I like being a tourist and go sightseeing quite a bit, especially when my friends or family visit New York. Our sightseeing pass choice typically comes down to the Go New York Explorer Pass or the Sightseeing Pass Flex. But why does our choice change? Let’s take a closer look at the two attraction passes.
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Which is Better, the New York Sightseeing Flex Pass vs. Go New York Explorer Pass?
First, let me say that there is no general answer as to which New York attraction pass is the best. The best pass always depends on what you want to achieve. Know that there are many factors that influence your choice of the best pass.
To help you determine which pass is better for you, the Go New York Explorer Pass or the Sightseeing Flex pass, we will fill you in on all commonalities and differences.
What do both sightseeing passes have in common?
To start, let’s focus on the commonalities of the two popular New York passes. Both are very similar to how they work. The New York Explorer Pass as well as the New York Sightseeing Pass Flex are both attraction-based passes, meaning that you will select the number of attractions you want to see beforehand.
The New York Explorer Pass and the Sightseeing Flex Pass stand in contrast to the New York Pass and Sightseeing Day Pass. While the Explorer and Flex Pass let you determine the number of attractions you want to visit, the other two let you determine the number of days you want to do sightseeing. During these days, you can visit as many attractions as you can. The day-based attraction passes are only worth it if you want to see more than 3 attractions per day.
- are attraction-based
- are easy to use
- offer flexibility
- offer access to 90+ attractions
- Ferry to the Statue of Liberty
- Top of the Rock
- 9/11 Memorial Museum
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met)
- Hop-on-hop-off buses
How do attraction-based passes work?
Once you purchased, you will receive an email with your pass within minutes. The email includes an attachment with your passes as well as some additional information. Once purchased, you have one year to activate your pass. Your pass will only be activated once you visit your first attraction. You then have 30 days to explore all remaining attractions.
Head to the ticket counter and present your pass, either mobile or printed. Your personal QR code will be scanned and you will receive your ticket in return.
Another great perk of both passes? You stay flexible! While you determine the number of attractions you want to visit beforehand, you do not have to preselect which ones. You can decide as you go and change plans anytime. Is it raining today? Skip the Top of the Rock and visit the MoMA instead – no problem!
Major differences between NYC Sightseeing Flex Pass vs. Go New York Explorer Pass
Despite all their commonalities, both passes feature several differences that could be a deciding factor when choosing one of the two passes.
- The Sightseeing Pass offers seven different choices: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12 attractions passes. The Go New York Explorer Pass only offers five: 3, 4, 5, 7 or 10 attractions.
- The Go New York Explorer Pass includes the Empire State Building whereas the Sightseeing Flex Pass does not. On the other hand, the Sightseeing Pass Flex includes admission to One World Observatory whereas the Go New York Explorer Pass does not.
- The Sightseeing Pass includes a 72h ticket for the hop on hop off buses provided by Gray Line. Together, the Uptown and Downtown loops only count as one attraction. The New York Explorer Pass offers a 1-day ticket for the hop-on-hop-off buses operated by Big Bus. You can only ride the Uptown and Downtown loops. There are no further routes included.
- The Sightseeing Pass offers to exchange one of your attraction choices to be used for a $40 voucher that you can use towards a product that is not otherwise included in the pass. The Explorer Pass does not offer such an option.
- Both attraction passes offer skip-the-line access to different attractions.
Empire State Building or One World Observatory?
When comparing The Sightseeing Pass Flex with the Go New York Explorer Pass, a major decision you will have to make is Empire State Building or One World Observatory? If you prefer the Empire State Building, you may lean more towards the Explorer Pass. On the other hand, if you prefer the One World Observatory, the Sightseeing Pass may be the better option.
Should you want to visit both, you can always buy one ticket separately!
Please note that only standard tickets are included in the passes. If you want to visit the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building, it’s best to buy the Empire State Building ticket separately.
Are Hop-on-Hop-off Bus tours included?
How important are the hop-on-hop-off buses to you? Is one day enough or do you want to use the buses for multiple days? Do the Uptown and Downtown loop cover everything for you, or would you like to use the buses in Brooklyn too?
For those of you who want to ride the buses for more than just a day, the Sightseeing Pass offers the better deal. Generally speaking, tickets for the hop-on-hop-off buses are expensive. With the Sightseeing Pass, you will get 72 hours for just one attraction choice!
Pricing of the New York Sightseeing Flex Pass vs. Go NY Explorer Pass
The Sightseeing Pass and Explorer pass do not only vary in their options but also in their pricing, though only slightly.
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It’s always wise to divide the final cost of your pass by the number of attractions to get an average cost per attraction. The larger the pass, the lower the ticket price for a single attraction. In the end, you should always pay more attention to the attractions that are included as opposed to the price when deciding which is the best New York Pass for you. After all, the price difference between the Go New York Explorer Pass and Sightseeing Flex Pass are minimal.
New York Sightseeing Flex Pass vs. Go New York Explorer Pass: Which one is the best?
In order to finally decide which pass is better, we have determined and reviewed 7 important factors that play a role when choosing the best New York Pass. Enough said – we want to see how they compete against each other. Let the pass battle begin!
Round 1: Number of attractions
Though the Sightseeing Pass offers more attractions with over 100 included attractions compared to the Go New York Explorer Pass with over 90, both cover the most important attractions like the Top of the Rock,
The differences are very slight. If the choice was between 10 and 20, it would make a huge difference. With over 90, or 100 attraction choices, respectively, however, you will have more options than you need and won’t notice the difference when using the pass. Therefore, both passes deserve a point!
Round 2: Inclusion of fast lanes
The Sightseeing Pass Flex offers fast-track entry at the following attractions:
- Madame Tussauds
- Intrepid Museum of Sea, Air & Space
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral Gold tour
- Ripley’s Believe it or Not
- The Met (ticket valid for 3 days)
See New York Sightseeing Pass’ complete fast-lane offer.
The Go New York explorer offers fast-track entry at the following attractions:
- Top of the Rock
- Madame Tussauds New York
- Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park Ice Rink (seasonal)
- Empire State Building
See Go New York Explorer Pass’ complete fast-lane offer.
Because both passes offer fast lanes, round 2 is a tough call. Looking at the choices, however, we concluded that the Top of the Rock and Empire State Building are typically the most crowded, making fast-track access more valuable. Especially during sunset, both observation decks require a reservation in advance. A fast pass can come in super handy at these attractions. Therefore, the Explorer Pass wins this point!
Round 3: (Hop-on Hop-off) bus tours offer
When it comes to hop-on-hop-off buses, the offers of Sightseeing Pass and New York Explorer Pass are very different and can make a big impact on your choice.
While the New York Explorer Pass only offers a 1-day ticket valid for the Uptown and Downtown loops, the Sightseeing Pass’ offer is more complex. Not only can you ride the Uptown and Downtown loop for 72h but also will you be able to experience more tours than just these two. The offer includes Brooklyn and a night tour as well. The Uptown-Downtown combo counts as only one attraction. Each additional tour, like the Brooklyn bus tour, counts as an additional attraction.
Both passes partner with different operators: Sightseeing Pass with Gray Line and the Explorer Pass with Big Bus. The reviews of either operator are rather negative. We have used the buses ourselves and had good experiences every time. Note that the buses advance slowly due to traffic. The summer can be hot and the winter can be cold. Prepare for that!
As you have probably guessed it at this point, Sightseeing Pass wins over the Go NY Explorer Pass in this round, resulting in a tie!
Round 4: Choices of Cruises
New York is surrounded by two rivers making it the perfect destination to take a scenic cruise. Both passes work with different tour operators. The Go New York Explorer Pass works with Circle line whereas the Sightseeing Pass Flex and Day Pass work with Manhattan by Sail.
The Explorer Pass has a clear advantage in this round. It does not only include popular sightseeing cruises like the Landmarks Cruise and the Best of New York Cruise, but it also includes our favorite cruise: the Harbor Lights Cruise!
Round 5: Making reservations
It is typically not necessary to make reservations for attractions you want to visit with either of the passes. In fact, it is mostly not possible to make a reservation. After choosing an attraction, you simply head to the ticket counter to exchange your voucher into a ticket. That’s it!
A few tours, however, actually require you to make reservations as availability can be limited. In order to do so, just head to the respective website and follow the instructions. Note that reserving a tour does not activate your pass. Your pass will only be activated once scanned. This also means that you have to make sure your pass is still valid when you go on a tour.
Click below to see what tours require reservations.
Both passes work the same way and require online reservations for selected tours. Because of this commonality, both passes earn a point.
Round 6: Order Process & Pick up
Purchasing either pass is super easy and convenient. All you need to do is order it online and check your email. To use your pass, all you have to do is show the QR-Code from your email. That’s it! It couldn’t be any less complicated! Both passes are very well-known and you won’t have trouble exchanging your voucher for a ticket. In order to present your pass, download it onto your phone or print it out.
Both the Sightseeing Flex Pass and the New York Explorer Pass gain a point.
Round 7: Pricing
The differences in pricing are too slight for one pass to win over the other. The Sightseeing Pass is oftentimes $1 cheaper than the Go Explorer Pass. What it really comes down to, however, is the average cost per attraction. In this instance, the difference is mostly $0.20. An amount as little as that shouldn’t be the deciding factor when choosing the best pass.
You guessed it… it’s a tie! Both passes earn a point in this round of the Sightseeing Flex Pass vs. Go NY Explorer Pass battle.
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The close battle shows that you can’t really go wrong with either one! I have had positive experiences with both passes. Each of them scored points in important categories. The differences are very subtle. Your decision should basically come down to these two questions:
- Do you prefer hop-on-hop-off bus tours or cruises?
- Do you plan to visit the Empire State Building or One World Observatory?
My personal opinion
If you are still not sure, I can recommend checking out our Savings Calculator. Simply select the attractions and tours you are interested in and the tool will automatically calculate which pass will yield you the largest savings. It can be as simple as that!