If you’re thinking of a trip to Chicago, on your own or with your family, you may be considering the purchase of a discount pass in order to make the most out of your visit to the windy city. Travel passes not only allow visitors to save money by combining attractions together, but they also offer other valuable perks like the ability to skip-the-line and save time.
The three most valuable passes are the Chicago CityPASS, the Go Chicago Card and the Chicago Explorer Pass. All three offer different benefits that allow guests to take advantage of some of the best that Chicago has to offer, at deeply discounted rates.
If you’re looking to get to the top attractions in the city, without having to make a lot of choices on your own, then the Chicago CityPASS may just work for you! It’s on the higher end of the price range, but that’s because it provides priority access to some of the most expensive attractions in the city. If you added up all of the tickets individually, you’d find yourself paying close to double!
The city pass allows for 9 consecutive days of use to visit 5 of Chicago’s top attractions, including Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck, the Field Museum, as well as options for the Art Institute/Planetarium and the Museum of Science and Industry/360 Chicago. If you visit all 5 of the attractions within the 9 days, you can save more than $100.
A big part of the pass is that you get to skip the lines at almost all of the included attractions. In the high season, this will literally save you hours.
This pass has less flexibility than the other passes as there are no options for bus tours, bicycle rental, boat tours and other activities. A slight drawback for CityPASS is also that it is currently only available as a paper ticket book and cannot be accessed with a mobile app.
Offering options to choose between 25+ different attractions in the city, the Go Chicago Card is great for those who want to see a lot of things in a relatively short amount of time. This card allows you to spend just one day in the city, or pile on the savings by combining up to five consecutive days together. Of course, the more days you add in, the more money you can save and the lower the cost per day.
The flexibility involved in these passes means that family members can customize their trip to enjoy whatever they like on their own schedule. It’s feasible to squeeze two, or sometimes even three, attractions into a day, depending on your preference. Families can even split up if a couple people want to do a Architectural cruise and the others want to ride the Centennial Wheel..
When planning your trip, be sure to allow time in between to eat, rest and travel from one place to the next. One great thing about the Go Chicago Card is that you can alternate busier activities (such as the Museum of Science and Industry) with more passive activities (like a bus tour). Whatever way you like to take in a city, the Chicago Go Card allows you to do it!
Tip: You can use the Big Bus Hop On Hop Off Tour to get to the Skydeck, Art Institute, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum and more. You can also add on a second day on the Big Bus for $10.
Folks who like to explore attractions at a leisurely pace may find that this pass works well for them. The type of attractions to choose from and the number of different options is great, with more than 25 different tours, cruises, museums and activities. Passes can be purchased to include 3, 4, or 5 attractions within the span of 30 days from the first use.
This pass is fairly affordably priced, but doesn’t provide quite the deep discounts as the other passes. Families and individuals who like the flexibility of not having to choose their attractions in advance will love this pass. Plus, it allows for line-skipping at certain places, such as the Art Institute or the Field Museum, providing a time-saving factor as well as the convenience of a mobile app.
Consider these different scenarios that may help you decide which pass might be right for you:
- A high-energy group or individual who wants to do as many things as possible in a short amount of time would likely find that the Go Chicago Card works best.
- A group who wants to see just the very best highlights of the city without having to do much research or make a lot of choices may find that the Chicago CityPASS is ideal.
- For those who only want to visit a few attractions but want a lot of options and plenty of freedom in the schedule, then the Explorer Pass probably makes the most sense. This works well for families with small children who want to visit at a slower pace and choose attractions based on each child’s preference.