How do theme park ticket prices compare with other out-of-home entertainment?

June 18, 2013, 8:19 PM · 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.

Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Broadway show
The cost of a ticket to last year's Tony Award-winner for Best Musical, "Once": $142

Music concert
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

NFL game
The average cost of a ticket to see the Dallas Cowboys, who led the NFL in attendance last year: $110.70

Baseball game
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?

Replies (29)

June 18, 2013 at 9:06 PM · While it is a good comparision, I have gone to cheaper sporting events and skiiing than what was stated.

Still, the point stands

June 18, 2013 at 10:32 PM · Very good article, Robert. Amusement parks are expensive, but in a relative sense the price to attend one is similar to many family activities.
Here in Dubai, UAE you can see a movie at the Platinum Movie experience at the Dubai Mall which is $43 per ticket. That's for 90 or so minutes of entertainment.
My family and I love amusement parks and put them very high on our list of priorities. And you can not put a price on all the good memories we have created together on our family trips to Disney, Universal, and Cedar Point.
June 18, 2013 at 11:18 PM · 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.

Having said that.... it basically boils down to what people are willing to pay.

June 18, 2013 at 11:40 PM · 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.
June 19, 2013 at 1:16 AM · 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.
June 19, 2013 at 3:02 AM · 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'.

June 19, 2013 at 7:34 AM · 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.
June 19, 2013 at 7:41 AM · 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!).

For the vendor/business setting the prices, supply and demand is a factor: hit Broadway shows and Madonna concerts have limited availability and routinely sell out, any particular NFL game or sporting event will only happen once!, and Vail lift tickets are only available in winter… etc. Limited supply = higher prices. Disney World operates every single day nearly around the clock and must bring people in constantly. They have nearly unlimited supply! They’ve increased frequency of their limited-ticket events (Halloween parties, runDisney events) which DO sell out and prices are going way up on those. And Disney hotels are priced high but again, rooms on-site are more limited in supply than a theme park ticket.

The target audience is also a factor when setting prices. The family of 4 with two little kids (likely a main demographic of Disney) probably never planned on going to a Madonna concert and so the cost comparison is not relevant to them when they make their entertainment decisions. (Again, there are other demographics in play, but families are obviously a Disney target.)

Anyway, the theme parks will continue to push prices as much as possible, I’m sure! And I definitely see Disney World as a value, but I’m a Disney fan! Plenty of my friends and co-workers do not see a trip to Disney as an overall value (given the travel, tickets, food, their expected experience of having to deal with crowds, the amount of pre-planning that seems to be required these days, etc.) and don’t go.

Thought-provoking article - thanks!!

June 19, 2013 at 7:50 AM · 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.
Ed Hutton
June 19, 2013 at 8:18 AM · 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.
June 19, 2013 at 8:28 AM · 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.

Anyway, I agree, using just the day admission cost, theme parks are generally the same as other major forms of entertainment.

June 19, 2013 at 8:43 AM · 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.
June 19, 2013 at 8:46 AM · 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!
And there are supporting races too so there is a litle bang for your buck.
At Silverstone there are concerts etc after the race which are all included in the price. Hoping to go to the New Jersey race (if confirmed) next year.
June 19, 2013 at 8:55 AM · 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.

June 19, 2013 at 8:57 AM · I really should try to go to COTA in Austin some time. But I really, really want to see a race at Spa someday.
June 19, 2013 at 9:20 AM · THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!
I am SO glad that you wrote this. People are always complaining about the prices of theme parks for admission and for food inside the parks. BUT they RARELY compare like for like. PLUS, on the PER HOUR comparion, theme parks would win HANDS DOWN over most entertainment options.
OF COURSE food inside a theme park is more expensive than your local McDonalds, BUT it's the same or cheaper than at other like destinations (e.g. New York, Hawaii, Vegas, any movie theatre, etc)
June 19, 2013 at 9:41 AM · 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.)
June 19, 2013 at 10:25 AM · Yea, Madonna's MDNA Tour was worth every penny.
June 19, 2013 at 11:39 AM · 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.
June 19, 2013 at 2:19 PM · 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.
June 20, 2013 at 1:37 AM · 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.
Robert - Spa is The One. Eau Rouge...its on the list.

To the anon poster - I paid WAY more than $138 for MDNA and it was actually worth 10 times what I paid - no need to drag things down. Different strokes for different folks.

I thought about this subject even more yesterday, when I will happily spend $100 (equivalent £70) to see a West End show, say 2 hours long, it really puts into perspective paying basically the same for a one day at a Florida park, for a full day's immersive entertainment.
(Although I do love a theatre deal).
From the view of - we're from the UK, we've paid to go to Florida so we're going to pay whatever the cost is to get into the parks anyway, but now I will consider it with fresh eyes.
Did get a very good deal for Alton Towers in a few weeks, so I'm sure I'll be back with an opinion on The Smiler.

June 20, 2013 at 8:33 AM · 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.

Disney's cost is 2 to 4 times more expensive than other theme parks. This is apparent with heavy weights like Universal and Sea World when multi-day passes are offered.

Despite this, Disney does offer many things that other theme parks don't have. This means the prices are worth it in many situations. Nonetheless, a family does have alternatives.

June 20, 2013 at 3:15 PM · 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)

Speaking from a European perspective (which i know is not quite transferable), the entertainment options have a different class bias. Children are more born into poorer families, while skiing, concerts and musicals skew more and more upper class. So theres this, plus the children dont earn money, but usually come along and spend at theme parks, which is less true for the other options.

June 20, 2013 at 6:57 PM · 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*.
June 20, 2013 at 10:36 PM · This is a really interesting topic. Is a Major theme park vacation any different than other Major entertainment?

Let's see ...Major theme park admission lasts all day...12 plus hours...
Pro Football Game with decent lower level seats would be $120 plus each, per game....which lasts 3 hours.
Pro Baseball game with great seats...$100 plus...lasts 2 hours.
Pro Basketball game with lower level seats...$100 & lasts 2 hours.
Concert with a top Act...easily $100 and lasts 2 hours.

All of these are exciting, but only one do you have some control of how your experience goes. Even the concert is chancy. Most take the chance of walking away a loser. In a Major theme park, you are almost guaranteed a great experience unless you don't want it. Those that fret over the cost of the hotels, just stay home and pay for all the sports games in the season and add them up. We won't miss you not crowding our theme parks.

June 22, 2013 at 4:05 AM · I live in Orlando and can give a comparison:

My wife and I recently attended a RUSH concert at Amway Arena. It cost $300 for two floor seats and $20 for parking for a 2:15 min show.

The point I wish to make regarding the value of a $100 theme park ticket is it is for the whole day while a sporting event or a concert is just for a few hours.

Also, lets face it: When you enter a Disney park or USF you are being taken from one world and immersed in another. They have made incredible investments to deliver what the public wants and also to keep it fresh. You can't just give it away.

June 22, 2013 at 2:52 PM · 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.
Also the comparison should be for an extended vacation. I have compared the prices of going to different places and when all is said and done Disney still comes out a little less for the most part. I don't know too many people that buy one day tickets at the gate. I know some do but for the most part people plan their trip and buy tickets and hotels ahead of time.
Just some thoughts from a person that considers getting what I pay for sometimes you get what you pay for. A local park is not immersive like Disney and the entertainment other than the rides are usually lacking. Think of a Disney trip like this:
You get over the top rides
You get a multitude of Broadway caliber shows to see
You get some of the best museum exibits to veiw and interact with (Hall of Presidents, The American Pavillion, the Disney Story etc.)
You get a world class zoo/animal safari
You get educational items as well as pure entertainment
You can introduce yourself to other cultures and traditions
I have seen top name performers do a show as well there
The list goes on.
So what if you did any number of these things in one day lets see what a weekend would cost.
Six Flags Ticket:53.99 (Great Escape)
Parking 20
Broadway show at local off Broadway theater-50
Parking 5
That is doable in one day: 128.99
Now lets go to
the zoo: 14
Parking 5
Museum- 10
Concert at night- 75
Parking 20
Lets see that is 99
Food lets be conservative and say 80 for the weekend.
Oh wait the amusement park and theater are 6 hours away in a high tourist area so I will need a room at night. I do not stay at flea traps so looking at 175 for the night.
So what is the grand total for the weekend 507.99
Ok Disney two days with park hopper and staying at the at the All-Star Movies July 4 2013 425.67 for one person with 80 for food 505.67.
So very comparable and most of my pricing is on the low side. This is how you have to break it down to really see the value you receive.
June 23, 2013 at 12:14 PM · 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.
June 24, 2013 at 7:31 AM · 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.

To compare amusement parks there is one 35minutes my driveway to park entrance that we go to every year. It opens at 10am and closes average 10pm. They have water rides and have over the years added some pretty good thrill rides. The kids that do the entertainment shows are pretty good and there are many food choices. Last meal at a favorite place: burgers, fries and coke $9. One night a week during the summer there are fireworks. The cost to get in non discounted is $35.

Now let me compare the above to our Disney trips that we take every other year for 2weeks. First let's get 2 things off the comparison table. 1. Airfare, we are lucky that we have both been at our jobs long enough that we have vacation time in our banks that has built up that our employers allow us to cash in, so airfare is covered. 2. We own at DVC which is paid for (thanks to the grandparents) and even with dues is still cheaper than the cost of a week's vacation rental above. So when at Disney we buy the 10 day Magic Your Way Park Hopper with Water Park add on for (according to All Ears) is $450. Now divide that by 12 (we usually have 2 days with no parks to just do others things) and I get $37. 50 /day. If I want to be really good and take off the Park Hopper it comes down to $35.33/day. I think I'll pay $2.50 extra for ALL that Disney as to offer. Oh, buy the way we have visited Universal as well and let me just say it is like comparing apples to watermelon!

I know this is long but in the end I think it's really about how your family likes to vacation. For those of us who love theme parks there is no comparison to what one can get/do with all that Disney has to offer. For those of you who dislike Disney... GREAT, that's one less person ahead of me at Tower of Terror! :) Hope you all have a great summer!

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