ANAHEIM CA APRIL 30, 2021 - Park visitors take a selfie in front of the Walt Disney statue inside Disneyland as the theme park reopens for the first time in more than a year on Friday, April 30, 2021.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
The previous annual pass program was canceled in January. Above, visitors take a selfie in front of the Walt Disney statue inside Disneyland on April 30, the day the park reopened for the first time in more than a year. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Coast Life

Disneyland has a new annual pass program. Here’s everything you need to know

The new Disneyland Magic Key annual pass program, on sale starting Aug. 25, will require reservations, a change aimed at quelling overcrowding at the parks. Options range from $1,399 to $399.

The Disneyland Resort has overhauled its 37-year-old annual pass program to help reduce crowding on high-demand days, replacing it with a program that will require visitors to make reservations before visiting the theme parks, while continuing to block out access on the busiest days.

By requiring reservations, Disney representatives say they hope to manage how many park-goers visit Disneyland and California Adventure Park each day, easing the increasingly vexing problem of huge crowds that jam walkways and push wait times for the attractions beyond tolerable levels. Disneyland announced details of the new pass program, dubbed Magic Key, on Tuesday.

“We know this allows us to smooth demand throughout the year,” said Disney spokesperson Liz Jaeger.

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Magic Key includes four options, ranging in price from $399 per year for Southern California residents to $1,399 for the option with no blockout days and the greatest flexibility for making reservations.

The new pass program is only for Disneyland and California Adventure Park. The previous annual passes ranged from $419 to $2,199, the latter of which included unlimited visits to parks in Anaheim and Orlando, Florida.

Although the overall prices of the Magic Key passes are lower than Disneyland’s previous annual passes, the number of days parkgoers can visit is now limited by how many blockout dates come with each option and how many reservations will be accepted. Under the previous program, most passholders could show up to the parks as often as they wanted.

Disney representatives acknowledged that passholders may not be able to make reservations even on days allowed by their pass due to park crowding.

Sales of the passes begin Aug. 25.

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Here are the options:

  • The Dream Key is priced at $1,399 with no blockout dates. The price includes access to both parks and parking, and allows the holder to make up to six reservation dates at a time. It includes discounts of up to 20% for merchandise and food and beverages.
  • The Believe Key is priced at $949 with 48 blockout dates, most of which fall around Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays. The price includes access to both parks, a 50% discount on parking and allows the holder to make up to six reservation dates at a time. Discounts of up to 10% are offered for merchandise, food and drinks.
  • The Enchant Key is priced at $649 with 149 blockout dates, with most of June and July and the days around Thanksgiving and Christmas restricted. The price includes access to both parks but does not include parking and allows only four reservation dates at a time. Discounts of up to 10% are offered for merchandise, food and drinks.
  • The Imagine Key, priced at $399, will be sold only to Southern California residents and has 218 blockout dates, with no available weekends and most of the summer blocked out. It allows access to both parks but only two reservation dates can be made at a time. Parking is not included. This option includes 10% discounts on some merchandise, food and drinks.

Passholders can still pay for the annual pass on a monthly basis as was allowed under the previous program. When making reservations to visit two parks in one day, the passholder must pick which to visit in the morning and which they can visit after 1 p.m.

Visitors pass through Sleepy Beauty Castle at Disneyland Resort
Disneyland is now requiring masks indoors at the park, regardless of vaccination status.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Passholders can make reservations to visit the parks up to 90 days in advance and can cancel a reservation as late as the night before a visit. If a passholder fails to show up at the park after making reservations three times, Disney will not allow the passholder to make new reservations for the following 30 days.

The previous annual pass, which launched in 1984 for only $65, was canceled in January, less than a year after Disneyland and California Adventure Park closed due to the pandemic. That closure allowed Disney to rethink the annual pass program, and how to address the long-building problem of overcrowding. The parks reopened April 30.

In its 37-year history, the annual program was expanded, modified and adjusted several times, with various tiers added and block-out days adjusted in response to park attendance.

When the program was canceled, Disney executives hinted that the replacement would be designed to help spread the attendance, ease crowing on high-demand days and increase revenue for the company.

“I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface in terms of what we can do when we finally restart with some of our programs, in terms of making sure again, that not only do we improve the guest experience, but at the same time get an adequate return to our shareholders,” Bob Chapek, Walt Disney Co. chief executive, said about the annual pass program during an earnings conference call in May.

The problem with the previous annual pass program, according to theme park experts, was that too many Southern California park fans were using their annual passes to crowd the park, which discouraged visits from out-of-state tourists or international visitors, who tend to spend more per visit than locals.

Although Disney does not release attendance figures, a report by the engineering firm AECOM estimates that in 2019, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park had a combined total of 28.4 million visitors. The number of people who hold annual passes has long been believed to hover around 1 million. According to one estimate by financial analysts at UBS, those passholders have made up 50% of all annual visitors to the Anaheim resort.

Before the previous program was canceled, the least expensive annual pass, the Southern California Select, could be purchased only by Southern California residents and had the highest number of restrictions, including blockout dates on most weekends. It was priced at $419 per year.

The Flex Pass, which could be used by anyone with no restrictions on most Mondays through Thursdays, was priced at $649. Flex Pass holders who wanted to visit on most weekends and during high-demand summer months were required to log onto the Disneyland website or use the resort’s smartphone app to book a reservation. This allowed the parks to manage attendance on high-demand days.

The most expensive annual pass, the Premier Pass, gave guests access to Disney parks in Anaheim and Orlando, Florida, without blocking any dates. It was priced at $2,199.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.