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 more than $155 person.
Do I have your attention now? I thought so.
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
The Southern California CityPASS is a theme park pass that includes “free” entry to four of SoCal’s largest family-friendly parks at one all-inclusive price. With the pass, you can save more than $155 per person when compared to regular admission prices at the gate. There is also an option of adding a fifth attraction (San Diego Zoo or Safari Park) for an additional fee.
You can buy the Southern California CityPASS online or at any of the included attractions. If you buy online, you can download an e-ticket and print it at home, or you can have an admission card shipped to you instead. If you buy the pass at one of the attractions, you’ll automatically be presented with a physical admission card.
One of my favorite perks of the SoCal CityPass is that it helps you avoid long ticket lines. When you’re ready to visit your first attraction, simply show your e-ticket or admission card, and you’re in!
The pass is good for 14 days, including the first day you use it. That’s even longer than some of my favorite CityPASS products – like the Seattle CityPASS and the Chicago CityPASS. With the SoCal CityPASS, there’s absolutely no need to rush; you can spread the adventure out over two weeks if you like!
It is important to note, however, that the pass expires at the end of each calendar year; so, if you buy the 2018 SoCal CityPASS, you have until December 31st, 2018 to activate it and start using it. So, if you’re planning a trip for 2019, you may want to wait until after the first of the year to purchase your pass.
Top Attractions on the Southern California CityPASS
The Southern California CityPASS includes admission to the following family-friendly theme parks (regular adult admission prices in parenthesis):
- Disneyland Park & Disney California Adventure Park* – 3-day park hopper ticket with Magic Morning ($330)
- SeaWorld San Diego ($89.99)
- LEGOLAND California ($104)
For an additional $44, you can also add access to:
- San Diego Zoo OR Safari Park ($54)
(*Disneyland Park & Disney California Adventure Park are listed as one attraction, although they are really two separate parks.)
How Much Does the Southern California CityPASS Cost?
So, it’s pretty obvious from the prices above 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?
I’m glad you asked! The table below shows you the adult and child prices for the Southern California CityPASS, the price for admission at the included attractions, and your total savings.
|Southern California CityPASS Price||$367.00||$337.00|
|Regular Admission Price||$523.00||$496.00|
As you can see, adults and children save almost $160 (about 30%) on the cost of admission to the four included attractions. So, if you end up visiting all of the attractions on the pass, a family of four (2 adults, 2 children) would save over $630 by using the pass! Personally, I’d take that any day.
Southern California CityPASS Attractions Guide
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.
Disneyland Park & Disney California Adventure – 3-day Park Hopper Ticket with Magic Morning
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. If you’re not interested in Disney, you can stop reading right now because this pass is not for you.
The Southern California CityPASS includes a 3-day park hopper ticket for 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.
The pass also includes one Magic Morning. That means you get access to select attractions inside Disneyland Park an hour before the park opens to the public. Magic Morning is only available to Disneyland Resort guests and Southern California CityPASS holders, so it will be less crowded than regular park hours. It’s available on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. (Hot Tip: Tuesday and Thursday tend to be even less crowded.)
The Southern California CityPASS comes with a 3-day Park Hopper Ticket, meaning you can spend three days going back and forth between the two Disney parks however you choose. 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.
Exclusive CityPASS.com Add-on: San Diego Zoo OR Safari Park
If the four parks included on the Southern California CityPASS aren’t enough for you, you have the option to add a fifth attraction for only $44. You can choose between either the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park. If you love animals, you’ll enjoy the tours and exhibits at either.
Other Benefits of the Southern California CityPASS
- Savings – The Southern California CityPASS will save you $156.99 per adult and $159.99 per child off the cost of admission to the included parks. That’s about 30%!
- Option to add a fifth attraction – Want to add a fifth adventure to your trip? For just $44, you can add access to either San Diego Zoo or Safari Park to your Southern California CityPASS. Regular admission is $54, so you save $10.
- 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.
- Good for 14 days – The SoCal CityPASS is valid for 14 days once you activate it (including that first day). That means you won’t have to be visiting theme parks for five days in a row.
Where the Southern California CityPASS Falls Short
The Southern California CityPASS offers great value as a theme park pass. That’s all it is; it doesn’t pretend to be more. It’s geared towards people who want to visit multiple theme parks during their trip – especially Disney. So, if you’re looking for a more eclectic sightseeing pass, this isn’t it.
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.)
Some people might dislike the fact that the pass includes three days of access to the Disney parks. Some people only want to spend one day at Disney, and don’t necessarily want to visit Disneyland Park and California Adventure. For those people, the 3-day Park Hopper Pass might be overkill.
LEGOLAND is great for kids, but adults without kiddos might not be into it. The pass still offers good value if you want to visit both Disney parks and SeaWorld. You’d pay $419.99 if you paid for them all separately, so $367 for the pass still saves you $52.99 per person. (That’s assuming you’re keen to spend three days at the Disney parks.) All the same, if you skip LEGOLAND, the value of the pass decreases. The pass would probably be more attractive to adults traveling without kids if LEGOLAND was an option with an alternate choice available.
Lastly, there is not a mobile ticket option available for the Southern California CityPASS. You must print your e-ticket or use provided admission cards to gain entry to each park.
The way I see it, since an e-ticket option exists, you should be able to use it electronically, right? The pass would be more convenient if you could keep it on your mobile phone. That way, you’d have fewer things to carry and would be less likely to lose your pass. Hopefully, CityPASS will introduce a digital option in the future.
Who Should Get the Southern California CityPASS
Families – This is a very family-friendly pass. 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 is a theme park pass, and it’s a good one. So, if you’re looking to spend four or five days on the theme park circuit, this pass is probably a good fit for you.
Disney fans – If you love Disney, this is an excellent pass for you because it includes access to both Disney parks over three days (plus a Magic Morning). 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. All 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 is, so if theme parks aren’t your jam, the Southern California CityPASS isn’t for you.
Travelers who aren’t interested in Disney – The core value of this pass is the 3-day Park Hopper ticket for both Disney parks plus the Magic Morning. If you don’t care to visit Disney, the SoCal CityPASS isn’t going to save you money. In most cases, the same is true if you only want to spend one day at Disney.
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. All 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 LA, check out the Go Los Angeles Card instead.
Tips for Using the Southern California CityPASS
- Visit all four parks – Get maximum value by visiting all the included attractions. At the very least, spend two days at Disney and visit one of the other parks. As long as you do that, you’re saving money.
- Start your days early – Disney is usually open late, but SeaWorld and LEGOLAND close early depending on the day of the week and the season. During certain times, they close at 5 pm. Make sure you check the hours of operation and start your day in the a.m. to avoid being disappointed.
- Add the San Diego Zoo or Safari Adventure to your pass – If you plan to visit the San Diego Zoo or Safari Adventure, don’t forget to add it to your pass! The Southern California CityPASS includes the option of adding one of the two for just $44, saving you $10 per person on the cost of admission.
How to Buy the Southern California CityPASS
Buying the Southern California CityPASS is a breeze – grab it online now.
You’ll get an email immediately and can download and print your e-ticket from home. You can also opt to have a physical admission card shipped to you.
If you’d rather wait, you can buy the pass at any of the included parks. The biggest downside is you’ll have to wait in line to do it.
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.
Ultimately, this pass is going to appeal most to families with kids who are game to spend several days enjoying the SoCal theme park scene. If that describes you, this pass is a good buy. If you’re not gung-ho for theme parks, it’s probably best to skip it.
If you want to visit Disney for at least two days plus hit up SeaWorld or LEGOLAND, then the SoCal CityPASS will save you a little money. In this case, I think it’s worth a look.
For those who want to spend three days at Disney, enjoy a Disney Magic Morning, and visit the other attractions, the Southern California CityPASS is a steal! You’ll save $156.99 per adult and $159.99 per child. For a family of four, that’s over $630 in savings! I certainly wouldn’t turn that down.
Thanks so much for reading and enjoy your trip to Southern California! Until next time, happy traveling!