When it comes to exploring your city’s attractions, there’s rarely a need to pay full price. Here are just a few of the ways to save on admission to everything from theme parks and museums to zoos and botanical gardens:
1) With amusement parks, deals vary by park (of course). Check the website of your local theme park before you go; they’re often good about making ticket deals available.A few things that I’ve learned from tracking promotions at theme parks, including Kings Dominion, Six Flags Over Georgia, & Busch Gardens:
- If you’re going to go at least twice during the season, opt for the season pass (and the parking pass, if your park offers it). A season pass generally pays for itself in two visits. And if your area, like Atlanta, has multiple parks operated by the same company, be sure to check for a combo pass for both parks.
- Look for preseason deals. Six Flags often offers Early Bird pricing, dropping the price by about $10 per pass before the season gets underway.
- Check for extras that may come with the season pass. At Six Flags Over Georgia & White Water, the annual passes come with coupon books that include hundreds of dollars worth of additional savings, including free admission tickets for friends & family, concession discounts, & more. At King’s Dominion, you can get bring a friend on the cheap on select days during the season.
- Look for extras that are included in the cost of admission to add value during your trip, like concerts or themed events.
2) With a discount ticket book, like CityPASS, you can save up to 50% on the cost of admission to some of the main attractions in select cities
- Atlanta: Georgia Aquarium, World of CocaCola, Inside CNN Studio Tour, High Museum of Art OR Fernbank Museum of Natural History, and Zoo Atlanta OR Atlanta History Center
- Boston: New England Aquarium, Museum of Science, Skywalk Observatory, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Harvard Museum of Natural History OR The Old State House
- Chicago: Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago, The Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry OR John Hancock Observatory, Adler Planetarium OR Art Institute of Chicago
- Hollywood: Madame Tussauds Hollywood, Hollywood Behind-the-Scenes Tour, Starline Movie Stars’ Homes Tour OR Starline CitySightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Tour, Dolby Theatre Guided Tour OR The Hollywood Museum
- Houston: Space Center Houston, Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Zoo or Kemah Boardwalk, Children’s Museum of Houston OR Museum of Fine Arts Houston
- New York: Empire State Building Observatory, American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMa (Museum of Modern Art), Top of the Rock OR Guggenheim Museum, Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Cruises
- Philadelphia: The Franklin Institute, Phila Tolley & The Big Bus Company, Adventure Aquarium, Philadelphia Zoo OR National Constitution Center, Eastern State Penitentiary OR Please Touch Museum
- San Francisco: Muni & Cable Car 7-Day Passport PLUS Aquarium of the Bay, California Academy of Sciences, Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Exploratorium OR De Young Museum
- Seattle: Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, Pacific Science Center, EMP Museum, Woodland Park Zoo OR THe Museum of Flight
- Southern California: Save on admission to Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure Park, Sea World San Diego, Universal Studios Hollywood, & the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park.
- Toronto: CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma, Toronto Zoo, Ontario Science Centre
Most books are valid for at least nine days, so if you time it right, they even work well for a staycation, as you’ll have two weekends + the weekdays in between to get to everything without feeling rushed.
3) With a Go Card, you have two ways to explore the city on the cheap: 1) You can buy an all-inclusive Go Card and see any of the attractions the city has to offer, saving you up to 55% on entrance fees depending on what you see. You can buy anything from a one-day pass to a seven day pass, and the price per day drops as the number of days increases. 2) You can choose the attractions you want to visit and build your own pass, saving you about 25% off the admission price. Go Select passes are valid for up to 30 calendar days from first use. Go Cards are available in the following cities:
- Boston all-inclusive pass: 54 attractions
- Chicago all-inclusive pass: 25 attractions
- Los Angeles all-inclusive pass: 38 attractions
- Miami all-inclusive pass: 35 attractions
- New York City: No all-inclusive pass, but the Explorer pass lets you pick any 3, 5, 7, or 10 attractions from 52 choices
- Oahu all-inclusive pass: 35 attractions
- Orlando all-inclusive pass: 48 attractions
- San Diego all-inclusive pass: 48 attractions
- San Francisco all-inclusive pass: 44 attractions
4) You’ll also find attraction deals in the mix on Goldstar. Goldstar has offered everything from deals for The Breman Jewish Heritage & Holocaust Museum and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and the International Spy Museum.
5) Several programs enable you to get free & cheap admission to museums, botanical gardens & even performances throughout the year. Check Bank of America’s Museums on Us, Target’s Arts + Culture, Blue Star Museum, & Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day for deals near you.
6) And don’t overlook your public library. The benefits of a public library card often go beyond checking out books. At Georgia’s libraries, you can check out a family pass to Zoo Atlanta that’ll get you in free, and there are parking passes for state parks, too.