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Chicago CityPass vs. Go Chicago Passes

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This post covers Chicago city passes to help you determine which tourist attraction discount pass may be best for you, including CityPass and GoCity passes.

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BEFORE YOU BUY

With so many options, we have broken down the tourist passes by type and then go into detail about each pass.  

The Go Chicago Pass is an all-inclusive pass (think all-you-can-eat buffet) that includes entrance/access to 26 top attractions, tours, and activities.

Chicago Go Card Discount Pass

This pass is the most expensive but has the potential to save you the most money and it gives you the most flexibility, but in order to get those savings, you will need to stay busy.

Next is the pick'em passes, such as the Explorer Pass, where for a set price you purchase a pass with a specific number of attractions, tours, or activities (typically between 3 and 5 ) and you pick from their list of attractions.

Go Explorer Chicago Card

In general, the range of attractions is fewer than what is available with the all-inclusive pass above, but the selection is still large.

You won't likely save as much as the above-mentioned pass, but you will have more flexibility. 

Lastly, there are prepackaged passes that bundle several specific popular attractions, thereby saving you money. These passes are like a Prix-Fixe/set-menu dinner. 

CityPass Chicago

These have the least amount of flexibility, but you will be certain about what you are getting.  

Things to Consider

If at first glance some tourist passes seem too pricey, take the time to do some math.

When you calculate the regular cost of the attractions you want to see and compare to the price of a pass, you'll find that you will save money.

We recommend that you decide in advance what you want to see, then find a pass that includes most, if not all, of those activities. 

The biggest mistake travelers do is overestimate the time and stamina that they will have, so be realistic.

Of course, we encourage you to consider our pay-what-you-like tours and our Chicago bus tour comparison post when deliberating about these passes.


GO CHICAGO PASS - (All-Inclusive)

To see the most on a visit to Chicago lasting between 1 to 5 days, the Go Chicago Pass can be hard to beat! 

Purchasing this all­-inclusive pass gives you admission to as many attractions as you can fit into the number of consecutive days you purchase.

You'll save up to 45% when you purchase a Go Chicago Pass.

There are 29 attractions to choose from.

For less intense sightseeing pass options, check out Smart Destination's Explorer (3 or 5 Attractions) pass below.  

All Go Chicago Passes have a 30-day zero risk refund policy, and you have up to 1 year from the date of purchase to activate your pass. 

Chicago GoCity Explorer

Before you buy:

As recommended with any of these packages, you want to plan ahead in order to get the most out of Go Chicago Pass.

While you have unlimited access, you do have limited time. Make sure you look at days and hours of operations for each attraction, and factor in travel time.

Grouping activities in nearby locations can be a great way to get in more than just a few things in a single day! However, there are some places you’ll want to spend more time in than others.

Do your research and this could be a very good buy.

Prices (as of April 2021):

NOTE: Prices listed below are full retail prices. Often discounts are available.

  • 1­ Day: Adults $114 | Children (ages 3-­12) $79
  • 2­ Day: Adults $162 | Children $119
  • 3­ Day: Adults $192 | Children $139
  • 5­ Day: Adults $229 | Children $165
  • More information or to purchase.

Pro tip: In the city for 3 days? Consider getting a 2­ day pass instead of a 3 ­day. You don’t want to lock down all your time in the city; you never know what you might discover while exploring place to place.

Purchase the Go Chicago Pass online and show your phone or printed copy at the gate.


CHICAGO EXPLORER PASS ( 3, 4, or 5 ATTRACTIONS)

This pass lets you pay one price, and grants admission to 3, 4, 5, or 7 attractions from a list of 25+ at a discounted rate. You can save up to 40% off normal ticket prices.

This pass is flexible in that you do not need to pre-select your choices and it is valid for 30 days from your first visit, so you can take your time making your choices.  

All Go Chicago Passes have a 30-day zero risk refund policy, and you have up to 1 year from the date of purchase to activate your pass. 

Chicago Explorer Pass Details

Prices (as of April 2021):

NOTE: Prices listed below are full retail prices. Often discounts are available.

  • 2 Attraction Pass: Adults $66 | Children (ages 3-12) $37
  • 3 Attraction Pass: Adults  $84  |  Children (ages 3-­12)  $53
  • 4 Attraction Pass: Adults  $112  |  Children (ages 3-12)  $73
  • 5 Attraction Pass: Adults: $124 | Children (ages 3­-12): $89
  • More information or to purchase.

Before you buy:

The Explorer Pass doesn’t have the time pressure of the Go Pass and gives the most options for visitors looking for discounts on a wide range of attractions.

But it takes more planning and research than the City Pass. This means you’ll need to use your calculator to see your potential savings, but if you visit the more expensive attractions with your pass, you can save a bundle.

We recommend instant delivery via online purchase, as the lines at the ticket booth locations can get long.

You can also have the tickets sent to your mobile device.


PREPACKAGED PASSES

Chicago CityPASS

The CityPASS is a booklet of 5 admission tickets that saves 53% off the most popular attractions in Chicago, and you skip the long lines for entrance.

CityPASS is a must if you plan to visit all of these popular educational attractions because the savings are huge.

You have 9 consecutive days from the first use to visit all of the attractions, so you can take your time. Each of these stops has a ton to see and do, especially if you bring kids along.  

Sites included on CityPass:

  • Shedd Aquarium – All-access admission including permanent exhibits, animal presentations, special exhibit and Stingray Touch (seasonal), plus a 4-D Experience.
  • Skydeck Chicago – Expedited Entry to Willis Tower’s 103rd Floor. Also includes admission to The Ledge. 
  • Field Museum – All-Access Pass (admission to all permanent and regularly-priced ticketed exhibitions, and your choice of one digital 3D film). Film selection subject to availability. Additional charges may apply for specially ticketed exhibitions outside of the All Access Pass.

Plus your choice of admission to 2 of the following attractions:

  • Art Institute of Chicago – Fast Pass Admission to permanent collection and non-ticketed special exhibitions
  • Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago – Museum entry (Science StormsNumbers in Nature: A Mirror MazeYOU! The Experience, and much more), plus one timed-entry experience (Giant Dome Theater film, Coal Mine tour, Fab Lab, or our current temporary exhibit, Wired to Wear) 
  • 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck – Express Entry Admission
  • Adler Planetarium - will fully reopen in March 2022 and will be one of the option attractions included in CityPASS.

360 Chicago—Tilt, interior

Prices (as of 2021):

  • Adults: $109 (full admission price $213.90)
  • Children (ages 3-­11): $89 (full admission price $174.90)

Here is our suggested three-day itinerary which leaves you enough time to spend at each location to get your money’s worth.

  • Suggested Day One: Shedd Aquarium/Field Museum
  • Suggested Day Two: Art Institute/Skydeck Chicago*
  • Suggested Day Three: 360 Chicago OR Museum of Science and Industry

Pro Tip: This package fills up your itinerary, but if you only want to visit only one or two of the attractions listed, see the Explorer Pass above for a more flexible/cheaper option.

For the CityPASS, we suggest that you purchase tickets online. Once you buy, you can show your tickets from your mobile device at the gate and get a fast VIP entrance. Easy!


Chicago Skyscraper Combo

Huge Chicago Savings Pass

A fitting name for a great package deal! For just $79 you get admission to 2 great sightseeing spots, plus a 2­-Day ticket to the amazing hop-­on-hop-­off Big Bus Tour.

What you get:

Prices (as of 2021):

Pro tip: This makes an amazing gift for friends or family visiting Chicago for the first (or second!) time.

The Big Bus Tour alone is worth $59 and allows you to navigate the city for 48 hours as much as you like. Click here to purchase.


Viator VIP Package

This package isn't currently available, but they may bring it back in the future.

Fill your Saturday and see all the top spots with this package!

Begin with early access to the Willis Tower Skydeck, before you hop on a trolley for a narrated tour of top Chicago attractions, grab a snack (own expense) at Navy Pier, and finish on a cruise with a free drink!­ on the Chicago River with an architecture savvy guide.

The tour lasts about 6 hours (8 am­ - 1 pm) and ends at the Navy Pier, a tourist hot-spot.

Itineraries

Option A

  • 8 am: Access to the Skydeck
  • 9:15 am: Board the trolley for a 2 ­hour city tour
  • 11:15 am: Arrive at Navy Pier
  • 1 pm: Architecture cruise

Option B

  • 8:30 am: Access to the Skydeck
  • 9:45 am: Board the trolley for a 2­ hour city tour
  • 11:45 am: Arrive at Navy Pier
  • 1 pm: Architecture cruise

Price: $124 

To purchase the VIP Package, click here.

Before you buy:

Because this is a VIP package, you’ll experience perks such as first dibs on Willis Tower views, which after opening hours can be obstructed by crowds, but what you’re paying for here is a full day’s itinerary planned out for you.

The Willis Tower general admission costs $22, which means you're paying about $50 apiece for the trolley and boat tour.

But for six hours of guided Chicago sightseeing, and its great customer reviews, this package is worth including.

Pro tip: It looks like from the ratings that this tour is NO fun when the weather is wet. We recommend this package on clear, sunny days only.


Trusted Tours Grand Tour of Chicago and 360 Chicago Combination

For a reputable bus tour of the city that ends with a view from up high, Trusted Tours offers a great combo.

You’ll travel around the city, stopping at Lincoln Park Conservatory and Adler Planetarium, and of course the 360 Chicago attraction.

Highlights

Prices (as of 2021):

  • Adult: $70.25
  • Child (ages 5-­14): $44.60
  • Children under 5 are free when seated on a parent’s lap.
  • Purchase this combo here

Before you buy:

The savings aren’t as big here, so you’re paying for the convenience of hotel pick-up/drop-off and a full day's itinerary planned for you. 

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