San Francisco CityPASS Review 2020 – Is the San Francisco CityPASS worth it?

Visting San Francisco can be an expensive trip. With so many sights, attractions and things to do, on top of Food Drinks and hotels, it can soon add up. One way to save money and limit costs is an attraction pass. San Francisco has a number of passes available and one of them is the San Francisco CityPASS. However, before investing in such as Pass people want to know if the Pass is good value and if there are any potential pitfalls in buying an attraction.

San Francisco CityPASS Review 2020
Alcatraz from Blue And Gold Fleet

With Out San Francisco CityPASS review we take an in-depth look at the pass, find out about the attractions included on the Pass, How it works and if it saves you money along with looking at the pros and cons of the pass and if other passes may suit you better. This should help answer the question, Is the San Francisco CityPASS worth it?

is the San Francisco Citypass Worth it
  • Product: San Francisco CityPASS
  • Price: $94 (12+)
  • Price Child: $74 (5-11)
  • Where to Buy: CityPASS.com
  • Number of Attractions: choose 5 of 6
  • Time Limit: 9 consecutive days
  • Rating: 4.3 / 5 Stars

Attractions Included:

  • 3-Day Cable Car and Muni Bus Passport
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure
  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • Exploratorium – or – San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
IN A NUTSHELL
  • Price
  • Ease of Use
  • Attractions
4.3

Summary

The San Francisco CityPASS is a great introduction to the City and includes most of the top attractions at a great price. As it is a limited number of attractions it limits the urge to rush around trying to cram too much in. With the cost of just the big three attractions covering the cost of the Pass it makes for great value and doesn’t break the bank in the first place. The Muni Pass covers all your travel needs in the city so this is the only purchase you need to make when visiting the City.

What is the San Francisco CityPASS

The San Francisco CityPASS is an attraction pass that allows you to visit multiple attractions for one flat fee. This fee is significantly less than the prices you will pay for visiting all the attractions separately. Depending on which attractions you choose you could save $80.09 per person or 46%. Money that could be spent on any number of great things.

So on the face of it, its a really good idea. But there are always potential drawbacks. Are the attractions included things you really want to do? if they are not, and you are only considering them because they are on the pass it may be better to just do the things you want to do separately and use your time to do things you REALLY want to do. Often time is the most valuable commodity on shorter city breaks.

So let’s look at the attractions in a little more detail to see if this pass is the right for you?

What are the Attractions, are they any good?

3-day MUNI pass – Unlimited Cable Car and Bus transport – $36

Well, the first attraction is probably one of the standout reasons to get a CityPASS. a 3-day unlimited travel pass for the Cable cars and MUNI bus networkThis sorts out all the travel requirements for a short stay in San Francisco. It really can be worth its weight in gold, but in reality, it’s worth $36, as this is the cost of a 3-day pass on its own.

We really can’t imagine going to San Francisco and not riding the Cable Cars. They are part of the fabric of the City and incredibly fun. With a single one-way ride costing $8 if you intend on using the Cars any number of times, it’s worth having a Pass. Add into this unlimited MUNI bus travel and a 3-day pass is definitely a great thing to have.

Check out our full guide to Riding the Cable Cars San Francisco. 

The California Academy of Sciences – $45.00

California Academy of Sciences San Francisco

The Academy of Sciences is a unique place that really captivates the mind and immerses you in the Sciences. It’s hard to fully explain what this place really is. It’s kind of a cross between a Natural History Museum and a Zoo. We rate it as one of the best Attractions in San Francisco and is definitely one not to be missed.

The Exhibits, while all based around the Science and Nature, differ greatly from your standard Natural History Museum. It is far more than Diarahnmas of stuffed animals. While the Dinosaur Hall is your regular collection of Fossils, which is no bad thing, other exhibits literally come alive. The Living Rainforest is an immersive Biosphere with walkways allowing you to explore the canopy tops. There is a fantastic Aquarium with Coral Reefs, California Oceans, and even Penguins and a Gay Albino Alligator. And don’t miss the Planetarium

Overall it a fantastic place with so much to see and do and it’s all situated in the phenominal Golden Gate Park which is well worth a visit on its own!

Read more about the Acadamy here or check out their website for the latest information.

Blue & Gold Fleet – Bay Cruise Adventure – $34.00

A Cruise out into the San Francisco Bay is a wonderful way to get a different view of the City, During your 1-Hour aboard the Blue & Gold Fleets cruise ships, you will see stunning views of the City Skyline, Take in the various watercraft and wildlife that inhabit the bay, get up close and personal with the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge and finally swing back via The Rock For some Close-up views of the Alcatraz Penitentiary.

It is a great way to see so much of the Bay area in a very short time, and we always just love being out on the water. The Cruise Sails from Next to Pier 39 so you can also get a close-up view of the Noisy and quite Smelly SeaLion Colony resident there.

Read our full Guide to Bay Cruises to find out more

This makes up the big 3 of the CityPASS. These are some of the City’s MUST do attractions. If you just did these 3 we are already at $115.00, not a huge saving but we still have 2 attractions to go.

Alcatraz!

The one attractions missing from all passes is the Alcatraz Island tour. It is possible to substitute the Blue & Gold Fleet Cruise for the Alcatraz tour but only if you buy direct from Alcatraz Cruises.

Aquarium Of The Bay – $29.95

aquarium gallery shark

While we really like the Aquarium of the Bay we have to acknowledge it is not a World Class Aquarium of the likes of Monterey Bay or Georgia Aquarium. The exhibits are more humble and the species less diverse with no huge show-stopping attractions or giant tanks. It is not, however, a bad aquarium and beats many big branded aquariums (sea life etc..) it is just not quite up there with the BEST.

The Aquarium focuses heavily on marine life in and around the Bay area and for that we give it majors Kudos. It is fascinating to see the extent and diversity of life under your feet as you explore the bay. Staring into the muddy water off Fishermans wharf you would be forgiven for thinking the bay was dead but the Aquarium shines a light on just how much is going on under the waves!

If you like Aquariums or are just interested in expanding your knowledge of the bay’s natural life you will love the aquarium. The Shark tank holds some impressive 7gilled sharks, You will also find White Sturgeon, Bat Rays, Pacific Octopus and incredibly cute River Otters. It is a great way to spend a few hours and really helps you understand the goings-on of the bay.

Exploratorium -$29.95 or San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art – $25

San Francisco has always been at the cutting edge of art and contemporary culture. So it’s unsurprising to find the Modern Art Museum to be one of the world’s best along with one of the world’s largest. The Museum is rammed with over 33,000 works of modern art from some of the most prominent artists including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and Henri Matisse. If Modern art is your thing it’s hard to do better than the San Fran MOMO.

If you are not an art fan the Museum is still very interesting and can be a real Eyeopener to the world of Art. Modern Art is not all pretentious rubbish that you would cause you to say “That’s Not Art!”. Modern art covers a large period of history and is essentially anything that is not very old. But it is still not for everyone.

Fortunately, you will be pleased to know the other option, the Exploratorium couldn’t be more different. It’s a hands-on science museum. With hundreds of different exhibits that encourage you to have a go and explore the world of science practically. It’s kind of like a giant School Science class. And while it is definitely geared towards kids, adults should be able to enjoy it as well. It is the perfect choice for families who have no chance of getting their kids to traipse around a museum!

Honestly, we love both attractions but they suit a very different type of person. So it’s good to see the choice.

You will need a good 2-3 days at least to pack all that in without rushing around quite a bit. You could pack it into a shorter timescale but may miss a lot of other things the City has to offer.

San Francisco CityPASS in Practice
san-francisco-citypass-booklets

The CityPASS is a booklet style pass where the pages can be used as tickets for the different attractions. When you order your CityPASS you will have two options. Either delivery or a print at home voucher that can be exchanged for a booklet at any of the attractions. However, to ride the Muni or Cable cars you must have exchanged your voucher for a booklet.

This can be a bit of a nuisance if you plan on using the MUNI system straight away. Only two MUNI kiosks accept the vouchers. The Bay and Taylor Kiosk and the Hyde and Beach Kiosk. And both of these are a fair way from where the BART would deposit you!

We find the best solution is to use the San Francisco Information Centre to Exchange our voucher for a booklet. We use the office that is right at the Powell Street station. Perfect! however the Office at Macy’s, Union Square isn’t far away and has longer opening hours. Of course, if you are arriving outside of opening hours you will need to wait until the next day to exchange.

You can always select the delivery option to get the booklet sent straight to your house to avoid all the above hassle and start using the booklet straight away. Remember there is a delivery charge, to get your booklet sent to you. And for international guests that is not an option.

Using the MUNI pass is simple once you have your booklet, just present it at a kiosk or to a driver and you will get the 3-day pass. Remember its CALENDER days so try and get one earlyish in the day as if you get one late on you have lost most of that day!

At all the other attractions simply present the booklet for free entry. For the Blue and Gold Fleet cruise, you need to pop to the kiosk and they will book you in on the next available Cruise. There could be a short wait for that but Fisherman’s Wharf is a fine place to spend that wait!

You could, of course, wait until you are there and then buy your booklet from any of the locations mentioned. But there is little advantage (to be fair, there is little disadvantage either) to doing so and we find being a little organized can pay off. One of the major advantages of an attraction Pass is the ability to budget and know how much you will spend while at a location.

NOTE – It is worth mentioning CityPASS are trialing a Mobile version of their Passes in other Cities so you can expect this to find it’s way to San Francisco soon. We will keep you updated. 

Is the San Francisco CityPASS Worth it?

So let’s sum up if San Francisco CityPASS Worth it? Well clearly if you are going to visit all the attractions and use the MUNI system it is incredibly good value and a complete No-Brainer. You save $63.85. No one can argue that’s not a great deal.

But are all the attractions really the exact ones you are wanting to visit during your trip. The CityPASS does not offer much scope to tailor your trip and as such it kind of dictates what you must see. On the plus side, every attraction is first-rate and well worth visiting but they may just not be your cup of tea.

However, for a lot of people, they really don’t know what they want to see and do in a City and the pass may just inspire you. The 3-Day MUNI pass is great value, but its great value even if you buy one for $32 from the MUNI Kiosks. The Blue and Gold Fleet Cruise and California Academy of sciences are really top quality must-see attractions and if these are on your list, it makes the Pass good value. See it as getting those 3 at a modest discount (-$19) with two other attractions thrown in for FREE. Even if the other two attractions are not as high up on your list, as freebies they are really quite good.

Overall we think the Pass is very good. We certainly recommend it if you are planning on using the MUNI, seeing the California Academy of sciences and doing a Bay Cruise. If you are not really planning one of those 3 maybe this pass isn’t for you?

Advantages

Inspiration – When first visiting a City it can be hard to know exactly what is available to do. We often hear people who discover the pass find things to do that they love that they never knew were available. The pass can really help you discover the City and what is on offer.

Planning – Knowing in advance what attractions you are going to do adds real structure to your trip and helps flesh out any itinerary. We know some people don’t like to rigidly plan out their trips and we agree with this, but with zero planning, people who just wing it, tend to do very little on their trips but wander about aimlessly. Having some structure like the pass provides really does help you get the best out of your trip.

Budgeting – Of course the cost savings are the big draw for any Pass but knowing exactly what you will spend before the trip is also a big plus. You don’t have to worry about running out of cash and not seeing something you really wanted to. There will also be no nasty surprises when your Credit card bill turns up…Unless you go crazy on something else!

Travel – The 3-day Muni Pass covers all your transport needs during your visit to the City. The cable cars are a real San Francisco MUST do but the MUNI pass is much more besides.

Flexibility – While the CityPASS can help with building an Itinerary it also remains flexible so you don’t need to stick too religiously to it. Knowing what you have to do is great but you can always mix it up depending on weather and mood to get the best from the trip. If it’s given rain and fog on the day you planned a cruise. Head to the Acadamy of Sciences instead, for example.

Disadvantages

Limited Attractions – The San Francisco CityPASS is fairly limited in which attractions are included. There is very little choice and it’s pretty much what you see is what you get. Luckily the Attractions included are mainly top shelf fantastic attractions but if they are not what you want to see the pass is a poor choice.

If that is the case with you check out the other pass options in San Francisco. 

Overcramming – As with all passes it is essential to not try and cram too much into a trip. The desire to get the maximum value from a Pass can lead you to try and do too much. It is important to be realistic with your time. With the San Francisco CityPASS this isn’t a huge issue as long as it’s a 2+ day trip, but any less and you may just not be able to cram all the attractions in giving them adequate time to really appreciate them.

Awkward Purchase options – While the Booklet system is still a decent method of delivering the pass it seems pretty antiquated in the days of digital passes delivered straight to your phone. While CityPASS are bringing this system in, for now, the CityPASS still relies on old-fashioned booklet passes.

Where to Buy

The best place to buy the San Francisco CityPASS is Direct from the Website.

<<< Official San Francisco CityPASS website >>>

Other Options

There are a number of different Attraction Passes available for San Francisco. Take a look at our Comparison page to see if the other Passes suit you better, they certainly have more choice!

San Francisco Pass comparison

Have Your Say

Let us know if you have Used a San Francisco CityPASS? Did you think it was worth the money? Did you like all the attractions? Which was your favorite? We would love to hear from you. Also, any further questions about the CityPASS or just San Francisco in general just drop us a comment below.

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34 thoughts on “San Francisco CityPASS Review 2020 – Is the San Francisco CityPASS worth it?”

  1. Wow, so informative! I’ve traveled to the other side of the world but haven’t made it yet to San Francisco. Matter-of-fact, I’ve BEEN IN California and STILL not made it to San Fran – but it’s absolutely on my list of places to visit and this will be so beneficial when I finally do! It sounds like an awesome deal, and after reading your article about it I know that I’d definitely not pass up the offer! Also, great photo’s 🙂

    • Hi, Courtney

      Thanks for reading and the kind words.

      Shame you have made it so close but never actually made it there. Its such great City, but we understand there is only so much time and so many places in the world. We hope our guide is useful when you finally make it.

      Glad you like our photo’s we try and include as of out own shots as we can.

  2. Very good guide on how to know the main attractions of San Francisco for a very good price .the price is very good if I save 63 dollars per person I can invest in a very good hotel … great post !! Great site !!

    • Hi Jairo, Thanks for reading.

      Glad we could help out. Yes buy saving money it means you can use that money to enhance your trip in some other way. Saving money often just means spending the same but getting MORE!

  3. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to San Francisco. I really enjoyed my last visit. I also enjoyed this review of CityPASS. I did not know it was available and really appreciate the details. I will be sharing this with some friends.

    • Hi Bert, thanks for reading. Glad you could reminisce while reading our article and hopefully your new found knowledge can help either you or your friends with your visits.

  4. Hi Steve,
    Really nice piece very informative.
    Visiting the US Is definitely on my bucket list. The trouble is it’s so massive and there’s so much to see! I’d need about a year to get round it all lol.
    New York and Washington I’d love to see and now based on this post San Francisco is a must see too!
    Thanks for the info I enjoyed reading it.
    Paul.

    • Hi Paul, Thanks for reading.

      Oh yes the US is certainly a Massive place and incredibly diverse, any one city is radically different from the others, and then there is all the vast areas in between. We always find Road trips are fantastic way to see the country, driving between cities and exploring on the way is such a fantastic thing to do it should be on everyone’s Bucket list!

      Remember to check out our New York page for tips and advice on visiting there, there are a number of New York Passes you can use too is you liked the sound of the San Francisco City PASS

  5. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for this in-depth review of the San Francisco CityPASS. We are planning to go next year so this information will come in really handy. Of course, we definitely want to use the cable cars and the Blue and Gold Fleet Cruise is also on our bucket list so I’m pretty sure we will buy the passes. This will be a great way to see the bay.

    • Hi Craig,

      Thanks for reading, glad we can be of help and that you think the passes are a good idea. It really is a great way to see and do more for less. Hope you enjoy this fantastic City on your trip, check out our San Francisco Must Do Article for more ideas of things to see and do!.

  6. Well after reading your article I must conclude that the citypass is really worth it. My problem when visiting big cities is usually that I can’t chose or know what to do. The citypass is a really great solution for that, because the attractions are already chosen for me. And even for a great price.

    • Hi, Thanks for reading.

      Glad you found the article useful, and agree with our take on the CityPASS. We find it very useful for visiting San Francisco. As you say there is so much to see and do it can be hard to decide what’s important. Having a pass gives you great direction on how to get the best from the city. And its always nice to save a  few $$$.

  7. Thanks for the good explanation of the City Pass. To me, it looks very attractive. I especially like the cable car part. What a cool way to get around one of America’s most unique cities. Looking at the other attraction, I have to honestly say that I’d use them all. It looks like a great package. The only drawback I see are possibly too many people using them or if an attraction is closed. Aside from that, I can honestly say that if I were visiting SF, I would definitely consider getting this pass.

    • Hi Warren,

      Thanks for reading, glad you found the guide useful. We are glad you agree that the pass is a good idea. While there is always the risk attractions are very busy most of the attractions are set up to cater for a large amount of guests so its isn’t usually a problem, aside from the cable cars that can get very busy. Again there is always a risk of an attraction being closed but this is quite a rare occurrence.

      Hope you get to San Francisco soon.

  8. Your site is so rich and full of useful information. I also have a travel blog but going through your San Francisco CityPass Review has actually enlightened me the more on the various attractions that are available. The price you offer for up to 6 attractions and for 9 consecutive days is a WOW! Fantastic write up.

    • Hi thanks for the reply, great to see we can help out other Travel bloggers, as well as tourists. Yes we think the price is very competitive and allows for quite a bit of flexibility in the trip. Glad you enjoyed reading.

  9. What an informative article you have written about San Francisco – Thank you!
    San Francisco is a place we would love to visit one day, it’s certainly on our bucket list.

    I read places to visit, holiday destination brochures and vacation ideas from a whole host of websites and very few explain how to get around the area like you have written here. To acquire the information how to purchase a City-pass opens the doors to a great vacation with the ability to visit a whole host of sites and make the holiday really worth while.
    I think this City-pass is well worth the investment for 9 days..

    Your cable car photo epitomises San Francisco without saying a word. Thanks for the info, we appreciate it,
    Simon.

    • Hi, Simon

      Glad you liked the article. Hope you make to San Francisco soon it’s an incredible place. Well worthy of a place on anyone’s bucket list. Glad you agree the City pass if worth the money, it really helps you get more from your trip while limiting expenditure, we think its a great deal.

      Thanks for the kind words on the Photo, It really is one of my favourites, as you say its says a lot about the city without saying anything.

      Thanks for reading

  10. I visited San Francisco Eleven years ago with my Husband and family, it was a holiday of a lifetime and sharing it with our children, even better.

    I recognised all the attractions, wish we had your post then looking back, the “Citypass” is most definitely worth looking into, amazed by all the savings.

    You certainly know your stuff, well informed and after reading this, I will be planning another visit and very soon.

    I have bookmarked your post for future reference – thank you.

    • Hi June,

      Thanks for the post, yeah we hear it quite a lot that people have visited a City but were not aware of the pass’s available and how much they could have saved. Hope your trip planning goes well and you future trip is ad fantastic as the first trip.

      Thanks for the kind words.

  11. thanks for the review of the SF pass. It’s so much cheaper than the NYC pass, but of course, doesn’t include nearly the number of attractions. I think for me, it doesn’t make sense because I like walking SF, so I don’t ride the buses or trolley. The trolley always seems so crowded. I’d rather walk, and I do…..all over town. I’ve never taken one of the cruises, and that sounds like a cool thing to do. I might try that next time. As with the NY pass, I don’t like the idea of having to go to a certain number of attractions so I get my money worth. I’d rather walk around town and see what I run into.

    • Hi Tucker, We too love walking round SF (and most places) in Our Getting around San Francisco Guide, we discuss the tactic of combining walking with public transport to see even more of the City, essentially walking until we have got so far we need to get a bus back! Also we mention the trolley’s are not great modes of transport, as you say they can be incredibly crowded, but for a lot of people they are a must do while in the City for the Experience, rather than for the convenience. But if that’s not your thing fair enough.

      City passes don’t suit some people and if just exploring alone is your thing then you would probably not benefit from the pass. The money saved would not represent value if it detracts from your experience.

      We do recommend a bay cruise though they are a highlight of our trips, easy enough to book online standalone, or even at the kiosk at fisherman’s Wharf.

      Hope you enjoy your next trip.

  12. Wow, thank you so much for sharing this! My partner and I have always wanted to visit San Francisco but it always seemed too pricey. The city pass definitely sounds worth the money, and now that I just learned of even more new attractions I want to visit I think we’ll definitely have to plan a trip soon.

    Awesome travel guide you’ve put together here. Thanks a lot!

    All the best,

    Michael

    • Hi, Micheal glad we inspired you to finally make the trip you have been wanting to do for a while. The City pass really does help keep costs down. San Francisco can be quite expensive but well worth it it’s a beautiful and iconic City. 

      Thanks for reading and the kind words

  13. I have never been to San Francisco or California for that matter, but I hope to venture out there one of these days. I especially want to ride one of those cable cars because every time I hear about San Francisco, the cable car shows up in the story. I would have never thought about getting a City pass, but from your review, it sounds like it would be something that definitely makes sense for my family and me when we do get to visit finally.

    • Hi Josephine,

      Hope you make it to San Francisco soon it really is a great City. We agree the Cable cars are so much fun to ride and completely iconic. Not the best transport but a real must do for fun. 

      We do think the CityPASS offer good value for money if you are planning on doing most of the attractions listed. It can really help organise your trip and make the most of the City.

      Thanks for reading

  14. I love going to San Francisco. It is a great city with so much to see and do. The last time we were there, we really did not do much because, well it gets too expensive to see and do everything. I think the city pass is a great idea! I love that we could see so much more, and not have to spend an arm and a leg. This is such a great idea!

    • Hi,

      Yeah we often find people end up doing very little if they do not have a pass due to money contraints or even just not knowing what is available. Glad you like the idea of the pass. There is so much to see in San Francisco and the cost of this pass is quite low compared to what you get to see.

      Thanks for reading

      Steve

  15. As always, this post is extremely informative. I was in SF about 8 years ago and I wish I had known about this pass (if it had existed then). I never rode on a cable car, and I went OVER the bridge but would have loved to go UNDER it too. I went to Alcatraz, which was amazing but I see that’s not on the pass. Still, there are a LOT of savings to be had by getting this pass, so I definitely see the attraction. San Francisco was an amazing city and I’d love to return some day. Maybe I’ll get myself a CityPASS next time 🙂

    • Hi Jyl,

      We do think its a major failing of the San Francisco Passes not to include the Alcatraz tour. It is one of the Cities must see attractions so it’s a bit of a shame. We just book it separately as it’s not a hugely expensive tour. We are still hoping one of the pass providers will add it one day

      Apart from that we are glad you like the sound of the Pass is does allow some pretty significant savings.

      Hope you have a great time if you do go back. Such a great City

      Steve

  16. Since San Francisco is one of my top desired travel destinations right now I found this post very exciting and informative! Due to money and responsibility constraints I have not yet had the chance to do much travelling. Because of this I was not even aware these “passes” were a thing! This one specifically though seems right up my alley. I love animals and science so just the museum and the aquarium make this worth it to me. I will definitely keep this in mind when i’m planning my trip to SF. Which of the attractions offered in this pass are your favorites?

    • Hi Jordan,

      Glad our post was informative and inspiring for you. Hopefully you can get travelling soon. There is nothing better than getting out and seeing our amazing world. Hopefully the Pass can help you get the most out of your trip to San Francisco.

      Really out Favorite attraction on the Pass is the 3-Day MUNI card. San Francisco’s Cable cars are so Iconic and riding them is so  much fun. It really is something everyone should try. The pass also provides unlimited transport on the MUNI system which is less exciting but very useful. It adds so much value to the pass. The Bay Cruise and Academy of Sciences are also very good attractions.

      Thanks for reading, Hop you make it to San Fran soon.

      Steve

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