In this Boston CityPASS review, we’ll explore how it works, what the pass includes, and how much it costs. We’ll also help you decide if it’s a good fit for your Boston travel plans. Enjoy!
Planning a trip to Boston? You’re in for a good time.
Boston is a great city to visit because it combines the attractions and activities of a world-class city with a charming small-town vibe.
The first time I visited Boston, I realized quickly that it wasn’t one of the cheapest places to travel. In fact, I was surprised to learn that accommodations here are some of the most expensive in the country. If you’ve traveled much at all, you know accommodations can eat up your travel budget quickly. That’s why it’s important to look for savings wherever you can.
While Boston has some awesome free sightseeing opportunities (like the Freedom Trail, the Boston Public Library, and the Quincy Market), some of the biggest attractions are pretty pricey. Pair that with the high hotel prices and your wallet could take a huge hit.
So, you would you like to cut your Boston sightseeing expenses by up to 45%? I thought you might. Allow me to introduce the Boston CityPASS.
Boston CityPASS: How it Works
The Boston CityPASS is a sightseeing pass that gives you access to four major Boston attractions at a serious discount. Three of the attractions are included on the pass by default, and you get to choose the fourth attraction from two options. You don’t even have to make that decision when purchasing the pass – you can see what you’re in the mood for when the time comes.
Like other CityPASS cards, including the Chicago CityPASS and the Atlanta CityPASS, you can buy the Boston CityPASS online or in person at any of the included attractions. If you choose the online route, you can either receive a printable voucher via email or have a ticket booklet mailed to you. If you go with the printable voucher, you’ll need to exchange the voucher for a physical ticket booklet at the first attraction you visit. If you have the booklet shipped directly, you’re ready to go.
To activate the pass, simply use it at the first attraction you visit. Once you do, the pass is valid for nine consecutive days, so you have lots of time to visit the four attractions in any order you like.
Top Attractions Included on the Boston CityPASS
The Boston CityPASS gets you into the following four tourist sites:
- New England Aquarium ($27.95)
- Museum of Science ($28)
- Skywalk Observatory ($20)
- Boston Harbor Cruises ($31.44) or Harvard Museum of Natural History ($15)
These are all excellent sites that are absolutely worth a visit. As you can see, however, they aren’t exactly cheap. That’s where the Boston CityPASS comes in!
How Much Does the Boston CityPASS Cost?
Want to know how much the Boston CityPASS costs? The table below shows adult and child pass prices along with regular admission prices and the total savings for each option.
|Passes||Boston CityPASS Price||Regular Admission Costs (Harbor Cruise)||Total Savings||Regular Admission Costs (Museum)||Total Savings|
|Adult (12+)||$59.00||$107.39||$48.39 (45%)||$90.95||$31.95 (35%)|
|Child (3-11)||$47.00||$83.19||$36.19 (44%)||$65.95||$18.95 (29%)|
|*Current as of October 2018|
Like with all sightseeing passes, you need to know how much a pass costs and what you’ll be saving to determine if it’s a good fit for you. The price of the Boston CityPASS is straightforward, but your exact savings depend on whether you choose the Harbor Cruise or the Harvard Museum of Natural History as your fourth attraction.
As you can see above, the biggest savings comes if you select the Harbor Cruise over the Harvard Museum of Natural History. That’s a savings of 45% off the regular price, by the way!
Boston CityPASS Attractions Guide
Think the Boston CityPASS might be for you? Let’s take a closer look at each of the included attractions!
New England Aquarium
The New England Aquarium is nothing short of impressive. It’s home to thousands of aquatic animals including sharks, lionfish, penguins, giant Pacific octopus, and many more.
Check out the following exhibits:
- Marine Mammal Center
- Science of Sharks
- Shark and Ray Touch Tank
- Giant Ocean Tank
- Olympic Coast
The aptly named four-story Giant Ocean Tank houses a coral reef, Myrtle the green sea turtle (she’s huge!), and hundreds of Caribbean reef animals. Kids will go crazy for the Touch Tank where they can view and stroke rays and little sharks.
- Hot Tip #1: The Aquarium Will Call window has a separate (faster) line for Boston CityPASS holders, so if you have your booklet, skip the ticket line and go there.
- Hot Tip #2: I visited on a Saturday, and it was quite crowded; I recommend going on a weekday if possible.
Museum of Science
Boston’s Museum of Science currently features an impressive 36 exhibitions. Check out the massive 65 million-year-old triceratops fossil (his name is Cliff), learn about human biology in the Hall of Human Life, and marvel at the optical illusions that make up the Seeing is Deceiving exhibit.
Many of the museum’s exhibits are interactive, which keeps kids and adults engaged. There are live demonstrations every day, most of which are free with general admission. Some examples include indoor lightning bolts, live animals, and the science behind magic tricks. In short, the Museum of Science is a lot of fun!
There are a bunch of upgrades that Boston CityPASS holders can enjoy for a discounted price, too. These include the IMAX and 4D Theatres, Planetarium, Butterfly Garden, and the Simulator Experience.
The Skywalk Observatory is one of those must-see sites for first-time visitors. Head up 50 feet to enjoy an unbeatable view of Boston and its sky and coastlines. It’s breathtaking on a clear day.
The Boston CityPASS includes expedited entry, an audio tour, and access to Dreams and Freedom Immigration Museum and Skywalk Theatre. The audio tour explains Boston’s rich history and culture, while the museum tells the story of how immigration helped shape the beloved city. The multimedia theatre brings Boston’s story to life on the big screen.
Boston Harbor Cruise
If the weather is nice during your visit, the Boston Harbor Cruise is a great way to enjoy the fresh air on the water while taking in an incredible view and learning about the city.
The cruise is 90 minutes and features a narrated tour of historic sites. If you enjoy the water and want a break from the museum circuit, the Harbor Cruise is for you.
- Hot Tip: It’s best to reserve your ticket in advance, as the cruise frequently sells out, especially on beautiful days.
Harvard Museum of Natural History
If you love dinosaurs, this is the museum for you. I mean, there’s lots of other cool stuff there too, but the dinosaur exhibits are really something. These are the exhibitions you can take in:
- Africa (mounted specimens of African wildlife)
- Arthropods: Creatures that Rule
- Birds of the World
- Cenozoic Mammals (this is where you’ll find the dinos)
- Central and South America
- Climate Change: Our Global Experiment
- Earth and Planetary Sciences
- Evolution (this is a cool one, too)
- Glass Flowers
- Great Mammal Hall
- Lily Simonson: Painting the Deep
- Marine Life
- Microbial Life
- New England Forests
- The Rockefeller Beetles
- Romer Hall of Vertebrate Paleontology (more dinos here)
- Sea Creatures in Glass
So that’s a lot to see! Plus, the museum is on the Harvard campus, which is an attraction all to itself.
Other Benefits of the Boston CityPASS
- Save Up to 45% – If you choose the Boston Harbor Cruise for your fourth attraction, the Boston CityPASS will help you save up to 45% off the regular cost of admission. That’s almost half off!
- Streamlined Entry – For most of the attractions, the Boston CityPASS booklet contains actual admission tickets – meaning you can skip the long ticket lineups. The Harbor Cruise and the Aquarium have lines specifically for CityPASS holders, so keep your eyes open for the sign.
- Valid for Nine Days – If you like to spread out your sightseeing a bit, you’ll appreciate that the Boston CityPASS is valid for nine days once you use it for the first time. That gives you ample time to take a break or check out some of the other awesome stuff to do in Boston.
- Additional Discounts – If you leaf through the Boston CityPASS booklet, you’ll find some extra goodies. If you’d like to take the Harbor Cruise and visit the Harvard Museum of Natural history, there’s a coupon for $3 off the cruise and $2 off admission to the museum. (Make sure you use the pass for the cruise and the coupon for the museum!) There are also coupons for the gift shops at the attractions and one for 15% off at Macy’s.
Where the Boston CityPASS Falls Short
I think the Boston CityPASS is a very good deal, but there are a few shortcomings worth discussing.
One issue that applies to several of the CityPASS products, including the Seattle CityPASS, is that the product is only available as a physical ticket booklet. When you buy the pass, you can have the booklet mailed to you, or you can get a printable voucher that you exchange for a booklet at the first attraction.
There are a couple of problems with that. If you get the booklet shipped, you don’t have to bother exchanging anything. However, you run the risk of losing the booklet before or during your travels…or even forgetting it at home. If you go the voucher route, you’ll likely have to line up to make the exchange, which is annoying. Having an electronic option in the mix would be nice.
The second issue is that if you rip out your own tickets, they’re considered invalid. Is it just me, or is that kind of extreme? I’m not really sure what the point of that rule is, but make sure you don’t break it.
Additionally, while I think the attractions included on the Boston CityPASS are great, I was disappointed to see that the Museum of Fine Art didn’t make the cut. MoFA is an incredible museum – art lovers could easily spend a full day there.
While the Museum of Science and the Harvard Museum of Natural History are both worth visiting, there is some overlap in the content of their exhibits. I think the pass would be more diverse and appeal to a wider audience if they swapped out the Museum of Natural History for MoFA.
Who Should Consider the Boston CityPASS
First-Time Visitors – The Boston CityPASS includes some fabulous Boston attractions first-time visitors are going to want to check out. The view from the Skywalk Observatory is a must-see!
Anyone Visiting at Least Three Attractions – If you visit three of the included hot spots, you’re guaranteed to save money. Visit the fourth, and it’s icing on the cake.
Travelers Who Enjoy a Relaxed Pace – The Boston CityPASS is good for nine days, so you don’t have to worry about cramming too much into a short time.
Who Should Skip the Boston CityPASS
Travelers Who Aren’t Into Museums – If you don’t enjoy visual exhibits, you won’t get much value from the Boston CityPASS since three of the attractions fall into this category.
Anyone Who Won’t Visit Three Attractions – If you don’t think you’re likely to visit at least three of the attractions, don’t waste your money on the Boston CityPASS.
Power Sightseers – People who aren’t that into sightseeing won’t benefit from the Boston CityPASS, but neither will travelers who can’t get enough of it. If you love hitting multiple attractions every day, live for jam-packed itineraries, and want to see as much of Boston as humanly possible, check out the Go Boston Card instead.
Tips for Using the Boston CityPASS
- Choose the Harbor Cruise – Unless the weather is bad or you’re prone to seasickness, you should choose the Harbor Cruise over the Harvard Museum of Natural History. The regular price of the cruise is much higher than the museum, and it’s the difference between a total savings of 45% and 35%. If you want to visit both, use your pass for the cruise to maximize savings. Then use the $2 off coupon in the booklet for the museum. Win-win.
- Don’t Rip Out Your Tickets – If you rip out your ticket, they will be considered invalid! Seriously, you’ve been warned.
- Mind the Expiration Date – Booklets purchased in October 2018 expire in February 2019, so you need to use them before that. Additionally, vouchers must be exchanged for booklets within six months of purchase. Whenever you decide to purchase, stay aware of these key dates.
How to Get the Boston CityPASS
Buying the Boston CityPASS is easy – get it online now.
You can choose between having the ticket booklet shipped to you directly or getting an email with a printable voucher that you exchange for a booklet at the first attraction you visit.
Is the Boston CityPASS Worth It?
Should you get the Boston CityPASS? Well, that depends.
If you don’t think you’ll get around to visiting at least three of the included attractions, skip the Boston CityPASS and pay à la carte. Similarly, if you know you want to do a ton of sightseeing, you might want something more comprehensive. If that sounds like you, check out the all-inclusive Go Boston Card before making your decision.
If you’re interested in visiting the included attractions but not a whole lot more, the Boston CityPASS is likely a good fit for you. By visiting at least three of the included sites, you’re guaranteed to save money. If you visit four and choose the Harbor Cruise over the Harvard Museum of Natural History, you’ll save 45% on the cost of admission. Those are some pretty sweet savings!
I hope this Boston CityPASS review has been helpful. Thanks so much for reading and enjoy Boston!