Note: This is not a sponsored post. I received no freebies or discounts from San Francisco CityPass in exchange for this review.
Last month, I spent three days in San Francisco with my three kiddos before we boarded the Amtrak California Zephyr. Since I would be touring and managing the kids without the help of my husband for this leg of the trip, I wanted to keep things as simple and easy as possible in San Francisco.
Enter the San Francisco CityPass. I could pre-purchase the passes and use them at select attractions instead of purchasing separate tickets for each thing. Sold!
San Francisco CityPass Cost and What’s Included
The cost for the San Francisco CityPass is $89 for adults and $66 for kids 11 and under. We could have had them delivered via email for free and exchanged a voucher for the booklets at our first attraction. However, I wanted to start using the included transportation right away, so I paid an extra $9.50 to have the CityPass booklets shipped to my house. The grand total for me and my kids ages 6, 9 and 13 was $319.50.
Our passes included unlimited Muni transportation, Aquarium of the Bay, California Academy of Sciences, a Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruise and either the Exploratorium or the de Young Museum.
San Francisco CityPass also gives you the option to upgrade to an Alcatraz tour, but those tours sell out months in advance.
Having three days of unlimited bus, streetcar and cable car rides was one of the main reasons I decided to buy the CityPass instead of the Go San Francisco card. We just had to show our CityPass booklet covers whenever we boarded.
We ended up riding the streetcar three times during our stay.
Since we were there during prime summer tourist season, the lines to ride the cable cars were insane. So, we only rode the cable car once. I was too scared to have my kids sit on the outside and hang on. Those hills in San Francisco are no joke! During my prior two visits to the city, I did not get a chance to ride on a cable car, so I’m glad I was able to experience it on this trip.
Total value: $48.40
Aquarium of the Bay
On our first afternoon in the city, we headed straight for Pier 39. It was a Sunday afternoon, and the crowds were crazy!
We waited in line for a boat ride, but after standing in the wrong line once and then hearing that the boat was being repaired, we decided to try another activity. Luckily, the Aquarium of the Bay was right there.
We could skip the first ticket line and head right to the door with our CityPass booklets. Woohoo!
After experiencing the insane crowds on the pier, the aquarium was a welcome haven for us. My kids love aquariums, and this was no exception.
I appreciated how the aquarium focused on sea life that was right below us on the pier. This enabled my kids to learn about the local area.
On our second day in San Francisco, we started the day with renewed energy and optimism. Thank goodness the crowds were slightly smaller on a Monday. I was determined to get us on a cruise around the bay.
When I read the fine print in our CityPass booklets, I realized we could take either the one-hour bay cruise that circled Alcatraz or the fast RocketBoat. After reading reviews of both, I knew that my kids would prefer the RocketBoat.
While the RocketBoat ride was only 30 minutes instead of an hour like the bay cruise, it was 30 minutes packed with exhilaration! With thumping music playing, we bounced over waves and twisted and turned our way under the Bay Bridge. We only got a little bit wet.
My boys loved it. I loved it! RocketBoat was my favorite thing we did in San Francisco. (My 6-year-old daughter didn’t love it—it went too fast for her).
Note: The RocketBoat runs May through October, and kids must be at least 3 years old and 40” tall to ride.
After lunch and the RocketBoat on our second day, we rode the streetcar to the Exploratorium. This museum is right on the waterfront.
Everything in the Exploratorium is hands-on, which was perfect for my kids! There was magnetic sand, sound experiments, electronic gadgets, optical illusions, etc. The place was huge. And it’s not just for kids.
We got there at 2:00 and it closed at 5:00, so we did not get to see everything. We could have easily spent the entire day there.
The inside of the museum had numerous sections, but the outside part was very cool, too!
My daughter loved exploring this little world made entirely out of cardboard.
The Exploratorium ended up being the favorite attraction of my kids.
California Academy of Sciences
We saved this for our last day. Since we were so tired from our long commute into the city from our airport hotel, I decided to splurge on an Uber to and from this place. Well worth it!
The California Academy of Sciences is huge. It’s an aquarium, planetarium and natural science museum all under one roof.
We first visited the rain forest dome and admired the many butterflies inside. Next, we explored the aquarium. I found the aquarium’s layout to be very confusing, and I lost one of my kids in there for a few minutes. Talk about panic!
We survived a very realistic earthquake simulator and watched a planetarium show. We ended our day playing in the outside area and exploring the top of the building on the living roof.
Honestly, this was my least favorite attraction on the CityPass. It might be partly because we saved it for our last day when we were exhausted from the previous days. Also, my family had a yearly pass to a local science museum in Dallas that we used extensively, so we didn’t find most of the stuff here particularly unique to San Francisco.
Is the San Francisco CityPass Worth the Money?
I paid $319.50 for our four CityPass booklets, including shipping. If we would have paid for separate entrances for the attractions, it would have cost us $430.00. So, we saved over $100 by purchasing San Francisco CityPass. Of course, if you don’t go to every attraction included in the pass, the pass is most likely not worth it.
I liked the convenience of having the CityPass booklets ahead of time and the ability to easily budget the cost of our San Francisco tours. The quantity and variety of the included activities were just right for my family for three days in the city.
Have you used the San Francisco CityPass, or have you tried a CityPass in another city? Do you like using bundled tour passes?
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Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.