Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products and services; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Washington, D.C.’s astonishing roster of monuments, museums and cultural venues befits its status as the country’s capital and seat of political power. Many of these attractions are free, from the Lincoln Memorial to the Smithsonian Institution museums. For those that aren’t, there’s Go Washington, D.C., a discount pass that gives you savings of up to 47 percent on more than 20 of the city’s top things to do. In addition to saving you money, the pass also lets you pay for your sightseeing in advance – leaving you with nothing to pay on the day.
How Does it Work?
There are two different types of Go Washington, D.C. Passes: the Explorer Pass and the Build Your Own Pass. Each has its own unique benefits (see below for further details). Once you’ve chosen one that best suits your sightseeing style, you can pay for it online via the Go City website. The digital pass will be sent to you in a confirmation e-mail with detailed instructions on how to use it. You can either print out a hard copy or download the Go City app and use the pass directly on your smartphone. Either way, when you arrive at your chosen attraction, the pass will be scanned and you will be admitted without having to pay any further fees.
The Explorer Pass
The Explorer Pass is the most flexible option. Decide how many things you want to do during your time in D.C. and opt for a three-, four-, or five-choice pass accordingly. Then, pick your favorites from a list of over 20 attractions. You don’t have to decide in advance; instead, you can choose as you go depending on the weather and how you feel when you wake up. The three-choice pass is the most popular, while the five-choice pass usually offers the best value.
Examples of real customer savings include a woman who purchased a four-choice pass and saved a total of $58 in comparison with the official gate prices of the attractions she visited. Another lady saved $59.33 when she purchased a five-choice pass. These two examples represent a 56 percent and 60 percent savings, respectively. The Explorer Pass is activated by the first attraction you visit. After that, you have a total of 30 days to visit your remaining choices.
The Build Your Own Pass
The Build Your Own Pass lets you choose as many attractions as you like from the same list of 20+ top things to do in D.C. (with the addition of a couple of more expensive extras, like admission to Six Flags America and a Sites by Segway Tour). As long as you choose two or more, you’ll receive a 20 percent discount on the total gate price at checkout. With this pass, you have to choose your attractions in advance, but that can be a plus for those that like a more structured itinerary.
Your dollar savings depend on the price of the attractions you choose. For example, the National Building Museum has a gate price of $10, so you’ll only save $2 by using your Build Your Own Pass. The D.C. Highlights Tour has a gate price of $54, so you’ll save a more worthwhile $10.80. Therefore, the more expensive the attractions are, the more you’ll save and the more value the pass has. This option is also valid for 30 days from first activation.
Examples of Included Attractions
So, what does the list of Go Washington, D.C. attractions include? If you’ve already explored the city’s free museums, you can further your education by visiting specialty museums such as the National Geographic Museum, the National Law Enforcement Museum or the Museum of the Bible. For true information addicts, the Key to the City Museum Pass gives you free admission to nine museums, each of which explores eclectic themes ranging from firefighting to slavery.
Cruises and tours are also popular picks. Choose the Politics & Pints Capitol Hill Tour for a two-hour tour of political landmarks under the guidance of a discussion mediator. After exploring your opinions on the country’s hottest topics, you’ll settle your differences with a pint in a historic D.C. pub. The narrated Washington Monuments Cruise gives you a new perspective of iconic landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington Cemetery from the middle of the Potomac River.
Go Washington, D.C. Benefits
The main benefits of purchasing a Go Washington, D.C. Pass are as follows:
- By saving big on sightseeing tickets, you’ll have more room in your vacation budget for meals and accommodation.
- Paying a once-off fee in advance means that by the time your vacation comes around, you’ll feel like you’re sightseeing for free.
- You won’t have to wait in line to buy tickets at the gate – giving you more time to enjoy the attraction itself.
- The pass is valid all day, every day, with no restrictions during peak times.
- Your pass includes a free digital guidebook, complete with detailed information about each attraction and an attraction map. You’ll also receive a hop-on-hop-off bus route map and general trip-planning tips.
- Groups of 10 or more are eligible for additional discounts – enquire online.
Things to Consider
A Go Washington, D.C. Pass makes sense for anyone who wants to see the city’s top sights for less. However, there are some things to consider:
- Because D.C. has so many free sights, make sure that there is time in your schedule for visiting the pass' additional attractions.
- Some attractions (especially museums) may charge an additional fee for special exhibits that are not covered by your pass.
- Children’s Go Passes are available for kids aged 7 to 12. If your chosen attraction charges for younger children, you will have to pay for them at the gate.
- Some attractions require an advance reservation and are marked accordingly in the guidebook. Remember that making a reservation does not activate your pass, so it’s best to do so as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
- Don’t book your pass too far in advance. You must begin using it within one year of the date of purchase or it will expire.
- Passes are non-transferrable and cannot be re-sold.
How to Get a Go Washington, D.C. Pass
Prices for the Explorer Pass start from $60 for a three-choice option. Prices for the Build Your Own passes depend on which attractions you select. Either way, the easiest way to purchase the pass is online, via the Go City website. If you’re already in D.C. and you’re having problems connecting, you can also buy passes in person from the ticket counter at Madame Tussauds Washington, D.C. Your purchase is protected by the company’s Risk-Free Guarantee, which promises a full refund for any passes that are returned unactivated within 30 days.