Boston Tourist Passes | Which One is the Best to Buy?
This post provides a comparison of the various Boston attraction discount passes. Boston is a bustling city with many wonderful museums and historic sites to visit. To help mitigate the costs, a number of companies have created Boston tourist passes which offer entrance to popular attractions at a discounted price.
- Before You Buy
- Prepackaged Passes
- All-Inclusive Go Boston Card
- Explorer Pass 3 or 5 Attraction
- Build Your Own Pass (à la carte)
- Bus/Trolley Packages
BEFORE YOU BUY
We have broken down the tourist passes by type. There are several to choose from.
Prepackaged passes choose the places that you will see (think of a set-menu dinner with some variations).
Other passes, such as the Explorer Pass let you choose 3 or 5 attractions from a menu of 19 attractions and tours.
The Go Boston Card is an all-inclusive pass that includes 41 options (think of an all you can eat buffet).
There is also a pass that lets you build your own number of attractions, be it 1, 2, 3 or more (think à la carte).
Lastly, several bus and trolley companies offer their own combo packages.
If at first glance the tourist passes seem too pricey, be sure to calculate the estimated cost of visiting all the attractions you hope to see. When properly planned, these tourist passes can actually save you a lot of time and money.
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 decide for you where to go.
We’ve broken down the details of two of the most popular companies offering tourist passes — Boston CityPass and Smart Destinations Boston — to help you decide which pass is the right fit for you.
As you look at the variety of options keep in mind your budget, interests, and stamina. Everyone’s tastes are a little different, so not all packages are right for all people.
Remember Our Tours
Don’t forget about all our “name your own price” walking tours of the city! For a full list of our tours offered, check out our calendar.
Choose from several different pre-built packages that give you discounted access to several different attractions for a one-time fee. With these packages, you are guaranteed to save between 30%-43% and can visit each place once over a 30 day time period.
Prepackaged passes are great if you know what you want to do before you arrive. The savings per attraction are on the high end for tourist passes, however, if you have more interests, you might find better savings overall with the other discount pass options.
City Pass and Smart Destinations are the only 2 companies offering discounted prepackaged passes in Boston.
The CityPass is a booklet of 4 admission tickets that can save you 43% off ticket prices to Boston’s top attractions and lets you skip the long lines at the front door.
Attraction Admissions Included in the Boston CityPass:
- New England Aquarium
- Museum of Science
- Skywalk Observatory
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston OR Boston Harbor Cruises
Prices (as of 2018)
- $59 – Adult (full admission costs $96.25)
- $47 – Child (ages 3-11) (full admission costs $76.05)
For the CityPass, we suggest that you purchase tickets online, or at any of the attractions listed above (though you’ll need to stand in line). Once you buy, you can show your tickets on your mobile device at the gate and get fast VIP entrance. Easy!
Benefits of the CityPass
If you have ample time in Boston and intend on visiting all of the attractions listed, then the CityPass is a great way to explore on a budget. The 9-day time frame makes the pass perfect for anyone planning a long trip.
Also, the opportunity to skip lines could potentially be a huge time saver, especially if visiting Boston during the busy months. However, if you are pressed for time or not particularly interested in all 4 attractions, it might be better to look elsewhere.
Things to consider before buying the Boston CityPass
Traveling with kids? Some museums offer discounts to children under the age of 18. For example, The Museum of Fine Arts is $25 for adults, but $10 for those 7-17 and free for ages 6 and under. Also, the Harvard Museum of Natural History is $12 for adults but $8 for those 18 and under.
Smart Destinations Packages
Additionally, Smart Destinations, which focuses on larger tours passes (see below) also offers several pre-packaged activities passes that give you discounts to the most popular attractions in Boston. These are especially great options for families who need to buy multiple tickets and who are looking for more family-friendly options:
Boston Family Fun Pass
- Entrance to New England Aquarium and your choice of Skywalk Observatory OR Fenway Park Tour, and Museum of Science OR Museum of Fine Arts
- Gives you up to 30% overall savings on entrance
- Adults – $49
- Children – $29
- Click here to learn more and book.
Things to Consider:
These particular passes are best suited towards people who are interested in seeing a number of attractions without the restrictions of a 1-3 day time limit. If you’re already planning to visit some of the sites listed above, then these attraction passes are a great way to save — especially as a family!
Smart Destinations is another fantastic company that offers 3 different options for tourist discount packages in Boston.
The first is all-inclusive and based on the number of days, while the second and third options let you build your own experiences. Each offers unique perks, so be sure to read about each.
All cards come with a risk-free, money-back guarantee. If your plans change or you do not activate your pass(es) within one year, you get a full refund, no questions asked. Alternatively, they also offer great discounts on specific attractions.
Rather than buy a pass for a specific number of days, Smart Destinations also allows you to purchase passes that give you entry into a certain number of popular sites for a discounted rate.
The Go Boston Card is a pass designed to give you discounts of up to 55% on 43 different attractions, from museums to tours, customizable for 1, 2, 3, 5, or 7 days. These days are consecutive.
This kind of pass is a great option if you plan to visit a number of attractions on a given number of days. The more days you choose, the more value you can extract out of each day.
All-Inclusive Pass Pricing
Prices (as of 2018):
- $59 – Adult 1 Day Pass ($39 – Child 12 & under)
- $81 – Adult 2 Day Pass ($59 – Child 12 & under)
- $40/day/adult and $30/day/child
- $119 – Adult 3 Day Pass* ($79 – Child 12 & under)
- $39/day/adult and $26/day/child
- $149 – Adult 5 Day Pass* ($109 – Child 12 & under)
- $30/day/adult and $21/day/child
- $179 – Adult 7 Day Pass* ($129 – Child 12 & under)
- $25/day/adult and $17/day/child
Premium attraction admission is included with a 3, 5 and 7-day pass. Choose from Boston Duck Tours, New England Aquarium Whale Watch, or a Boston Red Sox Ticket.
We recommend that you purchase the Go Boston Card online to avoid lines. The Pass is activated when you visit your first attraction.
To make the best use of the Go Boston Card, you’ll need to plan your day’s itinerary. Luckily, you’ll get a guidebook with your order that helps with planning. The guidebook also includes restaurant suggestions and is a great tool for planning your exploration of Boston. See a full list of attraction discounts included here.
Calculate Cost Per Hour:
You need to calculate the cost per hour of each tour and attraction to make sure that you are getting the best value possible, and you should make your calculations based on the actual best price and not the retail price.
Likewise, the suggested amount of time for each attraction and tour is usually the best case scenario and you may very well find that you need more time than is indicated and you may experience fewer options than you planned. You need to calculate travel time between attractions as well as time for lunch and dinner.
Unlike the All-Inclusive Pass, the Explorer Pass lets you choose either a 3, 4 or 5 attraction bundle to see over 30 days that can save you up to 35% on admission. Unlike the All-Inclusive Pass, the Explorer Pass has only 19 attractions to choose from compared to 41 for the All-Inclusive Pass. However, like the All-Inclusive Pass, there’s no need to decide what you will see before you arrive in Boston.
You will like this pass if you are certain that you want to see at least 3 of the attractions listed on their website, but don’t want to feel pressure to have to visit as many things as possible to get the value out of your pass. If your plans change or you do not activate your pass(es) within one year, you get a full refund, no questions asked.
Prices (as of 2018):
- $74/Adult, $49 Child (3-12) (3 Choices)
- $94/Adult, $59 Child (3-12) (4 Choices)
- $109/Adult, $69 Child (3-12) (5 Choices)
The 35% savings is probably the very best you could get by choosing the most expensive options. As we wrote previously, it’s probably a mistake to let the card dictate what you will do. The Explorer Pass offers just 1/2 of the attractions and tours that All-Inclusive Pass offers, so be sure to take a look at what is available before deciding on either.
If you know the places you want to visit and are looking for a discount, check out the Build Your Own Boston Pass from Smart Destinations (think – à la carte). Choose 2+ attractions and receive discounts of up to 20% on admission.
In some ways, this pass is the middle ground between the two previously mentioned Smart Destination passes, as it lets you decide how many options to choose but also has more options like the all-inclusive pass. The drawback here is that your savings are will likely be lower.
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 Boston 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.
If you’d prefer a bus or trolley tour, there are several different packages to choose from as well. Each of the 3 tours explores different aspects of Boston including a general history of the city, the Boston Tea Party, and Boston’s haunted history. These are a great way to maximize your time in the city if you’re only in Boston for a few days. Each offers great savings, though the Boston Old Town Trolley Tour is the most budget-friendly.
Boston Old Town Trolley Tour
- All day hop-on, hop-0ff tour of Boston’s most historic sites with free admission to Old State House and $10 Off Admission to Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
- $37.76 per person (normally $93)
- Click here to learn more and book
Ghosts and Gravestone Tour
- This tour runs from late March through October and brings to life all of the most haunted places in Boston
- $35.91 (normally $39.90)
- Click here to learn more and book
Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
- This tour aims to take you back in time and highlight the ways that the Boston Tea Party influenced American history
- $25.20 per person (normally $28 per person)
- Click here to learn more and book