Featuring reduced prices at over 25 city attractions and a free big bus hop-on-hop-off tour, the Go Card is a discount pass to San Francisco that allows visitors to get the most out of their trip to the city without going over their budget.
With the San Francisco Go Card, you can potentially save up to 60 percent off at destinations like the California Academy of Sciences, Aquarium of the Bay, Six Flags, the Exploratorium, and Madame Tussauds. The Go Card also provides access to special deals at retailers, restaurants, and some activity providers around the city, as well.
The Go Card is available in one, two, three, or five-day passes, but you can also purchase other versions like the Explorer Pass, which provides discount prices for three to five attractions, or the Build Your Own Pass, which allows you to customize your trip and save the most money.
Attraction ticket booths don't sell Go Cards, so you'll either need to buy a card in person at the Red & White Fleet Ticket Booth at Pier 43-1/2 in San Francisco or online at the Smart Destinations website.
How the Go Card San Francisco Works
Go Cards are sometimes called multi-attraction discount cards and are available in cities across the United States and the world. The company Smart Destinations works with popular San Francisco attractions to get discounts then packages them up in a card-based format.
There are two main options for the San Francisco Go Card: the basic and the select. The basic card allows you to choose a number of days (one, two, three, and five) you'll be able to access all the covered attractions, and the price of the pass increases with the number of days. The select card allows you to pick the things you want to do, prioritize, and decide when you've spent enough; with this card, savings go up the more options you select, and you have 30 days to use the discounted tickets after the first time you use it.
It's easy to use the Go Card. Just take your printed or mobile pass to the box office or ticket window at any included San Francisco attraction, and the cashier will provide your discounted ticket. Unless an attraction offers a multi-day pass as part of the card, you can only visit each attraction once.
After you use the card the first time, you can use it for the number of days you chose when you bought it, but the days must be consecutive (except with the select card). That means if you skip one day with the basic card, you won't get any money back or an extension on your discounts.
How to Save Money With the Go Card
Since you have to go to several attractions on your trip to make the price of the Go Card worth the amount you saved on ticket prices, you'll need to evaluate how much time and money you can spend at each attraction during your visit.
When determining if the Go Card is right for you, be critical and compare prices on things you want to do. It's also important to be realistic about how many days it will take you to do everything on your itinerary and how much you have in your budget to spend on attractions. Fortunately, the Go Card Select page provides current pricing for attractions around the city so you can easily compare and weigh your options.
An easy way to get the most value out of a three or five-day card is to do several of the most expensive activities like exploring the Academy of Sciences, taking a bay cruise or city tour, or going on a vintage cable car ride. Alternatively, you can visit three to four of the less-expensive attractions each day with either of the Go Cards covering the longer periods to achieve the same result.
According to the Go Card website, "people tend to visit fewer attractions each day than they expect." Because of San Francisco's small size compared to other California cities, it's easier to fit several activities into a day, but if you overestimate your endurance and do less than you thought, your expected savings could evaporate.
However, if you move fast and eat lunch on the go, you could stuff all the Go Card activities on our list of Top Things to Do in San Francisco into three days and save about 25 percent overall. On the other hand, if you choose to do them in five days instead, your savings will be much more modest.
Attractions Included With the Go Card
In terms of its geographical size, San Francisco is California's smallest tourist city (seven miles by seven miles), and many of its most famous things to do are free. You could easily have a good time just walking around, seeing things, and checking out a few attractions with lower entrance fees. However, there are several ticketed attractions worth exploring that are included in the Go Card discount programs.
As of 2018, the Go Card San Fransico All-Inclusive Pass ranges in price from 74 dollars to 169 dollars and includes access to the following attractions and activities:
- Madame Tussauds
- California Academy of Sciences
- Bridge 2 Bridge Cruises
- The San Francisco Dungeon
- Aquarium of the Bay
- Ripley's Believe it or Not!
- California's Great America
- Escape from the Rock, Exploratorium
- Oracle Park Tour
- Golden Gate Bay Cruise
- San Francisco Zoo & Gardens
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
- USS Pampanit
- de Young Museum and Legion of Honor
- The Walt Disney Family Museum
- K1 Speed Indoor Karting
- Go Car San Francisco tour
- Angel Island roundtrip ferry
- Asian Art Museum
- U.S.S. HORNET Museum
- The Contemporary Jewish Museum
- California Historical Society
- UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens
- The Beat Museum
Considerations Before Purchasing a Go Card
There are a few things you should keep in mind when determining if the Go Card is right for you for your trip to San Francisco.
For instance, some attractions listed above may not interest you, which means you may have a limited selection to choose from when it comes time to get the most out of your discount card. However, this may also be a way to discover something new you might have never tried before, so don't be afraid to explore the possibilities of what you could do on your trip.
You should also notice what attractions aren't on the list of discounts available through this particular card. Alcatraz Island, for instance, is not included in the list of covered attractions because it is run by the National Park Service, which doesn't give discounts on admission. Also keep in mind that some of the attractions on the list are just outside of San Francisco in Napa Valley, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, or in Berkeley and Oakland.
Some attractions also require reservations, which you'll need to book after you've purchased the Go Card. Make sure you know if the attractions you want to see on your trip require a reservation as they'll likely need to be placed at least two weeks in advance to secure a spot.
Other Ways to Save on Your Bay Area Vacation
A Go Card is only one way to save money in San Francisco—you'll find more multi-attraction passes in San Francisco than you will cable car lines. Before you buy a Go Card, you may also want to review the San Francisco CityPASS, the Pier 39 Pass, and the Fisherman's Wharf Pass.
You'll find more ideas for saving money in the guide to San Francisco on a Budget, which includes planning ahead to save on accommodations and travel costs. Taking a vacation to San Francisco during the slower spring and fall months is a great way to score discount tickets on airfare and hotels, and an excellent time to use the Go Card since area attractions will be less crowded.