Boston Tourist Passes | Which One is the Best to Buy?
This post provides a comparison of the various Boston attraction discount passes. Boston is a bustling city with many wonderful museums and historic sites to visit. However, the cost of attending many of those attractions can really add up. To help mitigate the costs, a number of companies have created Boston tourist passes which offer entrance to popular attractions at a discounted price.
If at first glance the tourist passes seem too pricey, be sure to calculate the estimated cost of visiting all the attractions you hope to see. When properly planned, these tourist passes can actually save you A LOT of time and money. We’ve broken down the details of two of the most popular companies offering tourist passes — Boston CityPass and and Smart Destinations Boston — to help you decide which pass is the right fit for you. As you look at the variety of options keep in mind your budget, interests, and stamina. Everyone’s tastes are a little different, so not all packages are right for all people.
Keep in mind that there are still many ways to dive deep into Boston’s rich history without purchasing a tourist pass. Here is a list of museums that offer free or discounted admission at least once a week. And of course don’t forget about all our “name your own price” walking tours of the city! For a full list of our tours offered, check out our calendar.
The CityPass is a booklet of 4 admission tickets that saves 43% off ticket prices to Boston’s top attractions, and lets you skip the long lines at the front door.
Attraction Admissions Included with Boston CityPass:
- New England Aquarium
- Museum of Science
- Skywalk Observatory
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston OR Boston Harbor Cruises
Prices (as of April 2016)
- $55 – Adult (full admission costs $96.25)
- $42 – Child (ages 3-11) (full admission costs $76.05)
For the CityPass, we suggest that you purchase tickets online, or at any of the attractions listed above (though you’ll need to stand in line). Once you buy, you can show your tickets from your mobile device at the gate and get fast VIP entrance. Easy!
Benefits of the CityPass
If you have ample time in Boston and intend on visiting all of the attractions listed, then the CityPass is a great way to explore on a budget. The 9-day time frame makes the pass perfect for anyone planning a long trip. Also, the opportunity to skip lines could potentially be a huge time saver, especially if visiting Boston during the busy months. However, if you are pressed for time or not particularly interested in all 4 attractions, it might be better to look elsewhere.
Things to consider before buying the Boston CityPass
Traveling with kids? Some museums offer discounts to children under the age of 18. For example, The Museum of Fine Arts is $25 for adults, but $10 for those 7-17 and free for ages 6 and under. Also, the Harvard Museum of Natural History is $12 for adults but $8 for those 18 and under.
Smart Destinations offers 3 different options for tourist discount packages in Boston. The first is all-inclusive and based on number of days, while the second and third options let you build your own experience. Each offers unique perks, so be sure to read about each. All cards come with a risk-free, money-back guarantee. If your plans change or you do not activate your pass(es) within one year, you get a full refund, no questions asked.
The Go Boston Card is a pass designed to give you discounts of up to 55% on 41 different attractions, from museums to tours, customizable for 1, 2, 3, 5, or 7 days. This is a great option if you plan to visit a number of attractions on a given number of days.
Prices (as of April 2016):
- $54 – Adult 1 Day Pass ($37 – Child 12 & under)
- $75 – Adult 2 Day Pass ($55 – Child 12 & under)
- $109 – Adult 3 Day Pass* ($75 – Child 12 & under)
- $145 – Adult 5 Day Pass* ($100 – Child 12 & under)
- $170 – Adult 7 Day Pass* ($115 – Child 12 & under)
*BONUS! Premium Attraction admission is included with a 3, 5 and 7 day pass. Choose from Boston Duck Tours, Gray Line Boston Tours, New England Aquarium Whale Watch, OR Boston Red Sox Ticket.
We recommend that you purchase the Go Boston Card online to avoid lines. The Pass activates with the admission to your first attraction choice.
Pro Tip: To make the best use of the Go Boston Card, you’ll need to plan your day’s itinerary. Luckily, you’ll get a guidebook with your order that helps with planning. The guidebook also includes restaurant suggestions, and is a great tool for planning your exploration of Boston. See a full list of attraction discounts included here.
Unlike the All-Inclusive Pass, the Explorer Pass lets you choose either a 3 or 5 attraction bundle that saves you up to 35% on admission. Pick your attractions, good for 30 days after your first attraction admission. However, like the All-Inclusive Pass, there’s no need to decide what you will see before you arrive in Boston. You will like this pass if you are certain that you want to see at least 3 of the attractions listed on their website, but don’t want to feel pressure to have to visit as many things as possible to get the value out of your pass.
Prices (as of April 2016):
- $69/Adult, $45 Child (3-12) (3 Choices)
- $109/Adult, $80 Child (3-12) (5 Choices)
- Build Your Own (2+ Attractions) Go Boston Pass
If you know the places you want to visit, and are looking for a discount, check out the Build Your Own Go Boston Pass by Smart Destinations. Choose 2+ attractions and receive discounts of up to 20% on admission. You’ll skip the lines, and these passes are good for 30 days after your first visit. As with all Smart Destinations products, your purchases is risk-free. Cancel any unused pass anytime, for any reason. No questions asked.
Before you buy: This pass option offers less of a discount, but is a good deal if you plan on only visiting a few attractions during your Boston visit. The price for this pass varies based on the attractions you select, and the number of people in your party.
Things to consider with the Smart Destinations Passes
Our favorite of the Smart Destinations Passes is the Build Your Own Go Pass. With this, you are able to totally customize your trip and see only the attractions that most interest you. The amount of savings may vary, but each attraction offers a deal with this pass. The All Inclusive Pass is a bit more expensive, but if you want to see and do as much as possible in a short amount of time, this could also be a good option. However, keep in mind that the pass only works between 9 am – 5:30 pm so you’ll have to be willing to jump from site to site in order to get the most bang for your buck. The customizable options are best for those who are less familiar with the city and don’t want to bother with having to plan out the specifics of their trip. Because the pass is good for 30 days, you can take your time visiting each site.
The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority offers a FREE discount book to all visitors, which has coupons and deals for attractions, food, and hotel accommodations. You can view a PDF of the CharlieCard Discount book before you get to Boston, and enjoy extra savings when you arrive!
There are many websites that offer a platform for hotels, car rentals, tours, attractions and other services to offer deep discounts on their products and services. It may be worth taking a look at some of them to see if you can save some money.