You can act as surprised, hurt, ambushed, and dismayed as you want; but you always knew it was inevitably coming, and here it is: Disney’s next price hike. At both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, the next rise in daily tickets and annual passes has landed and the cries of fans will do little to slow the gradual price increase that’s been a staple of Disney Parks for 60 years.
First, we'll explore the truth behind Disney admission prices: where it started, and what it really meant. Then, on page two, we'll talk about why Disney's ticket price is now - in some cases - more than $100 for a single day. Is it right? Wrong? True? Read on...
Price For A Day: $1.00 + $2.25 = $3.25With Inflation: $29.00
If you can imagine, Disneyland was one of the first amusement parks ever to even charge an entry fee. Prior, most were boardwalk-style amusement piers or grown-up trolley parks with no single main entrance that were free to enter with visitors purchasing tickets for each ride. Disneyland changed all that: one entrance with admission gates blocking it. As much as it might not match our kind, grandfather-like image of the man, Walt knew that an entry fee was necessary to keep out troublemakers and keep Disneyland from becoming free babysitting like many local parks were (and some still are...).
Disneyland combined both systems, charging $1.00 for entry then selling ticket booklets for $2.25. Those ticket booklets contained eight ride tickets (A-, B- and C-tickets, with C-tickets necessary for the most impressive attractions, like Jungle Cruise). Additional tickets could be purchased a la carte for 10 - 35 cents each based on their letter (that's about $1 - $3 today).
With inflation, the price of admission and eight ride tickets would be about $29.00. Remember that this was before the introduction of the “E-ticket” headlining ride, and even before the D-ticket. So admission and eight paid attractions. So if you wanted to ride Jungle Cruise again, you'd pay the modern equivalent of $3 for another C-ticket.
Price For A Day: $1.25 + $3.35 = $4.60With Inflation: $38.00
Just three years later, general admission rose for the first time. However, the price of a ticket book (now with 10 tickets instead of 8, and including the new D-tickets) rose as well, and in today’s terms, it cost $38.00 to get into Disneyland for one day to ride 10 attractions. Remember, too, that those attractions were limited by ticket type (only one or two D-tickets in each booklet) and that additional tickets could cost $3.50 per ride.
By the way, attractions added just in 1958 included Alice in Wonderland, the Grand Canyon Diorama on the Disneyland Railroad, Midget Autopia, and the Sailing Ship Columbia. The previous year had seen the Frontierland Shooting Gallery, House of the Future, Motor Boat Cruise, and Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough. So the price rose, but probably deservedly so.
Price For A Day: $1.25 + $3.55 = $4.75With Inflation: $39.00
1959 saw the introduction of the “E-ticket” with the opening of Submarine Voyage, Matterhorn Bobsleds, and the Monorail. The new E-ticket designation signified a headlining attraction. The term is still used today to advertise a ride that's the best of the best.
The price to spend a day at Disneyland in today’s terms was up one dollar to $39.00, but recall that the ticket book contained 10 tickets, with only one or two E-tickets. As in the past, an extra ticket would cost more money. If you wanted to experience the three new E-ticket attractions, you'd pay more than advertised.
Price For A Day: $15.00With Inflation: $37.00
In 1982 - 23 years later - Disney dropped the ticket book system and replaced it with a pay-one-price admission that included almost all attractions. The cost was $15.00 at the time - $37.00 in today’s money.
If it appears that the price of admission didn’t jump much in 20 years, you’d be right! A day at a Disney Park in 1982 cost about the same as a day in 1959 when inflation is considered. So while the people of 1982 would no doubt balk at $5 admission from 20 years earlier compared to their $15, they really weren't paying any more in terms of spending power thanks to inflation.
Price For A Day: $23.50With Inflation: $45.00
Now we’re getting somewhere. In 1989, Disneyland opened Splash Mountain, and a day at the park would cost $45.00 in terms of today’s buying power. Here, ticket price rose pretty directly with inflation. $8 more in terms of the 1980s value and their 2015 equivalents.
Price For A Day: $33.00With Inflation: $52.00
Disneyland opened the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye in 1995. The wild attraction is appropriately billed as the biggest, loudest, most intense E-ticket Disneyland has ever built. To experience it, a day at the park would cost the equivalent of $52.00 today.
The difference between $1.00 and $33 may sound like a lot. But factoring 2015 inflation into the 1955 price and the 1995 price, 40 years saw only a $23 increase in spending a day at Disneyland (from $29 to $52). And between 1955 and 1995, the park had certainly grown by leaps and bounds. Plus, 1995’s cost included all rides and attractions rather than the much more limiting ticket books of 1955.
Price For A Day: $53.00With Inflation: $64.00
Just in time for the park's 50th anniversary and the international celebration it ignited, the price of a single day at Disneyland or Disney's California Adventure cost $53, or $64 in today's money. Here's another important place where inflation matters... Comparing 2005 to 1995, the admission price seems to have jumped $20. But in terms of today's money and spending power, it really only cost about $10 more to get into either park for a single day.
And for what it's worth, this (relatively) low price might've gotten you into Disney's California Adventure, but this was the version of the park that did not yet have Buena Vista Street, Cars Land, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, World of Color, Toy Story Midway Mania, or even Monsters Inc. Mike and Sully to the Rescue. Certainly not the park we know today, which is probably worth a higher admission price...
Price For A Day: $63.00With Inflation: $73.00
Just one year later, the price jumped significantly. The $10 jump in price brought a day at Disneyland to $73 in today's money. $10 more for a single day is probably the largest jump at one time that we've seen, and neither park introduced a new attraction. It's not even as though they were recouping from a significant prior expense - the most recent notable addition was 2004's Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's California Adventure. Still, the price jump signaled the start of a rapid incline. The price for a day at Disneyland stayed mostly level through the 1980s, boosted a bit in the 90s, and now would climb steeply through the present.
Speaking of which, let's talk about today:
Price For A Day: $99.00
A single day at Disneyland Park today will cost you $99.00. Now hold on tight, because this is where we crunch the numbers.
During Disneyland's first 40 years - from 1955 to 1995 - the price, in terms of today's spending power, almost doubled. From $29 (1955) to $52 (1995). While that jump is significant, those first 40 years also saw the introduction of... well... every single Disneyland attraction save for the few rare opening day originals, like Jungle Cruise and the Fantasyland dark rides.
During the next 20 years - from 1995 to 2015 - the price almost doubled again. From $52 (1995) to almost $100 (2015). And in those 20 years, you can't count on one hand the number of E-tickets added to Disneyland Park... because zero were added. The last E-ticket constructed at Disneyland was 1995's Indiana Jones Adventure. Fans are quick to point out that Disneyland has remained untouched as its admission price has literally doubled with inflation.
And don’t misunderstand: certainly Disneyland has been refreshed and refurbished and cared for in the last twenty years with new attractions, restaurants, shows, details, and characters. But still. Has the value of a day at Disneyland doubled in the last twenty years with the addition of no E-ticket attractions?
Why? How has this happened? How did ticket prices get so out of hand? Keep reading…