Visiting Disneyland, by the numbers

Bekah Wright

“Have a magical day!” is a familiar greeting you’ll get at Disney’s parks, or even their corporate offices. For those eager to visit Disneyland’s theme park and California Adventure, the question is, what’s the cost of a magical day? Especially with the parks’ recent raise in prices.

To do the math, we consulted a plethora of resources, from Disneyland Resort theme parks to travel planning websites/mobile apps like Disneyland’s Lines from

Purchasing Tickets

As mentioned, Disney parks had a price raise as of June 2. In a statement submitted to Yahoo! Travel, the parks said, “Like any business, we evaluate and adjust our pricing based on a variety of factors. A ticket to our theme parks represents a great value, particularly when you look at the breadth and quality of attractions and entertainment we offer, and the special moments guests experience with our cast.”

What the price hike means for a 1-Day 1-Park Ticket is $86 for ages 3 to 9 and $92 for ages 10 and up, an increase of approximately 6%, or $5 per ticket. Enabling visits to both parks are “hopper” tickets. Purchasing a 1-Day Park Hopper ticket ups the cost to $131 for ages 3 to 9 and $137 for ages 10 and up.

Families looking to spend more time at the parks, and doing so economically, can buy 2-Day, 3-Day, 4-Day and 5-Day passes, along with hopper options. The savings isn’t a bad deal for theme park fanatics. Pick up a 5-Day Hopper ticket for $279 (ages 3 to 9) and $300 (ages 10 and up), and a Magic Morning Early Admission Day is thrown in, giving access to the park prior to the general public’s opening hours.

Admission savings over the course of five days: totals of $376 and $385.

Add to the mix vacation packages like the current 4 Days, 3 Nights, 2 Parks for One Great Price offer that runs through Aug. 24. The price for a family of four starts at $1,517 and includes 4-Day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper passes and three nights at a conveniently located hotel.

So what’s the perfect amount of time to spend in each park? Suggests Laurel Stewart, business manager of, “We recommend first-timers spend at least two days at Disneyland Park and one full day at Disney California Adventure."

The Clock Starts

Arrive at the Disney parks during their current summer hours – Disneyland at 8 a.m. to midnight, Disney California Adventure Park at 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. – and there are approximately 16 hours in the day with which to grab the magic. A strategic move – arrive before opening.

First things first – getting to the entrance. Parking a typical car costs $16 (up $1 since the rate increases). Says Amanda Ficili, one of several “Mom and Dad Panelists” for Disney Parks’ online forum, “Once onboard, travel between Disneyland parking structure and the theme park entrances only takes about five to 10 minutes, depending on the day and time of day you visit.”

Wait time to get into the park, once in the plaza and past security, is approximately 15 minutes. Still ahead – those 16 hours with which to tackle Disneyland Park’s 55 attractions, including longtime favorites Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain, and California Adventure’s 36 attractions, from Cars Land, The Little Mermaid and Toy Story Mania!

While talking numbers, here’s a stat to consider: According to the 2012 Theme Index , there were 43,734 daily guests at Disneyland and 21,300 at California Adventure.

Choosing less crowded days to visit can be done with websites/mobile apps such as MouseWait and

Crowds and lines

What’s visible on TouringPlans right off the bat – the day’s Crowd Level on a 1-to-10 scale. Five years of historical wait times for the park are fed into statistical models that make a curve throughout the day, giving time predictions at various attractions. The day’s conditions are factored in, along with things like meal times, parades and fireworks displays.

How close times can be pinpointed? Says Stewart, “We can predict the wait in line for specific rides, like Space Mountain at say 10:15 a.m. on the second Tuesday of July, or when the shortest lines will be at Toy Story Mania! on the day you’re visiting.”

Stewart says using a service like TouringPlans can make a 50% difference in how many attractions can be seen in a day. Her estimates -- “Fifteen to 20 attractions even on the busiest days. We’ve gotten reports from people who’ve been able to go through 14 rides by 1 p.m. in the afternoon.” Stewart’s rule of thumb – arrive with a ride plan in place for the day.

Also available is Fastpass, a free program through which guests insert their tickets in machines outside attractions to receive pre-assigned, one-hour time slot vouchers for boarding. “This time-saving system, a perk included with admission, holds your place in line while you explore other areas of the parks,” says Ficili.

While wait time for concessions and food are difficult to calculate because of such factors as how many cash registers are open at a time, there is the option of cutting down on wait times by making reservations 60 days in advance for certain park restaurants. The average cost of a meal ranges from $15 to $29.99 for adults, and $5.99 to $6.49 for children.

“I’ve found that a family of four can enjoy a quick and delicious counter service lunch for around $40,” says Ficili. “For a more relaxed table service lunch experience, a family of four can dine for around $60." Staying hydrated with a bottle of water runs $3.

Armed with knowledge about prices, hours and tools that enhance a Disney parks experience can make a visit easy, enjoyable and, yes, magical.