City Pass, Go Card and Other Chicago Attraction Passes

This post covers tourist discount passes available in Chicago. These passes can save you money as well as time, but you need a plan to maximize both savings. We have broken down and compared the different passes so that you can make an educated decision on whether any are a good fit for you.   

Before You Buy
Go Chicago Card (All Inclusive)
Explorer Pass (Pick 3, 4, 5 Attractions)
Go Chicago Card: (à la carte)
Prepackaged Passes
Things to Do in Chicago

 


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

Build Your Own passes are 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 don’t want to overload their daily itineraries 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.  

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.

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.

 


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GO CHICAGO CARD – (All Inclusive)

In order to get the most sightseeing between 1­-5 days, the Go Chicago Card 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 days that your pass allows.  There are 26 attractions to choose from.  For less intense sightseeing pass options, check out Smart Destinations’s Explorer (3 or 5 Attractions) and Build Your Own Passes below.  All Go Chicago 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.

 

 

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 Card. While you have unlimited access, you do have limited time. Make sure you look at days and hours of operations for each attractions, and factor in travel time. Grouping activities in nearby locations can be a great way to get in more than just a few thing 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 2018):

  • 1­ Day: Adults $95 | Children (ages 3-­12) $69
  • 2­ Day: Adults $135 | Children $95
  • 3­ Day: Adults $165 | Children $110
  • 5­ Day: Adults $195 | Children $135

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. You may also be exhausted from running around for 48 hours! Save the $29 and use it to go to that restaurant you saw on your way back to the hotel that has great ratings online!

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

 


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CHICAGO EXPLORER PASS ( 3, 4 or 5 ATTRACTIONS)

This pass lets you pay one price, and grants admission to 3, 4 or 5 attractions from a list of 25+ at a discounted rate. You do not need to pre-select your choices, but you would be limited to the number of attractions that you pass allows.  It is also valid for 30 days from your first visit, so you can take your time making your choices.  All Go Chicago 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 Attraction Pass:  Adults  $75  |  Children (ages 3-­12)  $49
  • 4 Attraction Pass:  Adults  $99  |  Children (ages 3-12)  $64
  • 5 Attraction Pass:  Adults: $109 | Children (ages 3­-12): $75

Before you buy:

The Explorer Pass doesn’t have the time pressure of the Go Card (you have 30 days to visit 3 or 5 locations) 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 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 tickets sent to your mobile device.

 


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GO CHICAGO CARD – BUILD YOUR OWN PASS (à la carte)

With this card from Smart Destinations, you choose at least 2 attractions from their list of 30 and save 20% off the retail price of all items.  Learn more and purchase here.  All Go Chicago 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:  There is no set pricing. You can add as many attractions as you like to the pass and receive 20% off the retail prices of the attractions that you choose.

 

 

Before you buy:

You must choose the attractions at the time of purchase, so you will lose the flexibility of choosing your attractions in Chicago, but many people will likely find this pass to be the least pressure.  If you are planning on purchasing 3 attractions or more, it is very possible that the Explorer Pass will save you more.  The savings are dependent on the cost of the attractions you choose.  More information and to purchase this pass.  

 


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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 have a ton to see and do, especially if you bring kids along.  CityPASS works well if you are planning on taking our pay-what-you-wish walking tours of Chicago.

Attractions Included in the CityPASS

 

 

Prices (as of 2018):

  • Adults: $106   (full admission price $217.90)
  • Children (ages 3-­11): $89   (full admission price $184.85)

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.

*Super Pro Tip: When visiting the Art Institute, give yourself an extra hour or two at the free Chicago Architecture Foundation Center across the street at 224 S. Michigan Avenue and then take a self-guided walking tour of Millennium Park just steps away! Both offer some of the finest free art sculpture in Chicago.

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 from your mobile device at the gate and get fast VIP entrance. Easy!

 


Huge Chicago Savings Package

Huge Chicago Savings PassA fitting name for a great package deal! For just $50 you get admission to 2 great sightseeing spots, plus a 2­-Day ticket to the amazing hop-­on, hop-­off Big Bus Tour. You save 40% off the regular price, and you have 30 days to use it after your first visit. WOW!

What you get:

Prices (as of 2018):

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 $40 and allows you to navigate the city for 24 hours as much as you like. Click here to purchase.


Viator VIP Package (note: this pass is currently unavailable)

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 a piece 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 John Hancock Tower 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 John Hancock Observatory that comes at the end.

Highlights

Prices (as of 2018):

  • Adult: $62
  • Child (ages 5-­14): $34
  • Children under 5 are free when seated on parent’s lap.

Before you buy:

Trusted Tours lives up to its name, with over 25 years of experience, so we know you’ll have a great time if you choose this package. 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. Bring some money for snacks; there’s no lunch included in this 5.5 tour package.

Purchase this combo here. You can also purchase in person at the Palmer House (17 E. Monroe Street) for $2 more per ticket.

 


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