San Diego is bursting with sunshine, flavors, and cultures – no wonder it’s dubbed America’s Finest City. Cali-Baja cuisine is its regional culinary identity, born of a fusion between top California chefs on one side of the border and top Baja-Med chefs on the other. A burgeoning craft beer scene, California’s independent wineries, and the city’s expert mixologists hit visitors’ every note.
San Diego accommodations range from historical luxury hotels and five-star resorts to tasteful boutiques and casual surfer digs. Overlook the city from the 30th floor of your hotel, or listen to the waves from your beachside tent. This city is one huge attraction, a culmination of its many parts. Major tourist attractions, neighborhood hidden gems, museums, beaches, parks, festivals, water sports, and plenty of free things to do all vie for tourists’ attention.
So, is a Go San Diego card worth it for your vacation? Only you can decide, based on what you want from your vacation. Many people find that the cards save them a ton of money on must-see attractions, families especially. But that may not be the case for everyone. Here’s an explanation of what it is, how much it costs, and some possible ways of using it to get the most for your money. The rest is up to you.
What Exactly is a Go San Diego Card?
`In a nutshell, the Go San Diego Card offers pay-one-price entry to 43 of San Diego’s most in-demand attractions, like LEGOLAND California, Harbor Cruises, San Diego Zoo, Birch Aquarium, and the USS Midway Museum. Visitors can buy All-Inclusive passes in, one, two, three, five, or seven-day cards. You could potentially save up to 55% of the full price of these attractions. (SeaWorld is not included on one and two-day cards.) Visitors can also build their own passes from a menu of attractions and save 20% on gate prices, or choose one of four 4-attraction pre-packaged deals and save up to 35% on gate prices.
How Much Do Go San Diego Cards Cost?
In 2016, you can get Go San Diego Cards at the following rates. Generally speaking, attractions admit children under three free, so there’s no need to purchase a pass for your toddler. However, if you’re visiting attractions that cater to small children, check in advance to be sure they aren’t charging for kids under three. Otherwise, a Child card is for three to 12-year-olds. Adult cards are for 13 and over.
- 1 Day Adult $84.00, 1 Day Child $79.00
- 2 Day Adult $125.00, 2 Day Child $110.00
- 3 Day Adult $189.00, 3 Day Child $169.00
- 5 Day Adult $235.00, 5 Day Child $199.00
- 7 Day Adult $265.00, 7 Day Child $229.00
These are the typical retail prices for Go San Diego cards that save you money on the 43 San Diego attractions named by the card. Note though that there are discounts of up to 20% on the retail price of the cards where you can save even more. Check here to see if there is currently a discount on the discount card.
How You Can Get the Most for Your Money with a Go San Diego Card
The first thing to know is that when you buy your card, you have already paid the discounted price for the attractions you want to visit. One of the best things about the cards, besides lower price, is ease of use. You buy the card online, get your pass on your smartphone, show it at the gate of each attraction and you’re in. Easy.
When you purchase your card, it comes with a free guidebook that has detailed descriptions of the 43 San Diego attractions. You’ll get hours of operation, maps for each attraction, and Skip the Line features. This makes it much easier to plan your vacation. Get the biggest bang for your buck by visiting attractions geographically close to each other on the same day. Also, if you change your mind on attractions you want to see, you can change your itinerary pretty quickly with no charge. It’s all about strategy.
For instance, if you bought a 2-day pass and wanted to visit LEGOLAND California, San Diego Zoo, Harbor Cruises, and San Diego Safari Park, you’d want to do LEGOLAND and the Safari Park on one day, because they’re in North County, and the San Diego Zoo and Harbor Cruise on the other day, because they’re both close to Downtown San Diego. The Harbor Cruise is only one hour, so you could plan it for first thing in the morning after 9:00 a.m. and spend the rest of the day at the zoo, or go to the zoo first and check in at the Harbor Cruise before 5:30 p.m.
Another way to make sure you get your money’s worth and then some is to pair higher costing attractions with secondary attractions (those cheaper than $20) on the same day. Maybe go to the San Diego Zoo in the morning when it’s cooler, and to the museums of Balboa Park in the afternoon, since the two are adjacent to each other. Also note that if you walk into a museum in Balboa Park and don’t like it, you can just leave and go into another museum on the card. The Prado Restaurant or Panama 66 Restaurant are two great places to meet for lunch or dinner if you split up to enjoy the park museums or the park and zoo.
Pairing expensive attractions with secondary attractions could look like this. You buy a 2-day pass and go to LEGOLAND California the first day. The gate price is $83. The next day you go to the San Diego Zoo ($46), the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center ($17.95) and Natural History Museum ($17). Both museums are in Balboa Park next door to the zoo. It’s totally doable to see all three attractions in a day, plus have a relaxing lunch or dinner in the park. The attractions cost $163.95, but with your card, you save $38.95 for an adult and $53.95 for a child.
Worth It, or Not Worth It?
In the end, if you plan to visit higher costing attractions close to each other or paired with secondary attractions, it’s worth it. If you’re only interested in lower costing attractions or those far from each other, it may not be worth it.