Cost of Disney Through the Years

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Hands holding up Disney theme park tickets
Photo credit: Sakkawokkie/istockphoto

BIG-TICKET TICKETS

Recent news that Disney World would be raising admission prices this year should come as little surprise to anyone well-versed in its history. The price of a basic ticket to the Happiest Place on Earth has gone up more than four dozen times since its first theme park, Magic Kingdom, debuted in 1971, according to AllEars.net. Today, you'll pay well over $100 for just one day of fun, making tips on how to do Disney on a budget more essential than ever. Here's a timeline of some of Disney's notable price hikes.
Picture of Disney World in 1971
Photo credit: 1971 by Kristine (CC BY-NC)

1971

Price of a one-day ticket: $3.50 (general admission; most attractions cost extra)
Inflation-adjusted price: $21

Disney World first opened in 1971, and there was just one park to welcome guests: Magic Kingdom. Though admission was only $3.50, visitors had to pay more for most rides, according to AllEars.net. The original park included favorite attractions like Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Haunted Mansion, and It's a Small World. Visitors had three choices for lodging: the Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Resort, and Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

Space Mountain attraction at Disney World
Photo credit: Disney - Tomorrowland - Space Mountain from TTA by Joe Penniston (CC BY-NC-ND)

1976

Price of a one-day ticket: $6 (general admission; most attractions cost extra)
Inflation-adjusted price: $27

By the beginning of 1976, Disney World had bumped up its ticket prices four times. Magic Kingdom has added some big-time attractions, including Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain. Other additions included the Golf Resort (now Shades of Green, for military members), the now-defunct Discovery Island, and Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, now known as Disney Springs.

Rendering of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney World in 1980
Photo credit: Big Thunder Mountain, ca. 1850 by Brett Kiger (CC BY-NC-ND)

1980

Price of a one-day ticket: $8 (general admission; most attractions cost extra)
Inflation-adjusted price: $23

In November 1980, Disney bumped prices for the second time that year, though it's worth noting that the inflation-adjusted price is actually lower than it was in 1976. In Magic Kingdom, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened to give visitors a thrilling ride through an old mining camp. Visitors could also enjoy Disney's River Country, a water park that would later close in 2001.

Plans for building EPCOT center at Disney World
Photo credit: Scale model of the complete EPCOT Center by Tom Simpson (CC BY-NC-ND)

1982

Price of a one-day ticket: $15 (admission to Magic Kingdom or Epcot; rides now included)
Inflation-adjusted price: $38

In September 1982, prices had almost doubled over the course of nearly two years. In October, Epcot (then known as EPCOT Center) opened to the public with the iconic Spaceship Earth, part of the always-evolving Future World, and the international-themed World Showcase. Disney introduced its first park-hopping tickets allowing admission to both Magic Kingdom and Epcot. A three-day park hopper ticket cost $35, or $88 adjusted for inflation.

Horizons at EPCOT Center
Photo credit: Horizons by Sam Howzit (CC BY)

1985

Price of a one-day ticket: $21.50 (admission to Magic Kingdom or Epcot)
Inflation-adjusted price: $49

By November of 1985, prices had zoomed up more than $6, and were closing in on $50 once adjusted for inflation. Magic Kingdom's roster of attractions had remained largely unchanged, while Epcot had added Horizons to Future World and Morocco to the World Showcase.

Disney MGM Studios
Photo credit: Auntie Susan, Uncle Oscar and Lola at Disney-MGM Studios by Loren Javier (CC BY-ND)

1989

Price of a one-day ticket: $29 (admission to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, or Disney MGM Studios)
Inflation-adjusted price: $58

In May of 1989, one-day tickets were going for $29 each. Epcot had added the Living Seas to Future World and Norway to the World Showcase. And Disney World had opened its third theme park, Disney MGM Studios, as well as the Typhoon Lagoon waterpark and Pleasure Island entertainment district (now part of Disney Springs). A four-day park hopper that allowed admission to all three parks cost $97, or $194 adjusted for inflation.

Port Orleans Resort at Disney World
Photo credit: Jared/wikimedia.org

1991

Price of a one-day ticket: $33
Inflation-adjusted price: $61

One-day, one-park ticket prices had risen $4 by February 1991, but the jump is less severe – only a few dollars – adjusted for inflation. Visitors could also now buy a "Super Duper Pass" that allowed unlimited admission to all three parks for five days plus Typhoon Lagoon, River Country, Discovery Island, and Pleasure Island. It went for $170, or $313 adjusted for inflation. Resort choices had expanded with the 1990 openings of the Yacht and Beach Clubs, the Swan, and the Dolphin. Later in 1991, the Port Orleans Resort opened, too.

Splash Mountain attraction at Disney World
Photo credit: Splash Mountain by jpellgen (@1179_jp) (CC BY-NC-ND)

1995

Price of a one-day ticket: $35
Inflation-adjusted price: $57

Though a one-day Walt Disney World Ticket cost $35 by the end of 1995, the price had actually gone down adjusted for inflation. By now, Disney MGM Studios added the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Magic Kingdom had added Splash Mountain, still one of the park's most popular (and wet) rides. Speaking of water, Disney World added its third water park, Blizzard Beach, in 1995. Visitors could also now stay at the new All-Star Sports Resort, All-Star Music Resort, and Wilderness Lodge.

Animal Kingdom at Disney World
Photo credit: Disney's Animal Kingdom by Scott Smith (CC BY-NC-ND)

1998

Price of a one-day ticket: $42
Inflation-adjusted price: $64

By April of 1998, the price of one-day park tickets had jumped $7. The most notable addition was a fourth theme park, Disney's Animal Kingdom, which initially cost a small premium, $45, to visit. Resort offerings had also expanded again, with the opening of BoardWalk and Coronado Springs resorts. Disney had also added the Wide World of Sports, a multi-venue complex now known as the ESPN Wide World of Sports.

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Disney World
Photo credit: Disney - Rock n Roller Coaster Staring Aerosmith Sign by Joe Penniston (CC BY-NC-ND)

2002

Price of a one-day ticket: $50
Inflation-adjusted price: $68

In September 2002, one-day park tickets hit the $50 mark. The cheapest park hopper ticket, a 4-day pass that allowed entry into all of the parks, rose to $199, or about $273 adjusted for inflation. Major Disney World additions included more lodging, such as the All-Star Movies Resort and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Disney MGM Studios had also added the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.

Mission: SPACE at Disney World
Photo credit: UpstateNYer/wikipedia.org

2005

Price of a one-day ticket: $59.75
Inflation-adjusted price: $78

The beginning of 2005 marked the beginning of some steeper rises in park ticket prices. One-day tickets became "Magic Your Way" base tickets, but visitors could purchase park hopper add-ons that allowed them to visit multiple theme parks on the same day for an extra $35. In Epcot, Mission: SPACE was a major new attraction, and Disney World continued adding new accommodations with the opening of the Pop Century Resort and Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.

Expedition Everest at Disney World
Photo credit: Disney's Animal Kingdom - Expedition Everest by Howie Muzika (CC BY-NC-ND)

2008

Price of a one-day ticket: $75
Inflation-adjusted price: $85

One-day, one-park Disney World tickets jumped to $75 in August 2008, and those who wanted to visit more than one park each day now had to shell out an extra $50 for a park hopper add-on. A 4-day pass with a park-hopper add-on cost visitors $269, or about $304 adjusted for inflation. Disney's MGM Studios was renamed Hollywood Studios this year and added Toy Story Mania! to its roster of attractions. Thrill-seeking visitors could also now ride Expedition Everest, a coaster at Animal Kingdom that opened in 2006.

Little Mermaid castle at Fantasyland in Disney World
Photo credit: The Blues by Brett Kiger (CC BY-NC-ND)

2012

Price of a one-day ticket: $89
Inflation-adjusted price: $96

Starting in June 2012, visitors who wanted just one day at any of Disney World's theme parks were on the hook for at least $89. A 4-day pass with a park-hopper add-on jumped to $313, or $338 adjusted for inflation. In the Magic Kingdom, the first phase of an expansion of Fantasyland opened this year. Outside the theme parks, the Art of Animation Resort started welcoming guests.

Characters from Frozen performing at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Photo credit: Frozen at Disney's Hollywood Studios by katsuhiro7110 (CC BY-NC)

2014

Price of a one-day ticket: $99 (Magic Kingdom) $94 (other parks)
Inflation-adjusted price: $105 (Magic Kingdom) $99 (other parks)

In February 2014, Disney World started charging a small premium for one-day tickets to Magic Kingdom compared with its other theme parks. That might be because Magic Kingdom completed its Fantasyland expansion this year, a project that ultimately added several new rides, shows and restaurants. Over at Hollywood Studios, "Frozen" fans got a new sing-along show this year, too.

Disney Springs
Photo credit: Disney Springs by Chad Sparkes (CC BY)

2016

Price of a one-day ticket: $105-$124 (Magic Kingdom), $97-$114 (other parks)
Inflation-adjusted price: $110-$130 (Magic Kingdom), $101-$119 (other parks)

In February 2016, Disney World switched to a three-tier pricing model for one-day tickets, charging visitors a premium for coming at the most crowded times of the year (this includes most of the summer and holiday weekends). Notable improvements this year included a renovated and expanded Disney Springs, the shopping and entertainment complex that had previously been known as Downtown Disney. Disney also added a slew of "Star Wars" attractions to Hollywood Studios this year, including a stage show.

View of crowded Cinderella's Castle at Disney World
Photo credit: Cinderella's Castle by Kelby Carr (CC BY-NC-ND)

2018

Price of a one-day ticket: $109-$129 (Magic Kingdom), $102-$122 (other parks)

Yes, Disney World has already found the time to hike prices this year, announcing its most recent increase in February. During peak days, it now costs more than six times what it cost to visit Magic Kingdom when it opened, accounting for inflation. Disney will also be tacking on an overnight parking fee for resort guests this year, ranging from $13 to $24 a night. Ouch.

Still, some big improvements are coming that may help dull the pain: At Hollywood Studios, Toy Story Land is slated to open at the end of June, and the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge area will open in 2019. A redesign and expansion of Epcot is a few more years down the pike. Though Disney devotees will undoubtedly jump at the chance to check out these new additions, only time will tell how much they'll have to shell out to do it.

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