3 Reasons Why Buying a CityPASS in Chicago is Worth It

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Chicago is one of my favorite cities to visit in the US. It has great architecture, tasty food, and lots of things to see and do whether you're visiting for a weekend or a couple of weeks.

Most people visit Chicago for just a few days at a time, though. And when you have a limited amount of time in the Windy City, you probably want to make the most of it.

If it's your first time to Chicago and you want to visit some of the city's most iconic attractions and museums, my number one tip is this: buy a Chicago CityPASS.

Field Museum in Chicago

What is CityPASS?

CityPASS is a company that offers attraction ticket bundles in a dozen cities across North America, with the idea being that if you're going to visit a lot of major attractions on one trip, you can save some money by bundling everything together and buying a CityPASS.

I've personally used CityPASSes in cities like Seattle and New York before, but I honestly think their Chicago pass is one of the best.

The Cloud Gate in Millennium Park

Chicago CityPASS

Chicago's CityPASS includes entry to five of the Windy City's top attractions.

Three of the attractions are set:

  • Skydeck Chicago (the observation deck at the Willis Tower)
  • The Field Museum
  • Shedd Aquarium

And for the other two you have choices:

  • 360 Chicago (observation deck at the former John Hancock Building)
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Adler Planetarium

You can only visit each attraction once, but you have 9 days to do so once you start (i.e. once you visit your first attraction).

The Chicago CityPASS costs $109 for adults and $89 for kids, and the pass is now delivered to you as a set of mobile tickets for ease of use.

Chicago skyline at night
If you decide to visit both observation decks, visit one at night for views like this! (Taken at 360 Chicago.)

READ NEXT: Willis Skydeck vs. 360 Chicago: Which is Best?

3 Reasons Why the Chicago CityPASS is Worth It

And now here's the part where you point out that $109 is kind of pricey for an attraction pass – does it really save you money? Is it worth it?

Well, here are three reasons why I think the Chicago CityPASS is definitely worth it:

1. Chicago's top attractions are included

Chicago is home to world-class museums and attractions, and they're all included in this pass.

Nearly everyone wants to visit the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in Chicago. The Field Museum is one of the largest natural history museums in the world and is home to SUE, the most complete T-Rex skeleton ever found. And the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the U.S.

Sue the T-Rex at the Field Museum
Who doesn't want to go see Sue at the Field Museum??

If this pass included less-popular attractions, it might not be as worth it. But chances are most of the things on your Chicago “to-do” list will be included in the CityPASS.

2. You get Fast Pass / VIP entry

The cool thing about the Chicago CityPASS is that it includes Fast Pass or VIP entry to nearly every attraction listed. This is HUGE, especially when this can often mean skipping 2+ hours of standing in line to buy tickets at places like the Skydeck. (You get Expedited Entry at the Skydeck, which means you pre-book timed tickets and can go straight to the security line.)

At the Shedd Aquarium you get All-Access admission, which includes access to special exhibits and the Stingray Touch experience, as well as a 4-D experience. At the Field Museum, you get VIP Entry (meaning you can skip the line) and an All-Access Pass, including admission to all permanent and ticketed exhibitions, plus your choice of one digital 3D film.

You also get skip-the-line Express Entry at 360 Chicago (though the lines are usually not as long there as at the Skydeck), and Fast Pass Admission at the Art Institute of Chicago, too.

At the Museum of Science and Industry, you get regular admission plus your choice of one timed-entry experience. And at the Adler Planetarium your CityPASS gets you admission and access to two sky shows.

View of Chicago from Willis Tower Skydeck
Skipping the line for this view at the Skydeck? Yes, please!

3. It can save you a lot of money

The Fast Pass/VIP entry is part of the reason the Chicago CityPASS is such a good deal. Normal prices for skip-the-line and all-access passes at all these attractions are as follows:

  • Skydeck Expedited Entry timed ticket: $55
  • Shedd Aquarium Total Experience: Adult $44.90
  • Field Museum All-Access Pass: Adult $40
  • MSI Museum Entry + 1 Ticketed Experience: Adult $33.95, Child $21.95
  • 360 Chicago Express Entry: $44
  • Adler Planetarium All-Access pass: Adult $34.95, Child $29.95
  • Art Institute of Chicago Fast Pass: $29

As you can see, you're pretty much saving money after visiting just 2 or 3 attractions; if you visit all 6, you're saving about 50% – which is a lot!

Chicago skyscrapers

(And, as someone who has visited the Skydeck twice, let me tell you that the Expedited Entry is SO WORTH IT here. Even in the off-season, weekend wait times can easily surpass two hours if you have to wait in line to buy tickets and ride the elevator to the observation deck. Just imagine how much more you could see if you didn't have to spend 2-3 hours standing in line!)

Get your Chicago CityPASS here!

A sample Chicago itinerary with CityPASS

Even though you don't have to do everything in one or two days with a CityPASS (remember, you have nine days from when you use your first ticket to use your entire CityPASS booklet), you really can pack all the highlights into a long weekend in Chicago.

A sample itinerary could look like this:

Day 1

Visit the Skydeck in the late morning, and then spend the afternoon at either the Art Institute of Chicago or Adler Planetarium.

Day 2

Spend your day at Museum Campus. Start out at the Shedd Aquarium, and then allow at least a few hours to explore the Field Museum.

Day 3

If you opt for 360 Chicago, you'll only need an hour or so for the experience since you won't have to stand in any lines. OR you could spend half a day at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Shedd Aquarium
Museum Campus is a great place to spend a day. (Shedd Aquarium pictured here.)

So, conclusion? A Chicago CityPASS is definitely worth it in Chicago if you're already planning to visit at least 3 of these attractions. Plus, the fast pass/VIP entry is an added bonus that can save you quite a bit of time, on top of money.

Get your Chicago CityPASS here.

READ NEXT: A Couples Weekend Getaway to Chicago 

Have you ever used an attraction pass like this in a city?

Reasons why buying a CityPASS is worth it in Chicago

*Note: Thanks to CityPASS for providing Elliot and I with two booklets for our recent trip to Chicago. As always, opinions are 100% my own (we were planning to buy them anyway!).

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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24 Comments on “3 Reasons Why Buying a CityPASS in Chicago is Worth It

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  1. Would you recommend the Museum of Science and Industry or 360 Chicago? I have two kids (12 and 6), and we’ll have gone to the Skydeck with our City Pass.

    Also, you recommended seeing the Skydeck first thing in the morning on one of your posts, but then you suggest here “late morning.” Which is better?


      If you’re already going to the Skydeck, then MSI might be fun, especially if your kids like museums (and the Museum of Science and Industry has quite a few interactive exhibits, which are fun!). As for Skydeck, if you have a CityPass it doesn’t really matter what time of day you go since you’ll get to skip the line (if you DIDN’T have a CityPass, then I recommend going as early as possible). I recommend morning for the Skydeck because the light is usually better at that time of day for photos. 🙂

    I’m panning a summer 2018 trip to Chicago, and was checking on the current CityPass deal when I found your post. I used it in 2011 on a trip with my daughter, and just like you say, it was an incredible value.

      Definitely worth it, especially if you plan to do a lot of sightseeing!

    I’m so grateful I stumbled onto your blog. This was some of the best travel advice I’ve ever come across. The CityPass made making our family trip to Chicago even more memorable than I could have imagined.

    Thank you!

    I’ve never heard of Citypass before. Price seems reasonable. I can never make up my mind what attractions to visit and what to leave out, when traveling. So this seems to be a good thing for me. I’ll be buying a citypass next time I visit Chicago for sure.

      It’s very handy and well worth checking out if you plan to do a lot of sightseeing!

    I am convinced. Whenever I go to Chicago, I will definitely buy the city pass, sounds like great value for money!

      Glad I convinced you! (Though it’s really a no-brainer when it can save you so much money!)

    Absolutely! Especially in the more expensive cities, city passes can be so worth the discounts. And having free transportation in places such as London, Helsinki, Sweden, Vienna, Amsterdam is soooooo worth it.

    We recently went to Croatia, and our passes also included 10 – 15% off at restaurants. We didn’t actually take that into acount until we got to Dubrovnik, and let me tell you, when you have two adults, and 1 teenager eating out at “very nice” restaurants which we tend to do, 10-15% discount is quite a bit off, and sooooo worth the price of the pass itself.

      Ah yes, the extra discounts really add up, too!

    When I get back to Chicago someday (I’ve only really passed through on Amtrak) I’ll definitely scope this out. I used one for Pittsburgh and it was amazing for the Museums and such.

      I think a lot of times people just assume that passes like this aren’t worth the money, but I’ve generally found the opposite to be true!

    I live so close in Chicago but I’ve only done a few of these things. So cool that you got to do them all in one day!

      Sounds like you have some local exploring to do! (And we didn’t get everything done in one day – you really need at least two!)

    There are so many great things to see in Chicago! I usually buy citypasses because I feel they’re good value for money!

      Agreed! And I think Chicago is one of the better-value CityPASSes out there!

    I’ve bought comparable passes for London, Paris, and Budapest so it’s worth the investment.
    The only thing I’d add is I hope there will be passes for other major US cities and Canada.

      I’ve used them elsewhere, too! They’re definitely good value in cities where the attractions you want to visit are on the pricey side. I would love to see them available in more cities, too! (CityPASS is available in about a dozen US/Canadian cities, but of course that doesn’t cover all of them!)

    Sue looks just like Rexie from the movie Night at the Museum! The City Pass is a good deal compared to buying admission to each of those attractions individually.

      Huge deal compared to buying all the tickets individually! Which is why it’s really a no-brainer if you plan to visit most of these sites anyway. 🙂

    I live in Chicago and might do this sometime this summer since I’m trying to see all the highlights one more time before I move!

      If you’re going to be going to all these spots anyway, definitely do it! It’ll save you quite a bit of money, AND you have 9 days to see everything. 🙂

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