Disneyland, the happiest, most crowded, most fleecing park on Earth

Disneyland, the happiest, most crowded, most fleecing park on Earth
The one-day admission price to Disneyland increased to $96 this week, ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. (Los Angeles Times)

They don't call Disneyland the Magic Kingdom for nothing: It takes a lot of hocus pocus to make an expansive outdoor space sicken people with claustrophobia.

Even more magical is that people continue to show up in record numbers, even as they're being asked to pay ever more for the experience.


Truth be told, I was never much fond of Disneyland, even as a kid growing up Southern California. Perhaps that stems from an early childhood trauma, having once been ordered by a frugal family member to lie about my age and gain free admission (2-year-olds didn't require paid tickets, but I was a relatively robust 5-year-old). The ruse worked, so now I understand orders to produce birth certificates when my wife and I try to score freebies for our toddlers.

I mention this because even then, when the price of admission was modest compared to today's $96, there was a sense that this well-to-do corporation was asking too much from parents who just wanted to give their kids a day of fantasy. Today, Disneyland doesn't have to worry about that sentiment; in fact, as reported by The Times' Hugo Martin, experts say Walt Disney Co. will probably have to continue raising prices to control crowds.


That's right: Disney isn't just watching out for its bottom line in raising prices, it's watching out for us. We're all over Disney's barrel.

Which is fine with me, since I'm OK with simply not showing up. But whereas Disney didn't have to price me out of its parks, its latest fee increase may have provided the final straw for parents like my wife, who want to pass on their own Magic Kingdom experiences to their children but aren't willing to budget a whole paycheck doing it.

Because, let's face it, a trip to Disneyland nowadays -- with stifling crowds and all -- is more about sentimentality and sating anticipation than the actual experience. I like to compare a day at Disneyland to a round of golf: Both are pricey, time-demanding commitments that feed off our hope for memorable euphoria but leave us wandering around, waiting for hours and exhausted. (But at least with golf, you can drink.) We return because we think the experience will be better than the last.

As for entertaining the young ones, my wife and I already settle for less-pricey options. The Natural History Museum in Exposition Park, for example, charges a nominal fee for my 2-year-olds and nothing at all for my wife, who's a teacher. The adjacent California Science Center lets us browse its collection for free and asks only $2 apiece to see the space shuttle Endeavour.


Sure, these places lack costumed "cast members," but the helpful docents and even the occasional stray paleontologist at the Natural History Museum do a fine job occupying the kids. I'd even wager that my boys prefer the actual spaceship parked next to L.A. Memorial Coliseum over the plastic one that twirls over Tomorrowland.

But that's just us.

Here's what some readers have to say.

Roman G. Nava of Chino Hills laments the passing of a Southern California tradition:

Disneyland's recent decision to raise admission prices another 4% and to eliminate the cheaper annual pass for Southern California residents is another example of a family tradition fading quickly into a distant memory.

As a lifetime resident of Southern California, I vividly recall those special trips to Disneyland during my childhood in the 1970s.  I remember when my father would have to purchase multiple booklets of tickets because they never had enough "E" passes to the really good rides.

Seven years ago, my wife and I became annual pass holders, only because I wanted my firstborn son to have the same memories that I had as a child. After two years, we realized that those memories could be replaced with a new tradition. Since the birth of our second child about four years ago, we have been season pass holders at Legoland.

Sorry Mickey, but the tickets are cheaper, the food is better and the lines are shorter.


Burbank resident Michael E. White lays out what parkgoers are paying for:

The ticket price to Disneyland is now nearly $100. For this and an additional $17 parking fee, patrons spend hours standing in endless lines in blasting summer heat, then spend usurious amounts on cheap food and plastic mementos. They stand in line to use the overcrowded bathrooms.

It's clear that Disney is as smart as Mickey and as greedy as Scrooge McDuck, and that customers are as dim as Goofy. The result of mass conditioning has far exceeded expectations.

Forget my minimum wage, they say; forget my debt; indeed, forget the unaffordable cost of living: Let's gather up the kids and go to Disneyland!

Bruce R. Feldman of Santa Monica laments the Disney-fication of his neighborhood:

Disneyland isn't the only place in Southern California overrun with tourists and out-of-area visitors. To understand what life is like for the residents of Santa Monica, just read the following paragraph from The Times, paying close attention to the substitutions in parentheses.

"The Happiest Place on Earth" (Santa Monica) has become one of the most crowded. Tourists and annual pass holders (everyone who comes here to work or have a good time) are flooding Disneyland (the pier and downtown Santa Monica) and California Adventure (the rest of the city) in large numbers, causing headaches for guests (residents) and park officials (Santa Monica police and other city staff). Waits for rides (movies, restaurants, you name it) often stretch over an hour, and visitors (residents) are having to park in remote structures, particularly on Sundays (and Saturdays, holidays and pretty much every day in the summer).

I could not have said it better.