Are City Pass and Other Attractions Passes Worth Purchasing? Lets Look At the Math!

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City Pass Go Card
Shawn Reece during our tour of AT&T Park. Stunning views!

Attraction & City Passes – Are They Worth It

A few weeks ago following a nice holiday visit to my father’s house, Shawn Reece, Jasmine and I spent a couple of days in San Francisco for a nice little visit. We have been to San Francisco many times before and have skipped many of the overpriced touristy attractions during our visits.

During one of Groupon’s many sales during December, I picked up a Go San Francisco card. The Go card has a list of 31 attractions that participate and you can visit as many as you want within a specified period of time. I purchased the 2 day card on Groupon for $55, while they normally sell it for $82.

Some of the attractions we visited are things I would never pay full price for. These places like the Ripley’s Believe It or Not & the Aquarium at Fisherman’s Wharf were interesting and worth the visit. We also used the pass to go on a tour of AT&T Park as well and ride the carousel at the Children’s Creativity Museum.

A Drawback

Unfortunately I had forgotten that our visit coincided with the last week of the NFL season, meaning we spent half of one day watching the Packers game, where we could have gotten an even greater value out of our passes. This is definitely a drawback since I paid for 2 days, but really only used 1 1/2.

The Math – Was It Worth It?

During our two days we did the following things:

  • Six Flags Discover Kingdom
  • Ripley’s Believe It or Not
  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • AT&T Park Tour
  • Children’s Creativity Museum
City Pass Go Card
Riding the carousel at the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco with my son this past weekend.

While I could simply add up the admission fees, that wouldn’t be an honest way to look at this. First off, while my wife and son needed admission to Six Flags, I had a season pass so my Go card provided no value there. (Coupons are also available for admission.)

Additionally, there is a discounted combined admission to Ripley’s and the Aquarium and we only visited the Children’s museum for the carousel which doesn’t need a full admission. So here is the true math.

  • Six Flags Admission With Coupon: $40 x 2 = $80
  • Ripley’s/Aquarium Combined Ticket: $39 x 3 = $117
  • AT&T Park Tour: $22 x 3 = $66
  • Carousel Only: $4 x 3 = $12
  • Total Admission Value: $275
  • Total Spent for passes: $165
  • Discount: 40%

Another way to look at this is to consider how much I paid for each attraction with the discount.  Would I pay $24 for Six Flags admission, $13.20 for AT&T park, $2.40 for the carousel & $23.40 for Ripley’s/Aquarium?

For the first three I would say yes, however for the last two I am not sure. To be fair, had we not had the football game then we would have done a bay cruise and visited the California Academy of Sciences which would have increased the discount to over 60%.

The City Pass

City Pass Go Card
From our first trip to New York – June 2007. Taken from the river cruise included in our City Pass.

Another attractions pass available is the City Pass. This pass gives you admission to a small group of museums/attractions during your visit. Unlike the Go Card, you don’t have a large selection to choose from. You are basically buying one admission to each place for a set discount.

In my opinion City Passes can be good when you are visiting a city for the first time. For example in 2007 during our first ever trip to New York, we purchased a City Pass and enjoyed several museums, a river cruise and the Empire State Building for a nice discount.

Since we had a desire to visit all of the sites listed, it worked out. If we had missed even one of the included attractions, the value would have been severely diminished.

Conclusion

In the end I think attractions passes can be a good deal under the right circumstances. When looking at any discount pass you must calculate the value you would receive as I did above. When I purchased the pass I thought I would get a tremendous value, but life got in the way and that didn’t quite happen.

At $82 the Go San Francisco Card would not have been very valuable to me at all. Since I was able to use my ninja skills to score it for $55, I still came out ahead, although it wasn’t a killer deal at all.

Do you use attraction or city passes when traveling? What have your experiences been? Let me know in the comments.


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5 COMMENTS

  1. The Go Pass is like a sampler platter. If you’re the kind of person who wants to taste everything, it’s a good deal even at full price. If you’re paying full admission price for a museum you kind of feel obligated to spend the day and see the whole thing. But with the Go Pass you can flit from attraction to attraction and not feel like you wasted your admission. For instance, on our last day in Chicago we had just 2 hours before catching our train home, and happily spent it in the Art Institute. We only saw a fraction of the place, but it was fine because it was “free.” Another advantage of the Go Pass (in Chicago, anyway) was access to the Express Lines, which was a significant time saver at many of the attractions. I think it saved us an hour waiting in line for the Sears Tower.

  2. I have only used or looked at City passes in Europe. There is really depends on the city and what they were offering. I have saved money in Bruges, broke even in Berlin but it was worth it because it covered all of our public transportation and we did not have to keep buying tickets, and we did not buy it in Prague as it was not worth the money.

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