How do theme park ticket prices compare with other out-of-home entertainment?
So, just how expensive is Walt Disney World's $95-a-day ticket price for the Magic Kingdom
? Let's compare the cost of one day at the world's most-attended theme park with the cost of other popular out-of-home entertainment options.
The cost of a ticket to last year's Tony Award-winner for Best Musical, "Once": $142
The average cost of a ticket to last year's high-grossing concert tour, Madonna's MDNA Tour: $138
The cost of a single-day, walk-up lift ticket to Vail Mountain, the nation's most popular ski resort last season: $129
The average cost of a ticket to see the Dallas Cowboys, who led the NFL in attendance last year: $110.70
The average cost of a ticket to see the Philadelphia Phillies, who led Major League Baseball in attendance last year: $37.42
The suggested admission fee to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the nation's most popular museum that requests an admission fee: $25
Since we considered average ticket prices for some of those options, let's acknowledge that the large majority of visitors to Walt Disney World do not buy single-day admission tickets, but instead purchase multi-day tickets that allow them to see all four of the resort's theme parks.
A four-day, one-park-per-day ticket to Walt Disney World costs $279 for adults, working out to an average ticket cost of $69.70 per day in a park. Let's compare that with the two other multi-park theme park resorts in America, whose parks represent the other four of the nation's top eight most-attended theme parks. Again, these prices assume a visit of one park per day, with no park-hopping.
At the Disneyland Resort in California, a two-day ticket costs $175, working out to an average ticket price of $87.50 per day to see its two theme parks.
At the Universal Orlando Resort, a two-day ticket costs $125.99, working out to an average ticket price of $63 per day to see its two parks.
Computed this way, a visit to the Disneyland Resort in California is quite a bit more expensive per day than a visit to either of the top Orlando theme park resorts: Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando. However, even the Disneyland Resort tickets cost less than seeing a top NFL game, a day on the slopes skiing, going to a popular concert, or seeing a top Broadway show.
Of course, one can find cheaper football, skiing, concert and theater tickets out there. But you can find cheaper theme and amusement park tickets across the nation, too. The question for consumers, as always, remains: Are you getting appropriate value in return for the money you're spending on out-of-home entertainment?
While it is a good comparision, I have gone to cheaper sporting events and skiiing than what was stated.
Very good article, Robert. Amusement parks are expensive, but in a relative sense the price to attend one is similar to many family activities.
This is the thing though.... Many of those things you are comparing theme park tickets too often rely on locals to buy the tickets.... whereas most themeparks don't rely on mainly the business of locals.... which means that many of the guests are also having to pay for hotels and travel costs in addition to the cost of the theme park ticket.
Brandon's comment brings up an interesting aspect: how would all these compare on a per-hour basis? I'm thinking the number of hours of enjoyment you get at a theme park for the amount you pay would compare pretty favorably to the other activities in the article.
There may be cheaper options for sporting events and ski resorts, but there are also options for cheaper theme parks as well. Our local Six Flags Over Texas averages between 29.99 (with a coke can) and 49.99 for an adult day pass. The State Fair of Texas just opened a summertime theme park with admission at $29.99. Another local theme park here is Sandy Lake Park where you don't even pay admission, just $5 to park and ride tickets. The average ride is $2. And they have have an original Pretzel dark ride by Leon Cassidy. So there are different price points and values spanning across the board.
I used a similar analogy, going to the Formula 1 British GP next Sunday at £250 for race day only, I didnt blink. Yet I did have a little whine at Disney prices - until I thought 'bigger picture'.
I wouldn't consider paying the prices you listed for any of those attractions other than the MET at $25 (a real bargain). As you pointed out there are many options that have lower prices. You can buy a lift ticket to Breckenridge for $70. I just purchased tickets to "Riot Fest" a two day outdoor concert with top name musical acts for $80 ($40 per day). Warped Tour the longest running festival concert tour in the USA is $45 for the day. Disney has raised their prices out of reach for many people, me included. Universal Orlando is running a real deal now at $130 for a three day pass. On my next Florida visit I will spend it at Universal.
This is interesting - great article! Clearly it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison on many levels. For the consumer, comparing ticket prices is not the same as comparing the OVERALL expense, time commitment, experience, and more. For most families a trip to Disney is, on the whole, still more expensive than going to a concert, a play, a sporting event, etc. (Not for all situations, of course, but for most!).
What the article does not discuss is how few rides or attractons one might be able to enjoy in a given day. Long lines and long waits are not what I consider fun. However, Disney seems to have been able convince much of the public that long waits are part of the fun.
I mostly agree with the analysis, except that there are other costs associated with a day at the park such as food, merchandise, parking, etc that would need to be included to determine the true cost.
It's not just the cost of admission, it's the associated cost of being at a park. Few people/families need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to attend a baseball game or Broadway play. Maybe $50 for train fare or parking or bridge tolls spread over 4 people in a car. Very few need a hotel room or plane fare. Locals to the theme parks would be different but they probably all have annual passes that make a day's admission only $20 if used enough.
I just want to hijack the thread for a moment to express my jealousy of Kelly -- I would LOVE to see an F1 race, and, yeah, would probably pay through the nose to do it. So there you go -- it's all about your perception of value. For me, great theme parks, IndyCar (and F1) races and Broadway shows deliver it, though I will do whatever I can to find discounts and deals on those tickets, and usually do.
Aaah Robert it's AMAZING!! I went for the first time to the British GP last year and my favourite driver won - there were tears! The roar of those bad boys - you can hear the engines from a mile away!
Yellowstone is much cheaper than the theme parks, and there is a lot to see and do over there. National parks in general offer a less expensive option for entertainment. And one ends up equally satisfied from the experience.
I really should try to go to COTA in Austin some time. But I really, really want to see a race at Spa someday.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!
I can see a Broadway show for less than the price of admission to a Disney park because I buy my tickets either at the half-price ticket booth on Duffy Square or order them online in response to emails offering discounts. (I'm on several theatre email lists.) The only time I was ever in Florida, I paid more to go to Busch Gardens Tampa than I paid to go to most Broadway shows, even with a senior citizen discount. Whereas theatre and travel discounts are fairly easy to come by, I find that theme park discounts are not. I just got an email from Kings Dominion offering a discount that's good through July 2; unfortunately, I'm going there on July 6 so will have to pay full price, as I won't be old enough to get their senior rate until August 14. The cost of parking at theme parks has already been mentioned and that of course jacks up the price for a visit. About the only time I was able to get into a theme park for less than a Broadway show was at Silver Dollar City, where I was actually able to park for free. Kudos to SDC! Although you get many more hours of entertainment at a theme park than you do at a theatre or sporting event, there is, as has been commented on, the cost of getting there in the first place. I can hop on a Greyhound bus to get to New York or hop on the subway to get to Citizens Bank Park but being carless, have to fly to get to most theme parks. (Can borrow Dad's car to go to SFGA or Hersheypark but not for anything that will involve a long drive or overnight stay.)
Yea, Madonna's MDNA Tour was worth every penny.
So glad you wrote this! I've always felt the same. One ride on an e-ticket type ride outside of a park, say the New York, New York roller coaster in Vegas, is like $20. For one ride. Theme parks are generally unlimited, a whole day of shows, rides, and immersive design. I find a trip to Disney is no more expensive than a trip to a big city, and often less so, depending on what you do. People often complain about the ticket price, but it sounds like they aren't really comparable alternatives.
Robert and Kelly, I guess I should have gone to the St. Pete Grand Prix the last few years based on your enthusiasm. All I ever think about is the massive crowds and nowhere to park, I wish we had a commuter rail system to get around Tampa Bay.
Tony, we have the same parking/traffic issues at Silverstone, took us 80 minutes to get there last year - which was traffic free...and almost 7 hours to get home! Painful.
This is an apples to oranges comparison. You should have compared Disney to other theme parks and similar entertainment. Comparing Disney theme parks to concerts and sporting events is not fair. Actually, concerts should be compared with concerts and etc. Nonetheless, if you're going with a family of four, Disney is still much more expensive when vacationing and you buy a multi-day pass. A family can easily spend $1000 or more. Certainly, people are willing to spend that amount for a top concert ticket, which is why scalpers are in business, but this is not how most people buy their tickets.
Consumer value is one way to see it. From this viewpoint, a major themepark can look quite favourable for many. Costs another. We would expect to see pricing according to costs in a competitive market right? Oh forgot, we are talking about theme parks. Btw, CBS theme park revenue*tea numbers~104 Dollar per visitor (includes city walk and some franchise reveneue from the oversea parks)
If one sits down and starts thinking about *every* recreational opportunity afforded to them, and then looks to see where Disney World/Universal/Sea World ranks on that scale as far as cost for activity goes, its pretty far over in the "expensive scale". We're talking probably the 10th percentile here. Yeah, its cheaper then hiring a sherpa and climbing Everest or buying a ticket at the 50 yard line of the Super Bowl. But you can't just compare it to the far end of the spectrum and then tout its comparative "value". There's more to leisure than amusement parks, the NFL, arena/stadium concerts, and large scale theater shows based on single city streets. There's literally *everything else in the world*.
This is a really interesting topic. Is a Major theme park vacation any different than other Major entertainment?
I live in Orlando and can give a comparison:
I want to through my 2 cents in. First people are talking about food. Has anyone ever bought a snack and a drink at sporting event or concert the costs of those are usually more than the same item at a Disney park I usually spend an extra $40 at a sporting event or concert. I spend less than that per a person for a day at Disney. Next parking I have not been to a sporting event or a concert where I parked for free it was usually from 10 to 20 dollars. When I stay at Disney there is no parking fee. Room rates are quite comparable to any other hotel I have stayed at. As for Broadway shows most people attending Broadway as a trip do not go for a day the go at least overnight. I know a lot of people myself included that go to NYC and catch a show. I live in the same state and it is still hours away so I need to stay the night. Train tickets are around 75 and a decent hotel is well over 150 for a night usually approaching the 200 or more amount for a room in midtown Manhattan. Cost comparison wise once I add up everything Disney comes out at a bought the same or less.
To the anon above: If you want to compare it to other theme parks, OK. That's fine. Where you're going to run into problems is comparing it to the *entire* range of leisure. Picking and choosing major league sports or particular production shows as comparison points is fine if you're intending to do nothing more than validate the price point of a major theme park. That's another way of saying it's really not about being honest. The number of people making the decision between attending a Thursday evening MLB game and going for a week trip to Disney World are nonexistent. At that point, you might as well compare Disney World to anything. The number of free or absurdly cheap entertainment options in New York, should we pick that, is long. LONG.
Great Article! As one who loves Disney and all that she has to offer here's my 2 cents. We live right outside of Boston and all that this area has to offer. My 3 kids will moan at the idea of visiting another museum, zoo or aquarium for not only have they been with us numerous times but on field trips with school. Admission to Gillette Stadium for a concert for 4 of us with decent seats was over $500 as was the last Red Sox game we attended. That doesn't include the parking fees, food or souvenirs. As far as going to the Cape (Cod) we gave up on that shortly after we were married. The bumper to bumper traffic just to get there and travel around is awful. Not to mention what to do on rainy days. So we started to rent a house up on the southern coast of Maine. Again dealing with traffic to get there and around town. The cost for a decent house for all of us ( grand parents makes 7 of us) was with security deposit $1500, this is not beach front. This doesn't include food shopping , eating out, or paying for beach parking (which if I remember correctly was $15 ). While there I'm still cooking, cleaning up and finding things to do on rainy days, board and video games only go so far. It was actually while at this house that I first saw a flyer on a Disney deal back in 2003 and haven't look back since.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.