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Discover the many ways to save on a city vacation

SmarterTravel

Museum passes, theater tickets, tours, sports events, hotel rooms, meals, transportation…add up all the costs of a family vacation in the city, and you’ve got a hefty bill for a few days of enjoyment. However, there is no need to pay full price for attractions and other entertainment in the city. You can find numerous money-saving opportunities in the form of multi-attraction passes, discount books, and coupons.

One of the most popular attraction passes is the CityPass, which is explained in detail on the SmarterTravel.com Family website. Basically, purchasing a CityPass for one flat price allows free entrance to many museums and sights, at a savings of up to 50 percent off the combined regular admission.

CityPass is currently available for Boston, Chicago, Hollywood, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Southern California. Adult passes start at $34, and children’s passes start at $19.50. Both are valid for nine days after the first day of use. Children under the minimum age for a youth pass (varies by city) are free or receive children’s admission.

If you’re disappointed that there is no CityPass for the area you’ve planned to visit, don’t give up hope?other cities have similar passes. By searching the Web, we found scores of opportunities for savings on attractions and activities in many cities and regions throughout the United States and Canada. The following roundup highlights a few deals we found for saving on city attractions, and how to find more:

Attraction cards and books

By contacting the city’s official visitors bureau, either by phone or online, you can find out if such a pass exists. To find a visitors bureau online, go to a search engine like Google and type in the city name and “visitors bureau.”

Most of these passes, like the CityPass, give a set number of days to see all the attractions, so if you only plan to visit a couple of sites on your vacation, you may be better off paying regular admission. Check individual attraction prices and plan accordingly. Here are some sample deals we found by searching the Web:

  • Minneapolis Arts and Museums Pass: $20 for adults, $16 for kids 12 and under, and $15 for seniors over 65. For the price of the pass, gain free admission to 12 museums including the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and the Bell Museum of Natural History. The pass expires five days after its first use. For more information, call 888-676-6757, or visit the Minneapolis Visitors website.

  • Niagara Falls Attractions Pass: $24.64 for adults, $14.29 for children 12 and under. This one-day pass allows you free admission to into some of Niagara’s best attractions, including the Maid of the Mist boat ride and the Whitewater Boardwalk, and a one-day pass on the People Mover (public bus). It is also possible to purchase a one-day pass including a night’s accommodation, starting at $57. For more information, call 888-552-9549 or visit Niagara Falls Canada website.

Entertainment Books

Produced by Entertainment Publications, these mega coupon books contain hundreds of two-for-one and 50-percent-off coupons, valid for thousands of dollars in savings in the city or region of your choice. Over 160 books covering various cities and geographical regions across the U.S. and Canada are available for purchase.

With Entertainment coupons, you can obtain discounts for hotels, transportation, restaurants, shopping, attractions, activities, and even airfare in specific cities. Purchasing a book also allows you to obtain an Entertainment membership card, which gives you access to further savings such as downloadable coupons offered on the Web.

The books range in price from $22 to $45, depending on the area, and can be purchased by calling 888-231-SAVE (888-231-7283). SmarterTravel.com members get $10 off and free shiping when ordering online from Entertainment’s website. Browse books by location and check the discounts offered in each to make sure your needs are met.

Because of the extensive offerings in each book, an Entertainment Book gives the best return if you are a frequent visitor to the city or if you plan to vacation in the region for more than a coupleof weeks. Importantly, if you want the greatest savings on museums and attractions fees only, you may save more with a multi-attractions pass, if one is available. Books expire on November 1, so purchase them early in the year. Sample books and coupons include:

  • Denver: $27 per book. Offerings include two-for-one admissions to the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Denver Ballet, and the Thrillseekers rock wall.
  • Nashville: $27 per book. Offerings include two-for-one admissions to the Nashville Toy Museum, the Nashville Zoo, and the Cumberland Science Museum.
  • Miami/Florida Keys: $30 per book. Offerings include two-for-one tickets for a Discovery cruise(free kid’s ticket), sightseeing cruises on The Island Queen, and deep sea fishing on the Blue Sea II.

Free coupon books, downloadable coupons, and discount cards

The official visitors bureaus of many cities offer discount coupons or books for free. While the savings may not be as deep, or the offerings as extensive as other paid options, it’s worth it to see if free coupons are available for your destination. As above, if you visit the local visitors bureau online, you may find coupon books that can be ordered for free, or you can download printable coupons as PDF files. Here are some sample freebies we discovered:

  • St. Louis Family Attractions Card: This free card offers more than $500 in savings on attractions, accommodations, and restaurants, including two-for-one admissions to the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Butterfly House, and the City Museum. The card is valid until December 31. For more information, or to obtain a card, call 800-916-0040 or visit the Family Attractions Card website.
  • San Antonio Visitor Experience (S.A.V.E. coupon book): Good until January 2004, this coupon book provides discounts at 15 attractions and 48 hotels, including Six Flags Fiesta Texas, SeaWorld Adventure Park, and the Natural Bridge Caverns. For more information, or to order a book, call 800-447-3372 or visit the San Antonio Visit website.
  • New Orleans Good Times Guide downloadable coupons: Visit New Orleans Online and download coupons for discounts on dining, hotels, attractions, and tours. Coupons include $5 off Cajun Pride swamp tours, $5 off New Orleans Spirit Tours, and $5 off a Paddlewheels dinner and jazz cruise.

Discounts are available for cities not mentioned above. By doing a little homework before you take your family on a city vacation, you too can find opportunities for seeing more and spending less.

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