In this Go Chicago Card review, we’ll explain how the pass works, explore how much it costs, and determine whether it’s a good fit for your Chicago travel plans. Enjoy!
If you’re planning a trip to Chicago, you’re in for a treat. Nestled against Lake Michigan, the Windy City is home to some of the most sought-after attractions in the country – including the skyline itself.
Whether you’re taking in the views from the SkyDeck, visiting the famed Art Institute of Chicago, or enjoying a shoreline cruise, Chicago will keep you busy and entertained.
If you aren’t careful, it’ll also keep you reaching for your wallet! While there’s lots to enjoy for free (check out the public art!), there’s no denying that some of Chicago’s top attractions are pretty pricey. But, if you love sightseeing and saving money, you’re in the right place.
The Go Chicago Card may be the answer you’re looking for!
Wanna know more? Let’s get to it.
Go Chicago Card: How it Works
The Go Chicago Card is an all-inclusive sightseeing pass offering access to 27 of Chicago’s top attractions for one low price. Used effectively, this can result in savings of up to 45% off the regular price of admission!
Like some of our favorite sightseeing passes, the Go Chicago Card works on a consecutive day basis. Passes are available for 1, 2, 3, or 5 days. You can then visit as many of the 27 attractions as you like during that time.
One of my favorite things about this pass is that it’s emailed to you as soon as you buy it. You can use it on your smartphone with the Go City Card app, or you can print it at home and take it with you. As long as you activate it within a year, you’re good. After that, it expires.
Activating the Go Chicago Card is easy. Just visit your first attraction and show your pass. You won’t pay anything at the gate, and you’ll have full access to the attraction as though you had bought a regular ticket. Your pass then stays active for the number of calendar days you selected when you purchased it.
It’s important to note that these are “calendar days” – not 24-hour days. Therefore, it’s best to activate your pass early in the morning so you can take full advantage of that first day of sightseeing!
Attractions Included on the Go Chicago Card
The Go Chicago Card includes admission to 27 of Chicago’s top attractions, including:
- Shedd Aquarium – $39.95
- SkyDeck Chicago – $24.00
- Hop-on Hop-off Big Bus Chicago (1-Day Classic Tour) – $40.00
- 360 Chicago – $23.00
- Shoreline Architecture River Cruise – $45.92
- Art Institute of Chicago – $35.00
- Adler Planetarium – $34.95
- Museum of Science and Industry – $33.95
- Field Museum – $32.00
- Navy Pier Centennial Wheel and Rides – $35.00
- Brookfield Zoo – $21.95
- Shoreline Classic Lake Tour – $25.76
- Chicago Children’s Museum – $14.00
- Legoland Discovery Center – $28.35
- Bike and Roll Chicago (4-hour bike rental) – $36.00
- Tall Ship WINDY – $33.60
- Lincoln Park Zoo Rides – $3.00
- Chicago Theatre Tour – $15.00
- Chicago History Museum – $19.00
- Museum of Contemporary Art – $15.00
- The Escape Game Chicago – $34.99
- Robie House – $18.00
- Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Tour – $18.00
- Panoramic and Scenic North Side Tour – $29.00
- Historic Chicago South Shore Tour – $29.00
- Grand Tour – $48.00
- Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home – $15.00
(*Current as of June 2018)
Go Chicago Card Pricing
From the list above, it’s pretty clear that sightseeing in Chicago can get expensive quickly. But that’s why you buy a sightseeing pass – to help keep those costs down!
To help you decide if the Go Chicago Card will save you money, here are the different pass options and their pricing.
|Passes||Adult Price||Child Price (ages 3-12)|
|1 Day Pass||$109.00||$69.00|
|2 Day Pass||$154.00||$109.00|
|3 Day Pass||$184.00||$129.00|
|5 Day Pass||$219.00||$149.00|
When you break down the pricing for each option, you’ll see that the best value comes with the 5-day pass. At a cost that is just double the cost of the 1-day pass, you can clearly squeeze a lot more sightseeing into 5 days than you can in one.
Here’s another way to look at it: The 1-day pass costs $109. So, to make that pass worth your money, you would have to visit a combination of attractions whose combined regular admission exceeds $109.
Let’s say you do the Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour, the Art Institute, and the Shedd Aquarium. That would normally cost $115, so you’ve saved $6. Savings are savings, but $6 isn’t exactly worth getting excited about.
But if you buy the 2-day pass for $154, and on your second day you also visit about $115 worth of attractions, then you’ve saved $230-$154 = $76. Now we’re getting somewhere.
The 3-day pass saves you more again, and the 5-day pass is the best bang for your buck.
Top Reasons to Buy the Go Chicago Card
Save Money on the Cost of Sightseeing
Obviously, the main reason to purchase the Go Chicago Card is to save money on sightseeing in Chicago.
As we mentioned in the above example, the 1-day pass can save you a little, but you’ll save more with the multi-day passes.
If you know you want to do a lot of sightseeing and you’re in town for a bit, consider a multi-day pass to get more value.
See Chicago and Get a Lift with the Hop-on Hop-off Big Bus Tour
If you’ve never been on the Big Bus Tour in Chicago, I highly recommend it. It’s a great way to explore the city, learn some Chicago history, and catch a lift between an attraction or two.
The tour lasts approximately 2 hours from start to finish, but you can hop-on or hop-off at any of the stops along the way. You can do this as many times as you like during the day your ticket is active. The tour runs from 9-5, so if you plan to be on and off the bus all day, it’s best to start early.
You can only use your pass for the Big Bus Tour once during the life of your pass. However, if you decide you’d like access for a second day, you can purchase a ticket for just $10.
The Big Bus Tour’s regular price is $40, which is kinda steep. That’s why it’s a great idea to use your pass and maximize your savings.
Unlike some alternative passes (see below), the Go Chicago Card offers unlimited sightseeing for the number of days you purchase the pass. If you know you plan to hit a lot of the included attractions, the pass should be a great fit for you. The key is to figure out how many attractions you’d like to visit and do some quick math to make sure you’re saving money.
Great Museum Selection
If museums are your thing, you’ll appreciate having access to 6 of Chicago’s top museums with the Go Chicago Card. The Art Institute of Chicago stands out as my personal favorite, but there’s plenty on the list for history and science buffs, too. They’ve even got kids covered!
Other Benefits of the Go Chicago Card
Fast-track entry to select attractions – Waiting in long ticket lines is a drag I’m sure you want to avoid. It can also cost you valuable time during your trip! The Go Chicago Card gives you priority entry into four major attractions: Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago, Adler Planetarium, and 360 Chicago.
Flexibility in how you use your pass – You can carry your Go Chicago Card pass either on your phone using the Go City app or by printing it at home. If you’re a smartphone user, you’ll probably prefer to go electronic. But people who like having a physical pass will appreciate the paper option.
Attractions guide – The Go Chicago Card comes with a handy attractions guide to help you get around the Windy City. Use it to access attraction hours, locations, and any relevant instructions. It’s available online or to download and print.
Additional discounts – Inside the guide, be sure to check out the “included extras” section for even more savings. Examples include $3 off admission at the Chicago Sports Museum, 20% at Haagen Dazs Café, and 15% off a $100 purchase at Macy’s.
Where the Go Chicago Card Falls Short
Compared to other sightseeing passes in other cities, the Go Chicago Card offers a relatively small selection of attractions. Although 27 is nothing to sneeze at, if you’re used to the large selection of sites on the New York Pass or the London Pass, you might be a little underwhelmed. Of course, those are bigger cities, so adjust your expectations accordingly.
The smaller selection especially applies to tours. The Go Chicago Card includes 9 tours, 3 of which are boat tours. Inside the fine print, you’ll also note that you can only take one boat tour per day. But don’t worry, you can take all three if you get the 3 or 5-day pass.
Four of the tours are bus tours. The Grand Tour is a two-hour bus tour that takes passengers to the famous sites on Chicago’s North Side and South Shore. That tour is normally $48, so it’s a good savings opportunity.
If you’ve been counting, that’s 3 boat tours and 4 bus tours out of 9. So there isn’t a big selection of site tours or walking tours available.
Most people won’t see the restrictions on tours as a big deal, but it’s something worth noting so you don’t end up disappointed.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the Grand Tour is closed until winter. I found that a bit strange. I don’t think most travelers would expect it since winter tends to be a little less busy for tourism. At $48, the Grand Tour is one of the better value options included on the pass, so it might be a bit of a letdown to discover it isn’t available during your summer visit. You can still tour the South Shore and North Side individually, though.
Who is the Go Chicago Card Good For?
- First-time visitors – If it’s your first time in the Windy City, you’re probably going to want to do a lot of sightseeing. The city’s biggest attractions are all on the Go Chicago Card, so there’s a good chance that the pass will offer you some pretty nice value.
- Travelers on a sightseeing mission – The Go Chicago Card is most attractive for those who want to do a lot of sightseeing in a short amount of time. If you’re likely to visit 2 or 3 attractions per day, this pass will be right up your alley. Again, with the Go Chicago Card, you can visit as many attractions as you like each day the pass is active. You’re only limited by the number of hours in the day and the length of time you want to spend at each attraction.
- Families – The Go Chicago Card includes a nice selection of kid-friendly activities (Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Legoland Discovery Center, Brookfield Zoo, etc.), so take the whole family and save even more.
Who is the Go Chicago Card Not So Good For?
- Sightseers who enjoy a relaxed pace – If the idea of visiting several attractions per day doesn’t sound appealing, then an unlimited sightseeing pass probably isn’t for you. Maybe you prefer to spend a day sightseeing and then take a day off. Maybe you’re the type who likes to take your time at each attraction. Either way, you probably won’t get great value from the Go Chicago Card. Rather than an all-inclusive pass, you may want to check out the Chicago Explorer Pass or the Chicago CityPASS instead.
- Travelers not that into sightseeing – If sightseeing isn’t big on your agenda, skip the Go Chicago Card and spend your money on something else.
- Travelers on a super-tight budget – The Go Chicago Card can save you a lot of money on sightseeing, but it’s not free. If your budget for this trip is extremely limited, skip the pass and look for some free things to do instead.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of the Go Chicago Card
Activate your pass early in the morning – Your pass is activated once you visit your first attraction. Whether you start at 8 AM or 4 PM, that counts as your first day. To make the most of that first day, I recommend activating your pass early in the morning.
Visit 3+ attractions per day – The more attractions you visit, the more money you save. If you visit 3 attractions per day, you’ll be banking good savings. The exception is the 1-day pass. If you only plan to visit 3 attractions, you’re better off buying the 3-attraction Chicago Explorer Pass for just $79 instead.
Skip the 1-day pass – Like I hinted at above, the 1-day pass doesn’t offer much value. In order to make the 1-day Go Chicago Card a better value than the 3 or 4-attraction Chicago Explorer Pass, you would have to visit 5 attractions. That’s likely too much for one day.
Pay attention to the regular prices – The Go Chicago Card is an unlimited pass, but you still want to get the best value for your money. When considering if this pass is right for you, look at the available attractions and their regular admission prices. Crunch some quick numbers to make sure you’re saving money by purchasing the pass. If you visit a few of the pricier attractions, you should be golden.
How to Buy the Go Chicago Card
If the Go Chicago Card sounds like your cup of tea, you can buy it online anytime. It’ll be emailed to you right away. You can then upload it to the Go City app for easy access on your phone, or print it and go.
Bottom Line: Is the Go Chicago Card Worth It?
The Go Chicago Card is a good buy for travelers who want to spend a few days doing a lot of sightseeing in Chicago. If that sounds like your jam, this pass will help you check out Chicago’s hottest sites at a serious discount.
If you think you’ll only visit a few sites, be sure to check out the Chicago Explorer Pass before making your decision.
Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the world! There is so much to see and do, and I think you’ll love it too.
Enjoy your time in the Windy City, and thanks so much for reading. Until next time, happy traveling!