We recently spent a few days in San Francisco.
We bought the CityPass.
It’s really easy to use. A coupon per attraction, 4 attractions, valid for 9 days, and a public transportation and cable car pass for 7 days. We already planned to go to all the places listed, so purchasing admission via one pass was the economical way to go. The question then becomes, are the sites included worth it? Here’s my feeling about the things we did and places we saw.
MUNI & Cable Car 7-Day Passport
The cable car, and MUNI, both get very crowded. With all the hills it’s understandable. As a family with two young kids, on vacation, we do a lot a walking. We keep our stroller with us. We didn’t use the public transport too often because it required folding the stroller if the bus/trolley was full.
In the mornings when we set out, awake and without any souvenirs crowding our baskets, we took the bus. At the end of the day one of the kids was likely sleeping and it was too much of a hassle. So, we just walked back.
Unfortunately, due to the long lines when we ready, and shorter lines when we weren’t, we didn’t get a chance to go on a cable car. But, we also didn’t go out of our way to try to find a way to ride one. It just wasn’t a priority for this trip. Don’t worry, San Francisco, we’ll be back when the kids are older.
Exploratorium -or- deYoung Museum
With the CityPass you can either go to the Exploratorium or the deYoung Museum. We’re a science center family so the Exploratorium was the obvious choice.
I loved this museum and wish we had more time there. It never felt crowded. The exhibits were not only captivating, but ranged in difficulty levels that kept the one-year-old, the almost three-year old, and the two thirty-somethings interested.
Among our favorites? A water fountain built into a toilet bowl (daring you to take a sip out of it), a stop motion camera set-up (that you can then email to yourself), and the marble machines (pictured above, and doesn’t it look easy to recreate at home?).
Aquarium of the Bay -or- Monterrey Bay Aquarium
With Aquarium of the Bay being right at Pier 39 and Monterrey Bay Aquarium being 2 hours away in Monterrey, my guess is most people will go with the Aquarium of the Bay when they buy the CityPass.
Unfortunately, the Aquarium of the Bay wasn’t one of our favorite aquariums. We enjoyed the two tunnels giving you a nice underwater experience, seeing all the schools of fish is amazing. Even with the two-year old who stopped at every fish, though, it was a quick tour. Our time would’ve been better spent in other areas of the city.
Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise
There are a lot of options to cruise the Bay, but this is the only one offered with the CityPass. I don’t know if it is the best or the worst, but it is one of the busiest.
The Blue & Gold Fleet is conveniently located between Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. The boats leave several times a day. The line gets long quick, so get there early to up the chances of securing a better seat. We sat on the top deck. Our preference is usually to sit inside (with two young kids it’s just easier), but the windows were extremely dirty. I don’t know if sitting inside is ever an option (there weren’t chairs there either), but if so, I do hope they clean them!
The information shared during the one hour cruise was interesting. It included facts about the different places we passed on the coast and how the Golden Gate got its name. We also cruised around Alcatraz to view it from a different angle.
Whether you go with this line, or another, definitely take time to see the city from the water.
California Academy of Science
Our short time in the city meant that we had to miss this stop. I’ve only heard good things, but can’t review it from personal experience.
San Francisco’s CityPass – Last Thoughts
If you are planning to see these sites anyway, get the pass. While the pass is valid for 9 days, each coupon can only be used once. It doesn’t allow multiple visits over the validity of the pass. The Exploratorium and Aquarium of the Bay, however, do allow same-day reentry.
We were able to do everything on the pass, aside from the California Academy of Science, in one day. And that’s with two children two and under. We could have easily spent more time at the Exploratorium. I think that’s worth a day on its own. However, we also could have completely avoided the Aquarium.