It's a fair question, especially from parents who are looking for the best deals they can find on a vacation. Ten- and 11-year-olds are by no means adults, but they're charged like ones at many theme parks' front gates. With all the available discounts, perks, and incentives that parks sometimes make available in an attempt to lure families to book a trip, why not extend the simplest discount of all — the child's price for admission?
Ultimately, theme parks do what they want in setting their admission prices, and the only we vote we get on that decision is whether to buy the tickets or not. Disney used to apply its child discounts to any kids who hadn't hit their teens yet, but years ago started limiting the discounts to children under age 10, instead. (Children under age three get in free at almost all major theme parks.)
So how did age 10 become the magic moment when a child becomes an adult in the eyes of those who run the big theme parks? Perhaps the easiest way to understand this is to stop thinking about child prices as an age-based discount and to start seeing them as a height-based one, instead.
With height restrictions on most popular thrill rides, young children simply can't enjoy all that most major theme parks have to offer — they're too short to ride these attractions. That's the strongest logical case for parks to discount child admissions. Since kids are only getting part of the park, they should pay only part of the price to get in.
Parents who visit a lot of theme parks mark their children's growth in part by when they grow tall enough to get on certain rides. A few, smaller thrill rides will have height restrictions of 36-38 inches, which many three-year-olds can make. But the big milestones, at least at the Disney theme parks, is the 40-inch height restriction, which covers many popular attractions, including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, and Space Mountain (at Disneyland). Most kids pass that one around age four.
From there, it's a yearly progression up the height chart, as children become eligible to go on more and more rides in the park. Generally, the tallest common height restriction is 54 inches, which covers many of the biggest, fastest and wildest roller coasters. Once you pass the 54-inch mark, you're pretty much go to go ride anything in most major parks.
And when do kids hit that 54 inch mark, on average? Well, that's between ages nine and 10, according to average height/weight charts. So if you're working for a theme park and trying to decide at what point to cut off the kids' admission discount, doing that age 10 makes some sense. And adopting ages 3-9 as the ages for children's prices as an industry standard makes some sense, too, as parents learn what to expect from park to park, regardless of the specific line-up of rides and restrictions at any one park.
Of course, height isn't the only consideration in play here. And parks don't offer discounts to people who can't go on certain thrill rides for other reasons, including pregnancy, back and heart conditions, etc. But if you wanted to make an argument for where the "you're grown up now" cut-off should be within the world of theme parks, age 10 is a pretty good place to make that cut, based how much more the average child that age can do in most parks than they could before they hit that age.
So there's my somewhat simplistic answer for why theme parks start charging full admission to children at age 10.Tweet
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