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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NEW: Both the Sightseeing Flex Pass and the Sightseeing Day Pass now include free admission to Edge and the Vessel!
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.
- Attraction-based: The New York Explorer Pass and the Sightseeing Flex Pass let you determine the number of attractions you want to visit. In contrast, the New York Pass and the Sightseeing Day Pass have you choose the number of days you want to do sightseeing.
- Ease of use: Once 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.
- Flexibility: 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!
- Access to 90+ attractions: Both passes include major attractions like Top of the Rock, the MoMA, Met, 9/11 Memorial and the ferry to Liberty Island
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.
- Attraction Choices: 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: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 or 10 attractions.
- Hop-on Hop-off Offer: 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 only 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.
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 is 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!
= Sightseeing Flex Pass (1) & Go New York Explorer Pass (1)
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!
= Sightseeing Flex Pass (1) & Go New York Explorer Pass (2)
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!
= Sightseeing Flex Pass (2) & Go New York Explorer Pass (2)
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!
= Sightseeing Flex Pass (2) & Go New York Explorer Pass (3)
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.
= Sightseeing Flex Pass (3) & Go New York Explorer Pass (4)
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.
= Sightseeing Flex Pass (4) & Go New York Explorer Pass (5)
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.
= Sightseeing Flex Pass (5) & Go New York Explorer Pass (6)
Our Final Verdict: Sightseeing Flex Pass NYC or Go New York Explorer Pass?
The New York Sightseeing Flex Pass
Go NYC Pass
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 Edge?
My personal opinion
Though both passes provide excellent value, I do end up choosing the Sightseeing Flex Pass over the Go New York Explorer Pass most of the time. That’s due to my individual selection of attractions, which typically include Edge and the hop-on-hop-off bus tours. Now that the Sightseeing Pass also includes admission to the Vessel, I am even more convinced of the Sightseeing Flex Pass!
If you still cannot decide on which pass is best for you, head over to our Savings Calculator. There, you select what you want to do and see, and the calculator will instantly tell you which pass saves you the most. You see, it doesn’t have to be complicated!
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I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On this blog, I want to share everything I have learned and discovered, so you can have the best time in the greatest city in the world!