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?
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 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.
3 Attraction Pass
5 Attraction Pass
Build Your Own Pass
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).
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.
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.
Each 48 hour hop on-hop off ticket also comes with:
Things To Consider
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.
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.
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:
Things To Consider
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!
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?