Disneyland ticket prices go up as much as 8%, with parking rising 20%

ANAHEIM, CA - May 03: Visitors pass through Sleepy Beauty Castle at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA, as visitors return to the park with covid-safety restrictions in place, including the park only being at 25% capacity, Monday, May 3, 2021. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Visitors pass through Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA, soon after a 13-month closure due to the pandemic. Disneyland and California Adventure Park are raising daily prices up to 8% starting Oct. 25, 2021. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Disneyland and neighboring California Adventure Park raised most daily ticket prices Monday and are adopting an even higher price to visit on the most popular days of the year, such as Christmas and New Year's Eve.

Daily ticket prices are jumping 3% to 8%, with standard daily parking rates going up by 20%. The parks last raised ticket prices by as much as 5% in February of 2020 — shortly before the parks closed for 13 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To manage crowds, the park adopted a five-tiered pricing scheme in 2016 that charges more for days when demand is highest and less on slow days. The price for lowest demand days — such as Tuesdays and Wednesdays in late January — remains unchanged at $104. But prices have increased for the four other tiers, and the resort added a highest-price sixth tier, $164 for a one-day visit to a single park on the highest demand days of the year, including select weekends, holidays and spring break.

The previous highest one-day, one-park ticket was $154.

The prices are the same for visiting Disneyland and neighboring Disney California Adventure Park. The prices for tickets that let you visit two parks in one day — Park Hopper — are increasing by as much as 7%. The inflation rate in the U.S. was 5.4% for the 12 months that ended in September.

The price increases come despite several popular attractions at the parks remaining shut since the parks reopened in April from the pandemic closure, a complaint that theme park fans have voiced often on social media. The nightly water-and-light displays such as Fantasmic and World of Color and most daily costumed parades have yet to return to the parks.

Higher costs may turn away some Disney fans upset that they are being charged more for fewer attractions, but the price hike is likely to generate more revenue overall for Walt Disney Co. even with a slight drop in attendance, said Martin Lewison, a business administration professor and theme park expert at Farmingdale State College in New York.

"I think many guests will find this a very bitter pill at this point in time," he said. "But it wouldn't be the end of the world for the company if attendance dipped a little bit."

Disneyland representatives noted that California Adventure Park added a six-acre Marvel superhero-themed land — called Avengers Campus — in June and the resort plans to launch several holiday attractions, including a new Christmas-themed parade.

Since reopening, Disney has launched a handful of new efforts to address the theme park's biggest headaches — long ride queues and crowded parks.

In August, Disney overhauled its 37-year-old annual pass program, replacing it with a new Magic Key program that requires visitors to make reservations before going to the theme parks, while continuing to block out access on the busiest days. By requiring reservations, the new program enables Disney park operators to better manage crowds on a day-to-day basis.

The Magic Key passes are generally priced lower than the previous annual passes and include four options, ranging in price from $399 per year for Southern California residents to $1,399 for the option that has no blocked-out days and the greatest flexibility for making reservations.

Longtime annual pass holders have complained about the Magic Key program, saying the reservation system makes it too difficult to visit the parks on high-demand days, even for those with the most expensive pass. The resort's reservation calendar shows that no reservations are available for nearly every weekend over the next two months, but that can change as Disney has occasionally opened up reservations.

A few weeks after the Magic Key program was launched, Disney adopted a new mobile app that allows parkgoers willing to pay extra to skip the wait for the most popular attractions.

The new app — known as the Disney Genie — replaced two older systems at Disneyland — the free FastPass and the MaxPass, which cost $20 per day — that let parkgoers reserve a time slot for an attraction to avoid the traditional queues and instead zip into an expedited Fastpass Lane.

Disney Genie is a free app that recommends a visit itinerary based on the attractions, shows and eateries chosen by users at the start of the day. Disney Genie+ is a similar app that costs $20 per day at Disneyland and can be used to make reservations to get on a ride at a specific time, skipping the traditional queues and giving access instead to a new Lightning Lane.

Disneyland will operate more than 15 attractions with Lightning Lanes, and the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida will include more than 40 attractions with Lightning Lanes. Users can make only one reservation at a time.

But to skip the lines on the most popular attractions, such as as Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure and Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland, park visitors will have to pay a separate fee that will vary based on the date, the attraction and the park. The exact price won't be announced for several weeks, Disney representatives say.

During a recent earnings report, Bob Chapek, Disney's chief executive, said reservations for the company's domestic theme parks remain strong.

"We've implemented a reservation system that's going to enable us to spread our demand, increase our yield, and improve our guest experience at the same time," he said.

For the record:
9:47 a.m. Oct. 25, 2021: An earlier version of this story said nightly firework displays at the Disneyland Resort had not returned. The fireworks shows relaunched in July. Also, the cutline in the primary photo erroneously identified Sleeping Beauty Castle as Sleepy Beauty Castle.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.