Best Washington DC Tourist Attraction Passes

This post compares the different tourist attraction passes and combos that are available in Washington, DC, There is so much to see in the city – and luckily many sites have free admission! However, some of the best museums, such as the Newseum and the Spy Museum do have entrance fees.   Which one (if any) is right for you?

 


Before You Buy

And with the sites spread out, it may be worthwhile to invest in transportation options around the city.  Depending on what you have planned for your trip and how long you’ll be visiting, these DC attraction passes can really save you a lot of money.  However, it can be difficult to know what will be best for your particular trip when it comes to purchasing passes.

There are several different passes to choose from, and we have broken them down by type.  Just follow the links for more details, but here is a quick summary. 

  • There are passes that allow you to choose a set number of attractions and tours.  These passes usually give you the option to choose, 3, 5 or more options from a large pool of options. 
  • A build-your-own pass is even cheaper, allows more flexibility and certainty (think à la carte) but limits the savings even more.
  • Lastly, there are numerous hop-on, and hop-off bus tour companies that offer their own combo deals.

It can be difficult to decide which, if any, are right for you.  Therefore, we recommend deciding on what you want and have time to do first before choosing which pass you would like.  In other words, don’t necessarily let the pass(es) decide for you where to go, but certainly get ideas from what is offered.  Also, check out our section on how to save without a pass for more options and tips.

Remember Our Tours

Don’t forget about all of our “name your own price” walking tours of the city! You can save as much as you like with our tours. For a full list of our tours offered, check out our calendar.


Tourist Passes

There are 2 tourist pass options in Washington DC. These “cards” let you choose a number of attractions for a set price that will offer you free or discounted admission to a variety of attractions. These options are good for people who know what they want to see. These do allow flexibility as you don’t have to choose which sites exactly you want to visit until your trip. Both passes below offer a trip on the CitySights hop-onhop-off bus route.

 

 

SMART DESTINATIONS EXPLORER PASS

Smart Destinations offers the DC Go Card (also called the Explorer Pass).  The pass has 10 attractions or services to chose from.  There are 2 main options.  You can choose 3 attractions for a set price or 5 attractions.  There is a 3rd option (Do It Yourself) that allows you to save 20% the retail ticket prices if you purchase at least 2 attractions.  For many people, this may be the best value out there.

Costs:

3 Attraction Pass

  • $54 for Adults
  • $34 for Children (Ages 7-12)

5 Attraction Pass

  • $84 for Adults
  • $54 for Children (Ages 7-12)

Build Your Own Pass

  • 20% off retail prices if you choose at least 2 attractions or services.

Benefits:

The Smart Destination Pass for Washington DC allows free entry to a combination of 10 attractions. You can choose a 3 attraction option or the 5 attraction option.  It also offers a hop-on-hop-off bus service with CitySights. Just purchase and download/print the pass and show it at the gate. It will allow you to bypass paying at up to 3 or 5 attractions of your choice.  

Children under 7: It does not say that they are free but rather suggests that most attractions are already free for those under 7.  All Smart Destination passes come with 100% money back guarantee for unused passes (up to 1 year after the expected date of use).

Attractions Included:

  • Newseum
  • CitySights Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour
  • Washington Monuments Boat Cruise
  • Mount Vernon Estate (George Washington’s Home)
  • Madame Tussauds
  • International Spy Museum
  • National Geographic Museum
  • Bike and Roll DC
  • The Capital Ferris Wheel
  • Boating in DC (seasonally)

Things To Consider

If you have a child under the age of 7, double check with the attractions about their child policy. If they require admission, you may want to get a child’s pass.

You do not need to choose your attractions in advance (unless you choose the 3rd option), but once you visit a site, that counts as one attraction and you can only go once. You can stay as long as you want, however!  You have 30 days to visit your 3-5 attractions and up to a year to begin your first visit.

Some attractions require reservations.

Purchase your Smart Destination Pass Here


CitySights Sightseeing FlexPass 

Purchase your CitySights Sightseeing FlexPass here

Choose a package with either 1, 2 and 4 Attractions.  Choose from more than 17 attractions.  You have 7  days visit the number of attractions you purchased.  All passes include their One Day Express hop-on-hop-off double-decker bus tour and see sights such as the White House, Washington Monument, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and more.

Among the 17+ attractions you can choose from are: 

Cost for Pass + 1 attraction

  • Adult: $49
  • Child: $ 29  (Age 3-11) 

Cost for Pass + 2 attractions

  • Adult: $59
  • Child: $ 39  (Age 3-11)

Cost for Pass + 4 attractions

  • Adult: $89
  • Child: $ 59  (Age 3-11)

Things To Consider

  • The Sightseeing Flexpass is accepted by all the listed vendors, so you can choose as you go – no advanced commitments or reservations needed! Simply show your Pass at each attraction for free entry. 
  • The pass is valid for 7 days from first use.
  • Purchase your CitySights Sightseeing FlexPass here

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Bus Company Passes

Some of the hop on hop off bus companies offer discounts if you purchase attractions alongside their bus tickets. These Bus Passes are usually for 24 or 48 hours (though the CitySights pass below is good for 7 days) and give you access to their bus routes and then discounted or free admission to a number of DC attractions. These all have live guides on the main bus routes and a night tour option.


Big Bus Tour 48 Hour Combo Pass Plus 2 DC Attraction Pass

Big Bus is an international hop-on-hop-off bus service that offers tours in Washington, DC.  There are four different loops, with live guides for the National Mall but prerecorded commentary for Georgetown, National Cathedral, and Pentagon. There are over 40 stops throughout the city.  You can view the loop map here.   Their 48-hour ticket can be a good value.  

 

 

They also offer a Washington DC and NYC combo package, which is a great deal if you are visiting both cities.

Cost:

  • $69 for Adults
  • $55 for Children (Ages 5-15).
  • Children under 4 are free, but all children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • DC and NYC Package is $99/Adults and $75/Children.
  • Purchase Your Big Bus Tour Tickets Here

Benefits:

Each 48-hour hop on-hop off ticket also comes with:

tussauds

  • Madame Tussaud’s Museum – Interact with wax figures of all the presidents and celebrities. Your free admission includes speedy entry.
  • 2.5 hour night tour – Willard Hotel departure at 7:00 pm or Union Station departure at 7:30 pm.  Highlights include the Lincoln, Martin Luther King, FDR, Iwo Jima, Vietnam War, and Korean War Veterans Memorials plus The White House.  Live Guide!
  • Free Hour Bike Rental – With the purchase of a one-hour rental
  • 8 Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, and Mandarin Chinese

Things To Consider


Old Town Trolley – 2 Day Pass with Arlington National Cemetery Trolley Tour

 

 

Purchase Your Old Town Trolley Tickets Here

Cost:

  • Adult: $39-99
  • Children: $29-70 (Age 4-12)
  • Children under 4 travel free.

Benefits:

Old Town Trolley offers three loops. The main National Mall and Downtown, plus a shuttle tour of Arlington National Cemetery, and an additional extended loop for the National Cathedral and Uptown. All loops offer a live driver/guide.

 

How to Get to Arlington National Cemetery

 

  • You can add on the Arlington National Cemetery Trolley Tour for a live guided tour of the cemetery that lets you hop on and hop off at key places around the cemetery.
  • There is an option to add a Moonlight Monument tour.  This live guide 2.5-hour tour visits three stops, the  MLK Jr. Memorial/ FDR Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Iwo Jima Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial stop also serves the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial and the Korean War Veteran’s Memorial allowing you to see these sights in a different light.
Things To Consider:
  • Unlike most packages, you do not have to use your 2 days consecutively with the Old Town Trolley package.
  • Old Town Trolley is the only option to tour inside Arlington National Cemetery by bus/trolley. You can buy single ANC Tram tickets at the ANC visitor center for $12 a person.
  • There are many options for packages based on what you want to see. You can do single or two day passes, with an additional green loop, and any of the attractions below:
    • Newseum
    • Madame Tussauds
    • DC Duck Tour
  • Purchase Your Old Town Trolley Tickets Here

CitySights Double Decker 48 Hour Plus 5 DC Attraction Pass

Purchase your CitySights Freestyle Pass here

Cost:

  • Adult: $124
  • Child: $109 (Age 3-11)
  • Less expensive options available by choosing fewer attractions

Benefits:

CitySights has three loops from the National Mall, to Washington National Cathedral & Georgetown, and another that shuttles you to Arlington National Cemetery and Pentagon City Mall. All loops have recorded commentary.

Admission to the National Geographic Museum

Compact museum displaying photographs & rotating exhibits on scientific expeditions & explorations.

Night Tour

A fully narrated 3-hour tour of the memorials and National Mall. Bus stops at Lincoln (Vietnam, Korean), MLK/FDR and Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial.

Up to 5 Attractions

Rates vary depending on how many attractions you choose:newseum

Things To Consider

  • The Freestyle Pass is accepted by all the listed vendors, so you can choose as you go – no advanced commitments or reservations needed!
  • 48 hours consecutive use of the hop on hop off system.
  • Purchase your CitySights Freestyle Pass

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Build Your Own DC Pass

If you know the places you want to visit and are looking for a discount, check out the Build Your Own  Pass from Smart Destinations (think – à la carte). Choose 2+ attractions and receive discounts of up to 20% on admission.  The drawback here is that your savings are will likely be lower, but there are more options on what sites you can include.

Before You Buy:

This pass option offers less of a discount but is a good deal if you plan on only visiting a few attractions during your DC visit or if the attractions that you choose are not expensive enough to justify the cost of the Explorer Pass. The price for this pass varies based on the attractions you select, and the number of people in your party.

Click here to see the options of the Build Your Own DC Pass.


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 “DO IT YOURSELF” attraction pass 

Sometimes the passes available don’t fit in everything that you want to do. Some things to keep in mind when creating your own discounted admission to area attractions:

Many area attractions are free, though advance tickets may have a small processing fee. The time you’ll save waiting in line is worth it!

  • All Smithsonian Museums are free and require no tickets.
  • Holocaust Memorial Museum is free, but summer months require timed tickets. Advance tickets are recommended and these do have a small processing fee. Read our post on getting tickets.
  • National Archives and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are both free, but if you want to skip the lines, get advance tickets online for a small fee. Read our posts on the Archives and BEP.
  • Washington Monument tickets are free for same day tickets. In busy times, you might have to start lining up at 6 am. Advance tickets are recommended. Read our post on how to get tickets.
  • Capitol Building Tours are free, even the advance reservations. Or you can take one of our Capitol Hill tours! Read our post on how to get tickets.

There are, however, some great museums that do have admission fees. Purchasing tickets in advance can save you $$!

Now that you have your advanced reservation tickets, how are you going to get around town?

 


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