Bypassing High Admission Prices With CityPass

Saturday, May 2, 2009 - by Diane Siskin

In these recessionary days vacationers must be imaginative, flexible and constantly on the lookout for great deals.

On a recent trip to the Northwest we found a veritable gold mine of savings by using an option called CityPass in Seattle and San Francisco.

Not only does this “passport to tourist destinations” include reduced admissions to museums, science centers, zoos, aquariums, city water cruises, discounts for shopping and souvenir purchases, it also comes with other attributes which alone would make the price of the pass be considered very reasonable.

San Francisco was the first city to offer a CityPass. When you purchase a booklet now you receive a Muni (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency) passenger ticket good for seven consecutive days...

We found this pass to be the key to enjoying San Francisco. For two days we traversed the city from one end to the other; from Golden Gate Park to the Coit Tower to the Embarcadero. At the waterfront a bay cruise brought us right under the Golden Gate Bridge and to the boat landing around Alcatraz, the former island fortress-prison known as “The Rock.”

The Muni system operates diesel and electric trolleys; buses, historic streetcars and the world-famous Cable Cars. We sampled the light rail streetcar, which runs part of the way above ground and part of the way underground.

The later trip was made at rush hour on the Friday of a holiday weekend. And, although the rail car was packed with people of all ages and nationalities, we enjoyed instant camaraderie in very close quarters.

At first it wasn’t always easy for us to find the right bus stop or bus for where we wanted to go, but San Franciscans were willing to help all along the way.

The passport directs you to the correct bus, cable, or streetcar to hop on for your intended destination. But you just must be prepared to read a map and allow extra time to inquire of locals if you are unsure.

Additional features of San Francisco bus stops are the use of electronic messaging boards which supplied the approximate arrival time of the next bus. You can wait relatively comfortably inside three-sided glass booths with pull down seats. These are good inducements to use public transportation.

The CityPass may also be used on the Candlestick Ballpark Express with a small surcharge. This means you can get to the ballpark, located on the outskirts of the city, with ease leaving the driving and directions to someone else.

Included in each San Francisco booklet are pages of neighborhood tips from travel experts at National Geographic Travel.

Activities around at Pier 39 abound. We took a bus from a stop near to our hotel in Pacific Heights to the city’s waterfront to hop on a Blue and Gold Bay Cruise. Afterward it was just a short walk to the Aquarium of the Bay, the city’s only nature center dedicated to bringing visitors up close and personal with local marine wildlife.

Another day we found our way to the de Young Museum in the fabulous Golden Gate Park, again by bus. An Andy Warhol exhibit is currently being offered by the museum. King Tut (Tutankhamen) pays a visit to this museum from June 27 through March 28, 2010.

The fabulous views from the Observation Floor of the new nine-story de Young Tower (now part of the museum) were breathtaking and easily worth the visit. On a wonderfully clear day we had views of San Francisco and of the newly reopened California Academy also located in the park. I could easily see the “living roof’’ of the Academy.

All CityPass programs offer discounted prices, usually at 40-50 percent savings, to the most popular museums and attractions. For me the biggest selling point is the fact that the pass gives you the ability to skip most main entrance ticket lines for a little VIP treatment.

In Seattle the CityPass didn’t come with a transportation option, but you don’t need it. You can hop a free city bus in most areas or walk to your destination.

The transportation option for this city (included in CityPass), is a one-hour harbor tour aboard an Argosy Cruises boat. This cruise, especially in good weather, should be on any visitor must-do list. The cruise is a relaxing way to see not only the Seattle Harbor attractions but also glimpse the majestic Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges and the out islands around Elliott Bay.

The Seattle CityPass offers discounted entrance to some truly educational and entertaining attractions.

My seven-year-old granddaughter didn’t want to leave the Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Museum, which adjoin one another across the plaza from the Space Needle. They are inspired and interactive exhibitions.

Also included in the Seattle CityPass are general admission tickets the Museum of Flight, located near the SeaTac International Airport and the Pacific Science Center with its 2-D or 3-D IMAX film.

And for aquarium and zoo fans admission to the Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo are included in the Seattle CityPass.

In New York City the CityPass gave us VIP admission to the Empire State Building, along with complimentary audio tours. It also provided a surprise visit with “King Kong” which delighted my 10-year-old granddaughter.

Later that same day we took in the new exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art with easy admission.

We also used CityPass to take a Circle Line cruise around New York City which included close up views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in a cool and relaxing manner on a day that saw record-breaking heat in the city in April.

Other cities currently offering the CityPass program include: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Hollywood, Houston, Philadelphia, Southern California and Toronto.

Why all the discussion you might wonder about one travel offer?

Well, with prices like $54 for adults and $39 for kids (Seattle CityPass). Or $59 for adults and $39 for youth in San Francisco. Or $79 for adults and $59 for youth (New York City) you more than get your money’s worth of entertainment.

When you add in options like the Muni pass (7 days) in San Francisco, the value gets “kicked up a notch further.” And since CityPass is valid for nine days, beginning with the first day of use this pass is very suitable for a host of different vacations.

Passes which provide big thrills for small prices. What could be more important in today’s economy?

For more information you can call (888) 330-5008. Or visit

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CityPass Reveals its Big Deals on the Small Screen

CityPass, the visitor program bundling North America's most popular museums and attractions into convenient booklets, has launched a mobile web-based application to zero in on CityPass information, savings and premier attraction details on an iPhone.
CityPass ticket booklets have always been conveniently pocket-sized for the budget-savvy traveler. Now the resources of are available to travelers via a iPhone through a partnership with WhereTraveler, the online and mobile edition of one of the world's most trusted travel brands.
The new CityPass web-based app is available at

(Diane Siskin is a former Chattanoogan now living in Florida with her husband, Charles Siskin. An award-winning travel writer and editor, she can be reached at

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