How to save money in San Diego with the Go San Diego card

When planning our trip to San Diego we came across the Go San Diego card which claims savings of up to 55% when visiting the city’s top attractions.

The cost of exploring San Diego’s attractions and museums for a family can quickly add up, so this is where an attractions pass like the Go San Diego card can come in very handy.

So the big question is was it worthwhile and would we get one again?

Before we answer that, you might be thinking what is a Go San Diego card and how useful is it for your family when visiting San Diego.

What is the Go San Diego card?

The card offers an easy and discounted way to see some of the top attractions in San Diego. You purchase a card online and you can get into as many of the attractions as you like for the duration of the card.

It also offered us lots of inspiration and ideas on places to visit that we might not have taken the kids to.

The Go San Diego card comes in two variations – All-Inclusive and Build Your Own. The all-inclusive card is available as a one, two, three, five or seven day card.

We decided to get the 2 day all-inclusive card ($139.00 per adult and $119 per child) which we planned on using seeing some of the attractions in downtown San Diego where the Manchester Grand Hyatt our first hotel was located.

What attractions are included?

Our 2 day all-inclusive card gave us access to 41 different attractions in the San Diego area including the following top attractions.

I’ve also put the gate prices for these attractions (prices below are for 2 adults and 2 children), so as you can see they aren’t cheap.

San Diego Zoo $196.00
San Diego Safari park $196.00
Legoland California $384.00
USS Midway $66.00
Belmont Park $194.00
Harbor Cruise and Sea Lion Adventure $75.00.
Knotts Berry Farm $256.00

Seaworld $349.96 was classed as a premium attraction and is only available on the 3, 5 or 7 day all-inclusive cards, so this was not available on our 2 day card.

How does the Go San Diego card work?

It was very easy and that’s one of the key benefits of getting the card. When the card was ordered we received our four printable Go Cards which became our tickets to enter our chosen attractions across San Diego.

There is also a mobile Go City card to use on your phone which becomes your ticket. One of the great things about these passes is the ability to skip the long queues that build up if you had to buy a ticket – although this was not a financial saving, it was a time saver as we did not have to wait in long lines with kids which was a big benefit of using the card.

The card is valid until the 31st December on the year of purchase but it is activated upon visiting your first attraction. This meant that once we visited our first attraction we had unlimited use of the card for the duration of our card, which in our case was 2 days.

We also found the guidebook that had details of the attractions on offer really useful and inspiring when choosing where to visit with the children.

Tip – I highly recommend downloading the Go City Card app – it makes visiting the attractions easy, but always have you paper tickets to hand just in case your phone runs out of battery.

With our Go San Diego card we didn’t have to wait in a queue to purchase/collect tickets each time we visited an attraction, our Go San Diego printed ticket or showing the mobile app was our entry ticket.

This was so worthwhile when we visited our first attraction – the amazing USS Midway museum aircraft carrier which is now permanently docked in San Diego Bay.

When we arrived, there were already long lines of people buying tickets but we were able to bypass these and enter the attraction with our Go San Diego card.

USS Midway

I can now see why the USS Midway is ranked as the number one thing to do in San Diego. We spent the morning exploring this gigantic ship and learned all about its 50 years of service and why it was so important.

There were lots of fascinating exhibits that tell the story of what life would have been like on-board for the crew including 29 restored aircraft, our favourites of which were on the flight deck – it was like being in the top gun movie.

There were lots of hands on learning opportunities for children including climbing up into aircraft, multimedia displays and interactive experiences – we even got to visit the ship’s control deck.

For 2 adults and 2 children the cost would have been $66.00.

Petco Park home of Major League Baseball San Diego Padres

We could see the baseball stadium Petco Park home of Major League Baseball San Diego Padres from the 30th floor window of our hotel room at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

This was included in our Go San Diego card so we took advantage and had a guided behind the scenes tour. This was the great thing about the card it encouraged us to visit places that we would have typically overlooked.

Visiting the baseball stadium was such a unique experience especially when we walked down the tunnel onto the field.

For 2 adults and 2 children the cost would have been $50.00.

Harbor Cruise and Sea Lion Adventure

For our second day of our trip in downtown San Diego we wanted to take a cruise around San Diego Bay. The children had actually picked this after they read in the guidebook that you could see colonies of sea lions on the harbour cruise.

We made the short walk through Seaport Village excited for our sea adventure especially after visiting the USS Midway the day before. We took the 10am cruise to make the most of our day and pass and departed from pier 2 on the Embarcadero.

The one hour cruise was a great way to see the skyline of San Diego from another perspective and the commentary which talks through each one of the landmarks you encounter was really interesting. The highlight for us was seeing the sea lions basking in the sun and shouting at each other.

For 2 adults and 2 children the cost would have been $75.00.

Belmont Park

In the afternoon the plan was to visit the iconic Belmont Park in nearby Mission Bay. This is your classic American beachfront amusement park and a must see when in the city. Highlights are the iconic wooden roller coaster which was built in 1925 along with arcade games, thrill rides and bumper cars.

For 2 adults and 2 children the cost would have been $194.00.

Is it worth getting a Go San Diego card?

It depends on how many and more importantly which of the 41 attractions you plan to visit.

It’s worth noting however that some of the attractions are not actually in San Diego including Knott’s Berry Farm and the Hollywood behind the scenes tour which are in LA whilst Legoland was an hour’s drive away in Carlsbad.

The cost of the attractions that we were able to visit was $385.00 and the cost of a 2 day family pass was $464.40 with the current 10% discount code.

In hindsight to get the maximum savings we should have used the Go City Card to visit the most expensive attractions (Legoland, San Diego Zoo and Safari Park) but we already had tickets for these attractions.

You also have to be realistic on how many attractions you can visit each day. If we had crammed as many attractions as possible into our 2 days it might have saved us more money but it would have been so rushed we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy them as a family.

The longer passes 3 days+ offer much better value and include Seaworld which would bring even greater savings and more importantly would allow you to slow down and see the city at a more relaxed pace.

Disclosure: We were given a family Go San Diego card to try out. All opinions are my own.


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