We don’t get to fly to far-flung (or nearby) places more than once a year. Realistically, we don’t fly much at all these days – with small kids and the need for control, I’m usually happier taking to the open road. However, with our budget in mind and wanting to eek out every experience we could while in Florida on vacation, we found that Tampa Bay CityPASS was an efficient, easy way to maximize our precious time in the Sunshine State.
Tampa Bay CityPASS Decisions
The Tampa Bay CityPASS allows visitors to customize their trip while saving money. As with all CityPASS destination packages, you get all the best attractions included in one discounted price for admission. (In Tampa Bay, you can choose the 5th option between the Chihuly Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry.)
For us, the part that was difficult was not finding enough to do – it was finding enough time to do it! We used four of five of the passes that were available to us. We just did not have time, unfortunately, to visit the Museum of Science & Industry. Maybe next time we’re in Tampa! Attractions we selected for our short three-day whirlwind visit were The Florida Aquarium, Busch Gardens, Lowry Park Zoo, and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The additional option was the science museum OR the Chihuly Collection, both of which we weren’t sure were well-suited for our kids, but time was not on our side for visiting them as it turned out anyway.
We were JUST able to visit each of the main attractions in Tampa with two days. We were a bit rushed at Busch Gardens, our timing was all wrong for the scheduled events at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, we had a whirlwind tour of the zoo… If you take a bit of advice from our experience, consider TWO things: 1) all of the attractions are quality experiences (especially with the preschool – middle school set) and you should plan to maximize your experience in Tampa by doing them all–just leave yourself at least three days! 2) Get the CityPASS.
Here is a brief rundown of costs for adult admission for the attractions we chose if you were to order separately or pay at the gate.
So, let’s do some math. This will help prevent your summer skills slide! The Tampa Bay CityPASS is $99 for adults and $89 for kids.
Busch Gardens is going to be $89.00 per person for ages 3+. So you’ve pretty much paid for your CityPASS with one admission at ONE attraction. Need more math? Add that $89 to the cost of one adult admission at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is $21.95 (kids are a bit cheaper). So now we’re up to $110.95 — for TWO attractions. To add a THIRD attraction to the price it’s another $24.95. Add the Lowry Park Zoo? $27.95. If you’re planning on visiting more than one attraction, and if ANY of those plans include Busch Gardens, you’re crazy not to go the CityPASS route. With a tiny bit of advance planning, knowing that you’ll be visiting more than one site, you’ll save a ton.
So what did that add up to? Four attractions for one adult at gate price = $163.85. That’s only four. You get FIVE admissions with a Tampa Bay CityPASS. I stink at math. Really, I worked so hard in school to get the grades, but even I know a good deal when I see it. All of the attractions are really worth a day or at the very least a half day of family fun and doing it with a CityPASS means you can afford to take the family to all of them! Save your 53%. Plan ahead and use that extra cash for a few creature close encounters at the zoo or maybe a souvenir photo with a dolphin to remember all the fun you’ll have on your vacation.
Saving money is great. Saving sanity is priceless. CityPASS tickets are collected in one easy-access booklet. I slip it in my purse and no matter where we end up that day, we’ve got our admission. I am famous for packing for every possible “what if” scenario, like a good ex-Girl Scout, but then forgetting something paramount to the mission – like shoes or tickets or diapers.
Once you are certain your ticket is on your person, just skip the line and go straight to the turnstile or ticket window. That’s right — at popular attractions like Busch Gardens, fly by the crowds with your Tampa Bay CityPASS!
CityPASS Extras and Advice
For some attractions you can opt-in to add-ons, like the Quick Queue for Busch Gardens. We didn’t use ours at SeaWorld, but we sure would have at Busch Gardens (if we were to do that park over, we’d select Quick Queue for sure!). There are extras like giraffe feeding, lorikeet feeding, and stingray feeding for a few dollars extra (a place you can employ all the money you saved by buying a CityPASS). Of the three, the giraffe is the neatest, according to our preschooler!
Try to take in the Florida Aquarium and Clearwater Aquarium in the afternoon. Most exhibits are indoors while zoos and theme parks are mainly outdoors. Be mindful of timed feedings at all attractions. This will take a little logistical know-how, but will be worth the advance itinerary planning when you’re able to hit all the fun extras like a real pro!
Seriously, learn from our experience. We missed out on a photo with the ambassador dolphin at Clearwater Marine Aquarium but arrived about 90 minutes too soon to feed the stingrays. Poor planning! You can also score 10% off the Wild Dolphin Cruise at Florida Aquarium with an offer inside the ticket booklet!
CityPASS is not just a Tampa thing. There are several cities that offer access to all the best with one budget-friendly booklet of discounted admissions! Chicago! Seattle! Atlanta! The world is your playground. Save your money for more adventures and plan ahead! Tampa Bay is best done with CityPASS in your pocket!
Cathy Bennett Kopf says
After reading this, I’m going to look more closely at these bundled ticket options when visiting cities. Great advice.
Amy Albers says
What a great tip! We are thinking of a trip for fall break and the Clearwater Marine Center is a must for my guys! We’ve been to Lowry Park Zoo and really enjoyed it.