Travel tip: Get CityPASS – It’s a great deal

Cover: CityPASS ticket booklets
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull

Large cities have so much to do and see with fabulous museums, observation decks, tours, and attractions.

The challenge can be how to fit it all in and how to pay for it all. Normally it comes down to a choice between time or money – stand in a long line or pay for the venue’s expedite line/VIP upgrade to bypass the wait. The problem is that when you are on vacation, time and money are both limited. Then, we found CityPASS ticket booklets, which gets us into the top attractions, saves us money, and normally has us heading straight through the fast lane line.

Sound too good to be true? Here’s how we first discovered CityPASS Chicago and why the CityPASS website is now our first stop when planning a city tour.

How CityPASS saved the day (at least a big portion of it) in Chicago

We arrived in Chicago on a Friday midday, dropped our bags at the hotel, and planned to head to a couple of attractions that afternoon.

CityPASS tickets attraction: Willis Tower in Chicago
CityPASS tickets attraction: Willis Tower in Chicago
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

First on the list, was the observation deck at Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower). Arriving at the tower, the line reached out the door, down the block and around the corner. Ugh. We waited through the line about 30 minutes and finally reached the entrance, where we were told the wait was over three hours to get to the top. I noticed a completely empty line that said it was for CityPASS booklet holders.

As we continued in the queue, I pulled out my phone, went to the CityPASS website and discovered that CityPass Chicago covers all the places we wanted to visit on the weekend, would save us money and would get us in the fast lanes. I instantly bought two passes, got a confirmation email within a minute with the voucher. We moved over to the CityPASS line and were on the next elevator.

Arriving where the really big line was below the main entry to purchase tickets, we passed everyone else, went to the ticket office showed them our voucher, were given our CityPASS Chicago booklet, then headed off once again in a fast lane for the elevator to the observation deck.

Sounds good, but is CityPASS right for my trip?

So, you are probably thinking, “Whaaaat? That’s pretty cool but… how does that really work, how does it save you money, and are the attractions really where you want to go or some funky place that couldn’t sell their tickets?”

Keep reading.

How does CityPASS work?

CityPASS booklets can be purchased online on the CityPASS website or in person at the attraction locations. If you purchase online, you print the voucher or just have it sent via email to your phone, then show it at the ticket desk of the first attraction you visit in the city. They scan it and provide the CityPASS booklets that have the tickets for each of the venues. The attraction tickets are valid for 9 days and can be used in any order.

CityPASS tip: If you have the voucher sent via email to your phone, take a screen shot of the image that will be scanned. The man at Willis Tower advised us to do this as the internet can be sketchy in the basement of the building where the ticket desk is located.

What attractions are included?

In each of the CityPASS cities, the attractions include some of the top locations and, in some cases, options allowing for some customization of your trip.

For example, CityPASS Chicago includes admission to the Willis Tower Skydeck, The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and then either 360 Chicago or the Museum of Science and Industry and also a choice of either the Art Institute of Chicago or Adler Planetarium.

CityPASS tickets attraction: The Field Museum
CityPASS tickets attraction: The Field Museum
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Another example is New York CityPASS, which includes The Empire State Building Experience, the American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and then either Top of the Rock or the Guggenheim Museum, a choice of the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, and finally either the 9/11 Memorial and Museum or the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

In other words – the attractions really are the ones everyone wants to visit.

CityPASS tickets attraction: Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
CityPASS tickets attraction: Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Saving time and money with CityPASS ticket booklets

While every city is different, the CityPASS savings can be up to 53%.

Using our itinerary in Chicago, the attractions we visited would have totaled $199.95 and the CityPASS Chicago was $98. For our selections, that was a 51% savings and we entered through the fast lane at all locations. The time savings allowed us to visit multiple venues each day, which wouldn’t have been possible without the fast lanes.

For New York City, we did not pick the most expensive attractions, so the total value was $173. The New York CityPASS price is $116, which still is a 33% savings.

The price comparisons above are for adult admissions, but children’s pricing is also available. The admission prices we used were the online published prices at the time of our visit.

CityPASS Cities

CityPASS tickets attraction: Empire State Building in New York
CityPASS tickets attraction: Empire State Building in New York
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

CityPASS ticket booklets are available for 12 North American cities: New York City, Atlanta, Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Southern California.

Disclosure & Disclaimer: We received complimentary CityPASS booklets for some reviews. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Cool Adventures

Photographers Kim and Greg Hull travel the world looking for cool adventures. is the site for exploring amazing places to go and things to do across the world. From mountains to cities to beaches, join us as we roam the globe in pursuit of the best experiences the world has to offer.