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In this Go San Diego Card review, I’ll explain how the pass works, what’s included, and how to get the most savings. Enjoy!
What comes to mind when you think of San Diego? Sandy beaches? Theme parks? Craft beer? Abundant sunshine?
That all sounds great, right?
What might not come to mind immediately is the expense. Unfortunately, San Diego is not always the cheapest place to visit.
Of course, being a tourist in any major city can get expensive, especially when you’re filling your days with must-see attractions and activities like theme parks, day cruises, museums, and tours. So, if you’re interested in taking it all in while keeping your costs low, let me introduce you to a friend of mine: the Go San Diego Card.
In this Go San Diego Card review, I’ll explain how the Card works, what’s included, what it costs, and who it works best for. By the end, you’ll be able to decide if it’s right for you.
I’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get started.
Go San Diego Card: How it Works
The Go San Diego Card is an all-inclusive sightseeing pass that provides entry to over 40 of San Diego’s top attractions for one low price. If you purchase a pass for three days or longer, you also get free entry to one premium attraction. The pass is designed to save you money – up to 55% – on admission costs and simplify your sightseeing experience.
The Go San Diego Card is available as a one, two, three, five, or seven-day pass. Like the New York Pass and many other all-inclusive passes, those are consecutive calendar days, not 24-hour periods. You can scan your pass for entrance to attractions from 9 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. You can stay past 5:30 until closing, but you can’t use the Go San Diego Card to get in after that time.
For example, if you buy a three-day pass and activate it at 11 A.M. on Monday, it’s good until 5:30 P.M. that day, 9-5:30 on Tuesday, and 9-5:30 on Wednesday. So, your best bet is to get started as early as possible on your first day to maximize your time and your savings.
Using the Go San Diego Card is easy. You can keep it on your smartphone as a digital pass using the free Go City app, or you can print a hard copy. Either way, present it at your first attraction and voila – your pass is activated and you’re in!
You don’t need to worry about tickets or extra fees – just show your pass at each attraction. The staff scans it and you walk on in. That’s all there is to it.
Attractions Included on the Go San Diego Card
The Go San Diego Card includes entry to over 40 of San Diego’s top attractions. Here’s a sample of the included attractions along with their regular admission prices:
- San Diego Zoo – $56.00
- LEGOLAND California – $110.99
- San Diego Zoo Safari Park – $56.00
- Belmont Park All Access Combo Pass – $54.00
- One Hour San Diego Harbour Cruise – $28.00
- San Diego Air and Space Museum – $19.95
- San Diego Natural History Museum – $19.95
- Birch Aquarium – $19.50
- San Diego Museum of Art – $15.00
- The New Children’s Museum – $14.00
- Knott’s Berry Farm – $84.00
- Knott’s Soak City Water Park – $53.00
- Whale Watching by Hornblower Cruises (Winter) – $50.00
- Whale Watching and Dolphin Cruises – Newport Landing – $49.00
- Bike, Snorkel, Kayak, and Stand-up Paddle Board Rentals – $89.00
- Hollywood Behind the Scenes Tour – $27.00
- San Diego History Center – $5.00
And we’re not done yet. The three, five, and seven-day passes also include free admission to one of the following premium attractions:
- SeaWorld San Diego: Entry for Duration of Pass – $91.99
- 3-Day Hop-on Hop-off San Diego Trolley – $100.00
*Prices current as of April 3rd, 2019
Go San Diego Card Pricing
As you can see from the list above, the Go San Diego Card isn’t short on choice. There’s also a lot of variation in terms of value. LEGOLAND has a regular admission price of $110.99 while some of the museums only cost $5. That means you’ll have to be strategic about getting your money’s worth.
Speaking of your money, you probably want to know exactly how much the pass costs:
|Passes||Adult Price||Child Price (Ages 3-12)|
|*Prices current as of April 3, 2019|
Now that you know the value of the included attractions and the price of the pass, it’s easy to see how the Go San Diego Card could save you tons of money – up to 55%!
For example, let’s say you buy the three-day pass and choose SeaWorld as your premium attraction. That’s valued at $91.99 and will likely take up most of a day. The pass is $239, so to get your money’s worth, you need to fill those other two days with at least $147 worth of attractions. If you pick a few expensive ones, that’s a breeze!
Top Reasons to Buy the Go San Diego Card
Why does anyone buy a good sightseeing pass? Mainly to save money. Since many of the attractions on the Go San Diego Card are fairly expensive, it’s pretty easy to do that with this pass. To break even, the attractions’ regular admission needs to equal the price of the pass; to save money, it has to exceed it.
Fast Track Entry
For some of the attractions, you can skip the ticket line by showing your pass at the admission gate. When you’re trying to maximize limited vacation time, saving time is almost as valuable as saving money when traveling. Consult your guidebook – for each attraction, the “Getting In” section explains what to do.
Tons of Attractions
The Go San Diego Card has a ton of choices. With over 40 included attractions, there’s enough to satisfy most travelers’ interests. There’s a lot of variety, too – you’ve got theme parks, museums, guided tours, animals, equipment rentals, and more. And you can do as much of it as you like – you’re only limited by time.
Travelers who buy the three, five, or seven-day passes get free access to one of two premium attractions: SeaWorld San Diego ($91.99) or a Three-Day Hop-on Hop-off San Diego Trolley ($100). These deluxe offers add a lot of value to the pass since their regular admission prices are so high.
SeaWorld is likely the most appealing premium option, especially for families traveling with kids. It’s nice that you get access for the duration of the pass, but most people will only want to visit once. It makes more sense to spend most of a day there than it does to go back multiple times.
The Hop-On Hop-Off San Diego Trolley is a fun way to get familiar with the city and catch a ride between some attractions. There are 10 stops along the route, and you can get on or off at any of them. Tours leave every 30 minutes, so you don’t need to worry too much about scheduling. I always enjoy these tours when I visit a city for the first time. That said, you can ride public transportation for pretty cheap and choose the other premium attraction to maximize the value of the pass.
Other Benefits of the Go San Diego Card
Digital Pass – I always appreciate an electronic option when I’m using a sightseeing pass. I prefer to store the pass on my smartphone rather than carry a paper copy – it’s just more convenient. You can go digital with the Go San Diego Card using the free Go City app. But if you prefer the hard copy, that’s an option, too.
Free Guidebook – The Go San Diego Card comes complete with a free guidebook that helps you make the most of your trip to San Diego. You’ve got key details for every attraction included on the pass –address, hours, and how to use your pass to get in.
Additional Discounts – Like many of the best sightseeing passes, the Go San Diego Card comes with extra discounts for local restaurants, retailers, and transportation. This can help you squeeze even more value out of the pass.
Where the Go San Diego Card Falls Short
To be honest, I can’t find too much about the Go San Diego Card that I don’t like.
It offers a great selection, is reasonably priced, and can save you a lot of money if used strategically. This is where you should be careful, however – be sure to use the pass for the more expensive attractions and use the coupons provided in the pass to visit some of the lower-priced sites and still save money.
Also, be aware that this is a consecutive day pass. Most all-inclusive passes are, but some of Smart Destinations’ offerings (like to Go Oahu Card) are valid for a set number of days within a 14-day period. That’s really the ideal setup because it allows you to take breaks in between busy, activity-laden days.
One extra attraction category I’d like to see represented would be a brewery tour. San Diego is known for its craft beer scene, so it would be a nice addition.
Who Should Consider the Go San Diego Card
First Time Visitors – If it’s your first time in San Diego, you’ll want to check out all the main attractions. The Go San Diego Card lets you do that for a fraction of the regular cost.
Power Sightseers – Unlimited passes always work best for travelers who enjoy jam-packed days. To get the most value from the Go San Diego Card, you need to use it as much as possible – that means doing multiple attractions every day. Some people thrive on the flurry of activity, while others are exhausted by it. If you’re the former, this pass is right up your alley.
Families or Small Groups – Traveling with your kids can get so expensive. Every cost is multiplied, and sometimes you find yourself having to sacrifice experiences to stick to a budget. If used appropriately, the Go San Diego Card helps adults and kids save big. The 40 attractions include a ton of family friendly options like LEGOLAND, the Zoo, the Fleet Science Center, Belmont Park, and the Children’s Museum.
Theme Park Junkies – If you love a good theme park, you’ll appreciate the selection the Go San Diego Card offers. You’ve got Belmont Park, Knott’s Berry Farm, Knott’s Soak City Waterpark, and LEGOLAND. On the 3-day pass and up, you’ve also got SeaWorld as an option.
Who Should Skip the Go San Diego Card
Travelers Who Like a Relaxed Pace – If visiting multiple attractions per day for consecutive days doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, the Go San Diego Card isn’t for you. Unless you’re prepared to go hard, you may not get your money’s worth.
People Who Aren’t Interested in These Attractions – The Go San Diego Card offers a lot of choices, but if theme parks, tours, equipment rentals, and museums don’t appeal to you, you won’t use the pass enough to make it worth it.
Travelers on a Tight Budget – The Go San Diego Card can save you money, but – if your budget is super-small – skip the pass and focus on free activities.
Tips for Getting the Most from the Go San Diego Card
- Visit Multiple Attractions Per Day – The more you use the pass, the more you save. To ramp up your savings, make sure you visit multiple attractions each day – aim for three. You can make an exception for theme park days.
- Include High-Value Attractions – The Go San Diego Card offers a nice selection of high-value attractions, but it also offers a bunch of low-cost museums. To get good value, make sure you visit the more expensive options. People who are only interested in $5 museums won’t save money.
- Skip the One and Two-Day Passes – The three, five, and seven-day passes include a premium attraction and offer more value than the one and two-day passes. Of course, if you’re only in town for two days, that’s a different story.
- Start Early – Your pass is valid from 9 am to 5:30 pm, so get started as close to 9 am as possible. Waiting until lunchtime means you’ll either have to rush your experiences or cut down on the number of attractions you visit. Either way, you’re losing.
- Make Reservations When Necessary – Some of the attractions (mostly tours) require reservations in advance. Take a few minutes and review your free guide so you know which attractions you’ll need to book. That way, you can plan your days and avoid disappointment.
- Buy the Pass on Sale – The Go San Diego Card goes on sale from time to time. I don’t know about you, but I never pay full price for anything if I can avoid it! Super-charge your savings by grabbing the pass on sale.
How to Purchase the Go San Diego Card
If you’ve already decided the Go San Diego Card will save you money, head over to the website and buy it now!
You’ll get an email with your pass along with instructions. Print a copy if you prefer to have paper in hand or download the free Go City app if you’d rather use a digital pass.
Keep in mind, you have one year to activate your pass; after that, it expires. If you change your mind within 30 days of purchase, you can get your non-activated pass refunded.
Go San Diego Card Review: Is it a Good Buy?
If you’re interested in the included attractions (especially the high-value ones), then the Go San Diego Card is an excellent buy!
Put simply, if you visit multiple attractions a day, it’s easy to save money – up to 55%! And who doesn’t love saving money, right?
I think the three or five-day pass will suit most travelers’ needs, and they each come with a premium attraction that’s sure to drive up the value of the pass. In my opinion, it’s best to skip the shorter one and two-day passes and opt for the value of the longer passes instead.
I hope this Go San Diego Card review helped you decide if it’s right for you. Thanks for reading and until next time, happy traveling!