In full disclosure, we were provided with 3 CityPASSes from NYC & Company to make this post possible. We appreciate their support of Jersey Family Fun so that we can bring you fun things to do in New York City. We are also an affiliate for CityPASS, meaning we do make a small commission if you choose to purchase passes using our links. As always, all opinions are our own.
Time to Be a Tourist!
I am a lifelong New Jersey resident, as is my husband and of course, so are our children. We often visit New York City on weekends for the theater, shopping, and any of the thousands of other attractions found there. Our school trips as children in central and northern New Jersey brought us into New York City for The Statue of Liberty, the Museum of Natural History, the Circle Line, and more. In conversations with family that live out of state, it occurred to me lately that many of the traditional landmarks aren’t ones we’ve visited with our kids. They’ve been to the High Line countless times, but never to the Empire State Building. Our daughter visited the Statue of Liberty with a family member, but not our son. Even though my husband has a strong interest in flight, we’ve never visited the Intrepid as a family. It was time to start adding these places to our New York City visits; in other words, time to be “tourists!”
We live in Union County, and have no qualms about going into New York City, as the train is local and we usually find on street parking for the spots we visit. It doesn’t always feel out of reach, or even cost prohibitive. But one look at the admission prices for the attractions we wanted to explore and I felt some real hesitation. How is a family of four going to justify $20 and up ticket prices per person PER attraction?
There are a few “multi-attraction” ticket options for New York City. Some cost more and offer more, or are available for fewer days. With some research I found CityPASS to be the best for us. CityPASS is available for multiple cities, and is promoted by NYC & Company, the tourism board of New York City.
With CityPASS you can visit
- The Empire State Building Experience
- American Museum of Natural History
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
- Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
SIX attractions for one price! It’s not only a moneysaver, I see it as a great way to set your travel itinerary. Once you use your CityPASS, it is valid for 9 days. This is plenty of time to visit these 6 attractions if you plan it well, and keep reading for how we made the most of ours!
Remember, you don’t have to visit each place to make the CityPASS worth it. We were lucky to spend a night in Manhattan recently, and started our CityPASS on a Friday, and continued to the following Friday. We visited four places and had the weather been better – or we were able to cancel our other commitments – we would have done at least one more.
So What Did We See?
We started our adventures with a sunset visit to Top of the Rock Observation Deck. We’ve been to Rockefeller Center countless times; the tree, ice skating, even for some show tapings but none of us ever to the top! We arrived at 6:45 to a crowded elevator area as everyone was eager to get to the top for the sunset. After a quick talk with an employee we found the room to get our tickets which went quickly! We were able to ride the elevator up immediately, but you can visit any time during the day to reserve a later ticket time. Before you board the elevator there are short movies that tell about the history of the building, and in the elevator, another movie – overhead! 70 stories up, we marveled at the colors of the sky at sunset. There are seats inside, and two glassed in levels where you can observe. One open air level at the top also, but we were cold! Time spent to visit Top of the Rock was just over an hour. Bring your quarters for the viewfinders!
Top of the Rock, 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. Open daily, 8 AM – midnight
The Empire State Building is surely one of the most recognizable parts of the New York City skyline. And yet, we’d never gone to the top. So at 9 AM Saturday, we made our way to the building. With no wait, we made our way through the educational displays in the waiting area and off to the two elevators to take us to the top. On the 80th floor, your first elevator stop, there’s so much to learn about at the Dare to Dream exhibit. You may be in a rush to get to the observation at the 86th floor, but take time to look around (and that’s where you’ll find the gift shop!). On the 86th floor, our views were spectacular. It was a clear morning and the deck wasn’t crowded so we were able to count taxis, look for our hotel, and even try to find our New Jersey home. There’s no where to sit at the top, so once little ones get tired it’s time to move on. We spent over an hour in the building though, and really enjoyed all there was to learn.
The Empire State Building Experience, 350 5th Avenue at 34th Street. Open daily, 8 AM – 2 AM.
With the two observation decks done, we were off to one of our “always wanted to do” attractions; The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. What an amazing place to spend the day! The Intrepid, a former active duty aircraft carrier because a museum in 1982 and has been docked at Pier 86 in Manhattan since then. There’s so much to say about the Intrepid, but as you can expect you’ll enjoy all types of aircraft – 28 exactly! – sea vessels, and now even the space shuttle Enterprise. The Exploreum is a kid friendly, interactive space on the carrier where you can enter a replica space capsule, sit in a helicopter, and imagine just how those submarine seaman sleep and eat in tight spaces. Take it a step further and enter the Growler, the only American guided missile submarine open to the public. Be sure you aren’t claustrophobic because it sure is a tight space! There will be a wait to get on but it’s very worth it to see a true representation of life aboard a submarine. Exhibits throughout the Intrepid tell the story of our military and how the Intrepid served our country. At the end of the ship is the Space Shuttle Pavilion – admission is an extra $7/adult, $5/child but the chance to be up close to the Enterprise doesn’t come along often. There was so much to learn about our space program in the exhibit, it took us by surprise. The whole day left us with so much to ponder and be amazed by, and some new interests in the subjects we learned about that day.
The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Pier 86, W 46th Street and 12th Avenue. Hours vary.
It was back to school for a week, and some bad weather and weekly commitments took time away from continuing our adventures. So for our last visit, we chose an attraction we could access from New Jersey – The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We headed to Liberty State Park in Jersey City. CityPASS gets you access to both islands and ferry transport between them all, but does not provide access into the statue. A limited amount of monument access tickets are available at the ticket window daily, but we weren’t able to get them. No worries – there’s plenty to see and learn just walking around Liberty Island. It’s a popular place to visit, so lines for ferries were long – be sure you factor in wait times. There’s also a security checkpoint before you board your first ferry, so travel light. Concessions are available on the ferry so we were able to make use of our time by munching as we sailed. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum is located in the gorgeous, restored building that greeted 12 million immigrants. We grabbed some audio tour speakers and were able to follow along until our feet couldn’t anymore. Time spent at the two attractions was an active 4 hours, without a climb inside the statue.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, ferries accessible from Battery Park, NYC, and Liberty State Park, Jersey City. Hours vary.
Regretfully we had to skip a trip to the Museum of Natural History, and I didn’t feel my children could appreciate the Metropolitan Museum of Art yet. But had there not been school or Easter activities, we would have easily been able to visit all 6 attractions in 9 days.
Tired yet? We were certainly worn out from our CityPASS adventures. But all the best adventures end that way don’t they? We learned so much, saw so many sights, and spent such quality time together, thanks to CityPASS!
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Click over to see the rest of our Family Travel to New York City series.
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