Are tourist discount passes and package deals worth it? In Chicago, the answer is YES! If you do your research and plan ahead, all of the packages in this list can save your family hundreds of dollars, and most get you to the front of the line at the gate (saving time, too!). We made it easy for you, and listed all the details to help you make the best decision for your experience. Some packages, like the Viator VIP package, just require you to show up, while the Chicago Go Card takes some itinerary planning. And remember, we encourage you to consider our pay-what-you-like tours and our Chicago bus tour comparison post when deliberating about these passes.
Check out our Chicago Visitors Guide, with budget advice, travel guides, and information about local Chicago attractions
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. Luckily, there are quite a few options. Happy planning!
The CityPass is a booklet of 5 admission tickets that saves 53% off the most popular attractions in Chicago, and you skip the long lines for entrance. CityPass is a must if you plan to visit all of these popular educational attractions, because the savings are huge. You have 9 consecutive days from the first use to visit all of the attractions, so you can take your time. Each of these stops have a ton to see and do, especially if you bring kids along. CityPass works well if you are planning on taking our pay-what-you-wish walking tours of Chicago.
Attractions Included in the Booklet
Prices (as of November 2016)
To make sure you leave enough time to spend at each location to get your money’s worth. we recommend splitting these events over three days:
Pro Tip: This package fills up your itinerary, but if you only want to visit only one or two of the attractions listed, see the Explorer Pass below for a more flexible/cheaper option.
*Pro ProTip: When visiting the Art Institute, give yourself an extra hour at the free Chicago Architecture Foundation Center across the street at 224 S. Michigan. OR, why not give yourself a self-guided walking tour of Millennium Park just steps away! Both offer some of the finest free art sculpture in Chicago.
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!
For getting the most sightseeing between 1-5 days, the Go Chicago Card can’t be beat! Purchasing this all-inclusive pass gives you admission to as many attractions as you can fit into the number of days that your pass allows. There are 26 attractions to choose from. For less intense sightseeing pass options, check out Smart Destinations’s Explorer (3 or 5 Attractions) and Build Your Own Passes below. All Go Chicago Cards have a zero risk refund policy. If you don’t activate your pass within 1 year of your travel date, all your money will be refunded no questions asked.
Before you buy…
As recommended with any of these packages, you want to plan ahead in order to get the most out of Go Chicago Card. While you have unlimited access, you do have limited time. Make sure you look at days and hours of operations for each attractions, and factor in travel time. Grouping activities in nearby locations can be a great way to get in more than just a few thing in a single day! However, there are some places you’ll want to spend more time in than others. Do your research, and this could be a very good buy.
Price Options (as of November 2016)
Pro tip: In the city for 3 days? Consider getting a 2 day pass instead of a 3 day. You don’t want to lock down all your time in the city; you never know what you might discover while exploring place to place. You may also be exhausted from running around for 48 hours! Save the $29 and use it to go to that restaurant you saw on your way back to the hotel that has great ratings online!
Purchase the Go Chicago Card online and show your phone or printed copy at the gate.
This pass lets you pay one price, and grants admission to 3 or 5 attractions from a list of 25+ at a discounted rate. You do not need to pre-select your choices, but you would be limited to the number of attractions that you pass allows. It is also valid for 30 days from your first visit, so you can take your time making your choices. All Go Chicago Cards have a zero risk refund policy. If you don’t activate your pass within 1 year of your travel date, all your money will be refunded no questions asked.
3 Attraction Pass (as of November 2016)
4 Attraction Pass (as of November 2016)
5 Attraction Pass (as of November 2016)
Before you buy…
The Explorer Pass doesn’t have the time pressure of the Go Card (you have 30 days to visit 3 or 5 locations) and gives the most options for visitors looking for discounts on a wide range of attractions. But it takes more planning and research than the City Pass. This means you’ll need to use your calculator to see your potential savings, but if you visit the more expensive attractions with your pass, you can save a bundle.
We recommend the instant delivery via online purchase, as the lines at the ticket booth locations can get long. You can also call 866.628.9031 and have the tickets sent to your mobile device.
Smart Destinations also offers a 3rd option. Choose at least 2 attractions from their list of 26 and save 20% off the retail price of all items. Learn more and purchase here. All Go Chicago Cards have a zero risk refund policy. If you don’t activate your pass within 1 year of your travel date, all your money will be refunded no questions asked.
There is no set pricing. You get 20% off the retail prices of the attractions that you choose.
Before you buy:
You must choose the attractions at the time of purchase, so you will lose the flexibility of choosing your attractions in Chicago, but many people will likely find this pass to be the least pressure. If you are planning on purchasing 3 attractions or more, it is very possible that the Explorer Pass will save you more. The savings are dependent on the cost of the attractions you choose.
A fitting name for a great package deal! For just $50 you get admission to 2 great sightseeing spots, plus a 2 Day ticket to the amazing hop-on, hop-off Big Bus Tour. You save 46% off the regular price, and you have 30 days to use it after your first visit. WOW!
What you get:
Prices (as of November 2016):
Pro tip: This makes an amazing gift for friends or family visiting Chicago for the first (or second!) time. The Big Bus Tour alone is worth $40, and allows you to navigate the city for 24 hours as much as you like. To purchase, click here.
Fill your Saturday and see all the top spots with this package! Begin with early access to the Willis Tower Skydeck, before you hop on a trolley for a narrated tour of top Chicago attractions, grab a snack (own expense) at Navy Pier, and finish on a cruise with a free drink! on the Chicago River with an architecture savvy guide. The tour lasts about 6 hours (8am – 1pm), and ends at Navy Pier, a tourist hot-spot.
Price: $124 (As of November 2016)
To purchase the VIP Package, click here.
Before you buy…
Because this is a VIP package, you’ll experience perks such as first dibs on Willis Tower views,which after opening hours can be obstructed by crowds, but what you’re paying for here is a full day’s itinerary planned out for you. The Willis Tower general admission costs $22, which means you’re paying about $50 a piece for the trolley and boat tour. But for six hours of guided chicago sightseeing, and its great customer reviews, this package is worth including.
Pro tip: It looks like from the ratings that this tour is NO fun when the weather is wet. We recommend this package on clear, sunny days only.
TRUSTED TOUR’S GRAND TOUR OF CHICAGO/ JOHN HANCOCK COMBINATION
For a reputable bus tour of the city that ends with a view from up high, Trusted Tours offers a great combo. You’ll travel around the city, stopping at Lincoln Park Conservatory and Adler Planetarium, and of course the John Hancock Observatory that comes at the end.
Prices (as of November 2016)
Before you buy…
Trusted Tours lives up to its name, with over 25 years of experience, so we know you’ll have a great time if you choose this package. The savings aren’t as big here, so you’re paying for the convenience of hotel pick-up/drop-off and a full day’s itinerary planned for you. Bring some money for snacks; there’s no lunch included in this 5.5 tour package.
Purchase this combo here. You can also purchase in person at the Palmer House (17 E. Monroe) for $2 more per ticket.
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