Best Washington DC Tourist Attraction Passes

This post compares the different tourist attraction passes and combos that are available in Washington, DC, There is so much to see in the city – and luckily many sites have free admission!  However, some of the best museums, such as the Newseum and the Spy Museum do have entrance fees.  And with the sites spread out, it may be worthwhile to invest in transportation options around the city.  Depending on what you have planned for your trip and how long you’ll be visiting, these DC attraction passes can really save you a lot of money.  However, it can be difficult to know what will be best for your particular trip when it comes to purchasing passes. Which one (if any) is right for you?

 


Smart Destination – Explorer Pass

Old Town Trolley

CitySights Flexpass

Why Should You Buy?

Big Bus Tour Combo Package

Create Your Own


 

To Buy or Not To Buy a DC Attraction Pass?

If you are considering visiting the Spy Museum, the Newseum, Madame Tussauds as well as taking a hop-on, hop-off bus, then a pass or combo package is almost certainly for you.

If the hop-on hop-off combo tickets aren’t what you need, try a DIY Attraction Pass

 

 


SMART DESTINATIONS EXPLORER PASS

Smart Destinations offers the DC Go Card (also called the Explorer Pass).  The pass has 10 attractions or services to chose from.  There are 2 main options.  You can choose 3 attractions for a set price or 5 attractions.  There is a 3rd option (Do It Yourself) that allows you to save 20% the retail ticket prices if you purchase at least 2 attractions.  For many people, this may be the best value out there.

Purchase your Smart Destination Pass Here

Costs:

3 Attraction Pass

  • $59 for Adults
  • $39 for Children (Ages 7-12)

5 Attraction Pass

  • $89 for Adults
  • $59 for Children (Ages 7-12)

Build Your Own Pass

  • 20% off retail prices if you choose at least 2 attractions or services.

Benefits:

The Smart Destination Pass for Washington DC allows free entry to a combination of 10 attractions. You can choose a 3 attraction option or the 5 attraction option.  It also offers a hop-on, hop-off bus service with CitySights. Just purchase and download/print the pass and show it at the gate. It will allow you to bypass paying at up to 3 or 5 attractions of your choice.  Children under 7: It does not say that they are free but rather suggests that most attractions are already free for those under 7.  All Smart Destination passes come with 100% money back guarantee for unused passes (up to 1 year after expected date of use).

Attractions Included:

  • Newseum
  • CitySights Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour
  • Washington Monuments Boat Cruise
  • Mount Vernon Estate (George Washington’s Home)
  • Madame Tussauds
  • International Spy Museum
  • National Geographic Museum
  • Bike and Roll DC
  • The Capital Ferris Wheel
  • Boating in DC (seasonally)

Things To Consider

If you have a child under the age of 7, double check with the attractions about their child policy. If they require admission, you may want to get a child’s pass.

You do not need to choose your attractions in advance (unless you choose the 3rd option), but once you visit a site, that counts as one attractions and you can only go once. You can stay as long as you want, however!  You have 30 days to visit your 3-5 attractions and up to a year to begin your first visit.

Some attractions require reservations.

Purchase your Smart Destination Pass Here

 


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Big Bus Tour 48 Hour Combo Pass Plus 2 DC Attraction Pass

Big Bus is an international hop-on, hop-off bus service that offers tours in Washington, DC.  There are four different loops, with live guides for the National Mall but prerecorded commentary for Georgetown, National Cathedral, and Pentagon. There are over 40 stops throughout the city.  You can view the loop map here.   Their 48 hour ticket can be a good value.  Big Bus is probably the best reviewed hop-on, hop-off services in DC.

 

 

They also offers a Washington DC and NYC combo package, which is a great deal if you are visiting both cities.

Cost:

  • $54 for Adults
  • $32 for Children (Ages 5-15).
  • Children under 4 are free, but all children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • DC and NYC Package is $90/Adults and $65/Children.
  • Purchase Your Big Bus Tour Tickets Here

Benefits:

Each 48 hour hop on-hop off ticket also comes with:

tussauds

  • Madame Tussaud’s Museum – Interact with wax figures of all the presidents and celebrities. Your free admission includes speedy entry.
  • 2.5 hour night tour – Willard Hotel departure at 7:00 pm or Union Station departure at 7:30 pm.  Highlights include the Lincoln, Martin Luther King, FDR, Iwo Jima, Vietnam War, and Korean War Veterans Memorials plus The White House.  Live Guide!
  • Free Hour Bike Rental – With the purchase of a one hour rental
  • 8 Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, and Mandarin Chinese

Things To Consider

 


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Old Town Trolley – 2 Day Pass with Arlington National Cemetery Trolley Tour

 

 

Purchase Your Old Town Trolley Tickets Here

Cost:

  • Adult: $81
  • Children: $43 (Age 4-12)
  • Children under 4 travel free.

Benefits:

Old Town Trolley offers three loops. The main National Mall and Downtown, plus a shuttle tour of Arlington National Cemetery, and an additional extended loop for the National Cathedral and Uptown. All loops offer a live driver/guide.

How to Get to Arlington National Cemetery
  • You can add on the Arlington National Cemetery Trolley Tour (included in price above) for a live guide tour of the cemetery that lets you hop on and hop off at key places around the cemetery.
  • There is an option to add a Moonlight Monument tour.  This live guide 2.5 hour tour visits three stops, the  MLK Jr. Memorial/ FDR Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Iwo Jima Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial stop also serves the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial and the Korean War Veteran’s Memorial allowing you to see these sights in a different light.
Things To Consider:
  •  Unlike most packages, you do not have to use your 2 days consecutively with the Old Town Trolley package.
  • Old Town Trolley is the only option to tour inside Arlington National Cemetery by bus/trolley. You can buy single ANC Tram tickets at the ANC visitor center for $12 a person.
  • There are many options for packages based on what you want to see. You can do single or two day passes, with additional green loop, and any of the attractions below:
    • Newsuem
    • Madame Tussauds
    • DC Duck Tour
  • Purchase Your Old Town Trolley Tickets Here

 


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CitySights Double Decker 48 Hour Plus 5 DC Attraction Pass

Purchase your CitySights FlexPass Here

Cost:

  • Adult: $129
  • Child: $119 (Age 3-11)
  • Less expensive options available by choosing less attractions

Benefits:

CitySights has three loops from the National Mall, to Washington National Cathedral & Georgetown, and another that shuttles you to Arlington National Cemetery and Pentagon City Mall. All loops have recorded commentary.

Admission into the National Geographic Museum

Compact museum displaying photographs & rotating exhibits on scientific expeditions & explorations.

Night Tour

A fully narrated 3 hour tour of the memorials and National Mall. Bus stops at Lincoln (Vietnam, Korean), MLK/FDR and Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial.

Up to 5 Attractions

Rates vary depending on how many attractions you choose:newseum

Things To Consider

  • The Flex Pass is accepted by all the listed vendors, so you can choose as you go – no advanced commitments or reservations needed!
  • 48 hours is consecutive use of the hop on hop off system.
  • Purchase your CitySights FlexPass Here

 


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DO IT YOURSELF ATTRACTION PASS

Some times the passes available don’t fit in everything that you want to do. Some things to keep in mind when creating your own discounted admission to area attractions:

Many area attractions are free, though advance tickets may have a small processing fee. The time you’ll save waiting in line is worth it!

  • All Smithsonian Museums are free and require no tickets.
  • Holocaust Memorial Museum is free, but summer months require timed tickets. Advance tickets are recommended and these do have a small processing fee. Read our post on getting tickets.
  • National Archives and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are both free, but if you want to skip the lines, get advance tickets online for a small fee. Read our posts on the Archives and BEP.
  • Washington Monument tickets are free for same day tickets. In busy times, you might have to start lining up at 6am. Advance tickets are recommended. Read our post on how to get tickets.
  • Capitol Building Tours are free, even the advance reservations. Or you can take one of our Capitol Hill tours!

There are, however, some great museums that do have admission fees. Purchasing tickets in advance can save you $$!

Now that you have your advanced reservation tickets, how are you going to get around town?

 


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