On March 1st, an adult one-day pass to Disney World jumps from $99 to $105, which means a family of 4 is going to spend more than $400 to wait in line at Space Mountain and then terrify their young kids by introducing them to a massive, maniacally grinning mouse. That’s a pretty penny, but how does it stack up to a day at some of these other iconic American vacation destinations?
San Diego Zoo, San Diego CA
You’ll Pay: $48/$38 (One-Day Pass, Adult/Child 11 & Under)
You’ll Get: Access to 100 acres of exhibits starring 3,700 rare and endangered animals, plus 700,000 exotic plants; blisters.
You Won’t Get: Access to the affiliated 1,800-acre Safari Park; a decent look at your kid’s favorite animal, which will inevitably “not be out” that day. Good thing Panda Cam exists
Vail Ski Resort, Vail, CO
You’ll Pay: $145/$100 (One-Day Lift Ticket, Adult/Child Age 5-12)
You’ll Get: 5,200 acres of terrain including the legendary “Back Bowls”; thousand of vertical feet of skiing and snowboarding per day; possibly frostbite.
You Won’t Get: Peace and quiet, unless you’re smart and drop the kids in a lesson for at least part of the day.
American Museum of Natural History, New York NY
You’ll Pay: $22/$12.50 online (Adult/Child Age 2-12)
You’ll Get: Access to all 45 Museum halls and the Rose Center for Earth and Space; a 94-foot model of a blue whale, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, 4 moon rocks from the Apollo missions.
You Won’t Get: Dirty looks. Those rates are for online pre-purchase; if you hold off and pay in person you’re only required to make a “suggested donation,” which will of course tempt you to stiff one of the world’s great cultural institutions. You think those dinosaur bones reassembled themselves?
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Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia CA
You’ll Pay: $69.99/$44.99 (Adult/Child under 48″)
You’ll Get: 19 roller coasters — the most of any amusement park in the world; one Warner Brothers cartoon character for every Disney character who isn’t there; nauseous.
You Won’t Get: Culture of any kind, unless phalanxes of local middle schoolers on Field Day counts as culture.
Yellowstone National Park WY/MT/ID
You’ll Pay: $25/$16 (Vehicle/Visitor 16 and older)
$15-$46.75 camping (per night, depending on campsite)
You’ll Get: Seven days to explore the wilderness wonderland of both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks; a front-row view of Old Faithful; a glimpse at one of America’s last nearly intact natural ecosystems.
You Won’t Get: Your money back due to an unfortunate encounter with a bear, bison, geyser, a wolf or a wolf’s scat; a good night’s sleep.
Disneyland, Anaheim CA
You’ll Pay: $99/$93 (Adult/Child Age 3-9)
You’ll Get: Measles?
You Won’t Get: Access to the adjacent Disney California Adventure; much respite from the crowds — annual attendance surpassed 16 million in 2013.
Considering all the other costs associated with these destinations — parking, hotels, hot dogs, helicopter evacuation due to forest fires — it’s tough to get too nitpicky about Uncle Walt’s price increase down there in Orlando. Plus, as Clark W. Griswold once asked, how can you put a price on good old fashioned family fun?