When the last strain of "Happy Birthday to You" ends and you blow the candles out on your birthday cake, do you actually make a wish? If you wish upon a star, and you long to visit a Disney theme park, your dreams could have come true--in 2009 anyway. As part of Disney's "What Will You Celebrate?" event, the U.S. Disney parks offered free admission for birthday boys and girls of all ages.
Unfortunately, it was only a one-year promotion. If you visit Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom on your birthday now and go to City Hall, you can pick up a complimentary birthday sticker. That will get you plenty of enthusiastic "Happy Birthday!" wishes from Disney cast members. It can also get you on-the-house desserts such as a cupcake with a candle and other freebies at on-property restaurants and hotels.
If you came to this page hoping to score some free tickets for a birthday visit, I'm sorry to have the break the news to you that the program is no longer available. BUT, I do have plenty of resources available to help you save vacation dollars for a theme park getaway. You may even be able to save more -- much more -- than the cost of a one-day park ticket if you do your homework and take advantage of deals and special offers. And if you are really, really nice to your significant other, parents, family members, and/or friends, maybe they will buy you a Disney park ticket (or even more theme park goodies) as a birthday gift.
Here are some ways to save on your next Disney visit, whether it's your birthday or not:
Disney World Magic Your Way Tickets- Learn how to decode the often-confusing ticket options and determine how to get the best value, and save the most money when you visit the Florida resort.
Disneyland Tickets- If you are heading to the original theme park resort in California, get the lowdown on ticket info and ways to save.
Florida Theme Park Deals- I regularly update a page with the latest special offers and promotions for Disney World and all of the major parks in the state. Disney often has limited-time deals such as hotel discounts, free dining plans, and reduced-price packages. This is the place to find what's available now.
California Theme Park Deals- Likewise, I maintain a page with all of the most recent Disneyland offers as well as other parks in California.
Walt Disney World Hotels Guide- If you will be staying on property (and you really should consider it if you will be spending many days in the Disney theme parks), learn about the myriad hotel options at the Florida resort.
Best Disneyland Dining- OK, this won't save you money per se, but it can help steer you to some mighty tasty restaurants at the resort.
Best Restaurants at Disney World- There are even more -- way more -- places to eat at Disney World. Discover some of the best eateries.
What was Disney's Free Admission on Your Birthday?
If your really want to know how you could have nabbed comp birthday tickets, the following info spells it out. But remember, this was only good during 2009 and is no longer valid.
Simply stated, Disney was offering a one-day, one-park ticket to any of its six U.S. theme parks within the Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts to any visitor on his or her birthday. Not so simply stated, there were a number of caveats, options, and other things to consider before you could start booking your birthday celebration vacation.
During 2009, you could have arrived at a park on your birthday, shown proper ID (according to Disney, a driver's license, government-issued photo ID, or a government-issued passport will do the trick. Guests under 18 without ID would need to show an original or certified copy of their birth certificates), filled out a form, and bibbidi bobbidi-boo, your freebie ticket would have magically appeared.
What if You Already Had a Season Pass or You Already Purchased Multi-Day Passes for an Upcoming Trip?You wouldn't have been able to get any money back for the dough you've already paid, but Disney still had some birthday treats for you. Bring valid ID (as outlined above) and you can choose one of the following:
- A one-day, one-park ticket to be used anytime before your next birthday. Note that the ticket is only good for the birthday celebrant and is not transferable.
- A birthday fun card valued at the same price as a one-day, one-park ticket (either an adult or children pass, depending on the age of the person celebrating the birthday). The fun card can be used to purchase merchandise at the parks, but it can't be used for food or beverages. While there are all kinds of other restrictions, this is a pretty sweet deal.
- A birthday Fastpass badge. Details are a bit sketchy on this, but Disney says that the pass will be good for the birthday celebrant and up to five additional guests in his or her group. It will work on select attractions. While I'm not certain, I believe that guests will be able to enter the Fastpass lines of designated attractions immediately by showing the Fastpass badge. According to Disney, availability for the birthday Fastpass badges will be limited, especially after 11 a.m., as they will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Depending on the details (such as how many attractions the special Fastpass includes) and the number of people with whom you'll be visiting, this could be a great incentive, particularly on high-season, busy days at the parks.
Was There More to Disney's "What Will You Celebrate" Event than Free Admission on Your Birthday?You betcha. Anticipating a captive horde of celebrants, Disney was offering all kinds of ways to celebrate. From special birthday balloons, to birthday-themed meals, all the way up to high-end add-ons such as specialty yacht cruises at Walt Disney World and exclusive spa treatments at Disneyland Resort, there was no shortage of ways to keep the birthday wishes flowing. And while the free admission deal was for birthdays only, Disney expanded its invitation list to include folks celebrating true love, triumphs, reunions, and first visits. The parks offered tailored features as well as custom-designed options to help celebrants mark their special occasions.
Why was Disney Giving Away Free Admission to its Parks?
Granted, a one-day, one-park ticket to a Disney theme park is not cheap. But the cost to enter a Disney park is only a fraction of the potential revenue that Disney can garner from its guests. Day guests generally drop a small fortune on meals and gifts in the parks, and overnight guests typically drop a huge fortune on hotels, lots of meals and gifts, and all kinds of other things that fatten the Mouse's coffers.
And, of course, what's a celebration if nobody's there to celebrate with you? Disney knows birthday boys and girls will be bringing along their birthday posse--and all of them will be paying full fare. Further, a theme park visit built around a celebration virtually guarantees that those celebrating will want to mark the occasion by planning something special--and potentially costly--at the park (see "Is There More to Disney's 'What Will You Celebrate' Event" above). And lots of guests who take Disney up on its free admission offer will probably feel giddy enough to loosen their inhibitions about splurging on extra goodies. All in all, what may appear to be an extravagant offer is likely a shrewd move on Disney's part, especially in these difficult economic times.