So what happened? In short, it seems that Santa brought the local theme parks exactly what they wanted.
Disneyland changed its annual pass system to eliminate the Premium no-blockout level, replacing it with a choice of two new Signature-level passes: A no-blockout Signature Plus that cost hundreds of dollars more than the old Premium pass, or a base-level Signature that cost a few bucks more than the Premium but that blocked out the two weeks around Christmas and New Year's Day. It took a full year for the old Premium passes to cycle out, and most of the Premium passholders I know (including me!) switched to the Signature, meaning we likely would be staying away from the parks during the busiest week of the year.
In addition, the holidays would be priced at peak levels under Disneyland's and Universal's new one-day ticket pricing plans, further discouraging visits by people who had the option or inclination to come another day. Disneyland begins its holiday festivities in early November, allowing all levels of passholders as well as day guests plenty of time to experience the season at the parks before the big holiday crush.
The result? The Disneyland Resort didn't have to close its gates to new admissions at any time during Christmas week, for the first time in several years. While the parks remained busy, they never got so packed that Disney had to stop people from coming in.
Where did those other past Disneyland visitors go? It seems that many of them found their way to Knott's Berry Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood, which saw wall-to-wall crowds for most of the week. (Knott's is closed on Christmas day.)
At Universal, the first Christmas season for Hollywood's Wizarding World of Harry Potter helped make the park an irresistible draw for many local fans. The park started setting one-day attendance records during the holiday week, leading up an it's all-time one-day attendance record on Monday, Jan. 2, when the park welcomed more than 40,000 guests and actually had to close the gates to new visitors. (FWIW, the Disneyland theme parks have higher capacities than USH, in case you are looking to make apples-to-apples comparisons.)
"The Epic Transformation of our property has had a remarkable impact on Universal Studios Hollywood which was evident by our record-breaking attendance over the holidays," Karen Irwin, the new President & COO of Universal Studios Hollywood, said in a statement. "We're thrilled that so many guests from all over the world had a chance to experience the magic of Hollywood that we bring to life at The Entertainment Capital of L.A."
So Disneyland got to fill its parks without turning people away while offering a better experience than in years past for the people who did visit, and Universal finally got all the way up to hit its max.
Just like they wanted.Tweet
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