Travel Like a Pro: 5 Ultimate Tours with New York CityPASS

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New York City is one of those places that just begs to be explored. With world-famous attractions, hidden gems, and an endless array of neighborhoods to discover, trying to see it all can feel pretty overwhelming.

That’s why on my last trip, I decided to be strategic and get a New York CityPASS for attractions built around specific themes. Not only did it help me map out unmissable highlights, but exploring the city through different lenses gave me a richer understanding of what makes New York so endlessly captivating.

Whether you’re into art, architecture, pop culture or just want the quintessential NYC experience, having a curated collection of attractions united by a common thread is a pro move.

My recommendation is to get the C3 Pass. You can see 3 top attractions within a 9-day period (advanced reservations may be required).

These themed tours will change how you see New York!

Ways to Tour with a New York CityPASS C3

What is a C3 CityPASS

The C3 sightseeing pass enables admission to 3 of 10 top New York attractions. You will need to make reservations in advance for your attractions, but you have 9 days to use the pass.

Top Ten New York Attractions

  • Empire State Building Observatory
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck
  • Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
  • Intrepid Museum
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • Edge at Hudson Yards

Want more? Find tickets to see 5 attractions with the New York CityPASS!

New York CityPASS, Adult, ages 18+

New York CityPASS, Adult, ages 18+

New York CityPASS, Adult, ages 18+


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1

A Family Adventure Tour

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Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is an architectural marvel and has been a symbolic centerpiece of the Manhattan skyline for decades, making it one of the world’s most famous and photographed skyscrapers.

There’s an undeniable thrill that comes with the Empire State Building’s observation deck. I remember riding the elevator to the 86th floor. It was amusing to watch the video of workers projected onto the ceiling with tools in hand as they built the skyscraper.

Kids and adults will be tickled by the King Kong exhibit where you can take a photo or video next to the iconic figure.

As I made my way to the observation deck, treasures of Central Park, the torch of the Statue of Liberty, and the distant arches of the Brooklyn Bridge came into view.

If you are a first-time visitor to New York, seeing the city from the Empire State Building is a must!

Tour Tip: 86th Floor Observatory admission for C3 pass is during non-sunset hours. The outdoor observation deck can be windy.

American Museum of Natural History

After visiting the ESB, make your way to the see the wonders of the natural world at the American Museum of Natural History, where you can discover dinosaur fossils, space exploration, and more.

The grand cathedral-like entrance hall, with its soaring ceilings and immense dinosaur skeletons, sets the tone for an expedition.

I started by wandering around the museum’s famously meticulous dioramas. It’s a marvel how every scene is set – from the Siberian tundra to the Congo rainforests. It reminded me of the Field Museum in Chicago.

The museum’s space exploration halls are equally interesting, and I unexpectedly found myself dwarfed by towering rockets and space capsules.

The American Museum of Natural History is one of those places that’s just pure magic for kids and families.

Tour Tip: Plan your route and take breaks. There are plenty of benches and rest areas throughout the museum. Take breaks to rest your feet and absorb the information you’ve taken in.

Statue of Liberty (and Ellis Island)

woman looking at the statue of liberty

As one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, the Statue of Liberty remains a powerful symbol of the American ideals of liberty, democracy and opportunity.

With a short ferry ride, you’ll be whisked away to the shores of Liberty Island. I never tire of seeing this New York attraction.

As the boats pull away from Manhattan, you’ll start getting killer views of the city skyline and Lady Liberty herself growing larger on the horizon.

You can explore the Statue of Liberty grounds at your own pace.

We spent about 30 minutes walking around and taking photos — the backdrops are fantastic! From there, it’s just a quick hop by ferry to the historic shores of Ellis Island which marks the spot of the arrival point for over 12 million newcomers seeking new lives and opportunities.

Tour Tip: Crown Tickets and Pedestal Access are not included with the C3 Pass. Tickets are limited and you’ll need to reserve them online in advance from the authorized vendor Statue City Cruises.

2

An Art and Architecture Tour

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Top of the Rock Observation Deck

sunset at Top of the Rock in New York

Top of the Rock provides a breathtaking way to admire New York’s famous skyscraper-studded skyline from the historic Rockefeller Center.

I’ve been atop the Empire State Building several times, but the first thing that hits me is just how utterly massive and densely clustered the Manhattan skyscrapers appear from the Top of the Rock.

I checked ahead for time for sunset and arrived 30 minutes ahead of time. This way, I got a great view during daylight and could enjoy the golden hour. The architectural landscape is stunning.

There are 3 observation decks and an onsite concession stand for refreshments. We ordered beverages — it was a bit pricey ($47 with tip) for two.

The clutter of buildings stretching out was dizzying yet energizing at the same time. The unfiltered majesty of New York’s skyline is a must see.

Tour Tip: Use the free devices to identify landmarks. Layer clothing for chilling winds on the open-air decks.

Guggenheim Museum

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The Guggenheim Museum was founded by Solomon R. Guggenheim to showcase his collection of modern and contemporary art.

As soon as you walk through the doors, Frank Lloyd Wright‘s ingenious spiral design will cast a spell.

Start your journey into the galleries by spiraling down towards the heart of the rotunda. Then marvel at masterpieces by legendary artists like Picasso, Bourgeois, Oldenburg, Pollock, and Kandinsky.

Eventually, you’ll arrive at the skylit core completely awestruck by all the legendary artists in this architectural masterpiece called Guggenheim.

Don’t miss the gift shop for some interesting souvenirs!

Tour Tip: Check out the highlights like the early European masters first before lingering in the awe-inspiring central rotunda space.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa)

van gogh painting of Starry Night
Starry Night Over the Rhone

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is one of the world’s largest and most influential museums devoted to modern and contemporary art.

Highlights include famous masterpieces like Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair.

As someone who loves art, walking these galleries is a life-long dream.

The maze of curated masterpieces is striking. You could spend hours unraveling Kandinsky’s abstract compositions or tracing the brushwork across paintings of Cézanne’s still life and Matisse’s odalisques.

Tour Tip: Don’t try to see everything in one visit. Have a rough plan for which galleries/periods most interest you.

3

A Reflective History Tour

9/11 Memorial & Museum

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This had to be the most one of the most emotionally overwhelming experiences I’ve ever had. I still remember where I was when the attacks happened. Just being there on those hallowed grounds in lower Manhattan made my heart feel heavy.

I’ll never forget walking through the plaza, coming upon those two enormous waterfall pools, inscribed with the names of every single person who had been memorialized. In one respect, I was glad to see the footprints of the Twin Towers. It silently spoke that what once was will never be forgotten.

Artifacts from that fateful day are displayed in heartbreaking detail – from the stairwells that offered the only means of escape, to the personal belongings and photos of victims, to the mangled steel and concrete that remained. I did know anyone in the attack, but I felt so much grief that I couldn’t help tearing up and weeping. Hearing the firsthand accounts from survivors and responders is sobering.

What struck me most was the room dedicated to remembering each individual life lost. Row after row of faces, biographical details, cherished memories from loved ones. It’s utterly gutting but also beautifully honors them.

By the time I emerged, I felt profoundly impacted, like the weight and heroism of that day had permanently marked America. It was a devastatingly meaningful experience that drove home the preciousness of life.

Tour Tip: Prepare yourself emotionally. The museum understandably evokes strong feelings of loss. Have a plan for taking breaks if needed.

Intrepid Museum

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Are you ready to learn about the city’s maritime and military history?

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is on the former USS Intrepid, an Essex-class aircraft carrier that saw active service in World War II and the Vietnam War.

One of the highlights is the Space Shuttle Pavilion, where the Enterprise shuttle seems to float just overhead. I’ve seen photos but being able to walk underneath this audacious spacecraft that glided through the atmosphere is mind-blowing.

The hands-on exhibits really dialed up the immersion factor too. Travelers will enjoy this experience. By the time you head for the exit, you will have been everywhere from the Korean War to the International Space Station and back.

The Intrepid isn’t just a museum – it’s a journey through America’s exploration of air, sea and space that leaves you inspired to see the world.

Tour Tip: The Intrepid is huge, and there is a lot to see and do. Plan for at least 3-4 hours to have enough time to explore without feeling rushed.

Ellis Island (with Statue of Liberty)

old furniture and equipment on Ellis Island

Setting foot on Ellis Island was like a step back in time. In the main hall, I imagined how this New York Harbor was the brave face that greeted millions of immigrants seeking a new life in America.

Over decades, it was a place for joyful reunions, tearful farewells, and uncertain hopes carried from across the oceans. I imagined the difficulty of travel and the risk of being turned away.

I saw luggage, cherished family heirlooms, photos, medical equipment, and the recreated living quarters that gave me a glimpse of what seemed chaotic.

While I’m profoundly moved by what it meant to have grand new beginnings for the ancestors of America, the same experience of chaos and the unknown exists for immigrants today.

Standing where they stood, you can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and admiration for the dreams they held onto.

There are a few more tours available and you can look up ancestors in the American Family Immigration History Center for a fee.

  • Audio Tour (30 to 90 min)
  • Island of Hope, Island of Tears (30 min)
  • Ranger Guided Tour (30 min)
  • Hard Hat Tour (90 min)

Tour Tip: You can easily spend 2 to 3 hours scouring every exhibit. The theaters are a good place to relax and learn more about Ellis Island while you get recharged.

4

A Sightseeing Extravaganza

Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises

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A leisurely cruise around the entire Manhattan Island with Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises never gets old. This is my fourth trip on this cruise and there’s just something exciting about seeing the city from the water.

As our boat pushes off from the pier, I stake out a prime spot on the outer deck. The views of soaring skyscrapers begin to unfold ahead of me as I notice the arches of the Brooklyn Bridge framing the East River.

We glide past the high-rises lining the shoreline as an entertaining guide narrates over the speaker system, giving me the inside scoop on the history and significance of every landmark we pass. I especially enjoy the random moments of just hearing the waves crash against the boat.

I spent the rest of the cruise in a relaxed real and savored the feeling of the sun on my skin. By the time we return, I feel like I’ve experienced the essence of New York City.

Tour Tip: Arrive early to secure a prime spot on the outer decks for the best views and photo opportunities.

The Edge at Hudson Yards

Get ready to experience a thrill like no other at The Edge, the highest outdoor sky deck in the entire Western Hemisphere. Just saying that gets my heart racing a bit!

When you step out of the elevator on the 100th floor of the iconic 30 Hudson Yards skyscraper and see the glass-floored observation deck extending a whopping 65 feet out from the building, you may start to quiver. The panoramic 360-degree view of New York City is just breathtaking.

Taking those final steps out onto the suspended platform, you can feel the adrenaline surge as your feet hit the glass floor. It was hard to look down!

The vertigo is real, but the thrill is worth it.

The city streets looked so compact from above. This is a view you simply cannot get anywhere else on Earth. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Tour Tip: Visit on a clear day for the best visibility and consider purchasing a timed-entry ticket to avoid long lines.

The Statue of Liberty (with Ellis Island)

You can’t come to New York City without seeing the famous Statue of Liberty up close. It’s one of those bucket list things that you must experience for yourself.

I remember taking the ferry over to Liberty Island and feeling that sense of childlike wonder as the massive statue started coming into view. Lady Liberty appeared taller as we got closer. It was an incredibly imposing sight for me! The intricate details and craftsmanship of the copper exterior are mind-blowing when I’m right there in front of it.

As I walk around the base, I get different perspectives – looking up at the powerful figure holding her torch aloft, taking in the poem inscribed on the pedestal about welcoming the world’s tired and poor. It really drives home how this statue has been an enduring symbol of hope and freedom for generations of immigrants to me.

If you’re able to get tickets to go up into the crown, I highly recommend it. It’s a bit of a climb up the spiral stairs, but the view from those narrow crown windows is just breathtaking. You’ll see the entire Manhattan skyline, the bridges, the Statue of Liberty’s tiny island in the middle of the harbor.

Even if you don’t go up to the crown, just exploring the grounds and the museum gives a real appreciation for the incredible history and ideals behind the Statue of Liberty’s construction.

It has been one of those experiences that stayed with me.

Tour Tip: Arrive early to beat the crowds and consider purchasing a Crown Reserve ticket in advance if you wish to access that level.

5

Diverse Discoveries

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For this tour, you just need to rearrange the attractions that I previously mentioned.

I recommend the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, American Museum of Natural History, and the Guggenheim Museum along with this tour. The museum introduces you to the resilience and strength of New York, and concludes with a visit to modern and contemporary art.

Benefits of a Sightseeing Pass

Overall, a good sightseeing pass can be a real time and money-saver, helping you see more of a destination in less time. The upfront cost is often worth it for the convenience and discounts.

Here are just a few of the benefits of purchasing a sightseeing pass.

Cost Savings – The CityPASS provide discounted or bundled admission to multiple attractions, museums, tours etc. This can result in significant savings compared to paying for each activity individually.

Skip the Lines – Many passes include the ability to skip the regular ticket lines and access a dedicated express or fast-track line, saving you time and hassle.

Convenience – Having a CityPASS allows you to easily visit multiple sites without having to purchase tickets separately each time. This makes planning your sightseeing itinerary much simpler. However, you will need to make reservations in advance for some attractions.

Flexibility – CityPASS is valid for a set number of days, allowing you to visit attractions at your own pace rather than feeling rushed.

Peace of Mind – With everything prepaid, you don’t have to worry about budgeting for individual tickets and can just focus on enjoying your trip.

Final Thoughts on Touring New York with a Sightseeing Pass

My goal was to give insight into how you can tour New York that caters to your interest for a more memorable experience.

With the CityPASS C3, you can experience one of these 5 themed tours in New York within a 9-day period.

And you have my personal insight and tour tips so that you can make an informed decision and plan your visit based on your preferences and travel style.

Have you taken any of these tours? Share your own experiences in the comments.

Safe travel.


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