One of the easiest ways to save money on San Diego attractions is with Go San Diego (formerly known as a Go San Diego Card). It’s hugely popular with tourists. Residents can also save with it when they are sightseeing with visiting friends and family or planning to visit multiple attractions during school breaks. To decide whether Go San Diego is right for you, you’ll need to understand the three pass options, how to use it, and 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.
Note: At the time of this update, most of our attractions are closed. However, I want to keep these details updated as my inbox tells me that many of you are using time at home to plan summer vacations. Keep in mind that now is a great time to purchase the pass because they are on sale (my promo code stacks on top of sale prices). You have twelve months to activate it and 30 days after purchase to request a full refund.
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 30 days from your purchase date to return any non-activated or unused passes for a full refund. You also have one-year from the date of purchase to activate your pass.
3. All Major San Diego Attractions Participate
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.
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, USS Midway Museum or Knott’s Berry Farm 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 Three 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. Again, you have 30 days to receive a full refund after purchase and 12 months to activate the pass.
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 35+ 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.
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. Daily admission to SeaWorld San Diego is included which means that you can visit the park on every day that your pass is valid.
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 1-Day admission to LEGOLAND California. I see many people using it for this option alone. You do need to understand how to use this pass here 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.
Build Your Own Attractions Pass — Good for Residents
Who this is for: The Build Your Own pass is the best option for people who know exactly where they’re going. It has the most options so it’s also chosen because there’s something on this pass that isn’t available on the others.
Start building this pass with as few as two of the 43 available San Diego options. The price is determined by which attractions you add. The more you add, the deeper the savings. It’s good for 30 days after activation at your first attraction.
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. The Build Your Own Pass also covers a few Orange County and Los Angeles attractions like Knott’s Berry Farm® and Universal Studios Hollywood®. It also gives you the choice of a LEGOLAND California park only or Resort Hopper ticket.
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.
The Explorer Pass is a brand new option where you can purchase admission to 3, 4, 5, or 7 attractions. You’ll have 30 days to use it after activation. Some of our major attractions are missing from the list so you’ll want to make sure 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.
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. Again, you download the app and generate a scannable ticket there or use the ticket attached to your email confirmation (if you can’t print the ticket, try to blow up the QR code on your screen so that the attraction can scan it).
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, and prices start as low as $20. 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.
- In most cases, you can visit each attraction once per pass. You will receive a guidebook that outlines these details.
- 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.
- Check the guidebook or app to see how you use the pass at participating destinations.
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 March 2020.
- LEGOLAND California: All-Inclusive (park only), Build Your Own (choose a Resort Hopper that includes LEGOLAND, LEGOLAND water park, and SEA LIFE Aquarium or a LEGOLAND only ticket)
- SeaWorld San Diego: All-Inclusive (visit the park once per day throughout the duration of your pass), Build Your Own (receive the 7 days for the price of 1 which means that you can visit every day for seven days in a row).
- San Diego Zoo: All-Inclusive, Build Your Own, 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, Build Your Own, 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: All passes
- Birch Aquarium at Scripps: All passes
- Coronado Museum of History & Art: All-Inclusive
- Japanese Friendship Garden: All passes
- Living Coast Discovery Center: All-Inclusive, Explorer Pass
- Museum of Contemporary Art (Downtown): All-Inclusive, Build Your Own
- Museum of Making Music: All-Inclusive, Build Your Own
- Museum of Photographic Arts: All-Inclusive, Build Your Own
- San Diego Air and Space Museum: All passes
- San Diego Art Institute: All-Inclusive
- San Diego Automotive Museum: All-Inclusive, Build Your Own
- San Diego History Center: AI
- San Diego Maritime Museum: Explorer Pass, Build Your Own
- San Diego Model Railroad Museum: All passes
- San Diego Museum of Art: All passes
- San Diego Museum of Man: All passes
- San Diego Natural History Museum: All passes
- The Fleet Science Center with IMAX: All passes
- The Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House: All-Inclusive
- The New Children’s Museum: All passes
- Whaley House: All-Inclusive, Build Your Own
- USS Midway Museum: All passes
- Five Star Tours San Diego Beach Tour: All passes
- Five Star Tours San Diego City Tour: All passes
- Five Star Tours San Diego Hiking Tour: All passes
- Flagship One-Way Coronado Ferry: All-Inclusive
- Flagship Patriot Jet Boat: Explorer, Build Your Own
- Go Car San Diego Tours: 30-Minute Navigational Tour: All-Inclusive
- Go Car San Diego Tours: 60-Minute Navigational Tour: Explorer
- Go Car San Diego Tours: 120-Minute Navigational Tour: Build Your Own
- Hornblower Cruises One Hour San Diego Harbor Cruise: All-Inclusive, Build Your Own
- Hornblower Cruises Two Hour San Diego Harbour Cruise: Build Your Own
- Hornblower Cruises Sights and Sips Cruise: Build Your Own
- Hornblower Cruises Whale Watching Tour: All Passes
- Old Town Trolley 2-Day Hop-on, Hop-off: Explorer Pass
- Old Town Trolley 1-Day Hop-on, Hop-off: Build Your Own Pass
- Old Town Trolley SEAL Tour: Build Your Own Pass
- Pacific Sailing Charters Family Sightseeing Cruise (San Diego Harbor): Build Your Own
- Pacific Sailing Charters San Diego Sunset Sailing Cruise (San Diego Harbor): Build Your Own
- Pacific Sailing Charters Dolphin and Seal Cruise (San Diego Harbor): Build Your Own
- Petco Park Tour: All passes
- San Diego Speed Boat Adventures: All passes
- Coronado – 90-Minute Tandem Kayak Rental: All passes
- Coronado – Full-Day Bike Rental: All passes
- Coronado – Stand Up Paddle Board Rental: All passes
- La Jolla – Full-Day Snorkel Rental: All passes
- La Jolla – 90-Minute Kayak Rental: All passes
- La Jolla – Full-Day Bike Rental: All passes
- La Jolla – Surfboard Rental: All passes
- La Jolla – 90 Minute Stand-Up Paddleboard Rental: Build Your Own
- Mission Beach – Jet Ski Rental: Explorer Pass
- Ocean Beach – San Diego Pier Fishing: All passes
- San Diego Harbor – 1 Hour Pedal Boat Rental: All-Inclusive, Build Your Own
- San Diego Harbor – 3 Hour Pedal Boat Rental: Build Your Own
- San Diego Harbor – 1 Hour Boat Rental: Build Your Own
- San Diego Harbor – 30-minute Flyboarding Lesson: Build Your Own
- San Diego Harbor – 2-Hour Kayak Rental: All passes
- San Diego Harbor – 2-Hour Stand-Up Paddleboard Rental: All-Inclusive, Build Your Own
Other Fun San Diego Activities
- iFly San Diego Oceanside (one flight): All-Inclusive, Explorer
- iFly San Diego Oceanside (two flights): Build your Own
- iFly San Diego Mission Valley (one flight): All-Inclusive, Explorer
- iFly San Diego Mission Valley (two flights): Build Your Own
- 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
- Knott’s Berry Farm: All-Inclusive, Build Your Own
- Knott’s Soak City Water Park: All-Inclusive, Build Your Own
- Hollywood Behind-the-Scenes Tour by Red Line Tours: All-Inclusive
- Hollywood Museum: All-Inclusive
- Newport Landing Whale Watching & Dolphin Cruises: All-Inclusive, Build Your Own
- Newport Landing Sunset Cruise: Build Your Own
- South Coast Plaza Shop & Dine Package: All-Inclusive, Build Your Own
- Universal Studios Hollywood: Build Your Own
FAQs About Go San Diego
Here is the TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) for those who need a recap.
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 three different types of Go City passes you can buy when you’re exploring San Diego. Go San Diego pass options include All-Inclusive passes, Build Your Own passes, and the new Explorer pass.
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 35 destinations in San Diego and Southern California, including theme parks like SeaWorld San Diego® and Knott’s Berry Farm® 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. Build Your Own and Explorer passes are valid for 30 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 a full refund for 30 days after the purchase date.
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, Build Your Own 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 Go San Diego pass includes admission to LEGOLAND California park only. However, it is very easy 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. Children ages 2 and under pay a small fee to enter the water park (they are free to enter the main park, however).
The Build Your Own pass gives you a choice of whether you would like to add a park-only ticket, which again, can be upgraded if you change your mind after arriving, or a Resort Hopper ticket. You do need to present your Go San Diego at the ticket booth prior to entering.
The most important thing to remember to do is check the resort calendar as the parks are not open daily during off-peak season. You can learn more in our Guide to LEGOLAND California.
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.