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?
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?