We’re rounding the bases on the fun and games of a Chicago summer and looming at home plate is the first day of school. Boo! If visiting all the museums the city has to offer was on your must-do, to-do list and you haven’t quite gotten around to it, may we suggest a CityPass? What’s that you ask? Well, read on and we’ll fill you in on all the nitty-gritty details.

First things first, what is it? 
CityPass is a booklet containing VIP admission tickets into some the city’s most iconic destinations. You skip the lines and head straight to the attraction — and save some serious dough while you’re at it.

photo: Shedd Aquarium

What attractions are included?
Shedd Aquarium — Dive in deep to everyone’s favorite aquarium. CityPass includes priority entry, including Waters of the World, Amazon Rising, Wild Reef, Abbott Oceanarium, Polar Play Zone, special exhibits, an aquatic presentation and Stingray Touch (May-Oct), plus a 4-D Experience. CityPass holders can also upgrade to visit the Penguin Encounter for an additional $40, get a behind-the-scenes tour for $20 and receive 10% off purchases of $25 or more in the gift stores and 10% off photo purchases.

Skydeck Chicago — Leave your fear of heights at home to treat yourself to unparalleled 360-degree views of up to 50 miles and four states from the top of the Willis Tower (a.k.a. the 2nd tallest building in the Western Hemisphere). High speed elevators moving at 1600 feet per second whisk you quickly to the top where you’ll step out on The Ledge, glass floor balconies 103 floors over Chicago. CityPass holders receive 10% off any gift store purchases of $25 or more.

photo: The Field Museum

The Field Museum — Where else can you get 4.6 billion years of history in one place? Travel the world and back in time, visit SUE, the world’s largest T. Rex, descend into an ancient Egyptian tomb and explore over 10,000 years of Chinese history and culture. CityPass gets you VIP entry and an All-Access Pass, including admission to all permanent and regularly priced exhibitions, plus your choice of one 3D film. Upgrade to visit the temporary exhibit, Jurassic World: The Exhibition, based on the blockbuster film for $11/adult and $7/children. You also receive 10% off purchases of $25 or more in the Museum Store.

Museum of Science and Industry OR 360 Chicago — Pick between the largest science museum in the country, MSI, and 360 Chicago, which provides magnificent views of the skyline, beaches and water from 1000 feet up in the John Hancock.  CityPass holders get express entry admission to John Hancock or MSI entry for Science Storms, U-505 Submarine exhibit, YOU! The Experience, and more, plus one special timed-entry experience (MSI Theater film, Coal Mine, Fab Lab, or a special exhibit) and a Motion Simulator Ride. At MSI, you can upgrade your CityPass to include the U-505 Submarine Onboard Tour for $12/adult and $9/ages 3-11 and receive 10% off gift story, eatery and photo purchases. At 360 Chicago, you get a $1 discount on the Tilt, which is a glass box that tilts you over the city for a slightly terrifying view like no other, and 10% off any one purchase at Architect’s Corner Cafe and Bar.

photo: Art Institute of Chicago

Adler Planetarium OR Art Institute of Chicago — Explore space at America’s first planetarium or view the greatest Impressionist collection outside of Paris. Tough choice. If you choose Adler, you get unlimited VIP access to all shows, including the latest sky show, Planet Nine, exhibitions and experiences. You also save 10% at the Adler Store and at Cafe Galileo’s. Head to the Art Institute of Chicago and get Fast Pass admission to permanent collection and non-ticketed special exhibitions and audio tour.

photo: Adler Planetarium

What is the cost of a CityPass and how much does it save me?
Depending on what combination of attractions you choose, you can save up to 53% on admission. A CityPass for adults is $99.75 and $84.74 for ages 3-11. If you have a child that falls under the age limit of a CityPass purchase, you may be required to wait in line to get a child’s admission ticket at the attraction.

How do you purchase a CityPass
You can purchase online and choose between a printable voucher, mobile voucher or have a booklet shipped to you. Easy-peasy.

photo: Museum of Science and Industry

How do you redeem a voucher?
If you choose a printed or mobile voucher versus having a booklet shipped to you, take the voucher to the first attraction you choose to visit and they’ll exchange it for a CityPass booklet. Just beware that you may run into a line exchanging your voucher during peak times. Also, be sure to bring your ID as some attractions may ask for verification.

Does it expire and are there refunds?
The short answer is yes and yes. Vouchers must be redeemed within 6 months of purchase. Each CityPass booklet has the expiration date printed on the inside cover. Once you use your CityPass booklet at the first attraction, the booklet is valid for 9 more consecutive days. You can get a refund on a CityPass purchase if returned within 365 days of original purchase by going online, as long as you haven’t redeemed any portion of the CityPass. You can also exchange any expired but unused CityPASS booklet for a current CityPASS booklet for up to 365 days after the printed expiration date on the inside cover.

photo: Skydeck Chicago

Final good-to-knows:

  • Think of a CityPass as cash, if it gets lost or stolen, there is no refund or replacement possible.
  • CityPASS booklets, cards and vouchers are non-transferable so they can not be transferred to or shared with anyone else.
  • When ordering a voucher, be sure to provide the first and last name of the person who will be redeeming the voucher for the CityPass. Important tidbit to remember if you’re making a voucher purchase as a gift.
  • There are no blackout dates, but you’ll want to check with each attraction before you visit to make sure there are no private events or exhibits closed for maintenance .
  • If you purchase from citypass.com, you may choose what order to visit the attractions. If you purchase from another website or company, there may be restrictions, so be sure to read the fine print.

photo: 360 Chicago

Location and hours of attractions

Shedd Aquarium
1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Museum Campus
Hours: (Summer) daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; (Winter) Mon-Fri, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat-Sun & Holidays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
312-939-2438
Online: sheddaquarium.org
Best time to visit: Wed.-Fri. before 11 a.m. has the smallest crowds and arriving early ensures the best selection of show times for the aquatic presentation (which often sells out).

Skydeck Chicago
233 S. Wacker Dr.
The Loop
Hours: (Mar.-Sept.) daily, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; (Oct.-Feb.) daily, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
312-875-9696
Online: theskydeck.com
Best time to visit: Right before sunset each day for twilight and evening views.

The Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Museum Campus
Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; last admission at 4 p.m.
312-922-9410
Online: fieldmuseum.org
Best time to visit: Prior to 11 a.m. to avoid heavy crowds.

Museum of Science and Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Hyde Park
Hours: Daily, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
773-684-1414
Online: msichicago.org
Best time to visit: Mondays are the least crowded.

360 Chicago – John Hancock Center
875 N. Michigan Ave.
Mag Mile
Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.-11 p.m.
312-654-2892
Online: 360chicago.com
Best time to visit: First thing in the morning for the quickest trip to the top. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the least crowded.

Adler Planetarium
1300 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Museum Campus
Hours: Daily, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
312-922-7827
Online: adlerplanetarium.org
Best time to visit: Experts are on-hand to answer questions at the Space Visualization Laboratory daily between noon-1 p.m. and 2 p.m.-3 p.m.

Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Ave.
The Loop
Hours: Mon.-Wed. & Fri-Sun, 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs., 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
312-443-3600
Online: artic.edu
Best time to visit: Free guided tours are available daily at noon.

Have you explored the city using CityPass? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the Comments below!

— Maria Chambers

photos: courtesy of CityPass