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.
With Our 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?
- 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
- 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
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 network. This 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.
The California Academy of Sciences – $45.00
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!
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.
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.
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
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
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.