CityPASS vs. Go San Francisco Card vs. Sightseeing Pass

This post compares and reviews the various San Francisco tourist passes to help you decide which pass (if any) is best for you. Most of San Francisco’s top things to do are included.

 


 


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 San Francisco Sightseeing Pass and the Go San Francisco Card are All-inclusive passes (think all-you-can-eat buffet) that includes entrance/access to a long list of attractions, tours, and activities. 

These passes have the “potential” to save you the most money and gives you the most flexibility, but in order to get those savings, you will need to stay busy.

Next are the Choose # of Attractions passes such as the San Francisco FlexPass and the Explorer Pass, where you purchase a pass with a specific number of attractions, tours or activities (typically 2, 3 or 5) and you pick from their list of attractions. 

In general, the range of attractions are 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. 

A Build Your Own pass is like ordering food from a menu à la carte. Add as many attractions as you want. There is no set price since it varies by the number of attractions you purchase, but the more you add the more you save. 

This type of pass has the most flexibility of all passes and packages mentioned on this page, but the savings (up to 20%) are the most limited.  This pass may be a good fit for those who aren’t sure they could get the full benefit from the previously mentioned cards but are certain to visit at least 2 listed attractions.

There are prepackaged passes that bundle several specific popular attractions, thereby saving you money. These passes are like a prix fixe/set-menu dinner.  These have the least amount of flexibility, but you will be certain about what you are getting.  

Lastly, there are combo passes that include Alcatraz along with a few other attractions, usually bus tours to other locations in San Francisco.

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

And don’t forget about all our “name your own price” walking tours of the city!

 


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Go San Francisco Card 

Package Type: Intense Planner | On-the-Go | Day or Week Long Trip

With flexible options and pricing for 1­-5 consecutive days based on your needs, the Go San Francisco Card can’t be beaten! This all­-inclusive pass means you are granted free admission to as many attractions as you can fit into the number of days that your pass allows.  There are 28 attractions to choose from.

All Go San Francisco Cards have a zero risk refund policy.  If you don’t activate your pass up to 1 year after your travel date, all your money will be refunded no questions asked.

 

 
 

Prices (as of 2018):

  • 1­ Day: Adults $79 | Children (ages 3-­12) $69
  • 2­ Day: Adults $119 | Children $99
  • 3­ Day: Adults $149 | Children $119 
  • 5­ Day: Adults $189 | Children $149
  • Learn more or to purchase.

Check out our sample 3 day itinerary that focuses exclusively on getting the most out of the Go San Francisco Card!

Before you buy:

As recommended with any of these packages, you want to plan ahead in order to get the most out of Go San Francisco Card.  While you have unlimited access, you don’t have unlimited 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!

All Go San Francisco Cards have a zero risk refund policy.  If you don’t activate your pass within 1 year of your travel date, all your money will be refunded no questions asked.

 


San Francisco Sightseeing Pass

Package Type: Intense Planner | On-the-Go | Day or Week Long Trip

This all-inclusive pass allows you to choose how many days you would like a pass for, and within that time you can visit as many attractions you want for just one price. There are over 18 different activities and locations you can enjoy with the San Francisco Sightseeing Pass.

If you intend to see a lot of sights around the city, this pass will also save you time because you won’t need to wait in line to purchase attraction tickets at every location you visit.

Passes are available for 1, 2, 3, or 5 days. Once you activate it by visiting your first attraction, the clock starts ticking. Be mindful of the time as the pass is for consecutive days.  Conveniently, the San Francisco Sightseeing Pass is valid for 12 months after initial purchase.

A great feature of this pass is that it includes a free hop-on-hop-off bus tour. This service will take you to many of the locations included with the San Francisco Sightseeing Pass, making it pretty easy to get around town.


Prices (as of July 2018):

Below are the prices that include a 20% discount on the 3 & 5-day passes.  In order to get these prices, you need to use our exclusive promo code: FTBF

The prices in red underneath each multiple-day pass listing is the average cost per day. The longer the pass, the lower the daily cost.

  • 1-Day: $69/Adults | $49/Children
  • 2-Day: $105/Adults | $95/Children
    • [$52/day/adult and $47/day/child]
  • 3-Day: $119/Adults | $87/Children
    • [$40/day/adult and $29/day/child]
  • 5-Day: $159/Adults | $143/Children
    • [$32/day/adult and $29/day/child]

Click here for more information or to purchase. Don’t forget to enter our exclusive promo code FTBF for a 20% discount!

 


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CHOOSE # OF ATTRACTIONS

Package Type: Moderate Planner | Extended Stay

There are a few passes (sometimes referred to as ‘pick’ passes) that allow you to create a pass by the number of attractions and activities, rather than the number of days.

These passes (Mega Pass, Explorer Pass, the Sightseeing FlexPass and the iVenture Card) offer the option to buy between 1- 6 attractions. You ‘pick’ your attractions from a list of attractions, many of them among the most popular, and expensive.

By purchasing a pass, rather than each attraction individually, you can save up to 50% off the total cost of your sightseeing.

You do not need to choose in advance which attractions you will go to or what days you will visit them. Even better, most ‘pick’ passes are valid for 30 days from the date you first activate it.

Another nice perk is that at some attractions you will get fast-track entry and get to skip some general admission lines!

One slight downside to these kinds of passes are that to make the most of your savings, you should do considerable pre-planning and research. You may even want to take out your calculator.

For example, if you pick attractions that are the most expensive (over $20), your savings will be higher. This approach assumes that you actually want to see those attractions.

Watch out for attractions can be visited for free on certain days or hours. Also, there may be similar attractions and activities you can get at a lower price. As an example, if you want to take a walking tour, why use one of your ‘picks’ when you can try one of our pay-what-you-wish tours

 


Explorer Pass

This pass lets you pay one price, and grants admission to 3, 4 or 5 attractions that you choose from a list of 25 attractions at a discounted rate. You don’t need to pre-select your choices when buying, but will be cut off after you’ve used your 3, 4 or 5 admissions. The Explorer Pass is valid for 30 days from your first visit, so you can take your time making your choices.

 

 
 

All Go San Francisco Cards have a zero risk refund policy.  If you don’t activate your pass within 1 year of your travel date, all your money will be refunded no questions asked.

Prices (as of 2018):

  • 3 Attractions: Adults: $69 / Children (ages 3-­12): $55
  • 4 Attractions: Adults: $89 / Children (ages 3­-12): $69
  • 5 Attractions: Adults: $105 / Children (ages 3-12): $79

We recommend the instant delivery via online purchase, as the lines at the ticket booth locations can get long. You can also call 866.628.9031 and have the attraction tickets sent to your mobile device. You’ll receive a guidebook with restaurant recommendations with your purchase!

 


San Francisco Sightseeing FlexPass

This pass allows you to choose 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 different attractions for a set price. You get to choose from a list of 18 great attractions. Visitors who know exactly what they want to see and aren’t interested in paying for anything else should definitely consider the Flex Pass.

Once your card is activated, you will have 30 days to visit each attraction at your own discretion, making this an excellent choice for both locals and travelers alike. Another benefit is that you have 12 months from the date of purchase to activate your Sightseeing FlexPass. Why not start planning in advance!

 

 


Prices (as of July 2018):

Below are the prices that you will pay.  The prices for the 4, 5, & 6 Attraction Flex Passes have a 20% discount applied to them.  To get the discounts on these passes, make sure to use our exclusive promo code: FTBF

The prices in red underneath each multiple-attraction pass listing is the average cost per attraction. Generally, the more attractions in the pass, the lower the average cost per attraction.

  • 2 Attractions:  $49/Adults | $35/Children
    • [$24/attraction/adult and $14/attraction/child]
  • 3 Attractions: $69/Adults | $55/Children
    • [$23/attraction/adult and $16/attraction/child]
  • 4 Attractions: $76/Adults | $64/Children
    • [$19/attraction/adult and $16/attraction/child]
  • 5 Attractions: $84/Adults | $72/Children
    • [$17/attraction/adult and $14/attraction/child]
  • 6 Attractions: $111/Adults | $95/Children
    • [$18/attraction/adult and $16/attraction/child]

Click here for more information or to purchase. Don’t forget to enter our exclusive promo code FTBF for a 20% discount!

18 attractions to choose from such as: 

  • 2 Hop-on Hop-off Bus (Day or Night)
  • Asian Art Museum
  • Magowan’s Mirror Maze
  • de Young Museum 
  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • 7D Experience
  • Madame Tussauds
  • San Francisco Dungeon 
  • see the full list.

 


San Francisco Mega Pass by City Sightseeing 

City Sightseeing is a hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus company and they have combined their bus tickets with an attraction pass. 

This new pass allows you to select between different options: Mega Pass 1 Day City Tour + 2 attractions, Mega Pass 2 Day City Tour + 3 attractions, or the Mega Pass 3 Day City Tour + 4 attractions.

With each, you can choose from 25 different attractions, including a San Francisco Bay Cruise, a tour to the Muir Woods, Escape the Rock boat tour of Alcatraz, and many others. Their hop-on, hop-off Official City Tour (Blue Line) is also included.

All Mega Passes include the Official City Tour (Blue Line) for the validity period of the pass plus choose from a list of 25 attractions.

When it comes to bus tours, this might be one of the biggest and best passes in San Francisco. With this tourist pass from City Sightseeing, you can explore the entire Bay Area with ease. Whether you want to see Muir Woods, discover the aquarium, or visit the Walt Disney Family Museum, there are plenty of excellent activities included with this pass.

Other tourist passes are typically focused more on attractions than on tours. This company offers a lot of their own bus tours, so it’s easier for them to provide a wide selection with this pass.

There are plenty of popular locations to visit in San Francisco, but if you want to see all of the landmarks, bus tours are definitely one of your best options. Although Big Bus has a combo package of their own, it offers fewer activities than the Freestyle Pass.


Prices (as of 2018):

25 Attractions to Choose From: 

  • San Francisco Bay Cruise
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • San Francisco Night Tour
  • Muir Woods Tour
  • SF Museum Of Modern Art
  • 3hr Bike Rental
  • 30 minute Go Car Tour *
  • see the full list.

Things to Consider:

If you were to pay for each tour individually, it would cost almost twice as much to experience every bus tour provided by the San Francisco Mega Pass. When you factor in the additional attractions and activities, this deal becomes even more impressive.

As you can see, City Sightseeing offers one of the most affordable tourist passes in the city. If you’re trying to save money while experiencing as much as possible, this pass is definitely worth consideration.

 


iVenture Card (San Francisco Flexi Attractions Pass) 

Like the Explorer Pass above, the pass allows you to choose a ticket package of either 3 attractions or 5 attractions (they do not offer a 4-attraction pass). You don’t have to choose which attractions in advance and the pass lasts for one month from the date you first activate it. This pass will save you up to 50% of the normal admission prices.

You pick from the more than 10 of San Francisco’s must-see attractions (see the full list here) including museums and several Gray Line tours outside of the San Francisco area such as Wine Country day tour or Yosemite National Park Tour.

 

 

Prices (as of  2018):

  • 3 Attractions:  Adults: $65 / Children (ages 4-­15): $49
  • 5 Attractions:  Adults: $99 / Children (ages 4­-15): $79

An iVenture Card package can be purchased online at their website.

There are pros and cons to buying this card instead of the Explorer Card.  A big con is that you cannot get a refund on the card if you do not use it. All sales are final. 

On the positive side, the attractions to choose from with this pass include many more tours, including ones that get you out of San Francisco to see Muir Woods, Sausalito, Yosemite Park, Wine Country and more.  

 


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BUILD YOUR OWN PASS

Package Type: Light Planner | Frugal | Short or Extended Trip

The only card that currently offers this unique pass is the Go San Francisco Card. You build your own pass by adding at least 2 attractions from their list of 35 that saves 20% off the admission of all items.

This one is best if you know what places you want to visit, but you may not be sure you will have enough time to visit all the attractions that you would need to visit to make the other passes worth it.  You have 30 days to visit everything on this pass from your first use, and you’ll skip the long lines at the door!

 

 

All Go San Francisco Cards have a zero risk refund policy.  If you don’t activate your pass within 1 year of your travel date, all your money will be refunded no questions asked.

Prices:

This pass has no set pricing. You get 20% off the retail prices of the items that you choose, which vary in admission rate.

Before you buy:

This pass is great because it’s a personalized coupon book. Be aware, you must choose the attractions at the time of purchase. Looking at 3 or 4 locations? Be sure to check out the Explorer’s Pass (above) to see if you’d save more than 20% this pass grants.

Things to consider with the Smart Destinations Passes:

Our favorite of the Smart Destinations Passes is the Build Your Own Pass. With this, you are able to totally customize your trip and see only the attractions that most interest you. The amount of savings may vary, but each attraction offers a deal with this pass.

The All Inclusive Pass is a bit more expensive, but if you want to see and do as much as possible in a short amount of time, this can be a great deal.

However, keep in mind that the pass only works between 9:00 am – 5:30 pm so you’ll have to be willing to jump from site to site in order to get the most bang for your buck. The Signature Passes are best for those who are less familiar with the city and don’t want to bother with having to plan out the specifics of their trip. Because the pass is good for 30 days, you can take your time visiting each site.

 


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PREPACKAGED PASSES

These types of packages save you money by bundling a certain number of attractions into one purchase at a set price. However, you have less control over what attractions are including in your package. Fortunately, these packages do include the attractions that most people want to see and in some cases, you are offered choices. 


San Francisco CityPASS

Package Type: Full Itinerary  | Moderate Planner | Extended Weekend or Week Long Trip

The CityPASS is a booklet of tickets that saves you 45% off [regular admission costs] of the top 4 attractions AND grants free cable car/Muni bus transit! Two attractive features of this pass are that you get 9 consecutive days (starting from your first day of use) to visit the attractions. This gives you plenty of time to see everything included. Also, you get to “Skip-the-Line” and gain instant access with your tickets. This can save hours of time!

 

 

Attractions:

  • California Academy of Sciences
  • Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure
  • Exploratorium OR San Francisco Museum of Modern Art — SFMOMA
  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • BONUS: Unlimited transportation on all Muni trolleys, buses and historic cable cars for three consecutive days!

Prices (as of 2018):

  • $89 – Adults (full-admission price $160.85)
  • $69 – Children (ages 5-11) (full-admission price $119.85)

Ticket booklets are either available via email or can be shipped after checkout. We recommend you purchase online here.

Before you buy:

Unlimited 7-day access to the Muni trolleys, buses, and the cable car can save you a lot on transportation expenses.

However, please note that this pass does not include access to BART, and public transportation may not be your fastest option if you’re crunched for time.

If you are pressed for time or not particularly interested in 3 or more of the attractions listed, it might be better to look at one of the many other options below.  

 


Pier 39 Attraction Pass

Package Type: Light Planner | Family Fun | Weekend Trip

Don’t let the name fool you, this combo gives you more than just the fun attractions of Pier 39. You’ll also get to tour the city via hop-on/hop-off bus and a bay tour that travelers give two thumbs up!

Pier 39 Attractions (kid friendly!):

  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • 7D Experience
  • Magowan’s Mirror Maze
  • Pier 39 Fun Pack

Additional Included Attractions:

  • Hop-on/Hop-off 48 hour bus pass
  • Bay Cruise Adventure OR Escape from the Rock Bay Cruise

Prices (as of 2018):

  • Adults: $135.00
  • Children (4-11): $89.00
  • Infants (0-3): FREE
  • Purchase here.

Passes are valid for 7 days after issued, so these passes are best bought upon arriving in San Francisco.

Before you buy:

We highly recommend this most for families/groups with children. Many of the Pier’s activities are made for family fun, and some reviewers regretted buying this package for their adult only group. The hop-on/hop-off bus is only valid for 48 hours of the 7-day pass, so make sure to have other means of transportation.


Viator 3-for-1 PASS

Package Type: Light Planner | Day Trip

See the top three San Francisco dark and twisted attractions at a discount with this pass. Tourists say this can all be easily done in one day!

Attractions:

  • Madame Tussauds
  • San Francisco Dungeon
  • Alcatraz

Prices (as of 2018):

  • Adults (12+): 120.00
  • Children (4-11): $105.00
  • Infants: FREE
  • Purchase here.

Reviewers say the way to make the most of your card is to spend an hour at Madame Tussaud’s, then visit the dungeon for live-action history by professional actors. Finish your day with a trip to Alcatraz island. The reviews confirm that this is an easy, convenient, affordable way to spend a day seeing some of the best spots in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. 

 


Big Bus Deluxe Tour

Package Type: Moderate Planner | Tour Lover | Short or Extended Trip

Big Bus Tours offer hop-on-hop-off tours all over San Francisco, and with the Deluxe Ticket, not only do you get 48 hours to come and go but an itinerary full of touring. Big Bus is highly rated and this bundle is extremely affordable for all of its features:

 

 

Features:

  • 48 Hours of  hop-on/hop-off
  • 4 walking tours of Chinatown, North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf & Barbary Coast
  • Panoramic Night Tour
  • Sausalito Tour
  • Bike Rental: Rent for 1 hour, get 1 hour free.
  • See the Golden Gate Bridge, Grace Cathedral, Bay Bridge, and more on this 2-hour tour (worth $30).
  • Explore a narrow-streeted neighborhood with fine dining and boutique shopping.
  • 7D Experience: Compete with your fellow riders in this interactive, 3D ride with the wind, strobe, and moving seats. Reviews say this is best for travelers with kids.

Prices Online (as of 2018):

Reviewers say this is kid-friendly! The bus ride is the highlight of this package because you get to board and disembark anytime you’d like at the designated stops all over town or stay on for over 2 hours of sightseeing. The guides have an excellent reputation for being friendly, funny, and informative.

The only consistent complaint is that San Francisco traffic can make the buses run late, so you may want to leave extra time to arrive at any scheduled events.

NOTE: The 2 and 3-day bus tickets offered by most hop-on, hop-off companies also include free walking tours, bike rentals, and discount coupons and are of themselves combo packages.

 


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ALCATRAZ COMBOS

Alcatraz is one of the most popular destinations in the Bay Area. It’s so popular that they often sell out of tickets to the island months in advance! If you want to secure your ticket before heading to San Francisco, it’s best to book your tour as soon as possible.

City Sightseeing offers a pretty great combo package that makes it a lot easier to guarantee access to the Alcatraz tour. Big Bus Tours has a similar package, but there are important differences between the two. We explain all the details and benefits of each below.

 

Big Bus Alcatraz Combo Ticket

 

City Sightseeing Alcatraz Combo

The Alcatraz combo package from City Sightseeing is more affordable than similar offers from their competitors. To be fair, this package does not include entrance to as many attractions as the Deluxe ticket offered via Big Bus Tours. That being said, you will have access to a total of four tours over the course of three full days. If you’re looking to explore the San Francisco area and experience Alcatraz Island up close, this is an excellent alternative.

Tours Include:

  • 3-Day Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour
  • San Francisco Downtown Tour
  • San Francisco Night Tour
  • The Official City Tour
  • Sausalito Bus Tour
  • Alcatraz Island Tour

Prices (as of 2018):

Things to Consider:

Taking advantage of this combo package is actually one of the easiest methods for getting your ticket to Alcatraz Island. You can purchase tickets to the island separately, but they are very popular and can be difficult to obtain.

The main difference between this combo deal and the Big Bus package is the type of hop-on, hop-off ticket you’ll receive. Their competitors only offer a 2-day ticket, but it comes with access to a variety of different attractions and activities.

If you stick with City Sightseeing, you’ll get a 3-day ticket without all of the extras. They do offer a free 1-hour bike rental, but this package is mostly focused on providing tours in and around the city.

If you are more interested in taking a variety of tours, this is definitely the better option. Discover the city and its most beloved landmarks at your own pace with this Alcatraz combo package.

 


Big Bus Alcatraz Combo

Package Type: Intense Planner | Tour Lover | Extended Trip

Big Bus Tours offer hop-on/hop-off tours all over San Francisco, and with the Alcatraz Tour, you gain access to Alcatraz and as well as Big Bus’s other hop-on-hop-off and walking tours.

Features:

  • Alcatraz admission and ferry ticket
  • 48 Hours of hop-on/hop-off bus
  • 4 walking tours of Chinatown, North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf & Barbary Coast
  • Choice of Panoramic Night Tour or Sausalito Tour
  • Bike Rental: Rent for 1 hour, get 1 hour free.

Online Prices (as of 2018):

Reviewers recommend this package for all of its activities (kid friendly!), there is a consistent complaint of buses taking longer than 10-20 minutes to reach certain stops during high traffic or busy weekends.

We recommend this package for the planner who knows how to use a map and plan a day to maximize time, since hopping on and off this bus to cross the city may eat up a lot of it.

Travelers also recommend that you choose the Deluxe Ticket over the Alcatraz Combo if you aren’t interested in seeing the prison since that is the main difference in the two Big Bus packages. The 7D Experience and Aquarium of the Bay are extremely fun exhibits for children!

 


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