In this Tampa Bay CityPASS review, I’ll explore the pass’ key features and help you decide if it’s a good fit for your travel plans and your budget.
Have a trip to sunny Tampa Bay on the horizon? Beautiful Florida weather, gorgeous beaches, and some of the best theme parks in the world await you!
While fun in the sun is free, Tampa Bay is far from a cheap travel destination. Accommodations can be pricey and attractions like theme parks and aquariums are expensive, too.
When it comes to travel, I turn to two tried and true methods of minimizing costs without sacrificing experiences. I leverage travel credit card rewards for flights and use the best sightseeing passes to do more for less.
With the Tampa Bay CityPASS, you can hit up some of the area’s top tourist attractions for a fraction of the regular price. Interested? I’ll tell you everything you need to know.
What Is the Tampa Bay CityPASS?
The Tampa Bay CityPASS is your discounted ticket to five of Tampa Bay’s seven most exciting attractions. Each pass includes three core attractions, with a choice for the fourth and fifth slots. It’s valid for nine consecutive calendar days, giving you plenty of time to check out the attractions at your leisure.
The pass itself comes as one ticket for each attraction. Don’t worry, though — you can store them on your smartphone for instant access.
The Tampa Bay CityPASS is convenient because you make one purchase to get all of your tickets. That’s a nice bonus, but the real draw is the incredible savings. The pass can save you up to 52% compared to paying at the gate.
Top Attractions Included on the Tampa Bay CityPASS
The Tampa Bay CityPASS includes access to five major tourist attractions. Three of those five are included by default, and you have a choice for the remaining two. This is the attraction lineup, along with regular adult admission prices:
- Busch Gardens Tampa Bay ($120.42)
- The Florida Aquarium ($32)
- ZooTampa at Lowry Park ($39.95)
- Clearwater Marine Aquarium ($26.95) or Chihuly Collection ($20)
- Museum of Science & Industry ($12.95) or The Tropics Boat Tours ($28.88)
*Current as of July 08, 2020
How Much Does the Tampa Bay CityPASS Cost?
Now that you know what’s included, let’s consider its pricing.
|Adult (ages 10+)||Child (ages 3–9)|
|*Current as of July 2020|
I did a double take when I looked at the price of the pass compared to the value of the attractions. The pass costs $119, which is the same as the regular admission to Busch Gardens. That means you essentially get four attractions for free!
The Tampa Bay CityPASS offers incredible value, saving adults up to $129.20 — or 52% — on admission prices. To hit those savings, you need to visit all five attractions and choose Clearwater Marine Aquarium and The Tropics Boat Tours for the two flexible attraction slots, since they are the more expensive options. Regardless, as long as you visit Busch Gardens and one other attraction, you’ll save money.
Get Up to Half Off in Tampa – Explore this bay city and save money! Grab the Tampa Bay CityPASS and save up to 52% on sightseeing! Get yours here.
Tampa Bay CityPASS Attractions Guide
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Let’s be real: Busch Gardens is the main draw of this pass. Valued at $120.42, you instantly get your money’s worth with the single-day ticket that includes all rides, shows, and exhibits.
Theme park junkies and thrill seekers will easily spend a full day at Busch Gardens. Brave Falcon’s Fury and take a plunge from the drop tower at 60 mph or race through the African landscape on Cheetah Hunt, a triple launch roller coaster.
If that sounds a little too thrilling for you (I’m with you), there are less-intense rides to enjoy, including kid-friendly ones. You’ve also got interactive animal exhibits, shows, shopping, dining, and more.
Note: Advanced reservations are recommended.
Another family-friendly attraction, Florida Aquarium is home to thousands of captivating sea creatures. Get hands-on with sharks and stingrays, meet ring-tailed lemurs, and catch a glimpse of Burmese pythons.
When you’re finished exploring the massive indoor exhibits, head outside to cool off at the splash pad. You’ll find two acres of wet and dry play areas that kids will love. The Tampa Bay CityPASS includes access to it all, along with the 4D movie theatre.
ZooTampa at Lowry Park
ZooTampa is home to an eclectic collection of animals from around the world. You’ll meet native Florida wildlife one moment and exotic species from Africa and Australia the next. The Australian Children’s Zoo is a special draw, featuring interactive exhibits and rides for the whole family.
ZooTampa also includes the only non-profit manatee hospital in the world. While it’s always amazing to see these majestic creatures, you can feel good about supporting a great cause in the process.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
This is another destination with a mission you can be proud of supporting. Clearwater Marine Aquarium is all about marine life rescue. In fact, you’ve probably heard about its most famous resident – Winter the dolphin. The movie Dolphin Tale is based on her rescue and rehabilitation at CMA and you can see her and the other resident dolphins when you’re there. You’ll also meet sharks, otters, and sea turtles from impressive vantage points and observe a real-life animal hospital. Kids and adults alike will love hand-feeding stingrays at the Stingray Beach exhibit. There’s so much to learn about rescue work in the aquarium’s fun and interactive presentations. Little aspiring marine biologists will be in their element!
Every Tampa Bay CityPASS comes with a choice between Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Chihuly Collection. I consider the Aquarium to be the better pick for most kids. Plus, it’s the more expensive of the two options. However, the pass already includes an aquarium and a zoo, so if you’re animaled-out, Chihuly is a unique alternative.
This beautiful art museum features a permanent collection of sculptor Dale Chihuly’s famed work of blown glass. Watch live glassblowing demonstrations and check out the work of other artists at the Morean Glass Studio. If blown glass isn’t your thing, the Morean Arts Center Galleries include a variety of art forms from local artists.
The Chihuly Collection has a distinctly more mature feel than the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and is a no-brainer for art lovers. It’s the only attraction on the pass that I wouldn’t describe as kid-friendly. Older children might appreciate it, but young kids might lose interest quickly.
Museum of Science & Industry
The Museum of Science & Industry is great for science lovers or anyone who enjoys interacting with cool stuff. It has more than 100 hands-on activities featuring futuristic technology, simulated space travel, paleontology, and more.
The Museum of Science & Industry is a blast for curious kids and adults alike. Its regular admission price is much lower than that of the Tropics Boat Tours, so that might sway you to skip it. All the same, it’s a fun attraction that shouldn’t be dismissed easily.
The Tropics Boat Tours
If you choose the Tropics Boat Tours, you actually have another choice to make: the Dolphin Exploration Tour or the Sunset Celebration Cruise. Either will have you enjoying the picturesque Gulf of Mexico off of Clearwater Beach. The Dolphin Exploration tour is focused on wildlife sighting, particularly the bottlenose dolphin. The Sunset Celebration Cruise is more about those beautiful Florida sunsets. Both last two hours and feature live narration. A cash bar is a nice bonus.
The Dolphin Exploration Tour is a great family activity, while the Sunset Celebration Tour appeals more to adults. Compared to the Museum of Science & Industry, it’s the higher value pick. Reservations are required, so make sure to do a little planning if one of the boat tours is on your wish list.
Other Benefits of the Tampa Bay CityPASS
- Save Up to 52% — Want to cut admission costs in half? The Tampa Bay CityPASS helps you do just that. What will you do with an extra $129 in your pocket?
- Valid for Nine Days — The Tampa Bay CityPASS combines massive savings with flexibility — a mix that’s hard to beat. With all-inclusive passes such as the New York Pass, travelers sometimes feel pressure to fit everything into a few days. This pass is valid for nine days, so there’s no need to rush.
- 365-Day Risk-Free Returns — If your plans change, you can return your unactivated pass within a year of purchase for a full refund.
Save Big in Tampa – Enjoy five of the area’s top attractions and get half off regular admission prices! Get your Tampa Bay CityPASS here!
Where the Tampa Bay CityPASS Falls Short
The Tampa Bay CityPASS offers impressive value to adult travelers and young kids. A word of caution, though: The value isn’t as high for older kids.
The adult pass is for travelers ages 10 and up, but not all the attractions charge 10-year-olds the adult admission price. For example, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Museum of Science & Industry, and The Tropics Boat Tours start adult pricing at age 13. Chihuly Collection starts it at 19. That means that if you bought an adult Tampa Bay CityPASS for your 11-year-old child, it would be impossible to save the 52% that the pass advertises.
That said, the pass is a good buy regardless of age because most of the value comes from Busch Gardens. Just be aware that the savings aren’t quite as great for kids aged 10–12 (or 10–18, if you choose Chihuly Collection).
Another point worth mentioning is that the Clearwater Marine Aquarium or Chihuly Collection choice is a bit lackluster, especially for families traveling with kids. That’s because there’s already an aquarium in the lineup, and a glass studio might not be the most exciting for kids. I’d like to see the Clearwater Marine Aquarium or The Florida Aquarium swapped out for a more original option.
One final note about the optional physical ticket booklets: You can’t tear out your own tickets. If you do, the tickets may be considered invalid. Ouch. You have to give the staff the whole booklet and let them tear out the tickets. This is annoying and clunky, but there’s a simple work around: Buy the Tampa Bay CityPASS online and get the convenient mobile tickets.
Who Should Consider the Tampa Bay CityPASS?
Families — Even though there are a couple of drawbacks when it comes to buying the pass for kids (discussed above), it’s still a good option for families because it can save them a ton of money while offering mostly kid-friendly options. The main draw is Busch Gardens, and a family can easily spend a full day enjoying the theme park. Visit even one other attraction, and you’re saving money.
Theme-Park Fans — Busch Gardens is the feature attraction, so if theme parks are your thing, you’ll get value from the Tampa Bay CityPASS. You may also want to consider the Orlando CityPASS.
First-Time Visitors — If it’s your first time in the area, you’ll likely be interested in hitting up some of the tourist attractions. Luckily, the Tampa Bay CityPASS can help you do that for half price.
Who Should Skip the Tampa Bay CityPASS?
Anyone Not Interested in Busch Gardens — If you won’t visit Busch Gardens, the Tampa Bay CityPASS isn’t worth it. The most you could save if you skip it is $8.78, and that’s only if you picked Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Tropic Boat Tours.
Repeat Visitors — If you’ve been to the Tampa Bay area before, you might have a been-there-done-that attitude towards the attractions included on the pass.
Travelers Without a Car — The Tampa Bay area is large, and the attractions on this pass are spread out. Some are 30 to 40 minutes away from each other by car. Busch Gardens, ZooTampa, and the Museum of Science & Industry are near each other, but if you want to visit the other attractions, you’ll need to drive.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of the Tampa Bay CityPASS
Visit All Five Attractions — This should be obvious, but to get the most value from this pass, don’t skip any of the attractions. Why leave money on the table like that?
Do Not Skip Busch Gardens — Whatever you do, don’t skip Busch Gardens. It’s by far the highest-value attraction on the pass. Without it, your opportunity to save is negligible.
Choose Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Tropic Boat Tours — The Tampa Bay CityPASS includes choices for two of the five attraction slots. To maximize your savings, you should choose the most expensive options. Choosing Clearwater Marine Aquarium and The Tropic Boat Tours instead of Chihuly Collection and Museum of Science & Industry nets you an extra $22.88 in savings. Of course, only go this route if these attractions interest you.
How to Buy the Tampa Bay CityPASS
Buying the Tampa Bay CityPASS is easy — just grab it online here.
You’ll receive your mobile tickets via email, and you’re all set. Then all you need to do is pull them up on your phone when you need them.
If you prefer paper, you can print your tickets or have a physical ticket booklet shipped to you (for a fee). You can also grab a ticket booklet at any of the included attractions (just don’t tear any tickets out of the booklet). How’s that for options?
The Bottom Line: Is the Tampa Bay CityPASS a Good Deal?
If you’re keen to visit Busch Gardens and at least one other attraction, you’re guaranteed to save money with the Tampa Bay CityPASS. Most people can easily save more than $100. Is that a good deal? Absolutely!
If you won’t be driving or renting a car, keep in mind that although there are a few attractions grouped closely together in Tampa, some of the others are in Clearwater and St. Petersburg, so they won’t be easily accessible. That said, if you’ll visit Busch Gardens and one of the two nearby attractions, the pass is still a good buy.
Save Up to 52% Less – Want the full Tampa Bay area experience? The Tampa Bay CityPASS can help you see the city for half off! Get your Tampa Bay CityPASS here.