How the Chicago CityPASS Works
The Chicago CityPASS, as noted above, is a booklet of tickets. Once you receive the booklet, you simply present it at the designated admission line at each attraction (sometimes this is the general admission line, and sometimes it’s a special priority entry line, as with Shedd Aquarium).
The attraction will tear out the relevant ticket (or scan it) and let you in. That’s it! All you need to do is hold onto your ticket booklet and make sure you don’t lose it. You have nine full days once you visit the first attraction to visit the other four. And, the booklet also comes with discounts to the either/or attractions so you can choose one and still save money on the other.
You can purchase the ticket booklet directly from CityPASS or at any of the participating attractions. Just walk up to the admission counter and ask to purchase the Chicago CityPASS.
The Top Chicago Attractions
There are seven attractions included with the Chicago CityPASS, and you can visit five with the pass. These are arguably the most popular attractions in all of Chicago, and nearly everybody visits a few of these on their trips.
- Shedd Aquarium
- Skydeck Chicago
- Field Museum
- Adler Planetarium
- Art Institute of Chicago
- Museum of Science and Industry
- 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck
You can also visit the two you didn’t choose among your included five by taking advantage of the coupons in the back, as mentioned above.
How a CityPASS Saves
Like its competitor products Go Chicago Card and Chicago Explorer Pass, the Chicago CityPASS saves by aggregating your admission costs. You pay less for the product than you would at all five attractions combined.
CityPASS advertises a savings of 50%, which is comparable to its competitors as well. It’s easier to save with the CityPASS, too, because there are fewer choices and you get the high-value attractions included.
Assuming you are interested in all of the either/or options, you should choose the Art Institute of Chicago and 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck. They have the higher admission prices and will increase the value of the pass. Then, use the coupons in the back to visit Adler Planetarium and the Museum of Science and Industry for less than gate price.
Is the Chicago CityPASS Right for Me?If time is really important to you, the Chicago CityPASS will save lots of it. It can easily save you an hour standing in line at the Shedd Aquarium alone.
The Chicago CityPASS is a smart option for those who want a more leisurely travel itinerary. No need to fit two to three things in per day (as you do to maximize the value of the Go Chicago Card) – just take your time over nine whole days. This can span two weekends, too, which especially helpful for longer trips or if you’re relatively local.
It’s also a nice choice if you want to see the included attractions and nothing else. They are the top things in the city, and if they’re on your list, it’s a better value than some of the other products. For example, a one-day Go Chicago Card costs about the same as the Chicago CityPASS. However, while you get admission to five attractions with the CityPASS, it’s impossible to visit five attractions in one day with the Go Chicago Card, so you’re already getting less for the same amount.
Any Reason Not to Buy?
The biggest reason not to purchase would be the limited number of attractions. Some of the most popular things in Chicago are not part of this program, so you’d need to pay out of pocket.
If you have kids, the Chicago Children’s Museum and Navy Pier are key destinations that are not on the product. It also doesn’t include any tours or cruises, the latter of which is particularly odd in a lakefront city with an iconic river system.
Otherwise, another small reason is the ticket booklet itself. When competitor products like Go Chicago Card and Chicago Explorer Pass have gone digital (and can therefore be used on smartphones), the CityPASS seems a little basic. That said, it’s really a minor thing and you can easily remember to stash the booklet with your wallet or some other safe place.
Sample Chicago CityPASS Itineraries
Because the pass is good for nine days, you could visit the included attractions one per day, or a few grouped together. Here are some examples below.
A Weekend Getaway
Day 1: Shedd Aquarium; Field Museum; Skydeck Chicago
Day 2: Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Science and Industry
A Leisurely Trip
Day 1: Shedd Aquarium; Field Museum
Day 2: Adler Planetarium
Day 3: 360 CHICAGO plus spend some time Shopping
Day 4: Skydeck Chicago
Chicago CityPASS PricingThe Chicago CityPASS is typically around $110 for an adult booklet and $90 for a child booklet. This brings your attraction costs to a little over $20 per attraction per adult, which is an excellent value.
You will easily money even if you visit 3 Attractions. Of course, you do need to visit all of the included attractions to actually maximize the value of the pass. Since you have nine days to so do, however, it’s very likely that you can truly save the 50% advertised by CityPASS.