The San Diego CityPASS sightseeing pass is an easy way to save money at top San Diego attractions. I live in La Jolla and help people plan San Diego vacations, so I know why people buy this pass and how they use it.

My family uses multi-attraction discount passes like CityPASS when we travel for convenience and savings, too. They can be a good buy, and below I’m sharing ten reasons why you may want to consider San Diego CityPASS in my hometown.

You can save on tickets, tours, and hotels through my affiliations. If you make purchases through the links in this post, I may be compensated.

1. Choose One of Three Ticket Packages

Sometimes, less is more. By having only three packages with limited attraction choices, it’s easier to decide if this pass will work for you by simply eyeballing the packages on offer.

These are your three package choices:

  • SeaWorld San Diego (Single Day ticket) + 3 Attractions
  • LEGOLAND California (1-Day ticket) + 3 Attractions
  • SeaWorld San Diego AND LEGOLAND California + 3 Attractions

The three attractions can include any combination of the following six options:

  • San Diego Zoo OR San Diego Zoo Safari Park (1-Day Pass to ONE park)
  • USS Midway Museum (General Admission)
  • City Cruises (One Hour Harbour Cruise)
  • Old Town Trolley Tours (One Day of Unlimited Reboarding)
  • Birch Aquarium at Scripps (General Admission)
  • Maritime Museum of San Diego (General Admission)

Your San Diego CityPASS is valid for one-time admission to the included unless otherwise indicated on the pass.

2. You’ll Save Money: Here’s Potentially How Much

Of course, the biggest reason to buy a discount pass of any kind is to save money. With a San Diego CityPASS you save up to:

  • 40% on the SeaWorld San Diego pass.
  • 39% on the LEGOLAND California pass.
  • 42% on the SeaWorld San Diego + LEGOLAND California pass.

Example Savings for a Family of Four

Let’s look at the potential savings for a family of four — two adults and two kids.

You choose LEGOLAND California as your theme park and add on a harbor cruise, a trolley tour, and San Diego Zoo. With a CityPASS, that totals $596 with no upgrades.

The same family of four purchasing the exact tickets at the gate to the same attractions with no upgrades and without a CityPASS would pay $971.50. That’s a savings of $375 (38%).

Other attraction combinations could save up to 42% off gate prices.

3. Buy San Diego CityPASS in Two Ways

You can buy this pass through CityPASS, of course (they charge a $2 per pass transaction fee).

We sell it as well for a few dollars less (and also charge a $2 per pass transaction fee), and you can add other discounted theme park tickets to your cart at the same time.

However, you’ll want to request my exclusive discounts before purchasing Zoo, Safari Park, or LEGOLAND individually.

You can even bundle the pass with a hotel in a vacation package. Purchase below through aRes Travel.

San Diego CityPASS

Save $2 per pass through aRes Travel. Add other discounted San Diego attractions tickets to your cart, too!

Use promo code CYBER2022 for an additional $5 off!

San Diego CityPASS + Hotel

Save even more on the pass when you bundle it with a hotel stay. Choose from over 150 San Diego hotels!

4. It’s Good For Nine Consecutive Days

One of the best perks of the San Diego CityPASS is that you can get discounted prices at popular attractions over nine consecutive days.

That’s longer than most people’s vacations and gives you plenty of time to explore San Diego’s best theme parks.

SeaWorld San Diego Manta roller coaster
SeaWorld Manta roller coaster

You’ll be happy to know that you get deep discounts at two San Diego favorite theme parks: SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California. You can choose from three packages that include not only these two top amusement parks in San Diego but a half dozen other popular attractions as well.

Each package includes admission to three attractions from a list of six: San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park, USS Midway Museum, City Cruises, Old Town Trolley Tours, Birch Aquarium at Scripps, and Maritime Museum of San Diego. Here’s how it looks.

SeaWorld San Diego

If you choose the SeaWorld San Diego CityPASS, you’ll save up to 40% on your admission to SeaWorld on a single-day ticket plus three add-on attractions for each adult (ages 13+) or child (ages 3-12) ticket. (Children 2 and younger are free.)

LEGOLAND California Resort

If you choose the LEGOLAND California San Diego CityPASS, you’ll save up to 39% on
LEGOLAND’s single-day admission and three add-on attractions for each adult or child ticket.

SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California

With this package, you’ll enjoy up to 42% savings on SeaWorld San Diego, LEGOLAND
California, and three add-on attractions for each purchased pass.

6. And, You’ll Choose Three of Six Great Additional Attractions

Rhinos that you can see with discount San Diego Zoo Safari Park Discount tickets.
Rhinos at San Diego Zoo Safar Park

You’ll choose your three favorites of six additional attractions included with a San Diego CityPASS package.
You don’t need to know which add-ons you want when you buy your passes.

Not everyone in your group needs to go to the same attractions. More on that later.

San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Right next door to Balboa Park, California’s largest and most historic urban park, San Diego Zoo is home to roughly 12,000 animals within a 100-acre zoo and botanic garden. It’s one of the best zoos in California and is on most tourists’ must-see lists.

Your 1-Day Pass includes gate admission and access to the Skyfari Aerial Tram, Guided Bus Tour, and Express Bus. You’ll also have access to all the zoo’s regularly scheduled exhibits and tours.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park is an alternative to San Diego Zoo if you’re looking for more of an African safari experience. You’ll find over 3,600 animals in habitats across 1,800 acres. Here, your 1-Day Pass provides unlimited use of the Africa Tram and all regularly scheduled exhibits and shows.

USS Midway Museum

Board the historic USS Midway, one of the nation’s longest-serving naval aircraft carriers.

You’ll enjoy a free audio tour of the ship that features 29 aircraft and 60 exhibits. Audio tours are available in six languages.

Your 1-day pass includes a Battle of Midway 3D holographic movie. USS Midway Museum is one of San Diego’s most unique and educational attractions.

City Cruises

Experience San Diego from one of its famous Harbor Cruises. While on this one-hour harbor cruise, you’ll see the Star of India (the oldest active sailing ship in the world), as well as a variety of U.S. naval vessels.

You’ll also see the beautiful Coronado Bridge, Cabrillo National Monument, and, of course, plenty of natural beauty.

Old Town Trolley Tours

You can also take the hop-on, hop-off Old Town Trolley Tour, which is handy if you don’t have a car.

Your 1-day pass provides unlimited reboarding on a 12-stop hop-on, hop-off tour of some of San Diego’s most popular attractions like Coronado Island, Old Town State Historic Park, Balboa Park, Little Italy, and several others.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

A must-see for families, your 1-day pass for this attraction includes over 5,000 creatures, plus a two-story Giant Kelp Forest, and an ocean view Tide Pool Plaza.

It’s one of the best things to do with kids in San Diego. You’ll learn how Scripps Institution oceanographers are solving earth’s biggest challenges. This is one attraction you’ll want to reserve, as it often sells out.

Your San Diego CityPASS offers you discounted general admission to Birch Aquarium, plus discounted upgrades. More on that in a minute.

Maritime Museum of San Diego

Sailing enthusiasts to history buffs to kids of all ages – everyone loves the Maritime Museum of San Diego. This attraction represents San Diego’s seafaring history, from tall ships to submarines.

You’ll move from one ship to the next via docks and ladders. The last guest admission for the day is 4 p.m. There are some interesting upgrades for this attraction too. Your pass provides general admission.

Remember, each CityPASS package to SeaWorld San Diego or LEGOLAND California includes three of the above add-ons at no additional cost to you.

7. You Can Upgrade Your Experience After Arrival

Passholders can purchase upgrades at nearly every attraction on the list. Upgrades are based on availability. Here’s what’s on offer for passholders at nominal upgrade prices.

LEGOLAND California Resort: SEA LIFE Aquarium

This is a good upgrade for families with children. A couple of things to look forward to are encounters with selected sea life and the Sea at Night (any time of day), where you’ll get to experience a simulation of a bioluminescent tide.

San Diego Zoo or Zoo Safari Park: 4D Theater

Watch a 3D movie plus special effects for this 4D theatric experience. Purchase tickets at the theater once you’ve entered either San Diego Zoo or Safari Park.

USS Midway Museum: VR or Flight Simulator

You have two choices for upgrades at the USS Midway Museum. You can either purchase a virtual reality flight of an F/18 from launch to mission to landing, or a heart-pounding air combat flight simulator. Even without upgrades, the USS Midway Museum is one of San Diego’s most famous attractions.

City Cruises: Two-Hour Cruise

Upgrade your 1-hour cruise of San Diego Harbor to their 2-hour Harbor Cruise & Sea Lion Adventure. The upgrade costs so little that unless you’re crunched for time, you’ll want to do it.

Old Town Trolley: Discounts on Other Tours

Although Old Town Trolley tours don’t have specific upgrades to offer, they offer passholders discounts on their other available tours.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps: Tours

There are two upgrades available at Birch Aquarium. The first is their Behind-the-Scenes Seahorse Tour is offered twice daily in the morning and afternoon.

The second is a seasonal opportunity. Passholders can take an Outdoor Adventure walk on Scripps Pier during fall or go on a Tidepooling Adventure with a naturalist from Birch Aquarium in winter.

Both are separately ticketed items. So, you can enter with CityPASS and then purchase these separately online through Birch Aquarium.

Maritime Museum of San Diego

At the Maritime Museum of San Diego, you’ll have three upgrade options. The first is a 45-minute narrated historic cruise of San Diego Bay.

Another option is a 75-minute narrated cruise focused on area naval history that’s only available on weekends. The biggie is a weekend adventure aboard a Tall Ship. You’ll need to check with the ticket booth at the Museum for reservations and details for each upgrade.

8. You’ll Have Skip-the-Line Privileges

Those who hate wasting time in lines will love this perk. You can avoid the lines at attraction ticket booths with your discount pass when you choose what you want before your arrival.

You’ll whiz by those long, time-wasting lines and head straight to the entrance with your CityPASS.

9. Flexible Visits with Your Pass

The flexibility of CityPASS is a big deal when you’re visiting with a family or group. If you decide to stay at a previous attraction longer than planned, or if schedules get crossed in your group, you can change your reservation for the next attraction.

You can visit attractions in any order or even combine attractions. Maybe you want to visit the
USS Midway and the Maritime Museum on the same day. It might be convenient to take the
hop-on, hop-off trolley tour that day that includes both attractions among its 12 stops.

Another way this city pass offers flexibility is that your entire group doesn’t have to agree on the same attractions. You’ll need to settle on LEGOLAND California or SeaWorld San Diego (or both) as your main theme park.

Still, beyond that, a CityPASS customer care specialist can help you with arrangements over the phone if you don’t all want to go to the same add-on attractions.

10. Generous Pass Expiration and Returns

You have 365 days to use your San Diego CityPASS before it expires. If you buy your pass but never use it, you can get a full refund within 365 days.

Remember, from the first day you swipe your pass at an attraction, you have eight additional consecutive days to complete visits to your attractions.

11. Even Residents Can Use CityPASS Tickets

The USS Midway is one of San Diego's best attractions. Here's what it's like to visit.
When was the last time you visited USS Midway Museum?

Naturally, tourists benefit from CityPASS tickets in both convenience and savings, but it’s a great option for locals too.

For example, over the winter holidays, San Diego Safari Park goes all out with seasonal decorations and festivities. What a great add-on during the kids’ vacation.

12. Buy Online & Use on Mobile

The best way to buy your San Diego CityPASS is online. You’ll receive an email that will contain your mobile tickets.

Make a reservation, if necessary. Then, head to the turnstiles and show your ticket on your mobile phone. They’ll scan it at each attraction for admission. You can also print your ticket if you prefer a hard copy.

You may also need a photo ID, but not usually.

FAQs About San Diego CityPASS

Should I buy Two Separate CityPasses?

I have received this question from those who want to visit every attraction listed on San Diego CityPASS.

Why? In theory, you can purchase a SeaWorld San Diego + 3 attractions pass AND a LEGOLAND California + 3 attractions pass to see every listed attraction.

You would save money, yes, but you may save more with Go San Diego All-Inclusive pass (use promo code LJM10SDO) if you’re sightseeing across a shorter date range.

Should I Buy CityPASS or Go San Diego?

It depends on exactly the attractions you want to visit and how many days you plan to sightsee.

Both are excellent choices and are easy to use. I would say CityPASS is for tourists, really aiming to hit LEGOLAND and/or SeaWorld, one of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance parks, and USS Midway Museum. This is a very common combination of attractions.

Go City San Diego has way more activities, tours, museums, and even the new Sesame Place San Diego. If you are a power sightseer or want to see the Balboa Park Museums, you should get this pass instead.

You’ll need to crunch the numbers — there’s no getting around it. Rest assured that your wallet will thank you either way.

SAN DIEGO CityPASS

Save $2 per pass through aRes Travel. Add other discounted San Diego attractions tickets to your cart, too!

Use promo code CYBER2022 for an additional $5 off!

SAN DIEGO CityPASS + Hotel

Save even more on the pass when you bundle it with a hotel stay. Choose from over 150 San Diego hotels!

Give San Diego CityPASSo a try. Let us know what you liked best in the comments. You can also check out my other discount passes and packages for your next San Diego vacation.

Katie Dillon headshot

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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