Just the right mix of attractions
posted by MelanieHecker on Jun 28, 2016
I have CityPass brand loyalty. I've used CityPass in Toronto, Boston, and Atlanta and enjoyed it every time. I wasn't going to use Philadelphia CityPass initially because you had no choice but to visit the Adventure Aquarium, something I am not interested in, but had to choose between the Zoo and Constitution Center which were both things I really wanted to see. Once the pass changed to it's current lineup, I jumped at the opportunity. One of the best things about the pass is that because it contains two full day attractions and two 90 minute attractions, leaving you enough time for the historic sites. This was not the case with the previous Philadelphia CityPass.
Our first stop was One Liberty Observation Deck. We were able to get a ride to the top right away, unlike CN Tower's 2 hour wait. It is also easier to find and access than Boston's Skywalk Observatory. The Philadelphia view was beautiful and the guided tour was fascinating and entertaining. Be sure to get the guided tour: it's what makes the attraction truly worthwhile. I chose this to be first because it was quick and we were driving in, but it wound up being a great overview. You won't spend more than an hour here unless you want to hang out and soak in the views.
The next day we continued our overview on ground level with Big Bus Tours. I initially only wanted this for zoo transportation (zoo parking is horrific) but it wound up being an excellent attraction in it's own right. Our tour guide Ginger was very knowledgeable and entertaining, and I learned a lot. They truly are Philadelphia experts and you will hear stories about both the city's history and the attractions the bus stops at. If you wish to hop off, raise your hand quickly, otherwise they will roll right past your stop.
WARNING: EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: The double decker busses DO NOT directly access the zoo Easter through late summer. Nothing in their materials suggest this, the tour guide and/or driver will only tell you this if you tell them of your intention to visit the zoo, or when you approach the Rocky statue. You need to get off at the Rocky statue and transfer to a trolley, which will be waiting at the Rocky statue. When you are finished with the zoo, you call your trolley tour guide (be sure to get her number!) and they'll pick you up and take you back to the Rocky statue to get on the next double decker bus and finish your tour. This was a non-issue for a 22 year old and her parents, but may cause difficulty for families with very small children, or if you don't have a cell phone. Should you forsee this as an issue, use Big Bus for Franklin Institute instead. I also need to point out CityPass's website is wrong when it says the busses are accessible: they aren't.
Big Bus Tours drops you off across the street from the zoo's entrance. You of course have to see America's first zoo. It has many well designed and complex exhibit including Big Cat Falls, PECO Primate Reserve, McNeil Avian Center and the best Reptile House I've seen at any zoo. The animals are treated well and there are keepers at every exhibit to tell you interesting facts about the animals. There was a special treat when one of the lions started roaring! There are several upcharge attractions, but the only one I took advantage of was Lorikeet Encounter where for $3 you can buy a cup of nectar to feed the lorikeets. The Rainforest Carousel was not running while we were there. The only exhibit we didn't get to see was Carnivore Kingdom because it was getting late and we wanted to finish our Big Bus Tour. The zoo is an all-day attraction, so take that into account when planning. The last thing I have to say about the zoo is that you HAVE to choose it over Adventure Aquarium. One is America's first zoo and very genuine, the other is a tourist trap according to other reviews both here and elsewhere. The headliner animals at Adventure Aquarium, Hippos and Penguins, can also be found at Philadelphia Zoo along with many much more unique and interesting animals.
The next day we did Independence National Historical Park. We did not do any CityPass sites this day but I am mentioning it because I am glad the types and number of attractions on the pass allows for it. Big Bus Tours is also useful here, but more useful to avoid zoo parking.
We finished our trip at Franklin Institute, which is in my opinion the best thing on the pass. There is a misconception that FI is only for kids: this is not true as adults can enjoy it just as much and, in the case of some areas, more than children. This is not to say FI is inappropriate for children, but that any age can find it worthwhile. Highlights for adults include Your Brain, Changing Earth, Electricity, and Train Factory/Franklin Airshow (basically the same exhibit but with trains and planes respectively.). Child-friendly favorites include the Giant Heart, which adults can go through too but is rather claustrophobic for adults, KidScience, and Sir Isaac's Loft. Even if you are too claustrophobic for the heart itself, there are interesting exhibits around it, including one that convinced me I am not cut out to be a paramedic. All exhibits contain interactive elements that are very thought-provoking. The only thing that could have made it better was a discount on temporary exhibits for CityPass holders: the temporary Pixar exhibit was worth the extra $10 but a discount would have been nice.
We only needed our skip the line privileges at Philadelphia Zoo. There was no one else at One Liberty or Franklin Institute and Big Bus has no lines to begin with. Note that at Franklin Institute there was no one else in the museum because we were there Father's Day: you will need your skip the line privileges any other day of the year. The CityPass was still very useful in saving money. One suggestion I would make would be putting Constitution Center back on but NOT as an Option Ticket. Most people visiting Philadelphia are going to the Historic Park anyway and Constitution Center is a very big part of the park. I also do not understand why Adventure Aquarium needs to be on the pass: it is not located in Philadelphia, and the zoo is much better for reasons stated earlier. I do not know why anyone would choose the aquarium over the zoo. Overall I am extremely satisfied with Philadelphia CityPass.
posted by Kelly on Jun 26, 2016
I purchased the Philadelphia CityPass for my son and I to travel for a quick get-away. CityPass was easy to use and when I forgot to print my voucher at home, Adventure Aquarium was able to help me out. We I liked most was that we were already planning on visiting The Franklin Institute and The Philadelphia Zoo, so the CityPass added in some additional places for a great value. I would highly recommend using the CityPass if you are short on time and want to see some great places. We didn't use the Bus/Trolley Works tour since my son wasn't too interested in seeing other places and we were ready to head home. As a result of the CityPass, we visited Adventure Aquarium instead of the zoo. We used the PATCO and the River Line to get to the aquarium which was very easy.
Philly Was Awesome
posted by Jade Vanischak on Jun 09, 2016
We were only in Philly for 32 hours but we saw everything on the city pass + more. I highly recommend!!! The Big Bus with the 2nd deck on top was a big hit with kids and made traveling around the city effortless.Do yourself a favor and park your car at the hotel and use the Big Bus otherwise you will be completely miserably. Second day we tried to drive somewhere and the traffic and construction was terrible. We liked this pass so much that we are looking into using it for Toronto. Can't bet the value and nice variety of different things to see on same ticket. Highly recommend, you will not be disappointed!!! :)
Citypass is the greatest value and provides direction touring sites.
posted by Jason Blake on Jun 08, 2016
Including The Big Bus with the sites to visit in Philadelphia is genius! The value/savings to the traveler is truly economical. The stand-out site was One Liberty Observation Deck; it is highly entertaining inside as well as the breath-taking view. The elevator to the deck has large-screen pics/music. At the deck;visual and audio stimulation. Large touch-screens/ interactive satellite day/night view of the Deck and surrounding area. Take great pictures with your cell phone or bring more sophisticated photo equipment (the view and ability for great pictures exists). Stay for one-hour or more; seating available to rest and enjoy. Located center city and just blocks from Independence Mall. This is a new "Shining Star"! The staff at every site and The Big Bus are people friendly, enthusiastic, and a wonderful asset to the City of Philadelphia. We had a absolutely superior experience; I did not want to leave. Thank you all:)
posted by ShelliBergeFrank on Jun 06, 2016
We took our 2 yo to Philly and bought a CityPass for all 3 of us. We purchased them before the switch so we were able to go to Please Touch Museum. From what I've read from others, I would recommend having them shipped to you - this made it totally hassle free! Just make sure you don't pull the tickets out yourself (each attraction will do that). We saved on admission (especially b/c we went to all 5 in the booklet) and parking b/c we were able to use The Big Bus (which is included). In all, we saved about $120 this way and avoided ticket lines. Highly recommend for Philly!
posted by katy on May 31, 2016
I bought the Philly pass for my boyfriends birthday along with 76ers tickets. The old pass which was $124 for the 2(with the eastern state penitentiary) was great until they just changed it AND DIDNT TELL US, that, the zoo and the aquarium were on the top of our list, with 2 days to hit them all... we sat for a hour with customer service(the lady was very helpful). the pass we printed out was the old one which said it was still valid...the new pass sucks, a lot less to do....we ended up having to buy tickets for the eastern state penitentiary,,,,the lady worked with us to get both the zoo and aquarium admission so 2 stars for being helpful....also not a fan of the institute, boring
Nice activity bundle
posted by Tine on Apr 28, 2016
Loved the tour on the double decker bus. Great info and overview of the city. Good value for what you get instead of paying for each activity individually.
No Complaints! But...
posted by Single mom on Apr 17, 2016
For a spring break trip it was a great idea, the Franklin Institute was a definite highlight, however the double decker bus tour,was a tour of construction sites, being a native of Philadelphia I was thoroughly disappointed! Adventure Aquarium has changed significantly and not for the better! There is an entire cafeteria where other interesting exhibits used to be! However, my 8'year old daughter had a great time and her spring vacation was full!
Beware of the Deceptive Marketing
posted by Joel on Apr 10, 2016
One of the main reasons that I decided to purchase CityPass is because my son was totally stoked to ride the double-decker tour bus and he also wanted to go to the Adventure Aquarium. Turns out the bus doesn't go across the river to the Aquarium. I had to pay around $40 dollars to take a subway to Camden, NJ (across the river from Philly) and then get a taxi to the Aquarium. When I made this complaint to the tour bus manager, he showed me the fine print on the back of the ticket and said, "Yeah, I hear that complaint probably a 1,000 times a month". I just naturally assumed that the bus that will take you to the other 3 venues would also take you to the Aquarium. Don't make the same mistake I did, these guys are really shady about misrepresenting a material fact that might influence your purchase.
posted by Daisy on Apr 09, 2016
I am so glad we purchased citypass. We were able to skip the lines and save lots of money! My kids really enjoyed the Aquarium and the Franklin Institute! I would recommend citypass to anyone!!!