Go San Francisco Pass Reviews 2019 – Is the Go San Francisco Pass Worth It?

San Francisco is a fantastic city to visit with so much to see and do. Things can quickly get out of hand and the cost of attractions really adds up. One way to keep costs under control is with an Attraction Pass. On top of this Passes claim to Save you time, and help you see far more than you would without one, So we test these claims and see if the San Francisco Go card is really any good.

Smart Destinations are a big player in the Attraction Pass world, and their offering for San Francisco is quite a beast of an offering. But Is the Go San Francisco Pass Worth It? It’s not a simple question as there are multiple types of Pass from Smart Destinations, Meaning there surely is a Pass to suit everyone. Our Go San Francisco Pass Review post is intended to help you navigate the myriad of options and choose a PASS that’s right for you.

San Francisco go pass reviews
**This post contains affiliate links and we will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links
  • Product: San Francisco Go Pass All Inclusive / Explorer Pass
  • Price: $92 – $214
  • Price Child: $75 – $176 (Child 3-12yrs)
  • Where to Buy: www.smartdestinations.com
  • Number Of Attractions: 26+ Top Attractions
  • Time Limit: 30 consecutive days or 1-5 days unlimited
  • Rating: 4.5/5

Attractions Included – 26 +

  • California Academy of Sciences
  • Selection of Bay Cruise’s
  • Hop on Hop off Big Bus Tour
  • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom!
  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • Exploratorium
  • De Young Museum
  • and Many more…
IN A NUTSHELL
  • Price
  • Ease of Use
  • Attractions
4.5

Summary

The All inclusive Go card Offers fantastic Value for people looking for an action-packed trip whereas the Explorer pass offers a more relaxed pace but still great value.

Most of San Francisco’s top attractions are covered and you can achieve excellent cost savings, along with the usual perks of using a pass. Using a Go card to Visit San Francisco will help you see more of the City and fraction of the cost.

 

Understanding the Passes

Is the Go San Francisco Card Worth It?

There are 4 options for the passes. It’s worth noting that not all attractions are available on all passes so check the Attractions you REALLY want are available on the Pass you choose.

San Francisco Go Pass – All Inclusive

The all-inclusive is the Simplest pass to understand. You simply choose how many days you want the pass to be valid for, 1,2,3 or 5 Days, you can then visit as many attractions as you like from a specified list of 26+ Attractions during that period.

This is the most expensive option but can be exceptional value if you visit many attractions during your stay. Having a limited amount of time might mean a few hectic days as you rush to cram in as much as possible to get the max value, but as San Francisco is such a compact City, we find you really can cram a lot into a short space of time.

Prices: 

  • 1 Day – $78 Adult $64 Child
  • 2 Days – $116 Adult $97  Child
  • 3 Days – $146 Adult $122 Child
  • 5 Days – $182 Adult $150 Child

San Francisco Explorer Pass

The Explorer Pass works differently here you choose the number of attractions. 3, 4 or 5 attractions. However, you do not need to choose your attractions up front. This is fantastic as it allows you to still be very flexible on your trip, also families are not required to go to the same attractions. So maybe Mum and little sister can go check out Madame Tussauds, while Dad and big Brother Brave the San Francisco Dungeon, then the whole family visit the California Academy of Sciences and go on a Bay Cruise together…or any other number of thousands of possible configurations.

It’s a great pass targeted at a leisurely paced trip where you can take your time to visit the attractions at a pace that suits you, anytime within 30 days of activating the Pass.

Prices: 

  • 3 Attractions – $72 Adult $57 Child
  • 4 Attractions – $93 Adult $72  Child
  • 5 Attractions – $110 Adult $81 Child

San Francisco Go Pass – Build Your Own

The Build Your Own Pass is a fantastic Idea for those that know exactly what the want to see. You build your pass up by choosing the attractions you want and adding them to the Pass. The list of potential attractions is also the most comprehensive, a choice of 34 attractions! Sounds perfect, however, the issue here is the limited potential savings.

You need to add a minimum of 2 attractions at which point you save 20% off the total value. That’s a pretty modest saving and A LOT more can be saved using the other pass options if you choose wisely. More on that later. However there are some attractions that are only available with this option and if these are the attractions that REALLY matter to you, there is little option. But our little Hack could be the answer…read on.

Prices: 20% off the combined Gate Price of the Attractions chosen.

San Francisco Go Pass – Packages

The Packages option is a bit of a DUD at present. In other Cities this can be a nice option, however, it has not really been implemented in San Francisco and there is only one option, so really this can be ignored.

Which Pass to Choose?

golden gate Autumn

Now we understand the Passes we need to decide which is the best option for you. This will largely depend on the trip you are planning, and which attractions interest you.

First, we will deal with the Build your own Ala Carte option. While this is Ideal for most people the savings just don’t stack up in practice. for example, say you wanted to visit the following:

  • California Academy of Sciences – $39.95
  • Hop on Hop off Big Bus Tour – $55.00
  • Golden Gate Bay Cruise – $34.00
  • Exploratorium – $29.95

With the “Build Your Own” this would cost $127 (Gate Price $159)

You could easily do these in 2 days and a 2-day Go Pass – All Inclusive costs only $116, and we are sure you could make use of some of the other attractions on the unlimited card. If not then the 4 Attraction Explorer Pass is only $93.

Really the only time to consider this option is if there is an attraction offered on this format that just isn’t on the others. However for maximum savings, if you find two attractions you want to do, you could just buy the build your own with the two loaded on at 20% off, then buy one of the other options to cover the other attractions. Yes, that way could get expensive but you will be seeing an awful lot for the best possible price!

So More often than not the Go Pass – All Inclusive or the explorer pass work out the best value.

Go San Francisco Pass – All Inclusive or Explorer Pass?

With that out of the way its down to these two. In our opinion, both of these are very good options. They provide exceptional savings and have a very broad list of mainly top quality attractions. We are more than happy recommending either. The decision should be based on the type of trip you plan to have. If it’s a short whirlwind trip where you plan to cram as much into your time as possible the Go Pass – Unlimited is a fantastic option. However, a longer more sedate trip where you plan to take your time and immerse yourself in the city, maybe taking in a lot of the food and drink culture, then having a card with a few top attractions loaded on ready to use whenever you want could be the best option.

To get the best out of the Go Pass – All inclusive you really need to cram plenty in, whereas the Explorer pass gives you 30 days to use up your allotted attractions. While not many people will be in San Francisco that long it still means even on shorter trips you won’t feel the need to chase the Pass, and can enjoy the attractions at your leisure.

Are the attractions any good?

In short, yes. The Pass in one guise or another covers most of the cities top attractions. The different attractions cover a wide array of appeals with everything from museums, to speed boat rides. It’s quite a potential line up. Some Passes from other cities have a habit of loading the lineups with dud attractions to get the numbers up. Here most of the attractions are the Cities Top Choices. Let’s look at a few of the Standouts.

California Academy of Sciences $39.95  One of San Francisco’s Must-see attractions. It’s so much more than just a Museum. It features an aquarium, a planetarium, natural history museum even a living rainforest. It really is a world-class science attraction and we advise anyone visiting San Francisco to add it to their list.

California Academy of Sciences San Francisco

Golden Gate Bay Cruise $34.00. A cruise around the Bay is a fabulous way to spend an hour. This cruise from Red and White Fleet sets out from Pier 39. As the Ferry pulls away fabulous views of the city can be enjoyed from the deck. you will then sail round under the Golden Gate Bridge for fabulous views of this iconic landmark. before siling back via Alcatraz for some great close up views. It’s a trip to remember. There are other cruises available on the passes but the Golden Gate Cruise Is a nice quick ride that still ticks off the landmarks. The others are great if you want to spend even longer on the water!

goldengate Bridge cruise

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom $57.99 We have, to be honest, that we have not been to this theme park. We tend to spend time in San Francisco enjoying what the city has to offer and trekking out of the city for a theme park isn’t what WE want to do. But it’s a world-class theme park run by one of the US’s top theme park operators, Six Flags. It has some incredible rides and is animal themed so lots of wildlife and aquatic attractions to boot. It’s great value for it to be included in the pass, and if theme parks are your thing and you want a fantastic day out this could be a great choice.

Superman Ultimate Flight at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

However, we are struggling to accept the listed gate price of $73.12 as tickets are available from the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Website for only $57.99 so you would be better booking direct rather than adding to a Build your own. Also not available on the Explorer pass. But If you have the Go Pass All Inclusive it’s an excellent choice, especially on a 5-Day Pass.

The San Francisco Dungeon $27.00 A family favorite and a great way to spend a few hours and see first hand what San Francisco was like when it wasn’t such an inviting place to visit!

Aquarium of the Bay $26.95 This neat little aquarium is devoted to only life that exists within the Bay area. While not exactly a world-class aquarium we really enjoy it. It’s definitely worth a trip if you have the Go Pass All Inclusive!

San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay

All Day Bike Rental with Blazing Saddles $32.00 Bikes are a fantastic way to see the City, and they are a handy way to get about between locations. A bike trip Across the Golden Gate Bridge is something you will never forget and a lot quicker than Hiking the 2k+ Each way! Plan your routes carefully through the World Famous San Francisco hills are really, REALLY Steep!

Golden Gate Bridge Front Traffic

That little lot of attractions would set you back a whopping $218 PER ADULT if you paid at the gate! If you could cram those into a 3-day pass, which should be no issue at all it would set you back only $146.00 PER ADULT! It’s a significant saving, nearly 40% over $72. Money well spent on something else.

Also, we have been quite modest about the number of attractions you could squeeze into a 3-day period. If you planned better and really went for it, you could do a lot more, that itinerary is quite light! And also we haven’t intentionally chosen the most expensive Attractions but the ones we really like. There are far greater savings to be had than our modest Itinerary. The above is intended to show you just how easy it is to save on the Go Pass!

San Francisco Go Pass in Practice

The San Francisco Go Pass is a really easy to use system. No Booklets or voucher swapping. The Pass uses a Smartphone based System and you simply download the App to your Smartphone and scan it at the attractions. The app has a built-in Guide to help you plan and find the attractions. If that is all a bit high tech you can Print the pass out beforehand and use that. It’s just a Simple QR card that can be scanned at the attractions.

Go San Francisco Mobile

Remember the All Inclusive Pass uses consecutive calendar days which are activated from when you use the pass at the first attraction. It, therefore, pays to activate it early in the morning so you get a full days use of the pass, activating it, later on, will mean you lose most of a full day.

TIP – We always use the Mobile option as it’s so simple. But we do carry a print out of our codes… just in case we have tech issues.

Advantages

Planning – Having an element of planning on any trip is the key to a successful trip. You don’t need to be too rigid in your itinerary but knowing what you want to see is essential. Having a pass provides a fantastic Backbone to any Itinerary. You can easily plan out your days around the attractions while fitting in different sights and attractions that are free. Such as Checking out Fishermans wharf before a cruise or renting bikes to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Inspiration – It is often the case when visiting a New city that you don’t always know exactly what is or isn’t available. It’s no surprise that some of the most common Google searches are for “things to do in xxx”. The San Francisco Go Pass offers a whole bunch of activities to inspire you on your trip. We often hear people did not know about something before they saw it included on a pass.

Flexibility – While It is essential to have a basic itinerary we find it needs to be flexible. Weather and mood can mean you simply don’t want to do what you had planned for that day. Having a pass means nothing is set in stone and you can juggle your plan around to fit the circumstance. If its giving rain for the day of you Bay Cruise simply head to the museums and do the cruise another day with better weather.

Budgeting – City Breaks can really cost a lot of cash. With costs piling up on each other. One of the big advantages of the Go Pass is you know exactly what you are going to spend ahead of the trip. So no Nasty surprises awaiting you on your return and no missing out on something because you have run out of cash!

Simplicity – The Digital implementation of the pass is fantastic it really couldn’t be easier, just scan your QR card on your phone or print out and you are in. No messing around. We really do love the way the Go Cards work. Booking everything individually is a major faff and this does away with that part of the holiday planning stress.

Disadvantages

Chasing the Pass – There is always the temptation with City Passes to try and cram too much in. Charging around trying to do everything and not really enjoying it properly and maybe even missing out on free attractions as you try and do everything on the pass. It is important to plan realistically and not try and cram everything in. San Francisco is a pretty small city and getting about is quite quick but you still have to be honest with yourself about how much you can cram in.

No Alcatraz – We would be doing you a disservice if we didn’t mention this GLARING omission. Not having the Alcatraz tour on the Pass is a major disappointment. We recommend just booking this separately if it is important to you and using the pass for everything else. It is sort of available on the San Francisco CityPASS But even then it’s a faff to access it. We wish the Pass companies would get their act together on this and include one of San Francisco’s must-see attractions.

Cable Cars – A muni pass to ride the cable cars is only available on the Explorer pass which means with the Go Pass All Inclusive you will miss out or need to buy separately. We find this disappointing. The Muni cards are a fantastic way to get about the City and enjoy the Cable cars and a 3 day Muni pass is included on the San Francisco City Pass. If they could fix these two let downs the Go Pass would be a killer pass.

riding the cable cars in San Francisco

Alternatives?

There are a number of other passes available in San Francisco and we are currently putting together a compilation page for all these. For now, you can check out our San Francisco CityPASS Review which is another choice of Pass for San Francisco, it may suit you better?

Have Your say?

Let us know if you have tried the San Francisco Go PAss or the Explorer Pass. What attractions did you visit and Which did you rate the best? Just drop us a comment. And please comment if you have ANY other questions we are happy to help!

28 comments

  1. Hi, we are thinking of visiting San Francisco in the near future and think this Attraction Pass is definitely a great idea and money saver, I love your photos great captures of the City, Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi, Audra

      Thanks for reading. Glad you agree on the money saving. Hope you enjoy the trip and thanks for the compliment on the photos we try and get as much of our own work in as possible.

  2. Great review about San Francisco Go Card. There are lots of interesting place to visit in San Francisco. You give lots of alternative and And this is a good thing from your post. I think the Aquarium Bay is the best place to visit because I like ocean life. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hi Steve, we are planning a trip there next year and I am looking at ways to get around and which attractions to visit whilst we are there. We should have a week where we can visit a few of the best attractions that San Francisco has to offer. I’m planning to visit some friends in Houston after SF. I’m going to set aside 3 or 4 days for sightseeing so which one would you recommend? I think it’s great that we can use our phones for things like this. I still remember the old days of buying passes and carrying them around!

    1. Hi, Craig Glad to hear you are planning a trip to this fantastic city! We are sure you will love it. If you are only planning to visit a few attractions then the Explorer pass may be the best option as you can take the sights in at your leisure and enjoy all the city as you go. Alternatively check out our CityPASS review which also includes a 3-day Muni transport and Tram pass to help get around.

      Have a Great Trip

  4. Hi Steve! Amazing review! I’ve always wanted to go to San Francisco and the Explorer Pass would be a very good option if I ever decide to go there! I love the fact that you don’t have to choose the attractions upfront which gives you a lot of freedom when you visit a new city. I also think that all the attractions are very interesting so, at the end, whatever you choose will probably be a good choice. Thanks again and I really hope I’ll be there soon 🙂

    1. Hi Fabiana,

      Thanks for reading glad you liked the idea of the Explorer pass. It does give a lot of freedom and doesn’t tie you down to choosing anything before hand. There are certainly a wide choice of attractions and most are very good quality additions so we are sure there is something there for everyone.

      We hope you enjoy your trip to this incredible City

  5. Wow, great article. I must have been living under a rock somewhere because I JUST learned that there was a Six Flags in San Francisco! I’m sure on my first visit there my wife will absolutely want to go there first but I personally don’t like roller coasters.

    I feel like the unlimited explorer pass would fit us well but like you said, the time it takes to do everything we want you have listed we’ll probably have to stay a lot longer than anticipated. 26+ AND we have a 2 and 4 yr old(assuming 2yrs is free-referring to the top of the page) so we have time restrictions.

    We’d probably go without the kids first then come back with them 😀

    Again, great read Steve!

    1. Hi Jaron,

      Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed it. Well Six flags Dicovery Kingdom is a little way out of the actual City (35miles) But yep its been there since 1999!

      Sounds like the Explorer pass would be great for you. It can be good to go without kids to get the lay of the land, and do a few more Adult things then return for a great family trip after. That sounds a great plan!

      Just to confirm, Yes all the attractions included on the Explorer pass admit children under 3 for free so there is no requirement for a pass. Obviously you will need an adult to go with them. It would be a very poor idea to send them on their own.

  6. I would like to visit San Francisco but usually the biggest pleasure for me is going around the city walking or by bike. Even if I won’t see everything. Is there some kind of option for exploring the city without moving much around? I’m also wondering if 3 days trip would be enough or would it be just a race and rushing from one place to another…

    1. Hi Greg,

      It sounds like maybe the San Francisco CityPASS may suit you better. This is a different type of pass that has a limited number of attractions so you don’t need to rush about.

      3 days would be more than enough to see everything on that pass and give you plenty of time to wander around and explore in your own time. San Francisco is a pretty small City so you can get about quite easily. The CityPASS also includes a 3-day Muni pass which gives you access to all buses AND the famous Cable Cars. 

      Hope you get to San Francisco soon and enjoy this fabulous city.

      Thanks

      Steve

  7. Thanks for this information. The price seems dear for children with no much of a discount for your younger ones which is uncommon, but there is a ton of things to do with the card AND I love that you can choose how many days you want the pass to be valid for. Often you find them good for one day and you just can’t possibly get all those places visited, so you opt out. I am not sure if this is the more common practice now or if this is unique to San Fran. I do love this city and we do plan to go back, so I will definitely visit this page again when it is time for us to start planning our trip so we can decide of the San Francisco Go car is worth it.

    1. Hi Lyndsay,

      The price for Children tend to be linked to the reduction an attraction would give to kids. The discount does get better with the longer pass’s $40 for a 5 day pass. It is a shame but if attractions in the area don’t offer great discounts then there isn’t much the Pass can do.

      Smart Destinations offers passes for a lot of US cities and most are either all inclusive for a number of days or a set amount of attractions (over 30 days) and there are many other passes that work the same now.

      Glad you like San Francisco, it is one of out favorites too, very different to other US Cities and a very relaxed vibe. Hope you make it back soon. 

      Thanks for reading

      Steve

  8. Hey Steve,

    I have never heard of a city having a pass like this. I just love the entire concept. It seems like it would make planning a vacation so much easier (I tend to suffer from the paradox of choice when trying to figure out where I want to go).

    I have always been interested in going to San Francisco, but I really do not know much about the city. I didn’t know that they had such and awesome Academy of Sciences. I also need to learn what the Dungeon is all about- it definitely sounds interesting.

    Thanks for the great info.

    1. Hi, 

      It is a very common theme that people haven’t heard of attraction passes before. We really do feel they massivly help in the planning of most trips. Again it’s very common people want to visit place but when they get round to it they realize they know very little practical information on the City. This was the inspiration for this site. As we always found it very hard to know where to start when visiting a new city. There is information out there but we thought we could do better.

      Hope you get to visit this incredible City soon, 

      Thanks for Reading. 

      Steve

  9. Hi there,

    Great site!

    The California Academy of Sciences looks amazing! I bet you could spend all day there.

    Do you know if you would see any dolphins or whales on Golden Gate Bay Cruise or is it really just for the sights?

    Also, I was surprised to see the bikes option, as I thought San Francisco was very hilly? Are they electric?

    Thanks for all this info.

    Julia

    1. Hi Julia,

      We do really love the academy of Sciences such a different experience to most Museums!

      There is always a chance of seeing Whales and dolphins but they are not common in the Bay and the boats certainly don’t look for them. I would certainly not count on it. You will however see California Sea lions.

      Oh Yes, San Francisco is VERY hill. The bike are not electric but still oldfashioned muscle power. The hills are pretty short and vert steep and can often be avoided or just pushed up. There are also a lot of long flat cycle route such as along the coast. Cycle hire is very popular despite the hills. It isn’t for everyone though and may require a little more fitness than some cities.

      Thanks for reading

      Steve

  10. This is awesome information on the Go Card. I lived in San Francisco for 20 years and never knew this existed. I can tell you that the attractions you list are a must-see while in San Francisco and this sounds like a bargain to me!

    It is a bummer that Alcatraz is not included. That’s definitely a must-see as well. Maybe Go Card will read your review and make that happen!

    1. Hi Vic,

      Great to hear from a local. The card really does have some excellent must see attractions and it can completely transform a trip to the City. While saving cash at the same time.

      Agree on Alcatraz too. We wish the would add it. It would make the card a complete no-brainier really, Who doesn’t want to see Alcatraz. Unfortunately there must be some issue behind the scenes with getting it added to the card. We are sure Smart destinations will have tried. They are a very smart outfit and if adding an attraction was possible they would. Especially if it would be such a BIG seller! So we guess there is an issue going on behind the scenes.

      We still think its a great pass and you can just plan Alcatraz for a different day separately.

      Thanks for reading

      Steve

  11. Hi Steve!

    Since I have visited most of the west European capitals, I find it very convenient to have a pass for most of the attractions. Especially for a city as rich in attractions as San Fransisco.
    I will have this pass in mind when I visit the city. I do like the fact that it is a smartphone app since a smartphone is omnipotent and we always carry it on us these days!
    I would myself opt, as a tourist, visiting for a few days, for the Go Card – unlimited.
    Thanks for the review!

    Marios

    1. Hi Marios,

      Yeah we find passes work the same for most cities word wide, we would love to review passes all over the world but being such a small blog we have to focus on Passes from destinations we know well and have used passes in.

      The Go San Francisco pass is a really great way to see the city be sure to check it out when you are there next. We are sure you will have a fantastic time.

      Enjoy

      Steve

  12. I love San Francisco and we are looking at visiting there for a competition. I like the idea of the pass, as it sure looks like we could save money. I am kind of disappointed that Alcatraz is not included, but when you consider how long the wait list is to get there, it is understandable. I like the idea of being able to build a pass for things we are interested in. I have had a city pass before where it just went to waste.

    1. Hi,

      Yeah it’s a big disappointment Alcatraz isn’t on the pass but it isn’t on any SF Pass and we are pretty sure the pass companies are disappointed too,it really would be a killer option if it were included! Hopefully they are working on it.

      Without proper planning passes can go to waste as you don’t make full use of the options. While the build your own is great it can work out cheaper with an explorer or All inclusive to do exactly the same things so do the math first.

      Thanks for reading, hope you love San Francisco as much as we do!

      Steve 

  13. Hi Steve,
    What a great site! I had no idea there was any such thing available as Go Cards, which makes a lot of sense from a Chamber of Commerce point of view.
    The pics of the city are awesome, did you take them?
    Do you visit these cities before creating these great reviews?
    Keep up the great work, you have a dynamite service!
    Dallas

    1. Hi Dallas,

      Yeah we hear quite a lot from people who were unaware of these products. We have a lot of faith in them so help to spread the word so people can get far more out of their trips. 

      Of course, Every city listed on our page is a City we have visited extensively. If we were just using random Cities out list would be far larger and advice far poorer. We travel the USA extensively and use our personally experiences to enrich other peoples trips! We have a Busy year ahead with more incredible USA Adventures planned, New York, Las Vegas, San Diego + several days road tripping across Nevada, Arizona, Utah and California! 

      Most of the Photo’s are ours, and taken personally on our trips, on occasion we do utilize stock Photo’s if we don’t have anything suitable, normally for something very specific!

      Thanks for the kind words,

      Steve

  14. Hi! I’ve been to San Francisco, but I didn’t visit all of those cool places. I went with a large group, and we didn’t know about the San Francisco Go Card. Is this new?

    I like how they bundle all of the activities for such a reasonable price. I have a family of 4, and buying each ticket individually could easily add up. I agree with you that buying the San Francisco go card is a good option. Great review!

    1. Hi Tiffany,

      The San Francisco Go Card has been around for a while, you must have just missed it when you visited.

      Glad you like the sound of the pass, City Visit’s certainly can end up costing a whole heap of cash so these passes are great ways to help save money, as you say when you have a family it can save so much while keeping everyone entertained! 

      Make sure you check any City before you visit to see if they offer passes as there is normally options for most Cities. and we have loads of information on different Cities and the passes on offer!

      Thanks for reading

      Steve

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