In this Southern California CityPASS review, we’ll explain how the pass works, explore what is included, and help you decide if it’s a good fit for your travel plans. Enjoy!
Got plans to take the fam to Southern California? Nice! In addition to tons of fun in the sun, SoCal is home to some of the best family-friendly theme parks in the world (Disneyland, anyone?).
What might be disappointing, though, is how hard this trip is going to hit your wallet. Unfortunately, all those world-famous attractions command a pretty penny, especially if you pay full price at the gate!
Luckily, the Southern California CityPASS can help you save money on some of the area’s biggest and best attractions!
Still, as with any sightseeing pass, the SoCal CityPASS isn’t a good fit for every traveler. So, let’s take a look at what the pass offers and decide whether it would be a good deal for you!
Southern California CityPASS Review: How it Works
For 2019, the Southern California CityPASS has undergone some major changes…and I can’t say that I love what they’ve done.
While the old SoCal CityPASS worked like other all-inclusive attractions passes, the new version isn’t really a “pass” at all. The new version of the pass functions more like the Orlando CityPASS. In essence, the Southern California CityPASS is now a ticket reseller.
Here’s the good news: You can still save money at five of SoCal’s largest family-friendly parks. In fact, you’ll still save over the prices you would have paid at the gate.
The bad news is that you have to buy individual tickets through the “pass”…which effectively means you won’t save as much. Gone are the days of saving $155 per person. (Womp, womp.)
With that said, to get the new offer, you’ll need to buy tickets with the Southern California CityPASS online before you go. Depending on the attractions you choose, you can either print your tickets, pick them up at Will Call upon entering the park, or use the QR code you are sent via email. Personally, I’d go ahead and print the tickets and/or use the QR code so you can avoid as many lines as possible!
Top Attractions on the Southern California CityPASS
With the Southern California CityPASS, you can choose to purchase individual tickets to the following family-friendly theme parks (regular adult admission prices in parenthesis):
- Disneyland Resort ($112.50 for two-day pass)
- Universal Studios Hollywood ($139)
- SeaWorld San Diego ($91.99)
- LEGOLAND California ($104.99)
- San Diego Zoo ($56) OR Safari Park ($56)
*Current as of March 13, 2019
How Much Does the Southern California CityPASS Cost?
If you’ve done any research on prices, you already know that theme park hopping in SoCal isn’t cheap. But exactly how much does the Southern California CityPASS cost? And how much will it save you?
Unfortunately, that totally depends.
Because of the new way the SoCal CityPASS is set up, the amount you save depends on which attractions you choose and for how many days. So, we really can’t tell you how much you’ll save.
Here’s what we can tell you: We did run a few scenarios with the new pass. While the old pass saved users up to $155 a person, the best we could do with the new pass was about $45 savings per adult. Now, that’s clearly nothing to shake a stick at, but it doesn’t provide nearly as much value as the old pass did.
Southern California CityPASS: Top Attractions
Let’s take a closer look at the attractions included on the Southern California CityPASS to help you decide if it’s a good buy for you.
I don’t want to generalize, but if you’re visiting SoCal with kids, Disneyland is probably a given. Dubbed “the happiest place on earth,” Disneyland can entertain the whole family for days.
With the Southern California CityPASS, you get discounted admission on 3, 4, and 5-day tickets. You also get access to both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure. These are actually two separate, unique parks with their own “lands” and themes. Don’t worry though, they are basically across the street from each other, so if you’re staying nearby, you’ll be close to both.
Disneyland Park is the larger of the two and is the original theme park. It’s home to Disney Classics like the Sleeping Beauty Castle, Space Mountain, and It’s a Small World.
Disney California Adventure is a newer addition and features seven of its own lands, including the popular Cars Land. They’re both family-friendly, although Disney California Adventure has a higher proportion of rides designed for thrill seekers. They also serve alcohol, which Disneyland doesn’t.
With the multi-day tickets, you can spend three to five days going back and forth between the two Disney parks however you choose. (Editor’s Note: When purchasing your tickets, you have the option of getting either Park Hopper or one park per day passes.) You also get to skip the ticket line up front. If you’ve been to Disney before, you know that’s a huge perk, because those lines are usually long.
SeaWorld San Diego
Based on the name alone, you might assume SeaWorld is an aquatic animal exhibit. That’s part of it for sure, but it’s also a full-size theme park complete with rides, shows, and yes, marine animals.
You’ll see killer whales, interact with dolphins, and marvel at sharks, sea lions, and more. But you’ll also get to enjoy fifteen custom rides. Check out family-friendly offerings like Abby’s Sea Star Spin and thrill seeker treats like the new Electric Eel roller coaster (if you’re brave enough). Your family can spend a whole day enjoying all SeaWorld San Diego has to offer.
LEGOLAND California features more than 60 Lego-themed rides, attractions, and shows that will be sure to keep your kiddos engaged all day long. Kids or adults (no judgement) who are into Legos may also want to bring along a minifigure. There are trading stations around the park where you can trade in your minifigure for a new one. Pretty cool.
Note that LEGOLAND targets kids aged 2-12, so there aren’t a lot of thrill rides. That doesn’t mean adults won’t enjoy the rides and shows, though. Even if you aren’t into Legos, the exhibits are pretty impressive. There are a ton of delicious food options, too (Granny’s Apple Fries come highly recommended). So, grab some snacks and enjoy watching your kids have a blast. You’ll probably find yourself having fun, too.
Universal Hollywood and San Diego Zoo OR Safari Park
In addition to the parks listed above, the Southern California CityPASS also offers tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood, and either the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park. Universal’s world famous “Studio Tour” is a blast for all ages. Animal lovers will enjoy either of the San Diego Zoo options.
Other Benefits of the Southern California CityPASS
- Savings – Although the $155 savings is a thing of the past, the Southern California CityPASS can still save you money compared to prices at the gate!
- Choose your own attractions – With the new format, the SoCal CityPASS allows you to choose only the attractions you want.
- Fast track entry – Theme parks are awesome, but the lines aren’t. The Southern California CityPASS is your ticket into the included parks, so you can skip lining up to purchase tickets. That means more time to enjoy your day. (Hint: Print off your tickets or use the QR code whenever possible!)
Where the Southern California CityPASS Falls Short
I have to be brutally honest here: I’m not a fan of the new Southern California CityPASS.
While the addition of Universal is a nice plus, changing from an all-inclusive style to a ticket reseller is a huge disappointment. Not only does the new format lack the convenience of having all of your tickets on one pass, it also significantly decreases the amount of savings available.
Additionally, the pass does not offer a lot of things to do in L.A. In fact, the pass features attractions that are all located considerably south of Los Angeles in Orange and San Diego counties. So, if you’re looking for a pass with more options in L.A., the Go Los Angeles Card may be a better fit. (Read our full Go Los Angeles Card review here.)
Who Should Get the Southern California CityPASS
Families – The tickets offered by the SoCal CityPASS are all to very family-friendly attractions. All the included theme parks are geared towards families. LEGOLAND is especially kid-centric. That being said, adults typically love Disney and SeaWorld, too.
Theme park junkies – The Southern California CityPASS offers discount tickets to area theme parks. So, if you’re looking to spend four or five days on the theme park circuit, you can probably find some cheap tickets here.
Disney fans – If you love Disney, this is good option because it includes access to both Disney parks at a discount. If you’ve never been to Disney, let me tell you, you can easily spend three days there. If you’ve been there before and loved it, you know how long you need and can decide accordingly.
Visitors to San Diego – If you plan on making San Diego your main hub during your trip, the SoCal CityPASS is a nice fit. Most of the attractions are located in either San Diego County or Orange County.
Who Should Skip the Southern California CityPASS
People who don’t like theme parks – That’s basically all this pass offers, so if theme parks aren’t your jam, the Southern California CityPASS isn’t for you.
Travelers who want an all-inclusive pass – The new format for this “pass” means it really isn’t a pass at all. Effectively, you’re just buying discount tickets through a ticket reseller. So, if you’re looking for something a bit more all inclusive, check out our suggestion below.
Visitors focusing on Los Angeles – The pass bills itself as a “Southern California” pass, but – if most of your trip will be spent in L.A. – this probably isn’t the pass for you. Most of the SoCal CityPASS attractions are located exclusively in Orange County and San Diego County. If you’re looking for a sightseeing card with more options for L.A., check out the Go Los Angeles Card instead.
How to Buy the Southern California CityPASS
Buying tickets through the Southern California CityPASS is a breeze – grab them online now.
You’ll get an email immediately and can download and print your e-tickets from home. You can also opt to use the QR codes emailed to you or pick your tickets up at Will Call at each attraction.
Again, I would recommend either printing and/or using the QR codes so you don’t run into as many lines.
Is the Southern California CityPASS Worth It?
So, is the Southern California CityPASS a good deal? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.
Unfortunately, this pass is no longer really a pass at all. So, if you’re looking for a true all-inclusive pass, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
On the other hand, if you simply want to choose which attractions you visit and buy tickets at a discounted price, then using the Southern California CityPASS website may be a good option for you. With the new format, you’re not paying for attractions you won’t use, but you can still save money!
Ultimately, the attractions offered through the site appeal most to families with kids who are game to spend several days enjoying the SoCal theme park scene. If that describes you, then you may be able to find a good deal. If you’re not gung-ho for theme parks, don’t bother checking it out.
Thanks so much for reading and enjoy your trip to Southern California! Until next time, happy traveling!