Did you leave your heart in San Francisco? Whether you’re planning a trip to the city by the Bay or playing tourist for a few days, max your time out with CityPass and save some money while you are at it. Visiting premier attractions at a discounted rate without having to wait at ticket lines makes this a real San Francisco treat. Read on to find out more about what it is and how you can make it work for you!

CityPass What?
CityPass is a booklet containing VIP admission tickets to some of the city’s main points of interest. You’ll skip the lines, go straight to the main entrance and save a chunk of change in the process.3-Day Cable Car and MUNI Bus Passport
Your CityPass gives you three-day access to MUNI—the city’s public transportation system. Experience San Francisco’s trolleys, historic street cars and world-famous, grip-man operated, Cable Cars. Take in the city and get front door service to all your attractions without having to navigate the city by car.

Insider Tips: Avoid the long line at the Powell and Market cable car turn-around by boarding at stops at least four blocks above the turnaround. The California Street cable car line is least crowded and easiest to board. Check routes and schedules here.

Cable Car and Muni Buss Passport
Stations:
Market & Powell
Beach & Hyde
Bay & Taylor

SFMTA Customer Service Center:
11 S. Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94103

California Academy of Sciences
Explore science in the heart of Golden Gate Park. Relax in front of the deepest indoor coral reef on earth, interact with butterflies in a four-story indoor rainforest, research nearly 40,000 different creatures from around the world, study the planets in a 75-foot planetarium, visit a living roof with spectacular city views and so much more at the Cal Academy.

Upgrade it: Add on an Academy and Aquarium behind-the-scenes tour, (cost for CityPASS holders ages 8 and up is $24.95, subject to availability). Purchase day of or book online.

Insider Tips: Stop by the planetarium kiosk when you first arrive to secure a showtime (it’s right next to the gift shop). Download the free Academy Insider iphone app to help plan your visit and get the most out of your day and don’t forget. Show your CityPass booklet at the Academy store to receive 15% off your purchase.

Hours: Mon-Sat, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Golden Gate Park
55 Music Concourse Dr.
San Francisco, CA

Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure
Depart from renown Pier 39, enjoy a one-hour narrated cruise with sweeping views of locations such as San Francisco’s historic waterfront, Alcatraz and a breathtaking sail underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Tours are available in other languages via personal WiFi-enabled device. There is indoor and outdoor seating on a first come, first served basis, as well as a snack bar and restrooms onboard.

Upgrade it: Go for a 1-1/2 hour Escape from the Rock Cruise where you’ll learn Alcatraz’s history and snatch epic up-close photos. Children 5-11 receive one complimentary pair of 5x magnification souvenir binoculars with upgrade. Cost to upgrade for CityPASS holders is $5/person.

Insider Tips: Bring a hooded jacket as winds out on the Bay are strong with an occasional splash if you’re seated outdoors. Consider the morning and late afternoon cruises for less crowded options. Be sure to check in with the ticket booth as schedule is subject to change depending on weather and visit the nearby, famous Pier 39 sea lions on K-Dock.

Hours:  Available 7 days a week; frequent daily departures. Times vary by day and season and special holiday hours apply.
PIER 39
San Francisco, CA

Aquarium of the Bay
Surround yourself with native San Francisco Bay marine life and get up close views of sharks, bat rays, Garibaldis and more, as you walk through 300 feet of glass, underwater tunnels. Study the giant Pacific octopus and catch an animal encounter and more at one of the many daily programs. You and your little marine biologists will love touching and learning about sea stars, anemones and the friendly bat rays at Touch the Bay (Bay Lab). Watch the playful otters in their panoramic, watershed exhibit and learn all about ocean conservation.

Upgrade it: Get o a behind-the-scenes tour for an additional $17/ages 5 and older.

Insider Tip: Mornings are the least crowded.

Hours: Summer, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Winter, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
PIER 39
The Embarcadero and Beach Street
San Francisco, CA,

photo: Kate Loweth

Exploratorium
Experience over 650 hands-on exhibits at this family-friendly hub of science exploration. Strike a pose at the popular Shadow Box, where a bright flash illuminates a phosphorescent wall capturing your shadows. Make beautiful paintings with soap and water at the Soap Painting exhibit. Test your groups trust for one another at the two-person water fountain—Sip or Squirt. Be amazed by Rolling Through the Bay, artists Scott Weaver’s replica of San Francisco made out of 118,423 1/2 tooth picks! Have some fun talking to each other from several feet away at the iconic Archimedes, in the entrance plaza.

Upgrade it: Add on Tactile Dome and take an interactive excursion through total darkness. Must be 7 years or older, $15 for CityPass holders.

Tip: Exploratorium After Dark is every Thursday night 6-10 p.m., enjoy one-of-a-kind activities, guest speakers, music and cocktails. Additional $19.95 per person, adults only.

Hours: Tue-Sun, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Open Thursday evenings 6-10 p.m., adults only. Closed most Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Pier 15
San Francisco, CA

photo: rocor via flickr

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Wander through seven floors of modern and contemporary art that will interest all ages. One of the largest museums in the United States and one of the city’s most treasured, SFMOMA features works by Andy Warhol, Ruth Asawa, Frida Kahlo and many others. Stroll through the sculpture garden, explore the impressive 30-foot living wall and enjoy breathtaking views of the city. Check out the fun, bright-colored restrooms on every floor and savor several gourmet dining options.

Upgrade it: Special Exhibition upgrades/purchases can be made while presenting your mobile tickets, booklet or voucher at the ticketing desk.

Insider Tips: Bring headphones and download the free SFMOMA Audio app and listen to celebrities and curators give their take on the exhibits. Stop by the ticketing desk to lean more about the daily public tours. Size is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. Be sure to walk across the oculus bridge on the fifth floor and take in the views on the seventh floor terrace.

Hours: Fri-Tue, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thu, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Through Labor Day, enjoy later hours until 9 p.m. daily. Closed Wednesdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
151 3rd St.
San Francisco, CA 94103

photo: Kate Loweth

Show Me the Money!

There are two ways to explore the city with CityPass, both can save you up to 43% on your adventure.

  1. San Francisco CityPass gives you admission to five top, pre-selected attractions—Cable Car/MUNI, California Academy of Sciences, Blue & Gold Fleet, Aquarium of the Bay and choose between SFMOMA and the Exploratorium for your fifth option. Cost: $94/adults, $74/kids 5-11, and kids five and under may be eligible for free or discounted admission at some of the locations. You may need to stand in line to secure a free child’s ticket and may be able to skip this step by having a child’s CityPass booklet.
  2. San Francisco C3 allows you to choose any three of eight destinations and decide as you go. The C3 includes all venues in the CityPass (minus the Cable Car/MUNI pass) and in addition includes the Walt Disney Family Museum, deYoung Museum + Legion of Honor and Bay City Bike and Parkwide Bike Rentals. Cost: $63/adults, $45/kids 4-11 and children 4 and under are free or discounted, verify here.

Purchase

Purchase online and choose to receive a printable voucher or have a booklet shipped to you. You can also purchase a booklet once you arrive in the city at the first attraction you visit. San Francisco C3 can be purchased online and you can receive mobile or printable tickets.

Redeem your Voucher

If you opted for a mobile voucher, show up at your first stop with your printed voucher and exchange it for a CityPass booklet. Be sure to bring your ID for verification. San Francisco C3 printable or mobile tickets are accessed via email sent to you right away and you choose which to use.

Refunds? Expirations? 

CityPass booklets have an expiration date printed on the first page under “important details” and are usually good for a bit over a year. Vouchers must be exchanged for a booklet within six months of purchase. Booklets are good for nine consecutive days including the first use. Do not tear out any tickets out of your booklet or they’ll be considered invalid. Your C3 tickets are also good for nine days starting with the first day of use and you have one year from the date of purchase to start using them. Full refunds are offered on any unused CityPASS products purchased from citypass.com, for up to 365 days from date of purchase.

Visit the CityPass FAQ page for further detailed information and answers to your questions.

—Nella DuBon-Koch
Photos by author except where otherwise noted. 
Editor’s note: Passes were provided by CityPass but all opinions belong to the author. 
RELATED STORIES