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Full disclosure: CityPASS provided complimentary passes for my son and I. All opinions are my own.
My son and I visited Seattle for a couple days during his President’s Week break, and we visited a number of top Seattle attractions through the use of CityPASS. It has been a number of years since I used CityPASS for any sightseeing. I first used CityPASS in Seattle ages ago, not too many years after the company started, when my parents took my two sisters and I to Seattle for a few days. I was all of thirteen.
I’ve been to Seattle on a couple other occasions, and I’ve always enjoyed the city. And CityPASS is potentially a great way to save some money while doing so. Let’s dig into the details.
Basics of Seattle CityPASS
The Seattle CityPASS offers free entry into the top attractions in the city, including:
- Space Needle
- Seattle Aquarium
- Argosy Harbor Tour
- Pacific Science Center OR Chihuly Garden and Glass
- Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) OR Woodland Park Zoo
This isn’t everything there is to do in Seattle, but CityPASS covers a good list of core attractions. Most of these are likely to be on your must-see list. For a few of the attractions, it is a one or the other choice.
An adult CityPASS costs $99, and a child CityPASS costs $79. The passes are good for 9 consecutive days, inclusive of the first day of use. This gives you plenty of time to enjoy the city, unless you’re on an express schedule like we were. Your pass will be stamped at your first attraction and tickets will be removed as you use them from the physical booklet.
In addition to free entry into these attractions, CityPASS offers various discounts at the participating attractions, ranging from gift shop discounts at the Space Needle and Aquarium to discounts on paid activities at the Woodland Park Zoo and Pacific Science Center.
A good number of the attractions are in close proximity to the Space Needle, making it easy to use the pass to visit the MoPOP, Pacific Science Center, and/or Chihuly Garden and Glass on the same day, if you feel you’ll have enough time for all that. The Seattle Aquarium and Argosy Harbor Tour are located near each other, making these an easy two to visit the same day. The Woodland Park Zoo is the only one a good distance from downtown. Keep this in mind if you are not planning on renting a car while in Seattle.
The Seattle Aquarium is located right on the waterfront at Pier 59, down the hill from Pike Place Market. While it is certainly not a large at the Atlanta Aquarium (SEE: 3 reasons why you need to visit the biggest aquarium in the U.S.), we had a very enjoyable visit nonetheless. The Seattle Aquarium highlights species found in the cold ocean waters of the Pacific Northwest. There is a touch pool where you can gently touch starfish and anemones, and also shows in the main tank close to the entrance.
We visited during Octopus Week, which was quite fun. It was pretty packed on a Sunday on a holiday weekend, so I might suggest picking a better time to visit. Still, my son and I had a great time at the Seattle Aquarium. Tickets normally cost $29.95 for adults and $19.95 for youth ages 4 to 12. Purchasing tickets online will save you $2 off these prices. Entry is free with CityPASS. Kids ages 3 and under are always free.
Pacific Science Center
I’ll just come out and say that my son loved the Pacific Science Center. I know I visited as a kid, but I had only very vague memories of the experience. I mostly remembered the exterior courtyard, which is surprising, since we visited in January, and it was freakishly cold and snowy that year as well.
The Pacific Science Center is great for all ages, though. Your younger kids will enjoy the dinosaurs, . Your older kids will enjoy many of the more educational areas. We dropped in on the Supercold! show, featuring a very upbeat and engaging staff member who taught the kids about how gases, liquids and solids react to cold. Various things were frozen using liquid nitrogen. It was a blast.
The Pacific Science Center non-member prices are $23.95 for adults, $17.95 for youth ages 6-15, and $13.95 for kids ages 3-5. Kids ages 2 and under are free. Note that the free entry offered by CityPASS does not include extra exhibits and the IMAX show, which are available for an additional cost.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
While my son and I did not visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass using our CityPASS, opting instead for the Pacific Science Center, I have visited this amazing artistic attraction before. It is excellent. I would never have known what a jewel it is had it not been for my brother-in-law who traveled to Seattle with me and wanted to visit the museum after being introduced to Dale Chihuly in an art class.
Chihuly Garden and Glass is doesn’t just feature blown glass art, it features some of the most amazing glass sculptures and creations I’ve ever seen. And I am no artist and tend to skip art museums (confession: we skipped the Louvre when in Paris). This place is amazing. It’s a hard choice, though, between this attraction and the Pacific Science Center, as you only get one entry free. Sharon rated the Chihuly Garden as the one place in Seattle that you absolutely HAD to visit.
Ticket prices are $26 for adults (ages 13+), $17 for youth (ages 5-12) and free for kids 4 years old and under.
Space Needle: Do both visits!
The Space Needle is very likely Seattle’s top attraction. It could arguably be Pike Place Market, but you can enjoy that for free (actually, probably not, as you’ll end up buying something), which is amazing. But the Space Needle is the icon of Seattle. Ticket prices are $27.50 to $37.50 for adults depending on the date and time of day (mornings are cheaper and less crowded). Youth tickets (ages 5-12) are $21.50 to $28.50. Ages 4 and under are free.
However, CityPASS offers both a daytime and nighttime visit to the Space Needle, which costs $59 for adults and $44 for youth, normally. You’re getting much of your value here. Be sure to do both visits. My son and I visited first thing in the morning, and the lines were nonexistent, even on a holiday weekend. We enjoyed the views from the top of the city skyline and Elliot Bay, and Lake Union to the northeast. Cloud cover was typical Seattle, so we didn’t get a view of the Olympic Mountains across the sound.
The night visit is arguably better. The Seattle skyline is very pretty at night. We were running about 20 minutes later than I’d hoped, however, and lines were longer, so we pretty much missed all of sunset, which would have been an awesome one from the Needle.
CityPASS offers both visits, so make sure you do both. You won’t regret it!
But is Seattle CityPASS worth it if you’re only interested in visiting once? We’ll need to check the math at the end.
Argosy Harbor Tour: Steep price without CityPASS
The Argosy Harbor Tour is a great way to enjoy the Seattle skyline and the beauty of Puget Sound around you. While a few different tours are available, CityPASS gives you free tickets for the one-hour tour of Elliot Bay. You will make a gentle circle around the bay, heading north along the waterfront and eventually finishing the tour down by the drydocks and cargo port before returning to the Seattle Waterfront. The Argosy Harbor Tour departs from Pier 55.
My son and I enjoyed the tour immensely. I remember really liking it as a kid when I visited with my family back in 2013. However, I’m not sure I would have done without CityPASS, as the prices are steep for a family. Adult tickets start at $31, and youth tickets are $17. Children under 3 are free. Without any discounts, the one-hour tour would cost our family $111.
You can also exchange your CityPASS ticket for a Tillicum Excursion ticket if you pay an additional $58. This is a value of $33.50, as the normal price is $91.50 for adults. There are a number of other Argosy tours you can upgrade to that also offer decent value.
One tip with Argosy Harbor Tour: head to the ticket office prior to your sailing and reserve your spot. My son and I waited until too soon, and the original sailing I wanted was sold out. One of the drawbacks of visiting on a holiday weekend. We got tickets for the following day, and the ticket agent took our tickets at that time and provided us a separate Argosy confirmation.
There are many more sailings during the summer than in the winter. During the winter, there are only two options on weekdays and three on the weekend. That was probably one reason the sailing we wanted was sold out and the one we did take was very full.
Zoo or MoPOP?
This is the one question I really cannot answer, but I can tell you without factoring in any research at all, I would already lean toward the zoo. My kids love zoos, and I am the last person you’d want to ask anything about pop culture, so it’s an easy choice for us. I’m sure I’d enjoy parts of MoPOP, but we simply didn’t have the time to add either to an already packed itinerary, so we passed both up.
The zoo costs $15.50 for adults and $10.50 for kids ages 3-12. On a completely unrelated note, Woodland Park Zoo scored with their web URL, which is simply zoo.org.
The MoPOP costs $28 for walk up visitors and $26 online, if you purchase tickets ahead of time. The ticket you get with CityPASS does not include special exhibitions, which are at an additional cost. Regular youth (ages 5-17) admission is $17, with the same $2 discount if you book online. Children 4 and under are free.
So…is Seattle CityPASS worth it?
So is Seattle CityPASS worth it? It honestly depends. If you’re interested in taking the family to a single visit of the Space Needle, the Seattle Aquarium, and Pacific Science Center and stopping there, it won’t be a good deal. But if you even add in one more attraction, the math quickly shifts to favor CityPASS. Plus, you gain the ease of having everything in one easy ticket book and additional discounts.
At a maximum for an adult at the slightly more expensive attractions, you’re getting the following for only $99:
- $59 Space Needle entry
- $29.95 Seattle Aquarium entry
- $31 Argosy Harbor Tour ticket
- $26 Chihuly Garden and GLass entry
- $26 MoPOP entry
Total typical entry cost is $171.95. This is a 42% savings overall. If you want to factor out the double Space Needle visit, it’s more like a 32% savings. Considering that other ticket packages are sold for subsets of these attractions, this begins to drop below 30%, depending on how you calculate the savings.
Is Seattle CityPASS worth it for child tickets? A child CityPASS ticket costs $79 and will cover the following admissions for free:
- $44 Space Needle entry
- $19.95 Seattle Aquarium entry
- $17 Argosy Harbor Tour ticket
- $17.95 Pacific Science Center entry
- $10.50 Woodland Park zoo entry
Total value of $109.40. the savings are still here, but the overall value isn’t quite as good, as you are getting a 25% discount. Still decent, but not the 40%+ savings touted by CityPASS.
Keep the age ranges for free admission in mind if you have young kids and want to know if Seattle CityPASS is worth it. Free admission is up to two at some attractions and up to three or even four at others. I would not buy a CityPASS for a three year old, given the free entry to the Aquarium and discounted price at the Pacific Science Center, and probably not for a four year old. CityPASS lists their child ticket prices for ages 5-12, which makes a lot of sense.
Make sure you look into other ticket package prices if you’re only interested in a subset of the Seattle attractions. You can get combo tickets for the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass for example. If CityPASS would only be a slight savings for your planned visit, this might make it even less so.
The one bummer to me about Seattle CityPASS is having to choose between Chihuly Garden and Glass and Pacific Science Center. These two attractions are located mere feet from each other, and both are absolutely worth seeing. I am fortunate that I visited Chihuly Garden and Glass last time I was in Seattle so that the Pacific Science Center was an easy choice for my son and me. At eight, he would have been a bit bored at Chihuly Garden and Glass, so it worked out well all around.
Overall, though, I loved our use of Seattle CityPASS. If you plan to visit more than three of the listed attractions, it is almost certainly the best deal. At only three attractions, it’ll be close to a wash, depending on which you’re visiting. For what we did, Seattle CityPASS was worth it; if we’d have paid for the tickets ourselves, it would have been the best deal to see everything we did.
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We did the CityPass when we were in Chicago about 10 years ago. We were there 3 days and were able to see all the sites the pass covered. The best part was we got into the Shedd Aquarium by just walking up to the door, bypassing a very long line of folks waiting to get in. Probably saved an hour or more of standing in the sun on a warm day.
Nice! It saved us the time at the ticket window the second time around at the Needle, but not the main line. Rest of the places had pretty much no line, although we maybe saved 5 minutes in the fast line at the aquarium.