Last weekend the hubs and I took our kiddos to Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West Theme Park in the North Carolina mountains.  We had a great time and I love exploring all our local attractions.  Tweetsie is the oldest theme park in North Carolina still in operation.  However, as I rode the chair lift to Miner’s Mountain and took in the mountain scenery from the Ferris Wheel with my little ones, it got me to thinking… how does THIS day compare to a day at Disney?

Some pics from Tweetsie, July 2016

The simple answer is there really is no comparison.  While my family & I loved Tweetsie and I am a huge advocate for supporting the local economy and local attractions, Disney far outweighs just about any local theme park anywhere around in terms of entertainment, attractions, restaurants, and family fun.  *DISCLAIMER* – in this post I am in no way, shape or form saying that Tweetsie is not a great theme park and I will say right now it is very much worth your time and money.  This is strictly a comparison of that park’s offerings and prices (or any local theme park you may have near you) versus the Mack Daddy of all theme parks… Tweetsie just happens to be where I’ve most recently visited.

“But Jennifer… Disney is expensive!  It’s over $100 a day for a ticket! The food is overpriced!  The souvenirs are outrageous!  Don’t get me started on the hotels there!”

Now, hold the phone.  Let me break out a couple of comparisons for you to show you how Disney can be (and is!) just as INexpensive as my day at Tweetsie!  For purposes of this comparison, I’ll be using Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World®.

Some of my favorite pics from our trip to Disney’s Magic Kingdom in May of 2016

First, let’s look at the facts of Tweetsie vs. the Magic Kingdom.  Note all these facts were valid at the time of this publication:

  • Number of attractions (including rides & shows): Tweetsie = 24, Magic Kingdom = 41
    • Note that the Magic Kingdom count includes some but not ALL shows – things like the Park Opening Show or Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire are not included in this total, nor are some of the character or princess meet & greets as they can change frequently.
  • Number of restaurants: Tweetsie = 10, Magic Kingdom = 31
    • This includes stands for ice cream and other treats.  In this count, Tweetsie has zero table service restaurants, the Magic Kingdom has 8 table service restaurants where you can sit down and be served by a wait staff.
  •  Number of Parades:  Tweetsie = 0, Magic Kingdom = 2  (The Festival of Fantasy Parade & the Main Street Electrical Parade)
  •  Amount of Time to See the Park: Tweetsie can easily be enjoyed and visited in a half day (depending on crowds); I regularly tell my clients you need a full 2 days to see & enjoy all that the Magic Kingdom has to offer.  
  •  Number of Fireworks Shows Daily: Tweetsie = 0, Magic Kingdom = 1… and boy, does the Magic Kingdom’s Wishes Fireworks show blow any other fireworks show you have ever seen out of the water!
  •  Park Hours:  Tweetsie is typically only open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. (except during their cool summer nights on weekends when they are open until 9 p.m.).  I’ve never known the Magic Kingdom to close before 8 p.m. (and that’s during the very slow season) unless for a specially-ticketed event like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party; most nights it is open until at least 9 p.m. or later (and later still on Extra Magic Hours nights for those staying on property).  

So now let’s look at the ticket pricing.  Since my kiddos were under 3 when we visited, they were able to get into Tweetsie for free.  This is the same at all Disney® parks… children under 3 are free.  This is true EVEN IF your child is turning 3 the second day you are there!  (And what a fabulous way to celebrate a birthday!).  The age of the child when you check in to your resort is the age Disney considers them throughout your length of stay.  Good to know!  So for this comparison I’ll be pricing out 2 adult tickets only.

Adult tickets at Tweetsie Railroad were $44 each (that included tax).  When you compare that to a $110 (plus tax) one-day ticket for the Magic Kingdom park during regular season Tweetie’s price blows it out of the water, right?  I agree, 110%.  But how many people go to Disney for just one day?  As an authorized Disney travel planner, Ears of Experience always recommends at least 5-7 days at Walt Disney World® – especially if it is your first trip or you haven’t been in a few years.  This will give you at least 2 days at the Magic Kingdom, and a day each at Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom

A fact about Walt Disney World® tickets that many people don’t realize or understand is that the longer you stay, the less you pay for your ticket each day.  Note the price breakdowns below (remembering this is all at time of publication, for an average day, and prices don’t include tax):

  • 1-day adult ticket: $110 per ticket
  • 2-day adult ticket: $101 per ticket
  • 3-day adult ticket: $96.67 per ticket  
  • 4-day adult ticket: $81.25 per ticket
  • 5-day adult ticket: $68 per ticket

You get it.  But, to get down to less than Tweetsie when you strictly look at the price per ticket per day, you’d have to stay at Disney for 9 days (at that point the price for an adult ticket per day is $43.34).  

HOWEVER – when you look at how much more you are paying per day for a ticket exponentially, when you are already staying at Disney for a certain number of days, you can get to that magic number fairly quickly.  Check out the calculations below (note this is for two adult tickets with TAX INCLUDED):

  • For two adult tickets at Walt Disney World® for 2 days, your total (WITH tax) is $430.26.  
  • If you decide to stay for 3 days, you’ll end up paying $187.44 more for the two tickets (=$93.72 per adult) making a 3-day ticket for 2 adults $617.70 (tax included).  
  • Staying for 4 days?  The cost difference for a 4 day ticket for 2 adults over a 3 day ticket is ONLY $74.56!  That’s $37.28 per adult ticket… so when you do the math when you are already staying at Disney for 3 days, adding on a 4th day ticket is LESS than a single ticket to many of your local theme parks.  
  • A 5-day ticket over a 4-day ticket ends up being – get this – only $31.94 more for both adults than if you are going and staying only 4 days ($692.26 for (2) 4-day adult tickets vs. $724.20 for (2) 5-day adult tickets).  See the value?  That’s only $15.97 more per person to purchase 5 day tickets over 4 day tickets.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, what about meals?  We ate at the Feed & Seed and my husband and I each got a Pulled Pork plate with French Fries, the kids got Chicken Tenders with French Fries.  The food was what you’d expect of typical theme park food… it will sustain you but it’s nothing to write home about.  We spend about $32 on 2 adults and 2 children for the meals.  A comparable restaurant in Magic Kingdom would be Casey’s Corner, where you can get a Chili Cheese Hot Dog with French Fries for $10.79 each and a kid’s meal for about $7.99 each.  That ends up being about $37.56 for the meal – only about $5 more than what we spent at Tweetsie.  That total would likely drop down even less if you were on the Disney Dining Plan which can offer substantial savings over paying out of pocket for your meals… but that’s the subject of another blog entry….!

Now for souvenirs.  My little boys have wanted toy guns for ages… now I have to note that you can’t find a toy gun on property anywhere at Disney… (and honestly with the way the world is today I can understand why), so I’ll have to use a light saber toy as a comparison.  At Tweetsie we were able to find my boys little toy western-style guns.  The price of those very small toy guns at Tweetsie was $21.99 each.  They are cap guns so we also bought some caps for them (note we are waiting till they are older to give those to them!) at $3.25 each per pack (we got 2 packs for each kiddo).  That brings the grand total of these toys for them to $28.49 each.  Comparably, an official Star Wars® licensed light saber in a Disney park is $29.95.  Barely a buck fifty more.  We did note that the next bigger size toy gun at Tweetsie was $29.99 (without the caps).

Finally I’ll leave you with this – lodging.  Personally my family camped during this weekend of North Carolina mountain fun, but I just looked for room reservations at the Holiday Inn in Blowing Rock, NC on a Saturday night in the summer and compared it to a Disney Value Resort for the same day… $157.88 for a single Saturday night at the Holiday Inn Blowing Rock… $158.00 for a single Saturday night at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort on Disney property.  Wait, what?!? 🙂  And you have to think about what all a stay on Disney property includes… complimentary transportation to all the parks, your Magic Bands and Fastpasses for rides when you pair it with tickets, the amazing pools and the overall magical feeling you get when you are staying on-property at Walt Disney World®.  

After all, can anything really compare with that?