San Francisco is a fantastic City to Visit. Its Iconic streets and landmarks coupled with a cool, chilled-out Vibe make it one of our favorite cities in the USA for a City Break. There is also a whole host of really worthwhile paid attractions to visit while in the City. Of course, the cost of these attractions can really add up, and with the cost of food and lodging already pretty steep it can mean you miss out. One way to reduce the cost and see more is to purchase an Attraction Pass. These nifty little attraction Packages mean you see more of what you want and pay less. But with a few options available which San Francisco Attraction Pass is best? and do you need one At all?
Our San Francisco City Pass Comparison Guide takes a look at all the options and shows you which pass would suit your trip best and takes a look at the advantages and drawbacks of having a pass to see if a Pass is the best option for you, or if you would be better just paying for attractions as you go.
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Is a Pass Right for You?
There are as many different destinations as there are travelers, we all experience the joy of travel in different ways and an Attraction Pass is not suited to all kinds of Trips or all kinds of travelers. San Francisco is a thriving city with a thousand things to do without spending a penny. San Francisco’s relaxed hippy vibe and many iconic sights and landmarks, along with many open spaces and beautiful vistas really do encourage a trip where just enjoying the City is the main draw. For these types of trips, a Pass probably doesn’t suit. However, if you are looking at doing some of the many great paid attractions while in the City it makes sense to see if you could save some money while doing so!
Some of the Paid attractions are quintessential San Francisco Experiences, Such as Riding the Cable Cars, The California Institute of Sciences, and Taking a cruise under the golden gate Bridge.
Attraction Passes in San Francisco are pretty reasonable and offer some great things to do on top of the substantial savings they offer. For example, the CityPASS Offers 4 Top Attractions for only $76. That will give you a great taste of the city and won’t break the bank. There are several other reasons an Attraction pass makes sense too!
Often visitors are unaware of what is actually on offer in a City and we hear all the time how people didn’t know certain attractions were available. We often find one of the best ways to get to know what’s available in a City is through an Attraction Pass.
One of the most asked questions on any Travel Messageboard is “how much money do I need to Take?” While a Pass will not answer that question, what with food, drink, shopping, transport, and other costs mounting up. It does give one simple flat fee that is easy to work your budget around. Buying beforehand also means it won’t come out of your Travel dollars so you won’t run out of cash and won’t come home to any nasty shock on the credit card bill. It means you will be able to fund any attractions you want so you will never be a victim of the “we wish we had done” syndrome.
Having a good plan is essential to get the most out of any trip. Just rocking up and seeing how it goes tends to lead to a trip filled with doing very little. Having a Pass is a perfect way to pull together an itinerary. While we never like to be too rigid in our planning A basic idea of what you will be doing is essential.
As we said above a plan is essential but it needs to be flexible. Things change, the weather interferes, and sometimes you just don’t feel like doing something. Having a pass doesn’t tie you to anything so you can alter your plan or move days around to make the most of your time, and have the best trip you can.
Downsides and Pitfalls
Not everything is perfect in the attraction Pass Garden though, these Passes can have certain drawbacks and pitfalls.
Chasing the Pass
This is the term we give to the urge people have to charge around San Francisco trying to cram in as much as possible in order to get maximum value from the Pass. It leads you to do too much, not giving attractions the proper attention they deserve, Seeing too much of what doesn’t interest you, and failing to take in the other sights and sounds of the City. A pass should be used to ensure you get to see everything you want to see, not so you can charge around and see everything even if you don’t want to!
Planning too much
Like Chasing the Pass you need to be realistic in how much you can do in a day. San Francisco is pretty small, but attractions are often value for money and as such can take a while to visit. The California Academy of Science takes at least a half-day for example. We only advise planning on 2-3 attractions a day MAX. And even then you may end up very Drained at that sort of PACE!
We address this fully below, but it is pretty disappointing none of the San Francisco Passes include Alcatraz Tours!
Overall We think if you are planning on seeing the attractions anyway it makes perfect sense to use a pass. The advantages just about out-weight the negatives even if you ignore the cost-saving. But the 40-50% that can be saved really can’t be sniffed at! That could easily pay for an amazing Dinner in Chinatown one evening!
Lets now take a look at the Passes on offer:
- San Francisco CityPASS
- Go San Francisco Pass
- San Francisco Explorer Pass
- San Francisco Sightseeing Pass
San Francisco CityPASS
- Product: San Francisco CityPASS
- Price: $84 (12+)
- Price Child: $64 (5-11)
- Where to Buy: Buy Direct at CityPASS.com
- Number of Attractions: choose 4 of 7
- Time Limit: 9 consecutive days
- Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 – Stars
- Read Our Full in Depth Review Here
- California Academy of Sciences
- Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure
2 further Choices:
- Aquarium of the Bay
- The Walt Disney Family Museum
- San Francisco Zoo & Gardens
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The San Francisco CityPASS is the “official” City pass for San Francisco. This allows you to visit a number of San Francisco’s best attractions for one flat fee. The initial outlay is reasonable for the number and quality of attractions available, they are mainly top-tier headline attractions.
As the itinerary of the CityPASS is very limited you need to make sure the attractions included are definitely ones you want to visit. There is very little wiggle room so if the attractions on offer don’t tie up with what you have planned you probably need to avoid this Pass.
The CityPASS attractions are mainly first-rate though so there is a good chance these will be the attractions you are interested in. We go into a lot more detail in our Full Review. The Museums on offer are world-class and not your usual types of museums! There is Nothing Stuffy and Boring here. A Bay Cruise is a brilliant way to see the City from a Different Perspective and get up close and personal under the Bridge. We really like the Aquarium of the bay to learn about the actual sea life that lives in the bay.
There is a lot to like about the City PASS and its really low purchase price helps make it a serious competitor in the San Francisco Pass Market! It’s just really limited in what it offers
CityPASS Savings –
If you visit all the attractions available then the total cost would be $130-$151, Depending on Which attraction you chose 3rd and 4th choice. With the Pass costing $84 That is a sizable saving of $46-$67
Go City Pass – All-Inclusive and Explorer
Product: San Francisco Go Pass / Explorer Pass
- Price: $59 – $158
- Price Child: $46 – $132 (Child 3-12yrs)
- Where to Buy: GoCity.com
- Number Of Attractions: 28+ Top Attractions
- Time Limit: 30 consecutive days or 1-5 days unlimited
- Expiry: 2 Years or 90 Day Money Back Guarantee
- Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.5 – Stars
- Read Our Full In-Depth Review Here
Attractions Included – 26 +
- California Academy of Sciences
- Escape From the Rock Cruise
- Hop on Hop off Big Bus Tour
- Aquarium of the Bay
- and Many more…
Go City offers a number of different pass options for San Francisco, let’s take a closer look below, or check out our in-depth review here. It’s important to remember that the list of attractions available on the different options is not always the same so double-check before choosing that the attritions you want are available on the option you choose!
San Francisco Go Pass – All Inclusive
The San Francisco Go Pass – All-Inclusive allows you to visit any number of attractions for a set fee for a number of days. You simply buy the pass for a number of days and you can use it to visit as many attractions as you like from the list of available attractions.
This is a great option for people who want to see and do everything. There isn’t much to do in San Francisco that isn’t included on this pass. The downsides are the fairly high cost (compared to the CityPASS and Explorer pass), although it does represent good value, and the risk of Chasing the pass, basically trying to just fit everything in to attempt to extract maximum value. All at the expense of actually enjoying your trip. Trying to cram in attractions you don’t really want to do just to use the pass. However, you just need to be strong and just use the pass to see what you actually want to see.
This is the most expensive option, but the number of attractions you can see and do makes it the best value. You will get the biggest savings and see more of the City than with any of the other Passes. If you are looking for a hectic action-packed trip this is the best option.
- 1 Day – $68 Adult $57 Child
- 2 Days – $101 Adult $85 Child
- 3 Days – $127 Adult $106 Child
- 5 Days – $158 Adult $132 Child
Go San Francisco Pass Savings
In our review of the Go Pass, we gave a very manageable Sample Itinerary. This produced some staggering Savings, Covering the cost of a 3-Day Pass in ONE DAY!
We crammed in $297 of attractions from the 3Day Pass ($127) Giving an amazing $170 of Savings at over 50% off the gate fees! And that doesn’t take into account the Promo Codes we offer over on our Promo Code Page! The pass really offers some serious savings if used correctly.
San Francisco Explorer Pass
The San Francisco Explorer Pass takes the opposite approach to the All-Inclusive. With this card, you choose the number of attractions you would like to visit. and you then have 30 consecutive days to visit these attractions. You do not need to choose the attractions until you actually visit them. Simply visit any of the attractions on the list and the number available will decrease by one.
This option suits a traveler who is more inclined to take their time and visit the paid attractions when it suits them and enjoy the city as a whole. not having to rush attractions gives you time to soak up the city a bit more. If you choose the right attractions it’s also great value.
- 2 Attractions – $59 Adult $46 Child ( $29.50 per Attraction)
- 3 Attractions – $63 Adult $53 Child ( $21 per Attraction)
- 4 Attractions – $81 Adult $72 Child ( $20 per Attraction)
- 5 Attractions – $96 Adult $80 Child ( $19.20 per Attraction)
It is more expensive than the CityPASS But the Pass covers more expensive options Like the Big Bus Tour. If your intended attractions are the same as the CityPASS It may be worth choosing that to save a few extra $ but it’s close, especially with our codes. But if those particular set of attractions doesn’t float your boat the San Francisco Explorer Pass is sure to have something to tickle your fancy, the range of options is far more varied.
Go San Francisco Explorer Pass Savings
Let’s take a 5 Attraction Pass($100) and pick the following:
- Hop On Hop Off Big Bus San Francisco – $59
- Escape From the Rock Cruise – $46
- California Acadamy of sciences – $40
- Aquarium of the Bay – $29
- Blazing Saddles Comfort Bike Hire – $32
- Total Gate Price – $206
- Pass Price – $96
- Saving – $110 or 55%
A massive $110 Saving and over 55% off. These are the top end of the savings you can expect but they are pretty incredible! And again remember our Promo Codes!
San Francisco Sightseeing Pass
- Product: San Francisco Sightseeing Pass
- Price: $64-$129 Flex – $74-$169 Day (13+)
- Price Child: $40-$85 Flex – $52-$141 Day (3-12)
- Where to Buy: Buy Direct here for the Best Price
- Number of Attractions: 20+
- Time Limit: 30 days or Day Pass
- Rating: 2.6/5 Stars
- Read Our Full in Depth Review Here
- Aquarium of The Bay
- At&t Park Tour
- Madame Tussauds
- San Francisco Dungeon
- Full List here
The Sightseeing Pass is the New Pass on the Block and has only recently come to the market. In some Cities we see this brand making big waves. In New York, it’s really shaken things up! But here it is a bit of a Damp Squib. It is well-priced and offers a huge amount of Flexibility in the purchase options. The Flex pass offers a set number of attractions while the Day Pass offers all-inclusive for a set number of days like the Go City offers.
Where it falls down is the list of attractions! It is pretty light and very light on quality attractions with some of San Francisco’s big hitters completely absent. For this reason, we really don’t recommend it. Of course, as we said it’s still a new Pass so Time may well see more and more added and if that’s the case the established passes might have a fight on their hands!
Look out for our full review as we take an in-depth look.
Which Pass to Choose?
Which Pass to choose is very dependent on the type of traveler you are and the type of trip you are planning. We think the San Francisco CityPASS is a good option. It gives a great selection of top attractions and is very easy to use and competitively priced. However, as the attractions are set, they need to match what you are planning to see. If they are of no interest to you it is really not worth the money.
The Go Card All Inclusive is aimed at those who want to do it all. If a non-stop all-action trip is on the cards this is a fantastic choice you really will get to see as much as time will allow, often a bit too much as you rush about the City. Remember to take some time out to enjoy San Fran for what it is.
The Explorer Pass is another great option but mainly geared toward the relaxed pace traveler as there is a 30-day window to use your attractions up, most people will only be limited by vacation time, leaving a lot more time to see and enjoy the City. It is a great option for very short trips as you can bespoke your itinerary to the amount of time you have, if you are only in town for a day it might be the best option!
Both the All-inclusive and Explorer Go City Passes offer a fantastic variety of attractions and for us, this is what clinches it. You just need to choose which type of trip you are after, hectic all guns blazing or relaxed, and take your time pace.
And ALWAYS check Our PROMO Code page out to see if there is a code available to save EVEN more money!
You may have noticed a bit of an elephant in the room. One of San Francisco’s TOP attractions is a tour of Alcatraz Island. None of the passes offer this as a direct option. We find this a bit disappointing as we know so many of you are wanting to visit the old Federal penitentiary.
The Escape the Rock Cruise option included on the Go City Passes does not land on the Island and simply gets you close to the rock for a good look, along with an interesting narrated commentary.
Our Advice is simply to ignore Alcatraz as a PASS option and just book the cruise separately. Alcatraz Cruises is the only tour operator and they have a bit of a monopoly on the island so it is sometimes just easier to just book direct.
The big selling point for the CityPASS was always the inclusion of a 3-day Muni Pass. This offered fantastic transport all around the City, it also included unlimited rides on the Cable Cars! This has now been discontinued and it really makes the CityPASS far less appealing.
While we are super happy the Cable cars have started back up, they are still missing from all passes, so you will need to buy the Muni Pass separately if want to Ride the Cable Cars.
Have Your Say
Let us know what you think of the different attraction Pass options? have you used one? was it good Value in your Opinion? What did you think of the attractions themselves? Just drop us a comment or if you have any further questions feel free to ask away.
8 thoughts on “San Francisco Attraction Pass Comparison! San Francisco CityPASS vs Go City San Francisco Pass”
I’ve always wanted to visit San Francisco, I live on the other east coast so it is super far, but I am almost ready for a trip to CA, and am definitely stopping by at San Francisco. Thanks for sharing this guide, will be using it and the options you recommended during my trip.
We know it’s quite far across America, but only a few hours on a plane, for us its a 12hour transatlantic trip, and worth every minute. We are sure you will love CA when you finally make it San Francisco is a fantastic stop but there is so much to see and do in Cali. We will be writing extensively on the subject.
We hope you enjoy your trip and thanks for reading, so glad you found it useful.
Alcatraz! I would love to visit this attraction one day, and as you recommended I would choose a separate cruise that time, it’s a mysterious spot with lots of details that have to be discovered.
I enjoyed reading your article, and you really encouraged me to visit San Francisco City.
Yes Alcatraz is a fantastic place to visit. Just one of the many attractions in San Francisco. It is such a shame it isn’t really included on the City pass’s but its easy enough to just book separately and worth the time and costs to see this historic jewel.
Glad you enjoyed reading and hope you enjoy your trip to San Francisco.
Hi Steve, thanks for this wonderful breakdown for the different city passes that are available.
My wife and I were in San Francisco last spring and we loved it.
We did however have a trip that was more like the 2nd line under your opening heading, Is a Pass Right for You?
We spent 3 nights near Fisherman’s Wharf and just soaked up the food, atmosphere and fun of doing very little.
I managed the some marvelous Cioppino from the family run Aliotos that was to die for.
We did take an evening sunset cruise around the bay that we really enjoyed. It was not an Alcatraz cruise but I got some great pictures from the backside of Alcatraz.
Thanks again for this helpful post,
That sounds a wonderful Trip. There is nothing at all wrong with just soaking up what San Francisco Offers, after all there is so much to do that’s free/cheap. 3 nights at fisherman’s wharf sounds like heaven too us. We are always torn between seeing and doing everything…or doing nothing! We love Cioppono too such a fantastic dish, you might like to read our what to eat in San Francisco guide?
We are really happy you enjoyed reading our guide, sounds like it brought back some fantastic memories!
This is a pretty cool website Steve. We are planning a trip to New York later this fall so I’m going to have to check that page out as well.
We spent our 2016 anniversary weekend in San Francisco and had a great time. We booked Alcatraz direct, and I don’t remember it being too terribly expensive. And it was probably my favorite part of the whole trip. It’s really pretty there and so interesting to tour the old prison. We loved visiting the Japanese Tea Garden, and we also spent a day a bit north in the Muir Woods. Probably the only thing I thought was overrated was Lombard Street. Just too packed for how much of an attraction it is, but that wouldn’t be included in the passes anyway… since it’s free.
Great food as well. Loved the sourdough bread bowls you can get at the Boudin restaurants. Anyway… awesome site. I’m sure I’ll be back to read more.
Hi Dustin, Hope our New York pages help with your upcoming trip. We have loads of info and tips on New York. Its a breath taking City!
Sounds like your trip was fantastic, Alcatraz is a great place to visit really like nowhere else on earth, just steeped in ominous history. We are glad you managed to see the area surrounding San Francisco too. We always encourage people to get out the city a bit. While San Francisco is such a great city, the surrounding country side is incredibly beautiful too. And you just can’t go to San Francisco and not have a bread bowl Just delicious.
We are thrilled you like our site, feel free to check back anytime, we are constantly writing new content all the time.