Winter always gets me thinking about going to theme parks in Southern California, even if I don't have visitors underfoot. The prospect of cooler temperatures and lighter crowds in February and March sends me looking for discounts on the high cost of tickets. I found that the Southern California CityPass -- with a flat rate for admission to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Universal Studios Hollywood and SeaWorld San Diego -- offers good savings, even when compared with incentives for SoCal residents.
The deal: The Southern California CityPass costs $279 for adults and $239 for children 3-9, including tax and fees. It's good for 14 days so visitors or locals have plenty of time to hit the parks. The CityPass gets you a three-day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Pass Bonus Ticket (three consecutive days to bounce between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure) and single-day admissions to SeaWorld and Universal Studios.
When: The Southern California CityPass is available at this price through the end of the year.
Tested: The savings stack up differently for visitors or locals. Here's what I found when I penciled out the comparative costs.
--For out-of-towners, the cost of all admissions without the CityPass would be $399 for adults and $325 for children 3-9 based on online amusement park ticket prices as of Tuesday. That's a significant discount for anyone on a budget who's planning to spend some serious time at these attractions.
--For Southern Californians, I used a slightly different formula to tote up savings. Disneyland offers a SoCal Resident 3-Day Park Hopper Ticket for $144 -- same price for children and adults -- until June 1. There are restrictions -- you have to live in certain ZIP Codes and use it on or before June 7 -- and there are blackout dates too.
Universal Studios has a special offer on its website: Visit once for $77 a person (children and adults) and return within 30 days for free. SeaWorld charges $73 for adults and $65 for children, but it's good for seven days.
Even with these locals discounts and specials, the grand total for admissions comes to $294 for adults and $286 for children -- still more than CityPass.
There are always promotions for combo admissions to local theme parks so it pays to be on the lookout. But for those who want a consistent low price and plan to go to all four parks (counting Disney as two), CityPass is easier on the budget. Check your dates and do the math to make sure the savings add up for you.