American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
The Benefits of CityPASS, Part 1
For the latest issue of Traveler – the official newsletter of the Society of American Travel Writers – my colleague Elgy Gillespie explored the merits of CityPASS, which, besides being one of SATW's global partners, enables travelers to save quite a bit of money while venturing across the United States. From my own experience, I know that CityPASS has certainly made it easier for me and my husband, Dan, to visit major tourist attractions from one end of the country to the other. So, I took her testimonial as a sign that it was time to blog about this budget-friendly service, especially since travel discounts are welcome during the holiday season – and often necessary in our current economic climate.
If you've never used a CityPASS before, here's the basic concept. One CityPASS grants you admission to some of the most famous attractions in a given city at roughly half the cost that you'd pay for separate tickets to each. At present, CityPASS is used in 11 different cities and regions, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Hollywood, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, and Toronto. A CityPASS ticket booklet – which includes individual attraction tickets, a helpful map, plus insider tips, hours, and other details about each featured attraction – is typically valid for nine days from the first day of use, save for the Southern California one, which is valid for two weeks. Given this flexible schedule and the possibility of saving a lot of money (especially on family vacations), it's easy to see why so many travelers recommend CityPASS. It doesn't hurt that you'll also save time by using CityPASS; with one relatively painless purchase, after all, you'll have several admission tickets in hand, meaning that you'll be able to skip most ticket lines. To use the CityPASS, you merely have to present your booklet at each attraction, where the specific ticket will be torn out or scanned, so be sure to leave all tickets intact, as a removed ticket will be rendered invalid.
If you're still not convinced, consider all the attractions that are covered by each CityPASS. In fact, there are so many among the 10 American cities participating in the program that I've decided to highlight them in a three-part series. In this particular post, I'll cover the four locales situated along the West Coast:
For one low price, the Seattle CityPASS ($59 adults, $39 children 4-12, children under 4 free) includes admission to six of Seattle's most famous attractions. Specifically, you'll be able to explore the Pacific Science Center (200 Second Ave. N., 206/443-2001), which includes an IMAX film presentation and a stroll through the tropical butterfly house; gain general admission to the Seattle Aquarium (1483 Alaskan Way, Pier 59, 206/386-4300), which features major exhibits and interpretive shows pertaining to marine life from the Puget Sound region; and venture to the top of the iconic Space Needle (400 Broad St., 206/905-2100) twice in a 24-hour period, ensuring you the chance to embrace incredible vistas of the Emerald City and its surrounding waters both during the day and at night. In addition, you can take a one-hour, narrated Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour (1201 Alaskan Way, Piers 55/56, 206/622-8687), which features amazing views of the Seattle skyline, Elliot Bay, and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains.
With the Seattle CityPASS, you can also enjoy a visit to the Seattle Center's EMP Museum (325 5th Ave. N., 206/770-2700), which highlights significant aspects in rock music, science fiction, and popular culture; currently, two of the most intriguing exhibits include “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses” and “Can't Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film.” Lastly, you can choose between general admission to either the 92-acre Woodland Park Zoo (750 N. 50th St., 206/548-2500), home to 300 different animal species, from river otters to grizzly bears, or The Museum of Flight (9404 E. Marginal Way S., 206/764-5720), one of the world's largest air and space museums. So, depending on the time of year, you could save up to 51 percent of the total admission costs by using the Seattle CityPASS.
San Francisco, California
As I've expressed before, San Francisco is one of my favorite American cities, and admittedly, there are plenty of things to see and do, from exploring the shops and eateries of Fisherman's Wharf to hiking amid the redwood trees of Muir Woods National Monument. While the San Francisco CityPASS ($69 adults, $39 children 5-12, children under 5 free) doesn't cover everything, it does include admission to five major attractions, plus a seven-day trolley and cable car passport. You'll be able, for instance, to explore the California Academy of Sciences (55 Music Concourse Dr., 415/379-8000), a 400,000-square-foot facility in Golden Gate Park that includes a planetarium, a rainforest, an aquarium, a natural history museum, and a 3-D theater. With this affordable pass, you can also visit the Aquarium of the Bay (The Embarcadero and Beach St., 415/623-5300), a hands-on aquarium that nurtures more than 20,000 marine creatures from San Francisco Bay, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (151 Third St., 415/357-4000), which includes the rooftop garden and all permanent collections of contemporary paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other artwork. In addition, you can take a one-hour, narrated Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise (Pier 39, 415/773-1188), which offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and San Francisco's skyline.
By purchasing the CityPASS, you'll also have a choice between admission to the Exploratorium (3601 Lyon St., 415/397-5673), a fascinating museum at the Palace of Fine Arts that's dedicated to art, science, and human perception, or admission to the de Young Museum (50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., 415/750-3600), a well-respected fine arts museum in Golden Gate Park. If you choose the latter option, you'll also gain same-day access to the de Young's Hamon Observation Tower and the Legion of Honor (100 34th Ave., 415/750-3600), a fine arts museum in Lincoln Park. Perhaps the best bargain, though, is the Muni & Cable Car 7-Day Passport (415/701-2311), which offers unlimited transportation on all Muni trolleys, cable cars, and buses for seven consecutive days, beginning on the day that you first use your CityPASS; normally, a seven-day passport would cost $27 per person. All told, the San Francisco CityPASS can save you up to 58 percent of what you'd normally pay for these attractions.
If you're a movie lover like me and Dan than you'll also appreciate the Hollywood CityPASS ($59 adults, $39 children 3-11, children under 3 free), which includes admission to four of five movie-related attractions. Besides granting you access to the world-famous Madame Tussauds Hollywood (6933 Hollywood Blvd., 866/841-3315) – where you'll encounter wax likenesses of numerous movie characters, Hollywood icons, pop stars, and other celebrities, from Captain Jack Sparrow to Clark Gable to Salma Hayek – the CityPASS also enables you to experience two Tinseltown-related excursions: Red Line Tours' Hollywood Behind-the-Scenes Tour (6708 Hollywood Blvd., 323/402-1074), a guided 75-minute stroll amid Hollywood landmarks, and the Movie Stars' Homes Tour, a two-hour, narrated mini-bus excursion via Starline Tours (6925 Hollywood Blvd., 323/463-3333). In addition, you'll have the option of taking a 30-minute guided tour of the Kodak Theatre (6801 Hollywood Blvd., 323/308-6300), home to the annual Academy Awards ceremony, or visiting The Hollywood Museum (1660 N. Highland Ave., 323/464-7776), housed in the historic Max Factor Building and featuring four spacious floors of exhibits, including costumes, props, sets, vintage photos, and other Hollywood memorabilia. With the Hollywood CityPASS, you'll save up to 48 percent of the admission costs you'd normally pay.
Admittedly, the Southern California CityPASS ($276 adults, $229 children 3-9) is the most expensive of the lot, but considering how much it costs to explore the theme parks in this region, rest assured that you'll still be saving a considerable amount of money. With this particular CityPASS, you'll receive one-day admission to Universal Studios Hollywood (1000 Universal Center Dr., Universal City, 800/864-8377), which includes all rides and attractions, plus the behind-the-scenes studio tour, as well as one-day admission to SeaWorld San Diego (500 SeaWorld Dr., San Diego, 800/257-4268), which covers all rides and shows. In addition, you'll be able to use a three-day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper, which allows you back-and-forth access to Disneyland Park (1313 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, 714/781-4565) and Disney California Adventure Park (1313 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, 714/781-4565). Finally, you'll get to choose between a one-day pass to the San Diego Zoo (2920 Zoo Dr., San Diego, 619/231-1515), which currently includes zoo admission and unlimited use of the guided bus tour, express bus, and Skyfari aerial tram, or a one-day pass to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido, 760/747-8702), which currently covers safari park admission, the Africa Tram Safari, a ride on the Conservation Carousel, and all shows and exhibits. Although both are family-friendly diversions, Dan and I especially favor the Safari Park, an 1,800-acre preserve that's home to tigers, zebras, elephants, and other amazing animals, many of whom are allowed to roam freely in large enclosures that resemble African savannas. In total, you'll save up to 50 percent of what it would typically cost to visit four of these world-famous theme parks.
To purchase a specific CityPASS, you can stop by one of the participating locales or visit this comprehensive website. Available as a booklet or an e-ticket (which will be exchanged for a booklet at the first attraction you visit), it's fortunately the same low price whether you buy it online or at any CityPASS attraction. If you have any questions, feel free to contact customer service (208/787-4300 or 888/330-5008, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. MST Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-2 p.m. MST Sat.-Sun.) – just be sure to stay tuned for the next installment of my CityPASS series. In the meantime, you can learn more about travel destinations along the West Coast by consulting Ericka Chickowski's Moon Washington, Moon Metro San Francisco, Moon Metro Los Angeles, Ericka Chickowski's Moon San Diego, and Liz Hamill Scott's four Moon travel guides about the Golden State: Moon California, Moon Coastal California, Moon Northern California, and Moon Southern California.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.