Go Card Los Angeles

A Critical, Inside Look at a Popular Discount Card

Let's Take a Look at the GO Card for Los Angeles
••• Let's Take a Look at the GO Card for Los Angeles.

The Go Los Angeles Card claims: "Save 50%!", "Over 38 attractions!" It's enough to make almost anyone wonder: is it really possible to save that much by using a Go Los Angeles Card?

We wondered the same thing, so we looked under the hood, read all the fine print we could find, even made a spreadsheet to help with the calculations. It took a long time, but now that we did all the work, you don't have to.

If you tend to lose or forget things, the Go Card may not be for you. If you lose it, you can't get a replacement - or a refund.

Go Los Angeles Card: What Is It?

Go Card is a pre-purchased package of attractions for Los Angeles tourist attractions. You buy the card and use it to get into a long list of things and activities. By buying ahead and all at once, you get a discount.

You can choose from two Go Los Angeles Cards:

  • The full card covers a list of attractions for a single price. It's good for a maximum number of days that you choose: 1, 2, 3, 5, or 7, with the price going up the more days it's valid. You have up to 2 weeks to use your days (which is different than the way the card works in San Francisco or San Diego, where they must be consecutive days).
  • Go Select lets you build your own itinerary, choosing things you want to do and skipping the rest. It's good for picky travelers who still want to save money. It's good for 30 days after the first use.

    How the Go Los Angeles Card Works

    It's really easy to use the Go Card. You just show up at any included Los Angeles attraction, take your printed or mobile pass to the ticket booth and you get in.

    In general, you'll only be allowed to visit each attraction once (unless they offer a multi-day pass, which is rare).

    Will the Go Los Angeles Card Save You Money?

    The short answer: In most cases, yes, but keep in mind their discount is an "up to" number, the maximum possible. Most visitors won't save that much.

    The only way to know for sure: Evaluate it for yourself. Pick out the things you really want to do, think about how many you can fit into your schedule and add it up. A quick way to get all the prices you need for that is to use the Go Select page, where they show current prices.

    A quick answer that's correct most of the time: The Go Los Angeles Card will save money if you:

    Buy a 3-day or 5-day card and visit all the big-ticket attractions (Universal Studios, Aquarium of the Pacific, Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain) OR visit 3 or more of the smaller attractions per day.

    Get realistic about how much you can do. The Go Card website says: "people tend to visit fewer attractions each day than they expect." Each of the big attractions take up a full day each and some are far apart. In big and busy LA, there may also be significant travel time to get from one to another. If you underestimate how long things will take and end up doing less of them, your savings could be reduced.

    Group Go Card activities into the fewest days: If do all the Go Card activities in the Top Things to Do in Los Angeles in three days, you could save about 15%, but you'd be so rushed you wouldn't have much time to enjoy them. Extend that to a more-reasonable five days and you'd save just 10%. Take seven instead, don't do anything else and the savings drop even more.

    Opt for Go Select. For all the Go Card activities on our Top Things to Do list, we estimated 20% savings. This is also a good choice if you don't want to be cramming all those busy days together because it's good for 30 days after your first use.

    While you're evaluating the best way to save money for your trip, you should also check the Southern California CityPASS, which offers more (and different) attractions. Find out more about whether it's the right choice for you in the Southern California CityPASS guide.

    Inside Look at the Included Attractions

    In the Los Angeles area, you'll find lots of attractions with big admission prices, especially the theme parks and big family destinations, with a handful of them charging more than $50 per adult ticket. For some visitors, these places are the reason they want to visit LA, but others want to avoid them. Your personal preferences will influence how valuable a Go Los Angeles Card is to you and there are plenty of things to do in LA that cost little or nothing. These insights may help you make sense of it all.

    Some attractions offered may not interest you. If you don't enjoy museums, take about ten attractions off the list. Don't like guided tours? That eliminates another five or six. After you whittle the list down to things you really want to do, the savings might be too small. On the plus side, some people say the Go Card helped them find fun things to do that they might not have done otherwise, and once you break even, you'll save on every little thing you do after that.

    Only longer-duration cards include Universal Studios (3 days or more). Disneyland is not included (although it is part of the Southern California CityPASS).

    Take a closer look at that long list: You'll see that some attractions are not in Los Angeles, but in San Diego or parts of the Los Angeles metro area which may or may not be part of your vacation plan.

    So, a museum-hating, guide-tour-avoiding vacationer who isn't going to leave Los Angeles is left with a little more than 20 attractions to choose from.

    Some require reservations: For some tours and activities, you'll not only need the Go Card, but also a reservation. Make sure you check so you don't get left behind.

    How to Get a Go Los Angeles Card

    You need to buy your Go Card ahead of time because local attraction box offices don't sell them. Just don't get carried way - they expire on December 31 of the year following your purchase, whether or not they've been used, and while you can return unused cards for a full refund for a year after purchase, it's easier to wait until you're sure about your trip dates.

    More Ways to Save Money in LA

    If you're trying to keep your Los Angeles travel budget under control, you may want to know How to Save Money in LA with Goldstar. You can also save by enjoying some of these Things to Do in Los Angeles That Are Absolutely Free. And check out these 6 Ways to Get the Best Bargains in LA.