Disney World Ranks as #1 Rip-Off

I’m not going to tell you that Walt Disney World is not a rip-off. What I am going to tell you is that the recent survey ranking Walt Disney World as the #1 rip-off of United States tourist attractions is, itself, a rip-off. That’s right, the survey is the rip-off.

It’s possible that you’ve seen reference to this survey on social media, as disenchanted Walt Disney World fans have been sharing it, feeling vindicated in their disappointment with the company. And it’s fair to be dissatisfied with what you experience (or don’t experience!) at the parks. But not everything that confirms your priors is instantly valid, even if it feels validating.

Enter the recent survey ranking Walt Disney World as the biggest rip-off tourist attraction in the United States. Again, it’s a conclusion that feels satisfying for many WDW diehards, especially those still airing their grievances about the demise of Disney’s Magical Express, end of free FastPass, erosion of Extra Magic Hours, and so forth.

According to this survey by Casino.org, the top three generalized rip-offs in all of society, I guess, were college textbooks, credit scores, and movie theater snacks. I agree in principle with college textbooks and movie theater snacks, even if both of those are essentially optional. Not sure how credit scores are a rip-off in the traditional sense of the term, but whatever.

Honorable mentions here included hotel mini-bars, airport food and drink, cable television, brand-name products, specialty coffee, alcohol and desserts at restaurants, travel deals, and landline phones. Again, agreed with several of these, whereas others are a bit confusing. Categorical inclusion of brand-name products or desserts is quite a choice, and travel deals as a rip-off is a head-scratcher. Then again, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard several Disney fans say, “Free Dining is a rip-off” so I guess that checks out.

But let’s fast-forward to the top 10 list of destination rip-offs in the United States…

Glacier National Park – Ranking as the #10 biggest rip-off tourist destination in the entire United States, this was the very moment I realized the list is complete and utter garbage. First of all, there is not a single U.S. National Park that’s a rip-off. Even if you disliked a certain destination or think it fell short of expectations for whatever reason, that’s a you problem. For another thing, the entry fee at Glacier National Park is $35 per vehicle for 7-days. Meaning that a family of 4 could do Glacier National Park for about $1 per person per day.

Finally, Glacier National Park is awesome. It ranks #2 on my list of the Top 10 U.S. National Parks. I cannot wait to get back and am really excited to take our daughter there. If you asked me whether you should take a year off from Walt Disney World or Disneyland to visit Glacier National Park, I’d answer an emphatic yes. It’s one of the most incredible places I’ve ever visited.

I cannot even fathom what people would dislike about it. Are they upset that they didn’t see an iceberg? Too much incredible wildlife? Were the historic lodges frustratingly stunning? The lakes too clear? The huckleberry everything too delicious?! Make it make sense. 

Old Faithful Geyser – Watching this geyser erupt is a Yellowstone National Park tradition, and people from all over the world have made the trek to see Old Faithful since it inspired the establishment of Yellowstone as the world’s first national park in 1872. I cannot fathom this being even “overrated” let alone a “rip-off” for all of the same reasons as above. Maybe this was a bunch of Wilderness Lodge fans saying, “I’ve seen the one at Walt Disney World, why bother taking the trip to Wyoming?!”

Statue of Liberty – A gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States that’s recognized as a universal beacon of freedom and democracy. I guess in a world where those qualities are taken for granted, the Statue of Liberty has lost its luster for some. But that’s ludicrous. Nothing symbolizes the idea and ideals of America better than Lady Liberty; she is in no way, shape or form a rip-off.

Okay, I’ve had enough. I’m not even going to get through the rest of the list, which includes Seattle’s Space Needle, Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Navy Pier in Chicago, and Hoover Dam in Nevada. Not to mention the Alamo at #2 (I’ve never been, but am highly skeptical of this ranking) or the National Mall at #1. The National Mall is free! It’s incredible! Did a bunch of dummies all mistake it for the Mall of America, get annoyed that they were forced to learn against their will, and all respond to this survey?!

Literally everywhere I’ve been to on this list is a great destination, belonging on a ‘best of’ list rather than one of rip-offs. (We spent a lot of time in Chicago during college and didn’t love Navy Pier, but tourists should absolutely do a pass to cross it off their lists. The same could probably be said for a couple other spots. Like Times Square, none are downright bad, even if they are touristy. They’re touristy for a reason!)

It’s also worth noting that not a single casino or gambling destination made the list of rip-offs. Which is not to say that they are rip-offs, but the house does always win (statistically speaking). You’d think that maybe places that popularized the “resort fee” and are on the bleeding edge of charging higher parking rates would make the list. Probably just a convenient coincidence that their indirect competition–National Parks and theme parks–are deemed rip-offs instead. (Okay, the Sphere is a national treasure that needs to be protected at all costs–America’s next big infrastructure project should be building Spheres in every major city. But I digress.)

Which brings us to Walt Disney World, ranking as the #1 rip-off. According to the survey, 60% of respondents concluded that Walt Disney World is the biggest rip-off for US attractions. Knowing how many of you have become jaded by the company, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a lot of agreement with that ranking. I’d counter that methodology matters. That a survey that’s clearly garbage should not be touted just because it validates our preconceived beliefs. Confirmation bias is a helluva drug, and one that’s already caused plenty of problems for society.

I know I’ve already identified a bunch of reasons why this survey is junk, but the final thing I can’t get past is Walt Disney World ranking #1 and Disneyland not even being in the top 10. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Walt Disney World is the worst–and claims that spot according to 60% of respondents–it follows that Disneyland should be #2. It not making the top 10, and instead a free destination in Washington D.C. being #2 is just the chef’s kiss on this list.

(For what it’s worth, we recently addressed value for money in Are Walt Disney World & Disneyland Good Per-Hour Values Compared to Other Entertainment? There’s a lot of rambling towards the beginning, so maybe scroll past that to the list of per hour costs of Disney vs. other attractions and entertainment options.)

Ultimately, my goal with this post was mostly to call your attention to the other conclusions reached by this same survey to cast doubt on its methodology, potential biases or conflicts of interest, and maybe give people pause before mindlessly sharing it or being emboldened or whatever by Walt Disney World being deemed the #1 rip-off. As should be obvious, this list is pretty far from authoritative, and most of the destinations on it shouldn’t feel ashamed, but rather, have a sense that they‘re in good company. 

Our response to this mindless list isn’t just a mindless defense of Disney, either. (After all, if a Disney fan site ranked Walt Disney World as the #1 value-for-money tourist destination, you might give a little side eye and question the bias!) We’ve been critical of the company, with Is Disney Ruining Its Reputation? and Disney’s Reputation Falls Further covering this type of survey and why it really matters. The difference is credibility. The surveys that are the subject of those posts have it and this one doesn’t.

And for the record, these types of surveys do concern me and I hope they concern the company. Goodwill earned over generations is at risk of being irrevocably lost–Walt Disney World needs to make more positive changes to improve satisfaction and undo brand damage. We’ve been over all of this many times–but things needing fixing doesn’t make some suspect survey valid.

Finally, you know what, I do disagree with the ranking of Walt Disney World as the #1 rip-off. I’ve visited tons of roadside attractions, tourist traps, and regional amusement parks in my day. Even if Walt Disney World costs more than all of them (and it does!), it still delivers a better experience–and more commensurate value for money, by extension.

While we point out the problems at Disney, that comes from a place of love and wanting the parks to be their very best. We don’t think Walt Disney World is a rip-off at all, let alone the worst offender. Being expensive or arguably overpriced is not the same as being a rip-off. And it honestly surprises me when (former?) fans claim that it is.

Some of that, I assume, is venting or frustration about the experience and price as compared to 2019 or some other date in the past. Walt Disney World competing with former versions of itself, as it were. I get that and there’s a lot that I miss. I also think most of those people wouldn’t be on a site like this if they didn’t still hold love for Disney buried somewhere in their hearts and also want it to be better–they have good intentions, for the most part.

Beyond the fans–former and current–there are the casual visitors who obviously often have a different perspective. The proliferation of “Most Expensive Day Ever” and other such Etsy shirts is certainly concerning. But at the same time, it represents what I’d call a skill issue. You’re complaining about cost…by spending more money on a t-shirt?

Putting aside the paradox of that decision, there’s a certain tone that’s set by the premeditated act of buying that shirt before the trip, and then wearing it on the day of the visit. The person has made the purposeful decision to resist having a good time and–surprise, surprise–probably won’t have as much fun as someone who goes in with an open mind!

Even stopping short of this type of guest, there are tons more who are “dragged along” and have a negative mentality, bringing down the vibe of everyone else in their party. And beyond those people, there are others who want to have fun but don’t do their homework or put even a modicum of effort, but expect amusement to simply thrust itself at them upon stepping foot on Main Street. These are the same people, I would imagine, who are surprised that Glacier National Park is a long drive from Bozeman or Calgary, and are upset that they can’t see any glaciers from the roadside.

Sure, Walt Disney World planning is way too complex and maybe the National Park Service should pack up and relocate the park and its many glaciers to be closer to Salt Lake City. But people who decline to do their due diligence or put in any effort also shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t get as much out of the experiences. If you open your wallet and dump it out on the ground, you weren’t ripped off–you’re just dumb.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What’s your take on a casino company ranking Walt Disney World as the #1 rip-off of tourist destinations in the United States? Do you agree or disagree with the list and WDW’s place on it? Think that maybe there’s a bit of a methodology issue with this survey, or are you just happy and vindicated by Walt Disney World ranking so poorly? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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