Budget travel: Save with CityPASS

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One of my favorite ways to save on travel is using savings booklets or multi-attraction tickets. If you shop BJs or Sam’s Club, you’re already familiar with this idea — buy in bulk and save! One of my favorites is the CityPASS program.

For more than 19 years, savvy travelers who want to visit a destination’s top attractions while saving money have used CityPASS ticket booklets.

The program, which has a 98% customer recommendation rating, covers prepaid admission to top attractions in several North American destinations:

  • Atlanta CityPASS — Atlanta CityPASS attractions include the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca Cola, CNN Studio Tours, and your choice of Zoo Atlanta/National Center for Civil and Human Rights and your choice of the Fernbank Museum for Natural History/College Football Hall of Fame. Savings at the time of this post are 41% over rack rates.
  • Boston CityPASS — Boston CityPASS attractions include the New England Aquarium, Museum of Science, Skywalk Observatory and your choice of  Boston Harbor Cruises/Harvard Museum of Natural History.  Savings at the time of this post are 45%.
  • Chicago CityPASS — Chicago CityPASS attractions include PRIORITY ENTRY to Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago Day/Night Admission, All-access Pass to Field Museum, and your choice of Adler Planetarium (with extras)/Art Institute of Chicago (fast pass) and Museum of Science and Industry (Entry + one extra)/360 Chicago Observation Deck (express entry). Savings on this awesome ticket package are 50% at the time of this post.
  • Dallas CityPASS — Dallas CityPASS attractions include the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Reunion Tower GeO-Deck, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza and your choice of the Dallas Zoo/George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Savings at the time of this post are 38% over posted rates.
  • Denver CityPASS — The Denver CityPASS offers three options, a 3, 4 or 5 attraction pass, each at different rates and savings. Denver CityPASS attractions include the Downtown Aquarium, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver Zoo, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus, Denver Botanic Gardens, Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, Denver Art Museum, History Colorado Center. Savings depend on which program you choose.
  • Houston CityPASS — Houston CityPASS attractions include the Space Center Houston, Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and your choice of Houston Zoo/Museum of Fine Arts and Kemah Boardwalk/Children’s Museum of Houston. Savings at this time are 48%.
  • New York CityPASS —  New York CityPASS attractions include the Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA), and your choice of Top of the Rock Observation Deck/Guggenheim Museum, Ferry Access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island/Circle Line Sightseeing Cruisees, and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum/Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Savings at the time of this post are 44% compared to rack rates.
  • Philadelphia CityPASS — Like Denver, the Philadelphia CityPASS offers 3, 4 and 5 attraction passes at various discounts. The Philadelphia CityPASS attractions include Adventure Aquarium, The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Zoo, Big Bus Company and Philadelphia Trolley Works, One Liberty Observation Deck, Eastern State Penitentiary, Please Touch Museum, Museum of the American Revolution, Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, National Constitution Center and Barnes Foundation. Savings with the Philadelphia pass can be 45% at the time of this post.
  • San Francisco CityPASS — The San Francisco CityPASS comes in two options — the 3 Attraction Mobile Pass (called C3) that includes your choice of three of the following: California Academy of Sciences, Blue & GOld Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure, Aquarium of the Bay, Exploratorium, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Walt Disney Family Museum, Bay City Bike & Parkwide Bike Rentals, de Young Museum + Legion of Honor. This pass nets a 38% savings over rack rates. The other San Francisco CityPASS option (which I have used and absolutely loved) includes a 3-Day Cable Car and Muni Bus Passport, the California Academy of Sciences, Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure, Aquarium of the Bay and your choice of Exploratorium/San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Savings are 46% at this time.
  • Seattle CityPASS — Seattle CityPASS attractions include the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, and your choice of the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)/Woodland Park Zoo and Chihuly Garden and Glass/Pacific Science Center. Savings on attractions at this time are 49% over posted ticket prices.
  • Tampa Bay CityPASS — This one offers HUGE savings of 54% over published rates! The Tampa Bay CityPASS includes (NO JOKE) Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium, Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park, Clearwater Marine Museum and your choice of the Museum of Science & Industry/Chihuly Collection. While I think this program always offers great value, this one takes the cake! If you’re planning a Tampa area vacation with a day at Busch Gardens, this is the best value I think you can find.
  • Toronto CityPASS — Toronto CityPASS attractions include the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Casa Loma, the Royal Ontario Museum and your choice of the Toronto Zoo/Ontario Science Centre. At this time, that saves 36% over regular admission prices.

How does CityPASS work?

CityPASS is a booklet containing actual admission tickets to top attractions in each city. With each booklet, you pay one substantially reduced price and avoid main entrance ticket lines at most attractions. Let me say that again: YOU SKIP THE TICKET LINE (usually)! Think about it, money savings and time savings — that’s a win! No matter how you slice it!

1. How to purchase CityPASS tickets

Purchase CityPASS ticket booklets online for the greatest convenience. It’s best to order a month before travel so they can be shipped to your home in time. Some cities, like Denver and San Francisco offer a mobile ticket option which is super easy.

But if you don’t plan ahead, you can buy ticket booklets at any of the participating attractions. Either way, you pay the same low price, saving up to 50% off regular ticket prices.

I strongly recommend you purchase ahead of time to save time standing in line, and to make vacation planning easier!

Using New York as an example, the actual ticket price of included attractions is $230 for adults. But, the New York City PASS purchase price is only $132, a savings of 44%! So, not only do you get to see the city from the Empire State Building 86th floor observatory, you do so for about half the price! Win!

Photo Credit: ® Empire State Building, used with permission

2. How to redeem CityPASS tickets

During your trip, skip the ticket line (usually) and head to the members-only or ticket holder entrance. The tickets work just like a general admission ticket.

You’ll get to see the most famous attractions in participating major cities at an amazing price AND skip the line to save time. It’s that simple.

CityPASS Philadelphia One Liberty Observation Deck — Interior
Photo Credit: Courtesy of One Liberty Observation Deck, used with permission

Most participating attractions recognize ticket holders as VIPs and treat them accordingly — motioning them to the turnstile, allowing them immediate entrance to museum galleries, including them in special members-only entrances, or even identifying exclusive entrances.

Why we use City PASS

When planning travel to major cities, one of the first things I do is check to see if it participates in this program.

Click here for the current list of CityPASS locations

First time visitors can see a city’s most popular attractions and save 40-50% on admission. And it saves time because you don’t have to go through the ticket line.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chihuly Garden and Glass, used with permission

To stretch the vacation budget on big city travel, CityPASS certainly is one of the best!

For more information on our favorite big city vacations, check out these posts!