San Francisco CityPASS: Why it Rocks

Jun 21, 2012 by

Lots of cities offer some form of the CityPASS–a combination ticket that often includes transportation and admission to several big-ticket attractions.  Personally, I’ve used them in Paris, Amsterdam, and most recently, San Francisco.  What I’ve found on most online forums that I frequent is this advice:  if you will get your money’s worth, you should buy them.  I’d like to change that advice to simply: you should buy them, quantifiable savings or not.

Why?  Because sometimes what you are getting has more than a monetary value.  What you often get with a CityPASS–and what you definitely get with the San Francisco CityPASS–is convenience.  And that, my friends, has a much higher monetary value than any admission savings you may see.

Riding the cable car towards the wharf (this isn't me--obviously! I'm holding my own camera.)

Provided the pass includes public transportation–as the San Francisco CityPASS does–there are two main ways your life will be easier having purchased one.  First, you don’t ever have to worry about having exact change.  After a very short amount of time spent observing, I’ve determined that one of the worst jobs in the world must be working for Muni–the organization that runs the buses, trolleys, and streetcars in San Francisco.  These poor employees have to deal with all kinds of people–tourists and locals alike–and I’d say a good quarter of them have no idea what they are doing.  Because of this, Muni employees–especially the cable car drivers–are miserable human beings.  If you don’t have exact change, sorry buddy, you’re walking.  And don’t even ask how much the fare is–you’ll be snarled at.  But with a CityPASS you simply show the date on the cover and you are on your way.  Snarl-free, exact-change-be-damned.

Aside from the transportation pass, the San Francisco CityPASS also includes admission to several fantastic San Francisco attractions, including the de Young Museum, the Academy of Sciences, SFMOMA, and even a ferry trip.  This facet of the pass has some additional unable-to-be-quantified benefits.  First, you’ll be far more likely to stop in to an attraction even if you are short on time.  I had an hour to spend in Golden Gate Park before meeting up with friends, so I went to the de Young Museum and checked out one photography exhibit, took the elevator up to the top of the tower for one amazing view, and used the perfectly acceptable restroom to boot.  Would I have paid admission for one hour?  Probably not.  But because I had the pass, I got to experience a small portion of an attraction I would have otherwise missed.

The tower at the de Young museum. Amazing.

Additionally, at many locations, because you already technically have a ticket, you don’t have to stand in the ticket line.  Of course, this is important to note before you go–but now that you’ve read this, you know.  Don’t bother lining up for SFMOMA–just go in and see the nice person at the line-free desk.  They will take your voucher and give you a ticket–easy as that.  If time really is money–and I believe it is, especially when traveling–the San Francisco CityPASS is a fabulous value.

And speaking of value, I may have spent at least half the value of the pass on cable cars alone.  A one-way ride is $6, and because of how convenient the routes were to all of the attractions I wanted to see, I took them far more than I thought I would.  Most tourists ride one just to say they’ve ridden one–I used them for actual transportation and, if you have the CityPASS, so should you.  They are fun and convenient and save your feet (and calves and thighs) on some of the city’s steepest hills.

I swear to god, at several times–mainly involving transportation–I actually looked at my CityPASS booklet with actual love.  I did not, at any point, leave my hotel room without it.  It became one of the things I obsessively checked for, along with my room key and Visa card.  And if something can become as important as my Visa card, that, my friend, is a value at any price.

Disclosure:  San Francisco Travel provided me with a complimentary CityPASS to help me review the various attractions–which I will be doing as well.  But I loved the CityPASS itself so very much that I felt the need to review it.  Which is also very telling! 

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