Are you planning a trip to San Francisco and considering buying the San Francisco Explorer Pass? Find out if it’s worth the price and whether this sightseeing card is a good fit for your San Francisco trip!
With over 25 million visitors in 2017, San Francisco is known for its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and colorful Victorian homes. I grew up living in San Francisco and must confess that it has a little bit of everything. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world and home to the California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).
San Francisco is also known for being an expensive travel destination for tourists. While there are some free things to do in the city, such as walking through Golden Gate Park or checking out Union Square, its best attractions and tours can be quite pricey.
There’s good new though!
The San Francisco Explorer Pass can get you free entry into the city’s top-rated attractions. It’s silly to pay full price at popular tourist attractions in San Francisco when you can save money (and time) with the San Francisco Explorer Pass.
What is the San Francisco Explorer Pass?
✓ Pick from 27 top San Francisco attractions and tours
✓ Save over 45% paying for individual tickets
✓ Choose 3, 4, or 5 top-rated San Francisco attractions to visit
✓ Valid for 30 days
The San Francisco Explorer Pass is a multi-attraction card where you can choose to visit 3, 4, or 5 top attractions all for ONE low price, including a 1-day Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus Tour, Aquarium of the Bay, and California Academy of Sciences.
Go City Cards currently have a TrustScore rating of 8.5/10 on Trust Pilot, which makes it one of the highest rated sightseeing cards. This flexible sightseeing card can be a great option if you want explore San Francisco at your own pace while making huge savings on popular attractions.
How the San Francisco Explorer Pass Works
Simply buy your pass online – pick a 3, 4, or 5-choice Explorer pass for one flat rate. Then download your pass instantly to your smartphone or print it at home. Pay nothing at the gate.
No cash or tickets are needed. Once you have your pass, you’re all set. Visit your top 3, 4 or 5 attractions easily. All you have to do is present your Go San Francisco Explorer pass to be scanned at each attraction and you’re good to start your sightseeing adventure.
This tourism pass is the most popular with visitors to San Francisco because it has the potential to save you A LOT of money. You can save up to 45% on combined admission to the most popular attractions compared to buying tickets separately at the gate.
Many of the top-rated attractions in San Francisco cost $25-$40+ per person to visit, which can get pretty expensive for travelers. If you’re already planning to visit some of these popular attractions, buying the San Francisco Explorer pass can easily save you up to 45% off the regular ticket price. Who wouldn’t want to save extra money?
Attractions Included with Your San Francisco Explorer Pass
The San Francisco Explorer pass includes FREE admission to over 27 of the most popular things to do in the city. It’s all you need to sightsee in beautiful San Francisco. Here are some of the best attractions available with your pass and their regular admission prices in parentheses. (Prices and attractions current as of May 1, 2019).
- 1- day Hop On Hop Off Big Bus Tour (normally $55)
- Madame Tussauds & the San Francisco Dungeon Combo ticket (normally $30)
- California Academy of Sciences (normally $39.95)
- Aquarium of the Bay (normally $27.95)
- Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise (normally $44)
- Escape from the Rock (normally $42)
- Exploratorium (normally $29.95)
- Ripley’s Believe it or Not! (normally $23)
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) (normally $25)
- de Young Museum and Legion of Honor (normally $15)
- plus FREE admission to over 17 other great attractions! Check out the full list of included attractions here.
Benefits of the San Francisco Explorer Pass
The San Francisco Explorer Pass can be so helpful when you’re visiting a busy city like San Francisco. This is because you can purchase the pass online before your trip and activate it when you visit your first attraction. You don’t have to worry about waiting in long ticket lines or dealing with cash. Now that’s convenient!
Save Money on Sightseeing
The Explorer pass includes FREE admission to over 27 of the most popular things to do in San Francisco. Choose 3, 4, or 5 attractions easily – you don’t have to worry about picking the attractions in advance.
If you’re interested in checking out attractions such as Madame Tussauds, riding the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour, or checking out the California Academy of Sciences, then the Explorer pass can be a great way for you to save money.
Save Money on Tours
Another great thing to do in San Francisco is to check out a tour and explore the surrounding area. With your Explorer pass, you can get free admission to several popular tours, such as Escape from the Rock, riding the Big Bus San Francisco Panoramic Night tour, and the Oracle Park tour. Some tours cost $40+, but you can enjoy free entry with your pass.
This can be a great way to save money. Please note some tours require reservations. I recommend checking out each attraction page for full details.
Extra Benefits Available with Your San Francisco Explorer Pass
- Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour (normally $55) – This 1-day bus tour is one of the best ways to get around the city. It’s also a great option if you want to familiarize yourself with San Francisco. You can ride it for FREE with your pass.
- 1-day MUNI Visitor Passport (normally $23) – While San Francisco is a very walkable city, one of the best ways to get around is to ride public transit. With your Explorer Pass, you can get one full day of unlimited rides on Muni, Muni Metro, historic streetcars, underground trains, buses, and cable cars so you can get around to all your must-see attractions. Riding the historic cable cars is part of any great trip to San Francisco!
- California’s Great America (normally $59.99) – Located just outside of San Francisco, this amusement park is fun for the whole family. Enjoy thrill rides, roller coasters, splashing, and more entertainment here. Get FREE entry with your Explorer Pass.
- Special discounts and offers – In addition to the attractions and tours, you can show your pass at select dining, shopping, and entertainment venues for exclusive Go San Francisco offers.
Who is the San Francisco Explorer Pass Good for?
If this is your first time to San Francisco and you want to experience the best of what the city has to offer, then investing in the San Francisco Explorer pass can be a great deal. The pass is specifically designed to help first-timers save time and money when sightseeing.
Ride the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour, enjoy a beautiful boat cruise from Bridge 2 Bridge, or check out the Aquarium by the Bay. You can choose from 27+ different attractions and tours with your pass.
Families and Groups
If you’re traveling with your family or friends, the cost of buying individual tickets at each attraction can add up quickly. Your San Francisco Explorer pass can save you up to 45% on the city’s top attractions and experiences, which is great for families and groups.
Traveling with kids? There are many kid-friendly attractions included on the pass, such as the Exploratorium, Madame Tussauds, California Academy of Sciences, the Walt Disney Family Museum, Go Car 1 hour tour, San Francisco Zoo & Gardens, USS Pampanito, and so much more!
You’re Interested in Visiting Big-Ticket Attractions
Some of the big-ticket attractions and experiences in San Francisco can cost anywhere from $25-$50+ per person to visit. Some popular big-ticket attractions include riding the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour, Golden Gate Bay Cruise, Escape from the Rock, California Academy of Sciences, Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise, and California’s Great America.
Let’s say you went on the Escape from the Rock cruise (normally $42), rode the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour (normally $55), and explored the California Academy of Sciences (normally $39.95). If you paid for tickets separately, this would cost you $136.95. BUT, with the 3 Choice Pass, you’ll only pay $85. That’s over $50 in savings with your San Francisco Explorer pass!
Who is the San Francisco Explorer Pass NOT Good for?
Those who don’t want to explore outside of San Francisco
Some of the attractions included on the San Francisco Explorer Pass are outside of the city, such as California’s Great America. If you just want to stick to attractions ONLY inside the city, then you may want to consider purchasing the San Francisco CityPASS instead.
The San Francisco CityPASS includes FREE admission to the top 5 attractions in the city. This will save you 43% off vs. paying for tickets at the gate. You can learn more about the CityPASS here.
Those NOT Interested in Sightseeing
If you’re not interested in visiting the popular tourist attractions in San Francisco, then the Explorer pass may not be a good option for you.
Those Who Want to Explore Off-the-Beaten Path
If you’re not interested in sightseeing and prefer to explore off-the-beaten path, then buying a sightseeing pass is probably not a good fit for you.
Which Go San Francisco Pass Should I Get?
Go San Francisco offers three different passes to help you make the most of your trip to the city and maximize your savings. These three passes are the All-Inclusive pass, the Explorer pass, and the Build Your Own pass. Each pass offers the following:
✓ You can visit multiple attractions for one low price
✓ Everything is included, which means you pay nothing at the gate
✓ Choose as you go from top San Francisco attractions
✓ Mobile pass option
While this review has been highlighting the Explorer Pass (which the is the most popular), here’s an overview of each Go San Francisco Pass available. Pick the one right for your trip!
✓ Pick from over 28 San Francisco attractions
✓ Valid for up to 5 days
✓ Save up to 60% vs. purchasing tickets at each attraction
✓ Visit unlimited amount of San Francisco attractions
The All-Inclusive pass option is best for travelers who want to visit as many attractions as possible during their trip to San Francisco. This pass is available for purchase as a 1, 2, 3, or 5-day pass.
✓ Pick from over 27 San Francisco attractions
✓ Valid for up to 30 days
✓ Save up to 45% vs. purchasing tickets at each attraction
✓ Choose 3, 4, or 5 top-rated San Francisco attractions to visit
The Explorer pass option is best for travelers who want to take their time sightseeing at a few attractions of their choice. This pass is available for purchase as a 3, 4, or 5-attraction pass.
PRO TIP: The 3-choice attraction pass is the most popular with travelers. Save time and hassle by buying your pass online.
✓ Pick from over 38 San Francisco attractions
✓ Valid for up to 30 days
✓ Save up to 20% vs. purchasing tickets at each attraction
✓ Choose 2 or more attractions you want to visit in advance
The Build Your Own pass option is best for travelers who want to visit a couple of attractions and know exactly what they want to do.
How to Buy Your San Francisco Explorer Pass
Step 1: Choose the pass which best suits your trip. You can visit 3, 4, or 5 different attractions for one low price. You can click here to purchase your San Francisco Explorer pass from the official website.
Step 2: Download your pass instantly on any mobile device. Or you can print your pass at home.
Step 3: Simply show your pass at the attraction entrance to be scanned for admission and you’re in. Visiting your first attraction activates your pass. Once activated, your pass will then be valid for 30 days.
Does the San Francisco Explorer Pass Provide Good Value?
Yes! If you’re interested in visiting a few of the popular tourist attractions in San Francisco, such as riding the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour, California Academy of Sciences, or Aquarium of the Bay, then yes, the San Francisco Explorer pass can provide great value for your money.
Depending on which attractions you choose to visit, you have the potential to save up to 45% off vs. paying at the gate for individual tickets.
Another reason why the San Francisco Explorer pass is the most popular sightseeing pass with travelers is because it includes nearly ALL of the must-see attractions in the city. You can visit your choice of 3, 4, or 5 top-rated attractions.
Where the San Francisco Explorer Pass Falls Short
While the San Francisco Explorer pass includes FREE entry to over 27 popular attractions in the city, the only downside is that it doesn’t include admission to Alcatraz Island. This is because it’s run by the National Park Service, which doesn’t offer discounts on admission.
However, if you’re interested in learning more about Alcatraz, your Explorer pass offers free admission to experience Blue and Gold Fleet’s Escape from the Rock Cruise. This 90-minute bay cruise journey sails under the Golden Gate Bridge and then circles Alcatraz, allowing you to see every angle of this mysterious island. Your boat guide will share interesting stories and history about Alcatraz’s notorious criminals.
Another thing to keep in mind is some of the attractions and tours included on your Explorer pass are located outside of the city, such as California’s Great America amusement park.
As you can see, the Go San Francisco passes can provide an easy and stress-free way to sightsee. This is especially true if you’re visiting the city for the first time and want to save money at popular attractions and tours.
If you’re interested in visiting all the top attractions in San Francisco, then getting the All-Inclusive pass is a no-brainer.
If you want to take your time sightseeing at a few attractions of your choice, then getting the Explorer pass can be a great option.
If you only want to visit a couple of attractions and know exactly what you want to do, then getting the Build Your Own pass can be a good fit for you.
And if you’re traveling on a super tight budget, don’t worry, there’s plenty of free things to do in San Francisco.
Remember, this is your trip to San Francisco. You can plan it to suit your travel style and interests. Happy travels!
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