advance I wanted to visit the State of Liberty, Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and go on the Circle Line Harbor Lights Cruise. However, you can choose which attractions to visit on-the-go too.

View from Top of the Rock
View from Top of the Rock

You can receive your pass one of three ways:

  • Instantly on your mobile device and via email. Just print out your pass or display it right on your mobile device.
  • Via mail.
  • Pick it up at one of our in-city pickup locations. Pick up locations include Central Park Sightseeing, Citysights (Inside Planet Hollywood), Discovery Times Square Exposition, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge Sightseeing, NYWT/Circleline Downtown, and Hudson River Sightseeing.

 

The first option is the best in my opinion as it’s the most versatile. I like being able to flash the pass on my phone. That way, if for some reason I leave the Explorer Pass at the hotel by accident I won’t be in a fix.

How Does the NYC Explorer Pass Work?

It’s super easy. The pass is activated at the first attraction you visit. Some activities, like Central Park Bike Tours, require a separate reservation. For most, however, you’ll simply need to present your pass at included attractions for admission. Pay nothing at the gate, plus get VIP front of the line privileges at the following:

  • The Museum of Modern Art
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • Whitney Museum of Art
  • Cloisters Museum
  • Best Speedboat Cruise
  • Harbor Lights Cruise

 

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Statue of Liberty

A Sample NYC Explorer Pass Itinerary

I used my NYC Explorer Pass to create an on-the-go itinerary with wiggle room for spur-of-the-moment sightseeing. On the first day, I skipped the lines at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, leisurely took in awe-inspiring Rembrandts and Monet’s, hopped over to ancient Egypt to learn about the Old Kingdom then strolled through stunning sculpture displays I had only previously seen in art books. As The Met is located on Museum Mile, near Central Park, I added a stop inside this city sanctuary. Each section of this 843-acre park is beautiful, but I personally love the Bow Bridge at Mid-Park at 74th Street west of Bethesda Terrace. The scene is straight out of a movie and perfect for picture taking.

That night, I waited until dusk to rise to the Top of the Rock. This is an enchanting hour, when day fades to night, bringing hues of pink and orange to the sky, before night falls and the city becomes a glow with lights. (Note: I recommend that you bring your pass to Top of the Rock in advance or early in the morning to reserve your ideal day and time for your visit.)

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The next day, I headed out early to tour the Statue of Liberty. At this attraction, you’ll need to present your New York Explorer Pass at one of the Statue Cruises ticket counters inside Castle Clinton at Battery Park. Once you have obtained your Ferry Ticket from Castle Clinton you must wait in the security line before boarding. The Ferry requires airport-level security, so be prepared for a long wait. The earlier you arrive, the shorter the wait so even though you’re on vacation I recommend arriving by 9am at the latest.

After a tour of this iconic site, I kept the history lesson going by eating at Lombardi’s. Located on 34 Spring Street in Nolita, Lombardi’s is known as the oldest pizzeria in America. Their pies are made the old-fashioned way, with a crisp yet chewy crust baked in a coal oven, then topped with a rich sauce and toppings of your choice. Keep it simple and go for the margherita or pepperoni pizza—delicious! Just be sure to bring cash as they don’t accept debit or credit cards.

Enjoy views atop the Empire State Building
Enjoy views atop the Empire State Building

A full belly helps me explore, so I took my NYC Explorer Pass to the Empire State Building next. During the day, the 86th floor observatory provides an unobstructed showcase of the City with an endless sea of roads, bridges and buildings comingling to create “The City That Never Sleeps.” Of course, while you’re at the Empire State Building take in the history of the building as well as its gorgeous art-deco design. Also, allow an hour or so wait to get to the top.

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Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises/Facebook

Up next was a Harbor Lights Cruise courtesy of Circle Light Sightseeing Cruises. I knew I had front-of-the-line privileges for the cruise, but I still arrived 45 minutes prior to departure. I didn’t want to miss the boat! Once I presented my Explorer Pass at the Circle Line ticket window, I received my boarding voucher. It was a smooth process, and before I knew it boarding began. The 1.5 hour narrated Harbor Lights Cruise tour departs just as the sun sets and the skyline comes alive at night. The Hudson River cruise provides a host of iconic, New York City skyline views including the Brooklyn Bridge, USS Intrepid, Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building and more. It ended up being one of the most memorable parts of the trip! Be sure to bring your camera to capture all of the stunning sights.

Create-Your-Own Adventure

This is just one way to use your NYC Explorer Pass. You can create-your-own adventure with this flexible pass, letting you design the vacation you want. No matter which attractions you visit, or how many, you can rest assured you’ll be exploring as a pro with the NYC Explorer Pass.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting New York City to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.
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