Home Los Angeles News Theme parks are back and hoping to take advantage of renewed interest

Theme parks are back and hoping to take advantage of renewed interest

Theme parks are back and hoping to take advantage of renewed interest

As 2023 kicks off and pandemic concerns recede, America’s theme parks are back, with many of their classic rides and attractions reopening — as well as a number of new experiences.

Attendance at Magic Kingdom plunged nearly 67% in 2020 from the previous year, while Universal Studios dropped more than 62%, according to an industry report. Overall, the top 20 parks in North America which saw attendance drop an average 72.2% amid months of pandemic-related closures. 

While 2021 attendance was still well behind attendance in 2019 — a peak year for attendance, according to the report — North American parks more than doubled their attendance from the previous year, signaling a return to parks. And spending at chains’ parks across the nation climbed in 2022, according to companies’ quarterly disclosures, reported the Orange County Register

The bad news for visitors planning a 2023 Disney trip: Prices are up across the board, ranging from the admission price to food and merchandise, along with some new rules as to who can access the parks.

You’ll pay more this year for single-day tickets, multi-day tickets, and even annual pass renewals for Walt Disney World. And that’s in addition to the increase in tickets Disney instituted last February. 

Last year, the price for a one-day, one-park ticket was between $109 and $159, depending on demand. But now, Disney is playing with dynamic pricing — most folks know it as surge pricing — and that ticket cost will now also depend on the park you choose to visit. Three out of the four theme parks will be more expensive to visit, with Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios both seeing a more than 12% increase — and annual pass prices are going up about $100.

Disney visitors will get a break on parking, though. Effective just two days ago, Walt Disney World stopped charging guests for overnight parking and will offer complimentary parking to its hotel guests. 

Disney is also bringing back its fan-favorite nighttime spectacular “Happily Ever After” on April 3. Epcot Forever will also be back — for a third time — in April as well. And the TRON light cycle run will also open on April 4 in Orlando.

If Disney fans can wait until later this year, Epcot is undergoing a huge transformation

But as demand picks back up and Disney brings back some fan-favorite rides and attractions, it’s getting tougher to reserve spots or rides as well. You’ll need to access what’s known as the lightning lane system — Disney’s premium, more expensive service.

And whether you have an annual pass or plan to buy tickets, can’t visit the parks spontaneously anymore. You’ll need to make advance plans. 

Prices continue to climb for food and beverages at the theme parks. It’s the same captive audience philosophy that has guided their pricing for years, but in some cases, the prices are actually outpacing inflation. In fact, price increases have hit hundreds of food items across many Disney World restaurants. 

Universal is also ramping up with new rides and attractions to greet returning travelers. But Universal has decided to compete with Disney’s price increase with a very attractive offer, announced about a month after Disney announced its price increase for a single-day ticket.

If you spend four days at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure when you purchase a two-park, two-day ticket that allows you to visit one park per day or a park-to-park ticket you can get two days free — and you can add add Universal’s Volcano Bay for just $35 more.

And more theme park options will soon be on their way. Universal’s newest offering, Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood will be opening next month. And the company announced this week it is pursuing a theme park aimed at younger children — which it plans to build in Texas.

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