UPDATED based on new CityPASS pricing for June 2022.
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 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 $138.70 (depending on which attractions you chose), versus the CityPASS cost of $76 (or $67 for a 3 attraction pass). 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)
- How many of the attractions do you really want to visit and how many you can you really visit?
- Which attractions do you want to visit and do you want the flexibility to choose from the entire list?
Is CityPass San Francisco Worth It?
CityPASS gets you entry into four attractions:
- The California Academy of Sciences (in Golden Gate Park)
- A Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure (departing from Pier 39)
- Plus a choice of two of the following:
- Aquarium of the Bay (at Pier 39)
- San Francisco Zoo and Gardens
- The Walt Disney Family Museum
So technically, if you have at least two days in San Francisco, you can make full use of the CityPASS, although you might be more comfortable spreading the attractions out over three days.
Just keep in mind that if you don’t want to be rushing from attraction to attraction during a short stay in the city, you can now also purchase a three-attraction CityPASS option for $67 per adult. This three-attraction pass allows you to choose three from any of the attractions above or:
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ($25 per adult)
- Bay City Bike and Park Wide Bike Rentals (from $32.00)
- da Young Museum + Legion of Honor ($15 per adult)
Sample 2 Day Itinerary using CityPass
Here is what you can do, for simplicity I just calculated the savings for one adult using the four attraction pass. Keep in mind that some attractions require advance registration, which you can do even when using a CityPASS. Other attractions may require proof of vaccination.
- 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) (regular cost $36.00)
- Enjoy lunch at the wharf and then hop into the Aquarium of the Bay (regular cost $29.75)
- Walk along the waterfront or take the F line street car from Pier 39 to the Exploratorium
- Visit the Exploratorium (savings $29.95 – reserve tickets in advance)
- 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
- The next day, take the #5 bus to Golden Gate Park and hop off by the California Academy of Sciences
- Spend a couple of hours in the California Academy of Sciences enjoying their rainforest, aquarium, and natural history exhibits (regular price varies but around $42.25, reserve tickets in advance)
- Rent some bikes to explore more of what the park has to offer before taking the bus back downtown
How much would you have spent on attractions? $137.95. Subtract the cost of the CityPass and you’ve saved $61.95 per adult.
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.
Is Go CITY San Francisco an Option?
If you are looking for other options, the Go City San Francisco card covers a lot of what the CityPASS offers…the Aquarium by the Bay, a bay cruise, the California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium, and tons of other attractions including a Hop On/Hop Off bus.
Altogether, the Go City San Francisco card offers over 25 attractions, which is a lot to do in just a few days, but luckily they let you choose between all-inclusive passes that include all the attractions, and the Explorer Pass that includes just 2, 3, 4, or 5 attractions.
Of course the price depends on how many attractions you choose. To compare apples to apples, let’s pick the four attraction pass for the same attractions that are included in the CityPASS.
The Go City price for a four attraction pass is $79. That is just a little more than the $76 CityPASS.
I would pick the CityPASS over a Go City Card UNLESS you are spending more time in and around San Francisco, as the Go City Explorer Pass is valid for up to 60 days, which makes it a good options even for locals wanting to play tourist in their home towns. If you have time to visit more attractions, chances are one of the Go City pass options is a good alternative. However I would still recommend that you do the math between the regular price of the attractions you want to visit and the current cost of the card.
NOTE: I recommend looking at the programs and the attractions you want to visit as what it covers changes over time and prices may change.
Tamara Gruber is the Founder and Publisher of We3Travel. A former marketing executive and travel advisor, Tamara is an award-winning travel writer and recognized expert in family travel. She is also the publisher of YourTimetoFly and the co-host of the Vacation Mavens travel podcast.