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: $76 (12+)
- Price Child: $56 (5-11)
- Where to Buy: CityPASS.com
- Number of Attractions: choose 4 of 6
- Time Limit: 9 consecutive days
- Expiry: 365-day Money Back Guarantee
- Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 – Stars
- California Academy of Sciences
- Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure
- Aquarium of the Bay – or – The Walt Disney Family Museum
- 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, it’s 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?
The CityPASS used to include a 3 Day Muni Pass, this was one of the highlights of the Pass. This has unfortunately been dropped from the Pass. Possibly only temporarily due to the service being shut-down for Covid Reasons so there are no Cable Cars in San Francisco right now, which is such a shame!
We have reached out to the CityPASS Team to confirm if the Pass will return once the Cable Cars Start running.
The California Academy of Sciences – $43.00
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 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 is a fantastic place with so much to see and do and it’s all situated in the phenomenal Golden Gate Park which is well worth a visit on its own! This is a full half-day experience at least.
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.
Aquarium Of The Bay – $29.95 or Walt Disney Family Museum (Closed)
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 Fisherman’s 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 Zoo And Gardens
the Exploratorium is 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!
The San Francisco Zoo is not one of America’s top Zoo attractions, but we feel it is quite underrated. The Setting is pretty stunning, with the exhibits nestled amongst lush pacific gardens down by the coast. There are some good animal exhibits but the enclosures are pretty dated and not really up to the standard of some of the more modernized Zoo’s
There is plenty to see and it’s a wonderful half-day experience. But will probably suit kids more than adults as they can overlook the Zoo’s flaws and just enjoy the experience.
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 San Francisco CityPASS is now a Digital Pass, having replaced the old Booklet Style pass that was frankly quite cumbersome and awkward to use in the Digital Age. Now the pass is instantly delivered to your Email Address.
The Pass is essentially a barcode that is scanned at each attraction to grant entry. This can be Scanned directly from your Phone or printed out and scanned from the hard copy. We tend to do both, just so we have a hard copy backup in case of technical issues, or a digital backup in case we lose or damage the hard copies!
The Pass gives you 9 days from first use to use all the attractions. Meaning you can Visit attractions at your own Pace and not rush around trying to pack things in. you can only use 4 attractions so there is no issue getting around and seeing everything you want.
One issue with the Pass in Practice is the Blue And Gold Fleet Cruise. You need to purchase a timed ticket which means queuing at the ticket kiosk to receive a timed ticket for an actual Cruise then waiting around for the cruise time and joining another queue to board the cruise. In total, we used up a good hour before even boarding a boat and it’s all a bit of a faff. If you booked online you would already have your timed slot and can just jump straight into the Boarding Quee (although this present its own issues in making sure you don’t miss your cruise)
Is the San Francisco CityPASS Worth it?
So let’s sum up if San Francisco CityPASS is Worth it? Well clearly if you are going to visit all the attractions it is pretty good value, we look at a costed example below:
- California Acadamy Of Sciences – $43
- Blue and Gold Fleet Cruise – $34
- Aquarium Of The Bay – $29
- SanFrancisco Zoo and Gardens – $25
Total Price – $131
Pass Price – $76
Saving – $55 or 41%
That is a big saving that is bordering on Half Price. Meaning if these are the attractions you want to visit the Pass is 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 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 2 at a modest discount (-$1) 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 CityPASS is a good option for those looking for a light itinerary, but we would definitely suggest looking at the competition as the Go City Pass in particular offers MUCH better Choice and value.
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 Academy 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.
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, for any further questions about the CityPASS or just San Francisco in general just drop us a comment below.