San Francisco CityPass vs Go Card [Which is Best and Worth It]

I don’t know what it is about the city of San Francisco, but I just love being a tourist there. I get giddy with the anticipation of hanging off the side of a cable car. I am fascinated by the sea lions at Pier 39. I love walking the streets for hours, admiring the architecture and exploring different neighborhoods. I never, ever tire of looking at the Golden Gate Bridge. It is one of my favorite cities and so I was thrilled to recently have the chance to share the City by the Bay with my daughter. And since we were going to be tourists for two days in San Francisco and visiting so many of the main attractions, I thought maybe it was a good time to check out the ultimate tourist tool — the CityPass.

But I had to ask, is CityPass San Francisco worth it?

CityPass marketing materials make a big deal about how you can save 45 percent on some of the city’s top attractions, Altogether, if you paid full price for all attractions, you’d spend $171.90, versus CityPass’s cost of $94 ($126.90 vs $69 for children 5-11.) To decide if CityPass San Francisco is worth it, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • How long will you be in town? (CityPass is valid for 9 days)
  • Will you be spending any other time in the surrounding area? (Like visiting the Monterey Aquarium perhaps?)
  • How many of the attractions do you really want to visit and how many you can you really visit?

Is CItyPass San Francisco worth it? We take a look at the real savings of using a CityPass or Go Card San Francisco when visiting with family.

Is CityPass San Francisco Worth It?

CityPass gets you entry into four attractions: The California Academy of Sciences (in Golden Gate Park), Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruises (departing from Pier 39), either the Aquarium of the Bay (at Pier 39) or Monterey Bay Aquarium (in Monterey) [UPDATE: Monterey Bay Aquarium is no longer included in the CityPass], and either the Exploratorium (great for kids) or de Young Museum + Legion of Honor (also in Golden Gate Park). In addition, you get a seven-day passport to the Muni and cable car public transportation.

So technically, if you have at least two days in San Francisco, you can make full use of the CityPass. Here is what you can do, for simplicity I just calculated the savings for one adult.

Sample 2 Day Itinerary using CityPass

  • Take a Cable Car from Union Square down to Fisherman’s Wharf (savings $6.00)
  • Stop by the Blue & Gold Fleet office to book the morning Bay Cruise Adventure (mornings are best if you want to find a spot outside for better bridge viewing) (savings $29.00)
  • After your cruise, stop by the information center at Pier 39 to pick up your saving pack (coupon included in your CityPass) for more discounts on restaurants and shops
  • Enjoy lunch at the wharf and then hop into the Aquarium of the Bay (unless you were planning on visiting Monterey later in your trip) (savings $19.95)
  • Take the F line street car from Pier 39 to the Exploratorium (savings $6.00)
  • Visit the Exploratorium (savings $29.00)
  • Walk down to the Ferry Building for a snack (maybe some ice cream at Humphry Slocombe?) and then take the California Cable Car back to the Union Square area (savings $6.00)
  • The next day, take the #5 bus to Golden Gate Park and hop off by the de Young Museum and California Academy of Sciences (savings $2.25)
  • Spend a couple of hours in the California Academy of Sciences enjoying their rainforest, aquarium, and natural history exhibits  (savings $34.95)
  • Rent some bikes to explore more of what the park has to offer before taking the bus back downtown (savings $2.25)

How much would you have spent? $135.40. Subtract the cost of the CityPass and you’ve saved $41.40. But if you don’t want to be so busy, or you’d like the flexibility of dropping something off your itinerary without feeling guilty about not maximizing your savings, you might want to think twice about investing in the CityPass.

Bottom line? If you are visiting San Francisco with your family and plan to spend at least two days touring the city, the CityPass is a good investment if the attractions sound interesting and you are committed to visiting each of them, but….there is also another option.

Is CItyPass San Francisco worth it? We take a look at the real savings of using a CityPass or Go Card San Francisco when visiting with family.

Is Go Card San Francisco Worth It?

The Go Card San Francisco covers a lot of what the CityPass offers…the Aquarium by the Bay, a bay cruise, and the California Academy of Sciences, but instead of the Exploratorium, you have some other museum options and instead of the Muni/Cable Car pass, you can use a Hop On/Off Trolley (which isn’t as convenient). Altogether, the Go Card San Francisco offers a whopping 27 attractions, which is a lot to do in just a few days,  but luckily they let you choose between 1, 2, 3, 5, or 7 day options, starting at $60 for an adult and $45 for a child (age 3-12.)

The Go Card covers:

  • Ripley’s Believe it or Not ($18.99)
  • Hop On/Off Trolley Tour ($45.00)
  • Red and White Fleet Cruise (1 per day) ($38.00)
  • Bay City Bike Rentals and Tours ($32.00)
  • S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien tour ($12.00)
  • Angel Island Ferry ($15.00)
  • Angel Island Cafe (20% discount)
  • Aquarium of the Bay ($19.95)
  • Pier 39 Festival Marketplace (Discount coupons)
  • Wipeout Bar & Grill (20% savings)
  • Pier Market Seafood Restaurant (20% savings)
  • Fog Harbor Fish House (20% savings)
  • Local Tastes of the City Tours ($10 off)
  • Cartoon Art Museum ($8.00)
  • California Historical Society ($5.00)
  • Contemporary Jewish Museum ($12.00)
  • Yerba Buena Center for the Arts ($10.00)
  • Children’s Creativity Museum and Carousel ($20.00)
  • AT&T Ballpark Tour ($22.00)
  • Go Car Tours ($28.00)
  • Asian Art Museum ($15.00)
  • Bloomingdale’s (15% savings)
  • Westfield San Francisco Centre (VIP Savings Passport)
  • Conservatory of Flowers ($8.00)
  • California Academy of Sciences ($34.95)
  • deYoung Museum ($10.00)
  • Legion of Honor ($10.00)
  • Haas-Lilienthal House ($8.00)
  • The Beat Museum ($8.00)
  • Urban Trek USA sightseeing tours ($6.00 off)

Outside San Francisco:

  • USS Hornet ($20.00)
  • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom ($44.99)
  • University of California Botanical Garden ($12.00)
  • Bacchus & Venus Wine Tasting ($18.00)
  • California’s Great America ($38.99)
  • Chris’ Whale Watching in Monterey ($37.00)
  • Wine Country Tour by San Francisco Sightseeing Company ($88.00)
  • Muir Woods & Sausalito Tour by San Francisco Sightseeing Company ($21.60)
  • Yosemite Day Tour by San Francisco Sightseeing Company ($25.00 savings)
  • Monterey & Carmel Tour by San Francisco Sightseeing Company ($37.60 savings)

CityPass vs Go Card San Francisco, which one should you get? Are they really worth it?Sounds amazing, right? Yes, there are a lot of attractions, but how many of them will you really use if you are visiting for just two days with your family? I’ve bolded the ones that you are likely to use in two days in San Francisco, following a similar itinerary to the one outlined above, and the savings add up to $210.89 (minus the 2-day pass cost of $88 = savings of $122.89.) If you are also planning on a day in Monterey or Wine Country, the additional $21.00 in cost for the three-day pass will also pay off.

Bottom line? Depending on the attractions you are planning on visiting, the Go Card San  Francisco is the better deal, especially if you are planning a longer time in San Francisco and want to take some day trips outside of the city.

NOTE: I recommend looking at the programs and the attractions you want to visit as what it covers changes over time and prices may increase.


CityPass vs Go Card San Francisco, which one should you get? Are they really worth it? I break down the attractions, costs and the savings to decide.

Have you ever used CityPass or a Go Card? Did you think it was worth it?

Note: I was provided complimentary CityPass and GoCard savings booklets by San Francisco to facilitate my review of attractions in the city. The opinions expressed above are my own and represent my thought process and calculations I will do in the future when I consider purchasing a CitypPass or GoCard on my own.


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4 Comments on “San Francisco CityPass vs Go Card [Which is Best and Worth It]

  1. May I ask where did you find the opportunity to do this? Contact them? I would love to get this and review.

      You can buy them online or at the visitor center. I was working with the San Francisco tourism board who provided them for free for purposes of review.


    Are you sure that you can go to the Monterey Bay aquarium with the citypass of SF ? There is absolutely no reference of it in the citypass website.



      Interesting. I just checked the site and I don’t see it either. It could be that the program has changed so I’ll update the post.

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