Vote of the Week: Should theme parks program hard-ticket events?
Written by Robert Niles
What do you think about hard-ticket parties — those events theme parks hold after their regular operating hours for which you need to buy an extra ticket to attend? Top parks have been doing this for years, with Universal's Halloween Horror Nights being perhaps the largest and most lucrative example. Disney has its Halloween and Christmas parties, and now this year, a "Villains Unleashed" event, too.Tweet
In fact, Disney's been doing hard-ticket events for nearly 50 years, starting with special "date night" events at Disneyland, followed by the ever-popular Grad Nights. Theme parks then added music events targeted at church youth groups, but hard ticket events really took off when Walt Disney World converted its cast member Christmas parties to public events requiring a separate admission.
Obviously, parks see consumer demand for these events, otherwise they would not program so many of them. But you don't hard to look too hard to find posts online from people who really don't like these upcharge events. Some of the opponents are annual passholders, who don't like being restricted from the parks during popular events. Others are day visitors who don't like having to buy two tickets to visit a park on one day from open to close.
But other theme park visitors love these events, and find the value in them. Play the process right, and hard ticket events provide a way to enjoy a day at the park for less than the cost of a typical one-day ticket. The best events also provide unique experiences that make them worth the extra cost, even if you've already bought a regular ticket to visit the same park on the same day.
(Still, we recommend avoiding the use of regular admission to visit a park on a day when it's holding a hard-ticket event, due to the park closing early to accommodate the special event in the evening. If you want to go to the event, save your regular park admission for another day to get the most value from it. If you don't care about the event, and if you are visiting a multi-park resort, visit one of the other parks in the resort that day instead to avoid the event crowds and get a full day from your ticket.)
Hard tickets might be best for locals who don't have annual passes, as they often allow up to eight hours or more in the park during more convenient after-work or after-school hours, with special events and features, at a price often lower than a regular one-day ticket. As a parent of teenagers, I especially appreciate Disney's Halloween event, for example, as it allows kids who are growing too old to feel comfortable trick-or-treating in the neighborhood to continue to enjoy that pastime. Heck, I can still get away with trick-or-treating at Disneyland! And that's worth an extra charge, for me.
What do you think? It's vote of the week time.
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