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Vote of the Week: Should theme parks program hard-ticket events?

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Published: June 6, 2014 at 9:42 AM

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.

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.

Mickey's Halloween Party

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.


Please tell us in the comments about your favorite, or least-favorite, hard-ticket events. And, as always, thank you for being part of the Theme Park Insider community!

Readers' Opinions

From Anon Mouse on June 6, 2014 at 10:08 AM
I love them. In general, they are cheaper than the one day admission ticket. You get more entertainment and some freebies like the Halloween events. I agree with you that you shouldn't go to the same park that hosted the event. Either you pay twice for the full day or you lose some hours. This might not be an issue if you have an Annual Pass. You just go to the other park. Of course, some complain about the hard ticket event, but I'm not so concerned.
From James Trexen on June 6, 2014 at 10:29 AM
I voted for the regular hour extension. The idea of paying full price for a ticket makes me want to spend a full day in the park and I'd be upset if I have to drop another $60+ just so I could enjoy the night events. Either extend the hours without an upcharge or offer a reduced regular admission price.
From Mark Fairleigh on June 6, 2014 at 10:37 AM
Would I want to have the event be a part of a regular park day? Of course! Always love extras! But I have no problem paying a separate admission to attend an event. HHN for example is a fantastic event year in year out and well worth the extra money.

From Peter Deschenes on June 6, 2014 at 10:50 AM
Good question. We've attended a Halloween and Christmas event and enjoyed ourselves. Generally, the crowd levels are lower and we're able to enjoy an extended evening in the MK. The special parades alone are worth the admission. We go to SeaWorld or Universal during the day of the WDW "hard-ticket" event and save ourselves one day of regular admission, as Bob noted in his article.
From 90.198.123.104 on June 6, 2014 at 1:36 PM
I attended a Mickey halloween party at WDW last year with my husband. We were staying on site and had length of stay passes(visiting from UK) but didn't mind paying the extra fee. We had an absolute blast, dressing up, getting on all the rides with minimal queueing and high on sugar. Would we do it again? Hell yes!!
From James Rao on June 6, 2014 at 6:31 PM
The one hard ticket event I went to was at Disneyland for Halloween. I had a great time, and like others have said, it was a less expensive way to extend my vacation for one more day.
From Gabriel Schroll on June 6, 2014 at 7:37 PM
Love hard ticket events. The park is a lot less crowded, and because it's for a specific event (usually including a parade or two), most of the people there are on the sidelines watching the floats, while I'm able to run around and get on all the rides with hardly any line to speak of.

Not to mention, there aren't that many hard ticket events, and I'm still only going to go to one or two per year. I've been to both the Halloween and Christmas events at WDW and enjoyed the parades and music and the spectacle of it all.

From 66.102.195.92 on June 6, 2014 at 10:30 PM
Love the hard tickets events, our favorite was the New Year's Eve Party at Disneyland. It was great with limited attendance and since it was my Dad's birthday it was the only time he would go to Disneyland. We were disappointed when they extended the park hours ending that hard ticket event. We went once on New Years Eve after the park hours were extended and it was crowded, long lines and with the "ball drop" done in front of the castle very difficult to get from one side of the park to the other. We spent a lot of time riding the train to get around. We want to go the Halloween party, probably this year.
From Steve Feitl on June 7, 2014 at 12:00 AM
So I can sleep in on my vacation, enjoy the pool in the early afternoon, pay less than regular admission, face smaller crowds and experience unique entertainment... What was the question again?

Seriously, hard-ticket parties have been perfect for our touring tendencies and tremendous fun to boot. I suppose mileage may vary if you keep early hours or want to be in a park all day.

From robert morris on June 9, 2014 at 9:56 AM
Question:

How do Hard Ticket Events effect the TEACOM report...while a one off night for Disney Villains is a drop in the bucket for DHS. 20 plus nights at USF with upwards of 500k especially with Diagon Alley opening is huge impact on that parks numbers.

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