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TRAVEL INSIDER

If You Haven't Been Given a Key to the City, Buy One

Discounts * CityPass booklets offering half- price tickets to major attractions have expanded to seven urban areas.

September 03, 2000|NAEDINE JOY HAZELL | HARTFORD COURANT

If a city is your vacation destination and you plan to see all the major attractions, you might consider buying a CityPass.

A popular concept in Europe for years, CityPass made its debut in the United States just three years ago. The idea is to offer people half-price tickets to major attractions by offering those tickets in one booklet for one price. Each booklet offers tickets to several top attractions in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco or Hollywood.

For example, in New York City--the destination that sells the most CityPasses--an adult would pay $64 to visit the Empire State Building Observatory, the American Museum of Natural History (including the Rose Center, Hayden Planetarium, Hall of the Universe and the Big Bang), the Museum of Modern Art, the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum, the Top of the World Trade Center and the Guggenheim Museum.

Using the booklet, which offers a ticket to each of those places, the tab is $32.

"It's the idea of a one-price ticket. That's what you get at a theme park. Why not a city?" said Mike Gallagher, president of CityPass, who estimates the company will sell 300,000 CityPasses this year.

"A lot of time you go [to a city] for a day or two. We are trying to encourage you to stay for a few days," Gallagher said.

Here are some key features of CityPass:

* You do not get to pick and choose attractions. You get half-price tickets only to the places included in each booklet.

* The tickets can be used any day. The booklet is good for nine days, starting the day the first ticket is used.

* Each booklet includes pertinent information--telephone numbers, business hours and Web sites--as well as "insider's tips" on the backs of tickets. For example, the Guggenheim Museum ticket says: "Beat the rush. The museum opens early, at 9 a.m., or enjoy free WorldBeat Jazz on Saturdays from 5 to 8 p.m."

* If you are traveling with children, you might not want to buy a child's CityPass, depending on how many of the attractions you will visit and the cost of the tickets. Some admission prices for children are so low that CityPass could not create a booklet for them. That might mean standing in line for a child's ticket anyway.

* CityPasses are available through travel agents, who issue a voucher that can be redeemed at the first attraction the traveler will visit (except in Hollywood, where the pass must be redeemed at Universal Studios) once you arrive in the city.

* Tickets may be purchased at any of the CityPass attractions in each city or at city visitor centers. They are available in advance on the Internet at http://www.citypass.net.

Here's what's included in the passes in the sites they serve:

Chicago: Admission to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, the renovated Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Shedd Aquarium and the renovated Sears Tower SkyDeck. Adult booklets cost $30.50; senior booklets, $25; booklets for children 3 to 11, $22.75.

Boston: Admission to the New England Aquarium, John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, John Hancock Observatory, the Museum of Science and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Adult booklets cost $30.25; senior booklets, $22.25; booklets for children 12 to 17, $14.

Philadelphia: Admission to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Franklin Institute Science Museum, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the New Jersey State Aquarium and Independence Seaport Museum. Adult booklets cost $28.50; senior booklets, $23.75; booklets for children 3 to 11, $21.25.

Seattle: Admission to the newly renovated Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Art Museum, Pacific Science Center & IMAX, Museum of Flight and Woodland Park Zoo. Adult booklets cost $28.25; senior booklets, $24.25; booklets for children 6 to 13, $16.75.

San Francisco: Admission to a Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise, the Steinhart Aquarium and California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A Muni ticket for unlimited public transportation also gives visitors access to dozens of free attractions: the Golden Gate Bridge, crooked Lombard Street, Fisherman's Wharf and San Francisco's culturally diverse neighborhoods, such as Chinatown, North Beach, Mission Distric and SoMa. Adult booklets cost $33.25; senior booklets, $26.25; booklets for children 5 to 17, $24.25.

Hollywood: Admission to eight attractions (not all in Hollywood): Universal Studios Hollywood, American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood Entertainment Museum, the Museum of Television & Radio, Petersen Automotive Museum, the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, the Museum of Tolerance and the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, which is in Simi Valley. Adult booklets cost $49.75; booklets for children 3 to 11, $38.

New York: Described above, the booklet costs $32 for adults, $21.75 for seniors and $24 for children 12 to 17.

The Web site includes a list of CityPass locations and attractions with links to each, hotel packages, transportation options and free subscriptions to CityPass Traveler online newsletter. For recorded telephone information, call (707) 256-0490.

Times Travel Writer Christopher Reynolds is on assignment. Naedine Joy Hazell is a travel writer on staff at the Hartford Courant.

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