There is so much to see and do in San Francisco, and it’s generally not a cheap place to visit. So, when we find something that saves us money, we want to shout it from the rooftops. Today, that is the San Francisco CityPASS, a way for tourists to save on admission to several key city highlights.
I lived in San Francisco for 15 years (before we moved to New Zealand) and it is still one of my favourite cities. We tried out the San Francisco CityPASS, on our last visit, and found it easy to use and a big savings. This page highlights how we use it, and has been updated to reflect current changes.
This page reflects the changes to San Francisco CityPASS effective March 1, 2020. Prior options have been removed.
What is the San Francisco CityPASS?
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CityPASS provides entry to key tourist locations in a variety of US cities. It cuts the queue in most cases and offers upgrade options in others. In San Francisco, it includes four entries, and the pass price will save you more nearly 50% over the price for each entry individually.
Importantly, the San Francisco CityPASS is valid for nine days from the first time it is used, gives you flexibility for entry days, and provides entry to the following destinations:
- California Academy of Science
- Blue & Gold Freel Bay Cruise Adventure
- Aquarium of the Bay OR the Walt Disney Family Museum
- Exploratorium OR the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens
Highlights of the places we visited with the San Francisco CityPASS
California Academy of Sciences
Located inside Golden Gate Park at 55 Music Concourse Dr.
Hours: Mon-Sat 10 am to 5 pm and Sun from 11 am to 5 pm.
Where else can you find an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and four-story rainforest all in one destination?
Tips for visiting the California Acadamy of Sciences:
- Head to the planetarium first to get a timed ticket for the show.
- There is an exhibit with live penguins in the back of the African Hall.
Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure
Located at Pier 39.
Hours: boats sail daily beginning at 10 am.
This narrated cruise goes out on the bay, around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge. With a bit of advance planning, cruise tickets can be swapped for a 2.5 hour Alcatraz Island day tour. Details are on the Alcatraz Island tour page of the San Francisco CityPASS website.
Tip: Bring a jacket, as it can get cold out on the bay, and in summer the fog will roll in during the afternoon.
Located at Pier 15
Hours: 10 am to 5 pm, closed most Monday’s. Check their website for details.
CityPASS includes the option of the Exploratorium OR the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens
A hands-on experimental museum with more than 600 interactive exhibits. Although our girls were a bit too young for it when we lived in San Francisco, it was one of their favourite spots. This visit was with friends and their toddler. They confirmed that waiting until school age is a better option. Of course, with late-night Thursdays offering cocktails, you know there is plenty to keep adults interested too.
Tip: Be sure to visit the camera obscura on the upper level.
Aquarium of the Bay
Located at Pier 39
Hours vary by day and season, so check their website before you go.
CityPASS includes the option of the Aquarium of the Bay OR the Walt Disney Family Museum
Practical information for the Aquarium of the Bay:
- Based on location, it is an ideal destination to visit either before or after a bay cruise.
- Don’t forget to walk to the end of Pier 39 to see the sea lions that have chosen to take up seasonal residence on the docks.
Is the San Francisco CityPASS a good deal?
At its core, the San Francisco CityPASS is a good deal. However, the real question should be, is it a good deal for me. And that can only be answered based on how many days you have in the city, and what you hope to do during your time. For us, even doing only three of the four activities, the pass saved us money.
Like all cities, there are far more than six great things to do in San Francisco. If your highlight and must-see options are covered by the pass, then yes, it’s a great deal. If not, then not so much.
You can see all the details and get your San Francisco CityPASS here.
CityPASS is also available in other US destinations. Click here to see the complete list of CityPASS cities.
Travel planning tips
Flights: We use Skyscanner to find all the available flight options at the best prices.
Rental Car: We always use RentalCars.com, a rental car search engine with no hidden costs.
Accommodations: We use Tripadvisor to check ratings and book lodging when we travel.
Travel Insurance: We purchase insurance that covers medical and travel emergencies when we head overseas. We start with World Nomads.
Packing Tips: Get a free copy of our packing light checklist when you sign up for our mailing list. (We pack light, yet have everything we need.)
**Find more money-saving resources on our Travel Resources page.
Will you get a San Francisco CityPASS on your next visit?
San Francisco is one of the highlights of our USA road trip.
Other areas to explore in the USA:
Disclaimer: We were provided with the San Francisco CityPASS, as well as complimentary entry or other benefits to many places above. The opinions expressed here are strictly my own.