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Amusement parks tempt visitors with pay-as-you-go passes

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The character Princess Tiana (in white) and the ensemble dance in "The Princess and the Frog" in the premiere of "Mickey's Magical Map" at Disneyland on May 23, 2013 in Anaheim, California. (Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times/MCT)  The character Princess Tiana (in white) and the ensemble dance in "The Princess and the Frog" in the premiere of "Mickey's Magical Map" at Disneyland on May 23, 2013 in Anaheim, California. (Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

If those planning theme park excursions this summer needed a reminder, they got one over the weekend-- shop around.

Anaheim's two Disney parks added $5 to tickets for single-day admission, putting them at $92 for adults.

Disney increased the cost of annual passes, too. And Knott's, on the same day, increased the cost of its annual passes as well.

Yes, the increases will likely give guests more elbow room at those parks.

But it's certainly an opportune time for Southern California's theme parkgoers to examine the variety of parks, ticket options and payment plans available m and to know about a few available discounts, too.

Nawal Saleh, 44, of Hacienda Heights made her decision on which park to hang out at based on economics.

"That's why I have a Knott's pass and not a Disneyland pass," she said while at Knott's last week. "It's much cheaper."

In recent years, theme parks have added payment plans to help guests pay the increasing bills.

For example, Disneyland's cheapest annual pass is the Southern California Select Annual Passport, which includes 170 preselected days of the year on which it can be used. It now runs $279, but can be paid for in monthly installments of $15.59.

Payments plans are what enticed Laura Lecon, 41, of Riverside, to buy four season passes to Knott's Berry Farm for her family.

Lecon figured that the family would only have to go to the park a few times for the season passes to make sense instead of buying single-day tickets.

"It's nice with a pass: We can come for a few hours and leave," she said. "It's doesn't feel like I'm wasting money."

Amusement park companies have been enticing potential visitors for years through various marketing campaigns and ticket deals, experts said. In the end, they all seek the same result: getting more visitors through the gates so they purchase food, drinks and souvenirs.

"Having people at the park is good for the park and surrounding businesses," said Gene Jeffors, executive director of the Theme Entertainment Association, an industry group that tracks park attendance figures. "Each park and each park operator has their own approach for ways to improve attendance. That's one part of overall strategies. It goes hand-in-hand with development of new attractions."

Southern California has six of the 20 most heavily attended theme parks in North America -- Disneyland, California Adventure, Universal Studios Hollywood, SeaWorld, Knott's and Six Flags Magic Mountain. The six lured a combined 38.2 million visitors in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available.

The Theme Entertainment Association is expected this month to release its 2012 report on park attendance. Jeffors offered a glimpse of the numbers: Attendance jumped 3 percent to 5 percent from 2011 at amusement parks across the globe.

"In general, attendance has continued to grow fairly slowly," Jeffors said. "There were some setbacks after the recession."
 

Rebecca Kheel and Douglas Morino
(c)20
13 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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