Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Some More Data on Ticket Prices

This week on the podcast we discussed Disney's announced increase in ticket prices, and a sample of the reaction to the increase.  In that sample, "Cat" lamented that his brother in-law took his family to Knotts Berry Farm "for half the price of Disney World and they had a much better time."

For the moment, let's leave aside the qualitative judgment of where a "better time" can be had.  The part that really gave me pause was the price.  Is Knotts Berry Farm (or other regional theme parks) really half the price of Disney?

Let's look at three such parks--for completeness sake--from three different parts of the country.  Around the corner from Disneyland in California, there's Knotts Berry Farm.  In the east, we will look at Six Flags Great Adventure (from my own old stomping ground of Central New Jersey).  Finally, I've included Cedar Point near Cleveland, Ohio.  All three are very respectable parks, so they will offer at least close to a reasonable comparison.

A one-day Disney World pass costs $89.00.  Meanwhile, gate admission at Knotts, Cedar Point, and Great Adventure cost $57.99, $51.99, and $61.99, respectively.  So there might be some savings, but NOT "half the price."

...But there's a catch.  Take a look at the nearby chart.  While all of these parks offer a Fast Pass equivalent, none of them give it away for free.  Prices for other parks' Fast Pass vary greatly.  The size of the group, time of year, and level of service (e.g., a real Fast Pass equivalent versus genuine front-of-the-line access) can all affect the price of the service.  The numbers on the chart reflect the cheapest possible "Fast Pass" option.  Suddenly, all the savings has evaporated!  

I am not suggesting that you should avoid these regional parks.  Heck, some of my fondest childhood memories include riding Batman: The Ride with my father after Easter dinners, or challenging my friends to Q-ZAR (think laser tag, but more 1990's).  The point is, theme parks cost a lot to build and maintain (and insure).  If it makes you squeamish to spend a few hundred dollars for a day with your family, there are plenty of other great things to do.  But seriously, stop complaining.

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