The Go L.A. Card is an unlimited, all-inclusive pass offering admission to 31 Southern California attractions, museums, and tours, including Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, Legoland, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Warner Bros. Studio Tour, Sony Studio Tour, Discovery Science Center, The Hollywood Museum, Dolby Theatre Guided Tour, Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood, Aquarium of the Pacific, and more. In this post, we’ll review the Go Los Angeles Card to determine whether its value for money justifies the purchase.
We used the 1-day Go Los Angeles Card last week, trying to strategically visit locations to get the most bang for our buck. We’ve been wanting to do the 3 studio tours in Burbank/L.A. for a while, and the Go L.A. Card was an easy way to do 2 of these in a day for less than their combined cost. From this perspective, anything else we managed to accomplish was icing on the cake.
In a single day, we were able to do the Sony Pictures Studio Tour, Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood, The Hollywood Museum, Dolby Theatre Guided Tour, and Warner Bros. Studio Tour. The combined cost of these experiences would have been $175.95 per person had we paid out of pocket, versus $79 for the full-priced Go Los Angeles Card…
In fairness, we wouldn’t have necessarily paid full price for all of those experiences. There are currently discounted SoCal resident tickets for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, and the things we did in Hollywood always seem to have coupons lowering their cost.
Personally, I would not have paid full price for the Dolby Theatre Tour, Madame Tussaud’s, or (maybe) the Hollywood Museum. In fact, but for the Go Los Angeles Card, we probably wouldn’t have done those things at all. I do think two of those experiences have some value, but they are not “worth” full price to me. (Your mileage may vary.)
On the other hand, even assuming the best discounts and throwing out the stuff in Hollywood, we still saved money over booking the studio tours individually. Moreover, had we scheduled things better (or had traffic been in our favor) we also could’ve visited the Aquarium of the Pacific in the same day, and that’s something I definitely would (and will) pay for at some point.
If I were a tourist heading to Southern California, I’d give serious thought to a 3 or 5 day Go L.A. Card, but only if I planned on visiting the theme parks that are included with the pass. For the value to be worth it on any of the longer duration cards, you pretty much have to do Universal Studios Hollywood (which is only valid weekdays on a 3-day or longer Go L.A. Card), Knott’s Berry Farm, Legoland California, or Six Flags Magic Mountain.
If you want to do even one of those parks, the math on a 3-day Go Card works out. If you want to do 2-3 of the parks, a 5-day Go L.A. Card makes sense.
We are big fans of both Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood, and would highly recommend them to anyone visiting Southern California. We have yet to do Six Flags Magic Mountain (it’s surprisingly far north of us), but thrill junkies love it.
On the other hand, I would really hesitate to purchase the 7-day Go Los Angeles Card. While the incremental cost over the 5-day card is relatively low, you’d have to do every single theme park on the card, plus several of the high-dollar other experiences. In my opinion, the likelihood that someone is going to want to do this is pretty low.
Beyond that being a lot of theme parks (and that doesn’t even include Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, which are the real theme park must-dos in SoCal), it’s also a pretty spread out experience. Magic Mountain is a good distance north of Los Angeles and Legoland is near San Diego.
Moreover, it requires a really long trip to Southern California spent doing pretty much nothing but the locations on the Go L.A. Card. Some of Los Angeles’ best points of interest are not included–and many of those other highlights are free.
This includes Griffith Observatory, The Getty, El Matador Beach, the California Science Center, and many other points of interest. Unless your trip is 10-14 days long, optimal use of the 7-day Go L.A. Card in addition to other attractions seems unlikely.
There is one group to whom I would recommend the 7-day Go Los Angeles Card: locals on spring break or a ‘staycation.’ It might seem counterintuitive for locals to purchase a card with a bunch of touristy spots on it, but I think it could make sense.
Many SoCal residents are like us: they only have Disneyland Annual Passes, and don’t get to the other parks nearly as much because Disneyland admission is already paid. This pass is a good way to hit the other parks at a low per-park cost, and do other things you might not normally do in Los Angeles due to the admission cost.
If you do the 4 theme parks on separate days, plus both studio tours, Aquarium of the Pacific, Queen Mary, and one of the bus tours (I know, they’re cheesy!), the 7-day Go L.A. Card more than pays for itself. Even if you were to get discounts for admission to some of the locations, you still come out ahead with the Go L.A. Card.
So, from a cost perspective, the various Go Los Angeles Cards–particularly the 5-day and under ones–are an excellent value for tourists and locals alike. With that established, let’s cover a few tips…
The first and biggest tip is to read the fine print. Some of these experiences must be scheduled in advance (notably the studio tours), are blocked out on weekends (Universal Studios Hollywood), or entering before a certain time (pretty much everything requires arriving before 5:30 p.m.).
None of these are “gotcha!” fine print terms that diminish the card’s value: you’d have to schedule a studio tour in advance regardless, and Universal Studios Hollywood is overrun with locals on the weekend, so you should visit there on a weekday if you’re a tourist.
Other than scheduling our studio tours in advance, we found the Go Los Angeles Card really easy to use. We scanned it just like a normal ticket at the other locations, all of which were very familiar with it. There shouldn’t be any confusion about the card with staff at these attractions.
When we were in line for Madame Tussaud’s, literally everyone in front of us was also using the Go L.A. Card. I suspect a good percentage of business for some of these locations comes from the card…because who really wants to pay $30+ out of pocket to take selfies with wax figures?!
Next, use Google Maps to determine the distances/times between the things you want to do when building your Go Card itinerary. This is really important to do if you’ve never visited Los Angeles because it’ll give you an idea how far apart some of these things are from one another. The greater Los Angeles area is a cautionary tale of urban sprawl, and you may not realize how spread out it is–and how bad traffic gets–if you’ve never been.
Another thing to keep in mind is parking. To my knowledge, it’s not included with any of the attractions, and parking in Los Angeles can be expensive. To the greatest extent possible, do things that are within walking distance of one another on the same day so you only pay once for parking. Additionally, in Hollywood, you can get validated parking at the Hollywood & Highland parking structure (the easiest option there, by far) if you go up to the Visit Los Angeles office and show them your ticket from any of the things you did in Hollywood.
That’s really about it in terms of tips, info, etc. for the Go Los Angeles Card. As with any ‘all-inclusive’ passes like this, it’s not for everyone and you should definitely do the math on the out of pocket ticket cost for the things you want to do versus how much the pass costs. When it comes to what’s included on the Go L.A. Card, I think the lineup is solid. With some cards like this, the attractions are mostly junk no one would want to visit in the first place, making the value of the card suspect. That’s not the case with the Go L.A. Card. I’d say it covers around half of the places most people are going to want to visit in Los Angeles, making it well worth consideration for your Southern California vacation.
If you’re planning a California road trip or vacation, check out my California category of posts for other things to see and do. If you enjoyed this post, please use the sharing buttons above to help spread the word via social media. I greatly appreciate it!
Have you used the Go Los Angeles Card, or any of the other Go Cards? How many days did you get on your card? Did you feel it was worth the money, or did you not get your money’s worth? Any thoughts on the various attractions included with the Go Card? If you have any other thoughts or questions, please share in the comments below!