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Disneyland Raises Annual Pass Prices. And You’re Still Out Of Luck If You Don’t Already Have One

A group of four people, including three women and one man, stand at a gate outside the main entrance of Disneyland, in front of a Mickey Mouse-head design in a garden, as well as a Disneyland sign in front of a brick building, its Main Street train station.
File: People stand outside the gates of Disneyland Park on the first day of the closure of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks in Anaheim on March 14, 2020.
(David McNew
/
AFP via Getty Images)
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Yes, Disneyland announced new annual pass pricing Tuesday. No, you can’t get access if you don’t already have a pass.

That’s because when the park reopened from pandemic closures in April 2021, Disney had cut off sales of new annual passes. It has not hurt their bottom line. While park attendance didn't jump back right away, current demand is greater than ever.

A new kind of annual passes were made available later last year, but were again put on hold for anyone new a few months ago. In the meantime, current passholders have been in limbo, not knowing whether they'd be able to re-up. Now Disney's announced those long-awaited details on renewals.

The Bottom Line On Prices

  • Prices are up $50 for lower-level passes, which now start at $449. 
  • The no-blackout-dates Dream Key pass is no more.
  • Instead, the new Inspire Key costs an additional $200 — $1,599 total — and includes blackouts around Christmas.
  • For context, a typical one-day ticket to the park starts at $104, with multi-day passes bringing prices down as low as $76 per day. But with the park’s dynamic pricing, a single day can cost up to $164 for a popular Saturday or major holiday, plus an extra $60 per day if you want to be able to visit both Disneyland and California Adventure.

Some longtime fans have struggled with the price increases. Jeff Gordon, who lives in Playa Vista, grew up going to Disneyland in the 1980s. His family bought annual passes each year back then, and he continued to get them ever since.

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But Gordon was left a bit uneasy with the latest increases. While he plans to renew his pass, he described it as a harder cost-benefit analysis than it was in the past.

"Growing up, there was a feeling that the Disney corporation wasn't just a corporation," Gordon said. "Whereas now ... it feels like everything is very corporate and less of a family feel — how are they maximizing profits off of us, and what benefits are we losing?"

The Balance Between Loyalists And Overcrowding

A lot of Southern California Disney fans were upset when the company scrapped their old annual pass plan. Under that system, as long as it wasn't a blackout date, you could show up at the parks whenever you wanted. But this could at times lead to capacity crowds, making Disneyland more crowded for the occasional visitor.

"It seems like there's a love-hate relationship with corporate Disney and the Magic Key holders right now," Gordon said.

In their recent corporate earnings call, Disney described what it called an "unfavorable attendance mix" — which translates at Disneyland to more annual passholders, fewer big-spending vacationers. While Disney World has long catered to those on vacation rather than locals, Disneyland has had a different relationship with Southern California fans.

How Magic Key Works

Disney introduced its Magic Key system last August. With the shift in benefits, it's tough to make a one-to-one comparison, but prices peaked before the pandemic at $1,449 for the Disney Signature Plus Passport — basically the top-of-the-line option. Or, if you also wanted to include Disney World, $2,199 for the Premier Pass. A decade ago, annual passes ranged from $469-$649; a decade before that, it was $165-$225.

While the prices keep getting higher, the flexibility keeps shrinking. The Magic Keys require advance reservations, rather than just showing up at the parks. Some previous perks were taken away, though at least one popular one has been added back to some passes — the PhotoPass option, allowing you to get unlimited official photos at the park for no additional cost.

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What the future holds for how Disney treats its Southern California visitors — whether it keeps open options that encourage locals to visit, particularly during offseason times — remains to be seen. Some of their most popular new attractions, built around franchises like Star Wars and the Marvel movies, serve fewer people at a time than some of the more traditional rides. Those new lower capacity attractions means crowds could continue to be a struggle.

Disney has proposed its "DisneylandForward" expansion plan in Anaheim — where the city government has been under scrutiny — but it's uncertain whether the company’s hopes for a bigger-than-ever resort will be approved. And we'll have to wait and see whether any expansion clears the way for more access for annual passholders — and even a return of access for those not currently holding onto a pass — or if the focus is on tourists over local fans.

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