The rising cost of amusement: Tracking Orlando theme park prices since the 1970s

What you could have bought instead

Orlando residents face a handful of inevitable truths: Rain, rush-hour gridlock on Interstate 4 and tourists wondering where the beaches are.

But ranking among the area’s most long-standing traditions is theme parks raising their prices. The announcements have become almost a yearly affair at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando — and as long as the parks continue expanding, there’s little to indicate they’ll stop.

After the latest round of increases, here’s how adult one-day admission costs stand:

  • $105 for Disney World’s Magic Kingdom
  • $97 for Disney World’s other three parks: Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom
  • $96 for both Universal parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
  • $92 for SeaWorld

But data without context are like theme parks without screaming children. To understand what you’re really spending, consider this:

  • When Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the admission price was $3.50 — 10 times the average price of a gallon of gasoline in Florida that year. Today, admission is 43 times the price of a current gallon of gas: about $2.39
  • When Universal Orlando opened in 1990, its admission price was $25.40. A Big Mac in that year cost an average of $2.20, meaning park entrance equated to nearly 12 Big Macs. Today, you would have to give up nearly 20 Big Macs (and 11,000 calories) at $4.56 a piece to get into either Universal park.
  • Parents in 2015 have a tough decision. They can either buy nearly an entire year’s worth of milk for their 2- to 12-year-old (based on average consumption) or flip a coin and decide which parent gets to hang out at SeaWorld for the day.
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