This spring marked the expansion of an innovative and money-saving boon to sightseers called CityPass, as it added Philadelphia to its roster of four tourist-popular cities--Boston, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.
Anyone who has tried to do a city's top sights on a budget, especially with a family, knows that admission prices can be a major pain in the wallet. The simple yet original concept behind CityPass is that you pay just one price for a pass that admits you to six or seven of the city's major attractions. Not only does it add up to discounts of as much as half off the ticket price at the window, but CityPass also saves long waits in line--for, unlike most discount programs, the CityPass booklet contains actual tickets, not vouchers.
You can buy CityPass at the first attraction you visit or at local visitors bureaus.
There are three versions: adult, senior citizen (65 or older) and youth (ages 12 to 17). Depending on your age and the city, the price ranges from roughly $18 to $30. (For kids under 12, it may be best to pay at the window since some attractions offer free or very low-cost admission to little ones.) Throw in a handful of hotels that bundle a CityPass with their rooms at special rates, and you have an exceptional resource--one that we hope keeps expanding its reach throughout the United States and beyond (Chicago is slated to be added next April).
For information, telephone (707) 256-0490 or log on to http://www.citypass.net. You also can buy the passes online, though not yet by phone.
Here are highlights in the current stable of five:
* Boston: Adult $27.50, senior $20.50, youth $14; good for nine days. Admission to the Museum of Fine Arts, the New England Aquarium, the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, the observatory on the 60th floor of the John Hancock Building (the city's tallest) and the charming, world-class Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
* New York: Adult $28, senior $18.75, youth $21; good for nine days. Admission to the observatory atop the Empire State Building, the Intrepid (a retired aircraft carrier) Sea, Air & Space Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the observation deck of the World Trade Center and the Museum of Modern Art.
Two Manhattan hotels, the Gershwin and the Avalon, incorporate CityPass into room specials. The Gershwin, on East 27th Street between Fifth and Madison avenues, charges $137 per room; tel. (212) 545-8000. The Avalon's special involves a two-night minimum stay at $225 per night; the hotel is on East 32nd Street between Fifth and Madison avenues; tel. (888) 442-8256.
* Philadelphia: Adult $27.50, senior $23.75, youth $20; good for nine days. Admission to the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Franklin Institute Science Museum, the Independence Seaport Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Zoo, and, right across the Delaware River in Camden, the New Jersey State Aquarium and Children's Garden.
* San Francisco: Adult $29.95, senior $19.95, youth $17.95; good for seven days. Admission to the Exploratorium; the California Palace of the Legion of Honor; a Blue & Gold Fleet cruise on the bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge and beyond; the California Academy of Sciences; the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Zoo.
Local hotel partners include the Hyatt Regency and the Grand Hyatt; the toll-free information number for both is (800) 233-1234.
* Seattle: Adult $26.50, senior $22.50, youth $14.75; good for nine days. Admission to the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center with its IMAX theater and planetarium, the Seattle Aquarium, the Museum of Flight, the Seattle Art Museum and the Woodland Park Zoo.