CityPASS Review: Is CityPASS Worth It?

Large cities are among the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

It’s easy to see why – they offer the best combination of attractions, experiences, and diversity of all destinations, and all conveniently located in one relatively small space.

In certain cities, it’s even possible to take in several attractions and events on the same day, with each no more than a few blocks away from each other.

But probably the biggest disadvantage of cities as travel destinations is cost.

The sheer concentration of residents, tourists, attractions and convenience make cities expensive places to travel to. Hotel accommodations are usually more expensive – often much more expensive – than in less crowded destinations. And the attractions themselves can because prohibitive, especially if you’re traveling with the family.

Cost may be a major reason why even local area residents often fail to experience all their city has to offer.

But there’s a service called CityPASS that can help make travel to large cities more affordable.

Quick Summary: CityPASS gives you access to several attractions in an area over several days for a single price, often with big savings (up to 50%) on individual tickets. If you plan on going to the listed attractions, it’s totally worth it because you get access AND you skip the lines. It’s like automatic Fast Pass and you pay less.

Table of Contents
  1. What is CityPASS?
  2. Why You’ll Want CityPASS
  3. How CityPASS Works
  4. CityPASS Features and Benefits
  5. CityPASS City Programs
    1. CityPASS New York City
    2. CityPASS Chicago
    3. CityPASS Atlanta
  6. CityPASS Pros and Cons
    1. Pros of CityPASS:
    2. Cons of CityPASS:
  7. Should You Sign Up for CityPASS?

What is CityPASS?

CityPASS a sightseeing pass service that enables you to see attractions and participate in events at greatly reduced rates. Surprisingly, the service isn’t new. It was launched back in 1997 by Mike Gallagher and Mike Morey, as a service that would both save money and the time involved in attending big-city attractions. The company has more than 50 employees and is headquartered in Victor, Idaho, on the west slope of the Teton Mountains – hardly a location you’d associate with urban travel.

CityPASS focuses on providing fast, reduced-price admission to the top attractions in a handful of cities in the US and Canada. Users can save up to half the price of admission to popular attractions and events. The service is available for just 14 cities:

Why You’ll Want CityPASS

CityPASS tickets will give you admission to top attractions and theme parks for up to 50% off the combined regular cost. You’ll be effectively purchasing your tickets in advance, avoiding the higher prices you’ll almost always pay on arrival at any attraction.

CityPASS attractions usually provide expedited entry, enabling you to skip long ticket lines. This feature will depend on the attraction as well as the city where it’s located. You might also experience longer lines during heavy travel times, such as summer, weekends and holidays.

How CityPASS Works

CityPASS is designed to give you typically nine days to enjoy your destination city. The products include mobile tickets or printable vouchers, which you can purchase online at citypass.com. It’s really convenient to buy the passes online and then access them via email or presented on your mobile device. There are no longer booklets.

CityPASS include actual admission tickets to each attraction. You’ll need to present your pass at each attraction you attend. Each ticket is good for one-time admission only. With some attractions, your CityPASS ticket will serve as full payment. For others, it will be a partial payment. You’ll need to check the specific arrangement with attractions in each city visit. And as a bonus, most CityPASS tickets include applicable sales tax.

Once you are in your destination city, you can attend attractions in any order you choose. CityPASS does not require a specific attendance sequence. In some cities, each ticket represents a one-time admission. But in others, admission may be available more than once on the same ticket.

The CityPASS can be delivered by email to residents, which is super convenient since you don’t have to wait for something in the mail. In some cities, this will be a reservation which you will present at the first attraction you

In still other cities, you’ll receive mobile tickets, which can be shown on your smartphone for entry at each attraction. But you can also print your tickets if you prefer a paper copy. In fact, in some cities, tickets must be printed, while others will accept them on your phone.

CityPASS tickets are valid for nine consecutive days, including the first day of use, though that does vary somewhat from city to city. Vouchers must be exchanged for a CityPASS within six months of purchase. Mobile tickets expire one year from the date of purchase.

All prices below are accurate as of August 2022.

CityPASS Features and Benefits

Refunds. You can get a full refund by returning any unused CityPASS products for up to 365 days from the purchase date. However, the refund does not extend to theme park tickets.

Payment methods. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, PayPal, or Union Pay are accepted. You can also pay with Amazon Payments (Pay with Amazon). Payment will use your Amazon account information, eliminating the need to re-enter your address or credit card information. CityPASS does not accept gift cards.

CityPASS gifts. You can purchase CityPASS products as a gift for others. Just be aware that once activated, they’re non-transferable. If you’re going to give a gift, the entire pass must be gifted. You won’t be able to use some tickets and get the remaining ones.

Attraction substitution. CityPASS tickets are for specific attractions. They don’t accommodate substitutions or changes.

What’s NOT included with CityPASS. Products don’t cover the cost of transportation or parking at any attractions in any city.

Ticket upgrades. Most theme park tickets can be upgraded but only on-site. You’ll need to go to the individual ticket desk or box office at each attraction to complete the upgrade.

Special exhibits. Some CityPASS tickets include special exhibits, but others require a separate upgrade fee. Once again, upgrades must be purchased at each attraction.

Customer service. Available by toll-free phone, live chat and email, seven days a week, from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Eastern time.

CityPASS City Programs

CityPASS offers a unique package of attractions in 14 US cities (Southern California is one CityPASS but covers several “cities”), plus Toronto in Canada. We’re not going to cover the offers available in all 15 cities, but details for New York City, Chicago and Atlanta are provided below.

CityPASS New York City

CityPASS provides discounted admissions to 11 popular New York City attractions. They offer two different plans, New York CityPASS and New York C3. Details for each plan are as follows:

New York CityPASS includes the ability to pick five out of the 8 attractions (list below), for $129 for an adult and $109 for a child. New York C3 allows you to choose any three of the 11, at $92 for an adult, and $72 for a child. Each is valid for a nine-day visit and allows you to choose the specific number of the 11 attractions you most want to see. Under both plans, you’ll be able to skip most ticket lines.

For New York CityPASS, the attractions you can select are:

  • Empire State Building
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
  • Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

For New York C3, you pick three from the following 11:

  • Empire State Building
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck
  • Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
  • Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • City Cruises– Limited Days of the Week
  • Edge at Hudson Yards

Which plan you select will be determined by how long you plan to stay in New York City, and which attractions you most want to see.

To show how much you can save with CityPASS, let’s do a working example.

You choose the following six attractions to visit (all regular prices quoted are for adults as of November 2021):

The total regular cost of visiting all six attractions is $207. But since the cost of a New York CityPASS is $129 for an adult, you’ll save a $78 on all six attractions. That’s a sizable savings. For a couple, the savings will be $156. That can make at least a small dent in an otherwise costly visit to New York City.

What’s more, you’ll be able to save time that would otherwise be spent standing in line, leaving extra time to take in the rest of the city. That alone may be worth it!

CityPASS Chicago

With Chicago, there is a CityPASS as well as a Chicago C3 plan.

Chicago CityPASS costs $114 for adults (ages 12 and up) and $93 for children (ages three to 11). It gives you five tickets but there are presets.

Chicago CityPASS gives you access to three attractions:

  • Shedd Aquarium (includes priority entry)
  • Skydeck Chicago (for day or night admission)
  • Field Museum (all-access pass)

And then a choice of 2 from a list:

  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck
  • Adler Planetarium

With Chicago C3, you pay $88 for adults and $64 for children. You get to pick 3 from The Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Science and Industry, 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck, Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture River Tour, and Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier.

To show how much you can save using Chicago CityPASS, below are the regular box office prices for adults at the following five attractions:

The total cost for the five attractions is $185. Since your Chicago CityPASS will cost just $114 for an adult, you’ll save $71 on the combination of all attractions.

And just as is the case with New York CityPASS, you can also save time by avoiding waiting in lines.

CityPASS Atlanta

Like Chicago CityPASS, Atlanta CityPASS allows access to five of the six major attractions in the city:

The package includes:

  • Georgia Aquarium
  • World of Coca-Cola
  • Zoo Atlanta

Then you pick two from the following list:

  • Fernbank Museum of Natural History
  • Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame
  • National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Atlanta CityPASS has one plan, at $86 for adults (ages 13 and up), and $68 for children (ages three to 12). Children under three are free. You get access to the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, and Zoo Atlanta. Then you pick two of the last three – Fernbank Museum of Natural History, College Football Hall of Fame, and National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

But as we did for both New York City and Chicago, below is how much you can save using Atlanta CityPASS, based on regular prices for each of five popular attractions:

The total regular cost to attend all five attractions is $127. By purchasing your tickets through Atlanta CityPASS at just $76, you’ll save $41 per adult. Two adults will save $82 attending all five attractions. And once again, you’ll also be eligible for priority access at certain attractions, saving you time to spend experiencing everything Atlanta has to offer.

If you are going to a city covered by a CityPASS, give them a look because they can cover a lot of tickets you’d otherwise have to buy separately and at a higher cost. My friend Lily shared her experience with the Seattle CityPASS and how much it saved her. With the Seattle CityPASS, she saved money as long as she did at least two of the attractions on the list.

CityPASS Pros and Cons

Pros of CityPASS:

  • Save up to 50% of the cost of attending major attractions and theme parks in the largest cities in North America
  • At most attractions, you’ll receive expedited service, avoiding long lines
  • You can choose from a list of major attractions in each city, selecting only those you most want to see
  • You can decide which attractions you want to visit once you reach your destination city. There’s no need to purchase tickets in advance, you’ll already have them
  • CityPASS will be especially valuable for families. Not only can you save up to $100+ visiting attractions for an individual, but you’ll also have the benefit of expedited access. That’ll be important for families traveling with small children, who prefer to avoid standing in long lines
  • Some attractions allow you to visit more than once during the same trip

Cons of CityPASS:

  • Not all attractions in every city offer expedited entry
  • Since CityPASS is a discount service, there are no additional discounts available for seniors, students, military personnel or groups. However, some military bases do offer discounts for CityPASS products purchased on base
  • The number of attractions covered by CityPASS is fairly limited, at no more than 10 for New York City and seven each for Chicago and Atlanta
  • CityPASS doesn’t offer discounts for other major attractions that you might want to see in major cities, particularly concerts and major league sporting events. Conspicuously absent from the New York City package are theater tickets. They’re one of the major attractions for anyone visiting the city
  • CityPASS is available in only 14 cities in the US and Canada. It does not cover other popular destination cities, like Washington DC, Miami, Nashville, or Montréal

Should You Sign Up for CityPASS?

Whether CityPASS will work for you really depends on your travel plans.

It’s certainly worth having if any of the following are on your agenda:

  • You plan to travel to the cities included in the CityPASS program
  • The destinations included in each city are attractions you want to see
  • You’ll be able to take in at least most of the attractions that are included with your CityPASS
  • You expect to have sufficient time to visit each attraction – after all, you’ll be paying for it whether you visit it or not
  • You’ll be traveling with your family. Because you can save money on a pass for each person in your party, the savings will be greatest for families
  • You live in or near one of the cities in the CityPASS program, and you’ve been avoiding taking in the attractions due to cost

You may not be interested in CityPASS if any of the following apply:

  • You don’t plan to travel to any of the cities included in the plan
  • You don’t have a burning desire to see the attractions available
  • You’re planning to go to a CityPASS city, but it’s primarily for unrelated purposes, leaving you little time to see the included attractions

Any disadvantages aside, CityPASS should definitely be a consideration if you’re planning to visit one of the cities covered by their plans. Big cities are expensive to visit, starting with hotel stays. There are other discount plans you may be able to take advantage of to limit those costs while using CityPASS to lower the cost of the attractions you plan to visit.

If you’d like more information, or you’d like to sign up for the service, visit the CityPASS website.

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About Kevin Mercadante

Since 2009, Kevin Mercadante has been sharing his journey from a washed-up mortgage loan officer emerging from the Financial Meltdown as a contract/self-employed "slash worker" – accountant/blogger/freelance blog writer – on OutofYourRut.com. He offers career strategies, from dealing with under-employment to transitioning into self-employment, and provides "Alt-retirement strategies" for the vast majority who won’t retire to the beach as millionaires.

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Kevin has a B.S. in Accounting and Finance from Montclair State University.

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  1. Scarlet of Family Focus Blog says

    I used the CityPass in London and we really enjoyed the experience. It kind of helped us hone in on the best sites to see at the best price.

    • Jim Wang says

      That might be a different company because CityPASS has mostly US destinations (Toronto too, which is a fantastic city), but the idea is likely the same.

  2. johnmarker says

    Hello! We bought 4 CityPass tickets for our family New York trip. We save 42% on New York’s 6 best attractions. Good deal. You can also try it!

  3. Paul sivyer says

    Great pass and worked and saved a shed load of money, however ignore the part where it say you can jump the queen, not a chance, there absolutely no fast pass!

  4. Phillip Bell says

    Nope not worth it. I bought tickets, but they didn’t give them to me,because their computer systems were broken and their support centeris closed on weekends. I asked for only a partial refund, and they said no way! Their computers were broke, but I guess it was my fault?

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