One of the easiest ways to save money on San Diego attractions is with Go San Diego (also formerly known as a Go San Diego Card). Many readers and clients buy this sightseeing pass through me, thanks to a discount I have, so I have deep insight into how this pass is used on real-life vacations.
While this sightseeing pass is hugely popular with tourists, locals should also consider it for touring attractions during school breaks or with visiting family and friends.
To decide whether Go San Diego is worth it for you, you’ll need to understand the two pass options and how to use them. You’ll also need to crunch some numbers.
In this post, I’ll also share some answers to questions I frequently get about Go San Diego and mention some of the benefits that extend beyond the savings.
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.
PLEASE NOTE: Go San Diego passes are not qualifying tickets for the annual Kids Free San Diego promotion in October.
Top 10 Reasons Why I Recommend Go San Diego
1. You Can Save Up to 60% on San Diego Attractions
The best reason to buy Go San Diego is for the discounted admission. Keep in mind how much you can save will depend on what type of pass you choose and what you decide to do. Based on my research, the typical savings range from 20-60%, but this depends on the type of pass chosen.
It is difficult to get this large of a discount without this pass — especially for those who are avid sightseers or have long San Diego vacations planned.
2. There Is a Risk-Free Guarantee — Buy Now, Travel Later
If you buy Go San Diego and wind up not using it, you have 90 days from your purchase date to return any non-activated or unused passes for a refund. This 90-day policy applies to purchases after September 1, 2020. If you return the pass within 14 days, you’ll receive a full refund. Between day 15 and day 90, your refund will be subject to a small processing fee. Read the refund policy for more details.
You also have two years from the date of purchase to activate your pass.
3. All Major San Diego Attractions Participate & You Can Visit Them Once Per Day
Everything I would classify as a major San Diego attraction can be visited using Go San Diego (the full list is below), including the San Diego Zoo®, San Diego Zoo Safari Park®, LEGOLAND® California, Belmont Park, Old Town Trolley, plus the most kid-friendly museums in Balboa Park.
You may visit included attractions once per day subject to restrictions outlined in the guidebook that comes with your pass. If an attraction doesn’t require reservations, you simply show your pass at the gate for entry. If it does require reservations, you might be restricted by reservation availability.
At the time of this writing, the only major attraction that requires reservations is LEGOLAND California. Some tours do as well.
4. Go San Diego Saves Time
With the Go San Diego pass, you won’t have to wait in a ticket booth line when you visit San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, SeaWorld San Diego, or the USS Midway Museum, which saves significant time during the summer season, especially. It is quicker to present Go San Diego for entry at museums, like San Diego Air and Space Museum, than to go through a ticket purchase transaction.
Once you purchase the Go San Diego pass, you can use it in two ways. Download the Go City app, enter your login details (from your ticket purchase), and use the digital ticket generated by the app.
Tip: I often screenshot this ticket and add it to my camera roll just in case I have trouble pulling up the app due to spotty cell phone service.
Or, a printable ticket will be emailed to you with your purchase confirmation. Print the ticket and use it as your entry. Be sure that you are printing the actual ticket and not just the confirmation email.
5. There Are TWO Flexible Pass Options
Which you choose comes down to crunching numbers based on how you think you’ll sightsee in San Diego. You’ll need to pay close attention to which theme parks, museums, tours, and more are included with each pass option.
Who this is for: Avid sightseers and those who want maximum flexibility to decide their itineraries on a whim. This pass is popular with families who think they’ll visit San Diego Zoo, the Balboa Park Museums (of which there are many you’ll want to bounce in between without admission adding up), and another theme park. Or, it’s popular with families visiting San Diego with kids who intend to see all four major theme parks.
The All-Inclusive option allows users to visit all participating 55+ San Diego attractions at a reduced cost. The benefit of the All-Inclusive pass is that you can make last-minute decisions about which attractions to visit because the likelihood of them being included on this pass is high. This is handy in places like Balboa Park and downtown San Diego where many attractions are near each other.
You may also visit included attractions once per day. So, if you have 3-day All-Inclusive Pass and visit San Diego Zoo on Monday and you don’t finish touring the park, you may return on Tuesday and even Wednesday to see all of the animals on your list.
However, repeat visits may not be possible at attractions that require reservations due to the availability of reservations. You will need to read the included guidebook that comes with your Go San Diego pass in detail to understand restrictions.
The All-Inclusive San Diego City pass is available in 1-, 2-, 3-, 5-, and 7-day increments, but needs to be used on consecutive calendar days.
The more you do in San Diego using this pass, the higher your savings will be.
Tip: On occasion, a 1-Day Go San Diego pass (especially using my promo code) can be less than a 1-Day admission to LEGOLAND California. I see many people using it for this option alone. You need to understand how to use this pass at LEGOLAND, which I go into more detail below. Also, do not forget that I have a 10% off promo for All-Inclusive passes that stacks on top of sale prices. Access this discount here.
Who this is for: Visitors who are planning on sightseeing primarily in downtown San Diego and Balboa Park. They do not plan to visit LEGOLAND California or SeaWorld San Diego and plan on visiting either San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
You can only visit one of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Parks with this pass. If you plan on visiting both, you can buy a discounted ticket for the other park using my exclusive San Diego Zoo and Safari Park discounts (password: lajollamom).
The Explorer Pass allows you to purchase admission to 3, 4, 5, or 7 attractions. You’ll have 60 days to use it after activation. Some of our major attractions are missing from the list, so you’ll want to ensure that everything you want to see is included. That being said, it’s an excellent option that can save you up to 60% off of gate pricing.
If you live in San Diego and your family doesn’t have an annual membership to our theme parks or local museums, this is a great way to save on local fun.
6. You Get Instant Digital Delivery
If you forgot to buy a Go San Diego pass and are standing in front of an attraction you’d like to visit, do not worry. You can purchase on the spot and use the pass immediately. You can use my discount on All-Inclusive passes.
Here are some tips for purchasing on the spot. Choose and purchase your pass. Screenshot the confirmation page that has your order number and email that you used on it. You will want this order number in case you need to contact customer service.
Before Go City emails you your tickets, they’ll send an email asking you to confirm your email address. Check your spam for this email if it doesn’t arrive immediately. Once you hit confirm, they will send you a second email with your tickets. You can print these tickets or pull them up on your phone.
Alternatively, you can download the Go City app. Click “Look Up Pass” to enter your order number and email address (after you’ve confirmed your email). This will pull your pass into the app for immediate use.
I recommend screenshotting your Go San Diego pass just in case the WiFi isn’t good where you are. That way, you always have the QR code accessible.
Tip: I personally tested immediate delivery twice on 7/3/21 and it worked for me (as it did when purchasing Go New York Explorer Passes when we were outside of The Metropolitan Museum of Art a few years ago). To ensure delivery of your Go San Diego passes, it’s better to purchase in advance. I did have one reader report not immediately receiving her passes.
7. You Can Skip the Theme Parks and Still Save
Do not assume that you need to visit a high-cost theme park in order to save with Go San Diego. This sightseeing pass suits all types of travelers whether you’re here to explore the outdoors or museum hop. Quite a few water sports rentals and tours can be included as options.
8. You Can Manage Multiple Passes from One Phone
It’s easy to manage multiple Go City passes on one phone if they were purchased in the same transaction and tied to your account. Load up the passes and simply swipe between them for scanning when entering an attraction (I was recently in charge of scanning our New York Explorer passes and it could not have been easier). The app also allows you to contact customer service with one tap.
After you register your purchase of a Go San Diego pass on the app, you’ll get immediate access to directions, hours, other tips for making the most of your San Diego visit, and much more handy information all in one spot.
9. The Pass Provides Cost Certainty
Many travelers buy tickets and sightseeing passes in advance because they like to spread out the costs associated with a vacation to avoid multiple larger expenses around the dates of travel.
I’ve learned over time that many people purchase this pass, particularly the All-Inclusive pass, in advance of traveling because they like the cost certainty knowing that all attractions they’d like to visit are included and won’t need to worry if the kids want to enter a museum that wasn’t budgeted for.
10. It’s an Easy Gift
Do you have family and friends coming to San Diego for a vacation? Skip the mall shopping and opt for a Go San Diego pass that can be delivered to your recipient via email. Be sure to use the recipient’s name and email address when you check out.
Many other cities offer Go City passes, too. You might be able to get Go City passes for most of the people on your gift-giving list.
What Else You Should Know Before Buying a Go San Diego Pass
- Most San Diego attractions do not charge admission for children under the age of 3. Children ages 3-12 enjoy a reduced Go San Diego price.
- You will receive a guidebook that outlines how to use the pass at each included attraction. It is also accessible in the Go City app.
- The pass is not valid on a 24-hour basis. That means if you visit an attraction at noon on Monday, the remainder of day 1 lasts until attractions close on Monday. Tuesday will be counted as day two.
- You do not need reservations for the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, or SeaWorld San Diego. You do need reservations for LEGOLAND California and some included tours.
The most popular pass is the 5-Day All-Inclusive. Most users visit 2-3 attractions per day with this option though our theme parks are usually full-day experiences. And, if you are exploring the museums at Balboa Park, you could easily hit five attractions in a day.
List of Participating Go San Diego Pass Attractions
Participating attractions and their restrictions frequently change, but this list is accurate as of June 2021. You will need to make reservations to visit some of these attractions. Check which ones are available at the time you purchase your pass.
No reservations are required to visit San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park or SeaWorld San Diego when using Go San Diego!
- LEGOLAND California 1-Day Theme Park Ticket: Both passes <–upgrade at the park to include SEA LIFE Aquarium or the water park
- SeaWorld San Diego: Both passes
- San Diego Zoo: All-Inclusive and Explorer Pass (the Explorer pass allows you to visit either the San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park, not both).
- San Diego Zoo Safari Park: All-Inclusive and Explorer Pass (the Explorer pass allows you to visit either the San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park, not both).
- Belmont Park Ride and Play: Both passes
- Birch Aquarium at Scripps: Both passes
- Japanese Friendship Garden: Both passes
- Living Coast Discovery Center: Both passes
- Museum of Contemporary Art (Downtown): All-Inclusive
- Museum of Photographic Arts: All-Inclusive
- San Diego Air and Space Museum: Both passes
- San Diego Art Institute: All-Inclusive
- San Diego Automotive Museum: All-Inclusive
- San Diego History Center: All-Inclusive
- San Diego Maritime Museum: Explorer
- San Diego Model Railroad Museum: Both passes
- San Diego Museum of Art: Both passes
- San Diego Museum of Us: Both passes
- San Diego Natural History Museum: Both passes
- The Fleet Science Center with IMAX: Both passes
- The Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House: All-Inclusive
- The New Children’s Museum: Temporarily not available
- Whaley House: Temporarily not available
- USS Midway Museum: Both passes
- Flagship One-Way Coronado Ferry: All-Inclusive
- Flagship Patriot Jet Boat: Explorer
- Go Car San Diego Tours: 30-Minute Navigational Tour: All-Inclusive
- Go Car San Diego Tours: 60-Minute Navigational Tour: Explorer
- Hornblower Cruises One Hour San Diego Harbor Cruise: All-Inclusive
- Hornblower Cruises Best of the Bay Cruise: Explorer
- Hornblower Cruises Whale Watching Tour: Both passes
- iRide 1-hour Electric Scooter Rental: Explorer
- Old Town Trolley 2-Day Hop-on, Hop-off: Explorer
- Old Town Trolley SEAL Tour: Explorer
- Petco Park Tour: Both passes
- San Diego Hiking Tour: Explorer
- San Diego Speed Boat Adventures: Both passes
- Coronado – 90-Minute Tandem Kayak Rental: Both passes
- Coronado – Full-Day Bike Rental: Both passes
- Coronado – Stand Up Paddle Board Rental: Both passes
- La Jolla – Full-Day Snorkel Rental: Both passes
- La Jolla – 90-Minute Kayak Rental: Both passes
- La Jolla – Full-Day Bike Rental: Both passes
- La Jolla – Surfboard Rental: Both passes
- La Jolla – 90 Minute Stand-Up Paddleboard Rental: Both passes
- Mission Beach – Jet Ski Rental: Explorer
- Ocean Beach – San Diego Pier Fishing: Both passes
- San Diego Harbor – 1 Hour Pedal Boat Rental: All-Inclusive
- San Diego Harbor – 2 Hour Stand Up Paddleboard Rental: Both passes
- San Diego Harbor – 2-Hour Kayak Rental: All passes
- San Diego Harbor – 45-Minute Jet Ski Rental: Explorer
Other Fun San Diego Activities
- Pure Brewing Tasting (3 locations): All-Inclusive
- San Diego Padres Ticket: Build your Own
- Speed Circuit Race & Ropes Combo: All passes
- UTC Ice Sports Center (ice skating + skate rental): All-Inclusive, Explorer
Orange County and Los Angeles
- Dolby Theatre Tours: All-Inclusive
- The Escape Game Irvine: All-Inclusive
- Knott’s Berry Farm: Temporarily not available
- Knott’s Soak City Water Park: Temporarily not available
- Hollywood Museum: All-Inclusive
- Newport Landing Whale Watching & Dolphin Cruises: All-Inclusive
- South Coast Plaza Shop & Dine Package: All-Inclusive
- Universal Studios Hollywood: Temporarily not available
FAQs About Go San Diego
Here is the TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) for those who need a recap on how a Go San Diego pass can work for your vacation.
What is a Go City pass?
Go City passes help you save money while sightseeing in major cities worldwide, including San Diego. The pass is a single, multi-attraction pass that will save money because you are purchasing combined admission to a city’s top attractions, tours, and museums at a lower price than you’d pay at the gate. We personally use these passes when we travel.
There are two different types of Go City passes you can buy when you’re exploring San Diego. Go San Diego pass options include All-Inclusive passes and Explorer passes.
What is the Difference Between the Go San Diego Card and Go San Diego?
Go San Diego is also referred to as Go San Diego Card, San Diego Go Pass, San Diego Go Card, and Go Card San Diego. Rest assured that these names all refer to the same sightseeing pass.
How do I use Go San Diego?
After choosing the right Go San Diego pass for your visit, download the Go City app to access it on your smartphone. You can also print a paper copy of the ticket that will be emailed to you with your purchase confirmation.
Most pass options let you enjoy perks around the city, from skipping lines to freebies to discounts at restaurants and shops. All is explained in the guidebook you receive.
What is Go San Diego used for?
You can get discounted admission to more than 55 destinations in San Diego and Southern California, including theme parks like SeaWorld San Diego and Knott’s Berry Farm (temporarily not available), plus hotspots like the USS Midway Museum, Belmont Park, Birch Aquarium, and select San Diego Harbor cruises. The more you do with your Go San Diego pass, the more you’ll save!
Do Go San Diego passes expire?
The All-Inclusive Go Pass for San Diego can be purchased in 1-, 2-, 3-, 5- and 7-day increments. The pass is activated the first time you use it at a participating attraction and valid for the number of consecutive days that you purchased. Explorer passes are valid for 60 days after activation.
You have one year from the date of purchase to begin using all passes. After one year, it will expire. You can only return unused passes for refunds for 90 days after the purchase date. Read the full terms and conditions to understand the refund policy.
Can you take money off a Go San Diego pass?
Once you’ve activated your Go City pass, you can’t make changes to your pass or deduct cash from it.
Is the Go City pass worth it?
I always tell people that it takes some number crunching to decide if sightseeing passes fit your vacation needs. You’ll need to weigh the price of admission for the attractions you’d like to see against the cost of the type of pass (All-Inclusive or Explorer) you’ll need. However, I will tell you that some people focus on its convenience aspect and cost certainty.
How do I use Go San Diego at LEGOLAND California?
The All-Inclusive and Explorer Go San Diego pass includes admission to the LEGOLAND California park only. However, it is straightforward to upgrade your day at a ticket booth or near the entrance at guest relations to include LEGOLAND Water Park and/or SEA LIFE Aquarium. However, children ages 2 and under pay a small fee to enter the water park (they are free to enter the main park, however).
The most important thing to remember to do is check the resort calendar as the parks are not open daily during the off-peak season. You can learn more in our Guide to LEGOLAND California.
Do I Need reservations at San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park if I’m Using Go San Diego?
No! You do not need to make reservations. Just show up at each park with your pass.
Can I use Go San Diego during Kids Free San Diego in October?
No. Kids Free San Diego is our annual October event where kids stay, play, and eat for free with a paying adult at over 100 hotels, attractions, and restaurants throughout the county. To take advantage of these savings at theme parks and museums, you must purchase a qualifying ticket. Go San Diego is not a qualifying ticket.
Do You Have Questions About the Go San Diego Pass?
Ask them here in the comments, and I can find out the answers for you. And if you’ve used the pass, please share your experiences.