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This Discount Attractions Pass Could Save You Money on Your Next Vacation

Woman takes a picture of blue glass art.
Without a Tampa CityPASS, admission to the Chihuly Collection in St. Petersburg, Fla., costs $20 for adults, $13 for children. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder.


Everybody loves a good travel deal.

Some bargains are obvious, like comparing airline ticket prices to see which is lowest.

Other deals take a little investigating to figure out whether they’re a bargain.

Discount travel package company CityPASS bundles admission fees to several popular tourist attractions in a city for a single, lower price.

The passes are currently available in 13 North American cities:

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Boston, Massachusetts  
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Houston, Texas
  • New York, New York
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • San Francisco, California
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Southern California
  • Tampa, Florida
  • Toronto, Canada

Travelers purchase a CityPASS filled with admission vouchers to each attraction. Simply show the pass at the attraction’s entrance for admittance.

CityPASSes are valid for nine consecutive days (14 days in California) beginning with the first day of use and don’t expire for at least one year from the date of purchase.

But are CityPASSes a bargain, or is it cheaper to buy tickets to attractions individually?

We crunched some numbers to find out.

Note: All prices are current as of April 2018 but are subject to change.

What You Get With a CityPASS

Empire State Building is pictured against a pretty sky.
The New York City CityPASS will get you into the Empire State building and several other destinations. ventdusud/Getty Images

Each destination’s booklet contains admission tickets to some of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. In some cities, you can choose one attraction over another to suit your taste.               

For instance, the New York City CityPASS includes tickets to:

  • The Empire State Building
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The American Museum of Natural History

You can also choose tickets for:

  • The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • The 9/11 Memorial & Museum or the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • The Top of the Rock Observation Deck or the Guggenheim Museum

No matter which combination of admission tickets you choose, at the end of your trip you’ll have visited six popular New York City attractions for a single price.

Does CityPASS Save You Money?

To decide whether a CityPASS is a good value, you need to compare it to the cost of buying individual attraction tickets.

Here are comparisons for three CityPASS destinations, rounded to the nearest dollar.

Chicago

Adler Planetarium is one of seven attractions available on The Chicago CityPASS. benkrut/Getty Images

A Chicago CityPASS includes admission to five of these seven attractions:

  • Shedd Aquarium Priority Entry (Including 4D Experience): $45 (adults) and $35 (children)
  • Skydeck Chicago Fast Pass: $49 (ages 3+)
  • The Field Museum All-Access Entry: $38 (adults) and $27 (children)
  • Museum of Science and Industry: $20 (adults) and $11 (children) when purchased online
    • Or 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck Express Entry: $44 (adult & child)
  • Adler Planetarium Anytime All Access Pass:  $35 (adults) and $30 (children)
    • Art Institute of Chicago Fast Pass $35 (adults) and $29 (ages 14-17). (Younger Children Are Free.)

Total ticket price for admission to Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago, The Field Museum,       Museum of Science and Industry and Adler Planetarium:

  • Adult: $187
  • Child: $152

Total ticket price for admission to Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago, The Field Museum,         360 CHICAGO Observation Deck and Art Institute of Chicago:

  • Adult: $211
  • Child: $184

Total price of a Chicago CityPASS:

  • Adult: $106
  • Child (3-11): $89

Southern California

The Southern California CityPASS includes admission to Disneyland. FrozenShutter/Getty Images

A Southern California CityPASS includes admission to these three attractions:

  • Disneyland & Disney California Adventure 3-day park hopper with Magic Morning: $330 (adults) and $314 (children)
  • SeaWorld San Diego: $70 (3+)
  • LEGOLAND California: Starts at $95 (adults) and $89 (children) when purchased online

Total ticket price for admission to Disneyland & Disney California Adventure, SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California:

  • Adult: $495
  • Child: $473

Total price of a Southern California CityPASS:

  • Adult: $367
  • Child (3-9): $337

Tampa

A woman explores the Florida Aquarium
Tampa CityPASS holders can visit the Florida Aquarium and four additional attractions. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

A Tampa CityPASS includes admission to five of these six attractions:

  • Busch Gardens: $90 (ages 3 and older)
  • Florida Aquarium: $29 (adults) and $24 (children)
  • ZooTampa at Lowry Park: $35 (adults) and $26 (children)
  • Clearwater Marine Aquarium: $23 (adults) and $18 (children)
  • Museum of Science and Industry: $13 (adults) and $8 (children) OR
    • Chihuly Collection: $20 (adults) and $13 (children)

Total ticket price for admission to Busch Gardens, Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa at Lowry Park, Clearwater Aquarium and Museum of Science and Industry:

  • Adult: $190
  • Child: $166

Total ticket price for admission to Busch Gardens, Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa at Lowry Park, Clearwater Aquarium and Chihuly Collection:

  • Adult: $197
  • Child: $171

Total price of a Tampa CityPASS:

  • Adult: $107
  • Child (3-9): $97

The Pros and Cons of CityPASS

In every instance, CityPASS provided a better value than purchasing each ticket individually.

However, there are other things to consider about CityPASSes than just whether they cost less than buying individual attraction tickets. Here are some pros and cons to keep in mind.

Pros:

There are definitely some upsides to buying a CityPASS.

  • Fixed costs help you stay within your budget.
  • A CityPASS allows you to skip the lines at many attractions.
  • Planning is easier because you already know what you’ll see and do on your trip.
  • A CityPASS is good for several days, giving you the freedom to change plans on the fly.
  • There’s only one ticket booklet to keep track of instead of several loose individual tickets.

Cons:

But there are also some downsides to buying a CityPASS.

  • Once you buy a CityPASS, you’ll waste money if you don’t visit the attractions as planned.
  • You may miss opportunities to spend time at other tourist draws, including free attractions like beaches or parks.
  • You may rush from attraction to attraction to get the most value for your money.
  • CityPASSes are nontransferable, so you lose your money if your travel plans change.
  • Prearranged commitments to certain attractions may take the spontaneity and fun out of travel.

CityPASSes can be a great deal for travelers who know exactly what they want to do on their trip, but others may find that type of commitment stifling.

Whether CityPASS is a good value on your next trip depends on your destination and how many attractions you want to visit. To find out if it’s right for you, roll up your sleeves, pull out a calculator and get ready to do some math if you choose one of the locations where we haven’t crunched the numbers.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She enjoys telling readers about affordable ways to travel, so look her up on Twitter (@lisah) if you’ve got a tip to share.

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