Go City Chicago Pass vs Chicago CityPass: What’s the Best Chicago Attraction Pass

Chicago tourist passes can save you money, but which Chicago pass is the best? I happened to use a couple of Chicago attraction passes when I visited after doing a ton of research. So I’m here writing this comparison guide to show you the difference between Chicago Go City Pass and Chicago CityPASS.

Are you planning a Chicago trip for the first time and want to check out all the famous attractions in Chicago? There are a ton of cool things to do in Chicago, from observation decks to museums to boat tours, but all of these attractions cost money. All the tickets do add up to a significant amount of money.

What is the best way to save money on Chicago attractions? My answer is to get a Chicago attraction pass!

With so many choices and types of Chicago travel pass, it can be confusing to decide which Chicago pass is the best and how to best utilize the discount passes to get your money’s worth.

In my super detailed Chicago discount pass guide, I will show you the following information:

  • What types of Chicago travel passes are on the market
  • How these Chicago discount passes work
  • How do the different Chicago attraction passes compare to each other
  • How to ACTUALLY save money with a Chicago tourist pass

This blog contains occasional affiliate links, where I receive a small commission on sales of the products/hotels that are linked at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


What Are the Different Chicago Passes You Can Buy?

There are 4 different Chicago discount passes on the market right now under two major companies.


What’s the Best Chicago Tourist Pass for First Time Visitors?

If you are in a rush and just want to get to the point, then here is a short summary for you!

Most versatile Chicago attraction pass

The most flexible Chicago tourist pass is the Go City Chicago Explorer Pass, giving you the most number of attractions and 30 days to use it.

The most essential Chicago pass

If you just want to see the essential tourist attractions in Chicago, then Chicago CityPASS is the perfect pass for you. It covers the most famous attractions in Chicago.

The best Chicago sightseeing pass if you are short on time

If you are short on time then Chicago Pass is the best for you since it is an all inclusive pass and you can go to as many attractions as you want in one or two days.

The Best Chicago City Pass if you want to relax

The best Chicago pass for a relaxing trip would be the Explorer Pass, giving you 90 days to see everything, so you don’t have to rush!


How do Chicago Attraction Passes Work?

My quick explanation is that you pay a set price for a Chicago attraction pass, then you get “free” access to a list of attractions in Chicago. You can decide which Chicago attractions you want to go to with the pass and how long you want to spend in Chicago.

Once you pay for the pass and activate it, you can go into the available attractions at no additional cost.

Your Chicago discount passes will activate when you make a reservation (at some attractions) or when you scan the pass upon entering your first attraction.

There are pretty much unlimited choices in how you combine the different attractions and plan your perfect Chicago holiday. You will not get a refund for any attractions you do not visit so make sure you fully utilize your Chicago city pass!

All of the Chicago attraction passes fall under two types: All Inclusive Passes and Attraction Based Passes.


Chicago All Inclusive Passes vs. Attraction Based Passes, What Is the Difference?

All inclusive passes, otherwise known as day passes, are based on the number of consecutive days. With an all inclusive pass, you can go to as many Chicago attractions as you want within a given number of days.

For example, if you have a 3 day Chicago all inclusive Pass starting on a Tuesday morning, you can go to as many attractions as available within 3 days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. After 3 days, your pass will expire on Thursday at 11:59pm and you won’t be able to go to any more attractions after that.

Only the Chicago Pass is an all inclusive day pass.

Attraction based passes are based on the number of attractions you want to visit instead of how many days you want. There is no “unlimited” attraction option like with the all inclusive passes but you are also not that limited by the number of days you are visiting.

Attraction based passes include:


Why Do I Need a Chicago Discount Pass?

I honestly think that it’s worth it to get a Chicago attraction pass if you are planning to do at least 3 attractions in Chicago, since all of the famous things to do in Chicago require an entrance fee.

You potentially save money is because you need to plan well to get the savings advertised by these passes. But by doing some planning and calculation you can find the best way to save the most amount of money.


Chicago Pass (By Go City)

Chicago Pass is the All Inclusive Pass under Go City. Go City is a large travel company with attraction passes in major cities all over the world.

Their most famous attraction passes include the New York Pass, Paris Pass and Barcelona Pass.

How does the Chicago Pass Work?

The Chicago Pass is an all inclusive pass offering a large number of attractions in Chicago for a number of consecutive days. The Chicago Pass has 1, 2, 3 or 5 day options to choose from.

For example, if you are planning to visit Chicago for 3 days, you can purchase the 3 day Chicago Pass and go to the large number of attractions and tours included on the pass for 3 days straight.

Once you decide the number of days you want to use the Chicago Pass, you can purchase directly from their website.

You will receive an email similar to the one below that shows your order number.

Chicago Pass Email Confirmation

You can then download the pass to the Go City App and sync your pass(es). When you visit an attraction, simply take our your phone and let them scan the QR code to get in.

The Chicago Pass activates the moment you scan the QR code to enter your first attraction or when you book your attractions (more on that in the next section).

You can visit an unlimited number of attractions and tours during each day but you can only visit the same attraction one time. This way you cannot lend your pass to someone else!

Do I Need to Make Reservations When Using the Chicago Pass?

In the Chicago Pass confirmation email (and on the Go City website), you will see the attractions that you need to make a reservation for.

Chicago Pass Confirmation Email

In this case you would need to make a reservation for the Skydeck, 360 Chicago and Adler Planetarium.

Depending on the pass you have, there are different rules on when you can make the reservation. But when I visited in early summer I could make a same day reservation (for free).

Attractions Included in the Go City Chicago Pass

The Chicago Pass includes all the major attractions in Chicago! In fact it has 27 attractions and tours in Chicago.

Some of the most popular attractions covered by the Chicago Pass include:

  • Shedd Aquarium General admission ($39-$46 + $5 convenience fee)
  • Skydeck Chicago ($32-44)
  • 360 CHICAGO ($30-35)
  • Architectural Cruise ($40-50)
  • Field Museum with 1 ticketed exhibit ($37)
  • Adler Planetarium with 2 shows ($35)
  • Navy Piers Ferris Wheel and 3 Rides ($30-$40)

It also includes some of kids’ favorites such as LEGOLAND Discovery Center and Chicago Children’s Museum.

360 CHICAGO sunset photo

You can see the full list of attractions and tours from the official Chicago Pass website.

Go City Chicago Pass Cost (Includes Taxes and Fees)

1 Day2 Days3 Days5 Days
Adults (13 & up)$124$169$199$234
Children (3-12)$79$114$134$169

Sometimes it is cheaper to purchase the Chicago Pass from a third party vendor. When purchasing be sure to check both Getyourguide and the official Chicago Pass website to see which one is cheaper.

Does the Chicago Pass Include Public Transportation?

The Chicago Pass includes 1 day of Hop-on hop-off bus!

Public transportation is not included in the Go City Chicago Pass.

Shedd Aquarium Beluga Whale Swimming underwater

What are the advantage and disadvantages of the Go City Chicago Pass?

Advantages of Go City Chicago Pass

  • Includes all major attractions in Chicago
  • Can see as many attractions as you want given a certain day
  • Generous refund policy
  • Guidebook on the official website that tells you everything about the attractions

Disadvantage of Go City Chicago Pass

  • Does not include Art Institute of Chicago
  • Does not include public transportation

Buy your Chicago Pass here or here (sometimes cheaper).


Chicago Explorer Pass (By Go City)

The Chicago Explorer Pass is also operating under Go City. They are the sister pass to the All Inclusive Go City Pass.

How does the Chicago Explorer Pass Work?

The Chicago Explorer Pass is based on the number of attractions you want to visit instead of the number of days you plan to visit.

With the Chicago Explorer Pass, you have the option to pick 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 attractions to visit.

You will need to pre-determine how many attractions you want to go and purchase the pass. Once purchased you cannot add attractions to it if you change your mind. If you purchase a 3 attraction pass but decided that you want to go to another 2 attractions, you will need to buy a separate 2 attraction Explorer Pass.

You have 60 days to visit all the attractions after you visit your first attraction.

Do I Need to Make Reservations Using the Chicago Explorer Pass?

Similar to the Chicago Pass, you will need to make a reservation to visit the most popular attractions in Chicago.

With the Chicago Explorer Pass, you can book 7 days in advance on the Go City website.

What Attractions Are Included in the Chicago Explorer Pass?

Since both Chicago Pass and Chicago Explorer Pass are under Go City, you can imagine they cover pretty much the same attractions.

One thing to note is that Shedd Aquarium is not included in the Chicago Explorer Pass (it’s only included with Chicago Pass). It also does not include the Art Institute of Chicago. But other major attractions are all included with the Chicago Explorer Pass:

  • Skydeck Chicago ($30-44 for general admission)
  • 360 CHICAGO ($30-35) <– you get $1 off TILT admission
  • Architectural Cruise ($46-50)
  • Field Museum with 1 ticketed exhibit ($37)
  • Adler Planetarium with 2 shows ($35)
  • Navy Piers Ferris Wheel and Rides ($30 – $40)
  • Chicago Theatre Marquee Tour

It also includes some of kids’ favorites such as LEGOLAND Discovery Center and Chicago Children’s Museum.

Chicago Navy Pier
Navy Pier

Another thing to note is that the Explorer Pass has a different architecture river cruise but it should be similar anyway. I took the Shoreline Architecture Tour with Chicago Explorer Pass and it was a really good and educational tour!

You can see the full list of attractions and tours from the official Chicago Explorer Pass website.

Chicago Explorer Pass Cost (Includes Taxes and Fees)

2 Choices3 Choices4 Choices5 Choices6 choices7 Choices
Adults (13 & up)$84$104$139$154$184$189
Children (3-12)$54$74$89$109$129$134

The website often has seasonal sales as well as price increases. If you know you are going to Chicago you should buy the pass sooner than later before prices go up.

Sometimes it is cheaper to purchase the Chicago Explorer Pass from Getyourguide. Be sure to check both Getyourguide and the official Chicago Explorer Pass website when you purchase to get the best prices.

Does the Chicago Explorer Pass Include Transportation?

1 Day hop on hop off bus is included with the Chicago Explorer Pass.

Big Bus hop on hop off bus in Chicago

Go City Chicago Pass vs. Explorer Pass, What’s the difference?

The explorer pass is an attraction based pass whereas the Go City Chicago Pass is a day-based pass. Instead of trying to pack your day, you can relax and spend more time at each attraction since you have 60 days to use up all your attractions.

The Explorer Pass does not include Shedd Aquarium like the Chicago Pass does, otherwise they offer the same attractions and tours.

What are the pros and cons of the Chicago Explorer Pass?

Pros of Go City Chicago Explorer Pass:

  • Large number of attractions
  • Very flexible, you have 60 days to use up the pass
  • Generous refund policy
  • Includes kids’ favorite attractions

Cons of Go City Chicago Explorer Pass:

  • Does not include Shedd Aquarium
  • Does not include Chicago Institute of Art
  • Does not include public transportation

Tips on Go City Chicago Explorer Pass:

The more attractions you pay for, the cheaper you are paying for each attraction! (The price difference between 7 and 6 attractions is $15 whereas the price difference between 3 and 2 attractions is $30).

Buy your Chicago Explorer Pass here or here (sometimes cheaper).


Chicago CityPASS

Which Company Runs the Chicago CityPASS?

The Chicago CityPASS is operated by CityPASS, which has travel passes for major cities such as New York, Orlando, Southern California in the US as well as Toronto in Canada.

How does the Chicago CityPASS Work?

The Chicago CityPASS is an attraction based pass that lets you choose 5 attractions from a list of 8.

The 5 attractions included with Chicago CityPASS include 2 set attractions and 3 other attractions that can be decided by yourself.

Essentially Shedd Aquarium and Skydeck Chicago are already included and you have the option to choose 3 other attractions from their list of attractions. If you don’t want to go to Shedd Aquarium then you lose one attraction.

You have 9 days to visit all the attractions after you visit your first attraction or reservation.

When you purchase the Chicago CityPASS you will get an email with the option to download the pass to the My CityPASS App. You will then link your tickets on the app by entering your email address used when purchasing.

When you enter the attraction the admissions people will scan your pass’s QR code.

Chicago Theater at night

Do I Need to Make Reservations Using the Chicago CityPASS?

There are a number of attractions that you need to make a reservation for (even if it’s same day or same time reservation).

The CityPASS website and your app should tell me which attraction needs a reservation and how to make a reservation (sometimes with CityPASS and sometimes on the attraction website itself).

Chicago CityPASS reservation Page

Attractions Included in the Chicago CityPASS

There are 8 attractions included in the Chicago CityPASS, with 2 fixed attractions (you have to go to those) and 6 optional attractions you can pick from.

The Shedd Aquarium shark tank

2 Fixed Attractions (use it or lose it):

  • Shedd Aquarium all access tickets with 4D experience ($50-53 + $5 convenience fee)
  • Skydeck Chicago ($55-64 for expedited entry)

6 other attractions to choose from (you choose 3)

  • Field Museum all access tickets + one 3D Film ($43)
  • Art Institute of Chicago ($32)
  • Museum of Science and Industry and 1 timed-entry experience ($25.95)
  • 360 CHICAGO ($30-35)
  • Shoreline Sightseeing Architectural River Cruise (seasonal schedule) ($46-50)
  • Adler Planetarium with 2 shows ($35)
Chicago Art Institute front with lion
Art Institute

Chicago CityPASS Cost

Price
Adults (12 & up)$139
Children (3-11)$109

You should check the official website for the most recent prices as they do change prices occasionally. If you know you are going to Chicago then you should purchase the pass ASAP to avoid price increase.

Sometimes it is cheaper to purchase the Chicago CityPASS from Getyourguide, a third party re-seller. Be sure to check both Getyourguide and the Chicago CityPASS website when you purchase to get the best prices.

Does the Chicago CityPASS Include Transportation?

No public transportation or hop on hop off bus are included with Chicago CityPASS.

What’s the difference between Chicago Go City Pass vs. Chicago CityPASS?

The major difference is that Go City Chicago Pass is an all-inclusive day based pass for consecutive days whereas the Chicago CityPASS is an attraction based pass with 5 attraction options.

You have more flexibility with the Go City Chicago Pass than with the Chicago CityPASS but Chicago CityPASS covers the Art Institute and has expedited tickets to Skydeck Chicago compared to the regular admissions tickets from Go City.

What are the pros and cons of the Chicago CityPASS?

Pros of Chicago CityPASS:

  • Includes all the popular attractions in Chicago
  • Cheaper than 5 attraction Go City Explorer Pass
  • Has expedited entry into some of the attractions
  • Includes more with your tickets (For example, the Field Museum ticket is an all-access ticket, letting you go to all 3 ticketed exhibitions (whereas the Go City Pass only let you go to 1 ticketed exhibition). The Shedd Aquarium ticket includes 4-D experience ($5 value) and the Go City Passes do not include 4-D experience at the Shedd Aquarium)

Cons of Chicago CityPASS:

  • Does not include tours
  • Shedd Aquarium and Skydeck Chicago are fixed attractions. Use it or lose it
  • Adult tickets start with age 12 (instead of 13 with Go City passes). If you are 12, this would affect you since you would be paying more.
  • Children’s Museum or LEGOLAND Discovery Center not included
  • Public Transportation or Hop on Hop off bus not included

Buy your Chicago CityPASS here or here (sometimes cheaper).


Chicago C3

Which Company Runs the Chicago C3®?

The Chicago C3® is operated by the same company as the Chicago CityPASS®.

How does the Chicago C3® Work?

The Chicago C3® is also an attraction based pass that lets you choose 3 attractions from a list of 9.

Unlike Chicago CityPASS, there is no “fixed” attraction so you have full control over which 3 attractions you want to choose from.

You have 9 days to visit all the attractions after you visit your first attraction.

Similar to the Chicago CityPASS, you can link your C3 pass purchase to My CityPASS App, and use the app to scan your pass when entering attractions.

When you enter the attraction the admissions people will scan your pass’s QR code.

What Attractions Are Included in the Chicago C3®?

There are 9 attractions included in the Chicago C3® Pass:

  • Shedd Aquarium all access tickets, no 4D experience ($40 + $5 convenience fee)
  • Skydeck Chicago General Entry ($30-44)
  • Art Institute of Chicago ($32)
  • Field Museum general admission ($30)
  • Museum of Science and Industry ($25.95)
  • 360 CHICAGO ($30-35)
  • Shoreline Sightseeing Architectural River Cruise ($46-50)
  • Adler Planetarium general entry, no shows ($19)
  • Centennial Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier ($18)
Art Institute Chicago inside photo exhibition
Art Institute

Note that Field Museum is not included in the C3®, instead you get the Centennial Ferris Wheel instead.

How Much Does the Chicago C3® Cost?

Price
Adults (12 & up)$102
Children (3-11)$76

You should check the official website for the most up to date prices as they do change prices occasionally. If you know you are going to Chicago then you should purchase the pass ASAP to avoid price increase.

Do I Need to Make Reservations Using the Chicago C3®?

Similar to the Chicago CityPASS, you need to make a reservation at some of the Chicago attractions when using your C3 pass. The attractions you need reservation include:

  • Shedd Aquarium
  • Skydeck Chicago
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck
  • Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture River Tour
Adler Planetarium inside
Adler Planetarium

Does the Chicago C3® Include Transportation?

Chicago C3® does not include public transportation or hop on hop off bus.

What are the pros and cons of the Chicago C3®?

Pros of Chicago C3:

  • Includes popular attractions in Chicago
  • Very flexible in how to choose 3 attractions

Cons of Chicago C3:

  • No expedited tickets or sky shows/ 4D shows compared to the regular Chicago CityPASS
  • Does not include Children’s Museum of LEGOLAND Discovery Center
  • No public transportation or hop on hop off bus

Chicago Lincoln Park with view of Lincoln Park Conservatory


Best Chicago Attraction Pass: Major Differences

Here is a summary of the major differences between GO City Chicago and Chicago CityPASS and what attractions are included in each pass so you can make a better decision on which pass to buy.

Chicago PassChicago Explorer PassChicago CityPASSChicago C3
Types of PassAll Inclusive Day Based PassAttraction based passAttraction based passAttraction based pass
What it offers1, 2, 3 or 5 day pass2-7 attraction pass5 attractions (2 fixed) from 8 choices3 attractions from 9 choices
Child Pass Age3-123-123-113-11
Refund policy365 days refund period365 days refund period365 days refund period365 days refund period
Price$124 – $234 (adults)
$79 – $169 (Child)
$84 – $189 (adults)
$54 – $134 (Child)
$139 (adults)
$109 (Child)
$102 (adults)
$76 (Child)
Transportation1 day hop-on-hop-off bus1 day hop-on-hop-off busN/AN/A

Attractions covered: Chicago Go City Pass vs. Chicago CityPASS

Attractions covered by Chicago Go City Pass vs Chicago CityPASS - the best comparison guide for the best Chicago attraction pass


So…Which Chicago Pass Is the Best?

Since there are so many Chicago tourist passes, how do you pick the best tourist pass for Chicago and save the most money?

Any of these Chicago Passes can be worth the money if you plan properly.

None of these passes include everything. There is always something that another pass covers that any other pass may not cover.

The more attractions you purchase, the cheaper it is per attraction. For example, if you buy the Go City Explorer Pass, 2 attraction pass costs $84, so that is an average of $42 per attraction. If you buy a 7 attraction pass for $189, that is only $27 per attraction! Therefore, the more you buy the cheaper it is.

If you are looking for the cheapest Chicago pass, then the 2 attraction Chicago Explorer Pass is the cheapest and you can go to two expensive attractions like observatories and you instantly get your money’s worth.

If you are short on time, then Chicago Pass offers the best deal. For example, if you only have 1 day in Chicago, you can realistically do 4-5 attractions within a day for $124, that is an average of $25-$31 per attraction, lower than the full price ticket of pretty much any famous attractions in Chicago.

Dolphin at Shedd Aquarium

If you are traveling with kids older than 3, then you should consider the Chicago Pass to visit the Children’s museums, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Shedd Aquarium (this is so great for kids), Adler Planetarium and the observatory decks.

If you are traveling for work and can only go do 1-2 things a day, then Chicago CityPASS and Chicago Explorer Pass may be the best for you with their flexibility so you have between 9 days to 60 days to see all the attractions.

If you are a local, then Chicago Explorer Pass is by far the best pass for you with their 60 day period to see the attractions. But I suggest you check official ticket prices as some attractions offer Chicago residents free or reduced admission.

If you love museums, then Chicago CityPASS is great! It includes all access admission to Shedd Aquarium (with 4-D experience and stingray touch) as well as all-access tickets to the Field Museum, which includes all 3 ticketed exhibitions + 3D film.

Chicago Architecture Cruise

Lastly, if this is your first time in Chicago and you just want to see the most famous attractions at your own pace, then Chicago CityPASS would be ideal for you. You get 9 days to see 5 attractions, giving you a lot of flexibility in how you schedule your day.

It is worth mentioning that combining passes may also work the best for you since not every pass covers everything. You may want to get a Go City Explorer Pass just to complement the Chicago Pass or the Chicago CityPASS if you are planning to spend a few days in Chicago with some chill days and some packed days. This is exactly what I did (combining two passes) and I was able to get the most out of my Chicago trip.

Chicago Skydeck Ledge photo
Skydeck Ledge

Best Chicago Attraction Passes: How to Get Your Money’s Worth

If you want to maximize the value of any of the discount passes you will need to do some calculation and planning. I’m sorry to say that if you just plan to wing it, you probably won’t get your money’s worth.

You can check out my 3 Day Chicago itinerary to get an idea of things you can do with the Chicago attraction passes.

When I plan a trip, I first use Google Maps to map out all the attractions I want to see, then I use Google Sheets with 1 hour (sometimes 30 minutes) increments to plan out my day, including how long it takes me to get from place to place.

I also write down the cost of each attraction so I can add them all up to see if the cost of everything I want to see is more than what the Chicago attraction passes cost. if the answer is yes, then I know I am saving money by using a Chicago attraction pass.

Field Museum lobby with dinosaur fossils
Field Museum

If you are the type to pack your day and try to see as much as possible, then you should get a Chicago Pass. For example, if you go to 3 museums (Field Museum, Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium) and Skydeck in one day, total ticket cost would be about $144. A one day Chicago Pass is only $112 after discount offered on the website, so you can save money for sure.

3 Arts Club Cafe inside Restorative Hardware in Chicago

If you like to take things slow, then you should get one of the attraction based passes instead and only use them for the most expensive attractions.

If you are buying a Chicago Explorer Pass, use this pass towards the most expensive attraction (like the architecture cruise and Skydeck or 360 CHICAGO for example). Remember the more attractions you purchase, the cheaper it is per attraction.

If you are purchasing Chicago CityPASS, you will need to go to all 5 attractions (pick the most expensive 3 attractions plus the 2 fixed attractions) in order to get your money’s worth.

Utilize the hop on hop off bus in Chicago. Chicago has public transportation but I found it a lot easier to use the hop on hop off bus instead of transferring to different buses or taking a Uber/ Lyft.

With a little calculation and planning, a Chicago attraction pass can save you a lot of money when visiting Chicago.

If you are planning to travel to New York City, Paris or London, be sure to check out my attraction pass comparison guide to save the most money!

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