When Will Disneyland Resume Magic Key Annual Pass Sales in 2023?
“When will new Annual Pass sales resume at Disneyland?” and “will Magic Keys be available again in 2023?” are common reader questions. Many locals are eager to purchase passes, having waited too long to buy last year before sales were paused, forgetting to renew, etc. We’ll share the company’s official position and speculate as to when APs will return. (Updated January 3, 2023.)
Let’s start with basic background to bring you up to speed. During the closure, Disneyland ended the AP program and cancelled all outstanding passes. When Disneyland and Disney California Adventure reopened, Annual Passes remained unavailable through the summer, but unprecedented ticket deals were offered for California residents. Corporate leadership began teasing a new “membership program” coming soon.
By the beginning of August, just as schools were going back into session and the summer vacation season was winding down, Disneyland introduced that membership program: Magic Keys. This was really just Annual Passes by a different name, higher prices, and required reservations for all tiers. Demand was high from the outset, with a virtual queue and all-day waits to purchase Magic Key Annual Passes on release day. (At this point, a multi-hour virtual queue is the rule, rather than the exception.)
Late in October 2021, Disneyland paused sales on the top level Dream Key. This came as park reservations were almost entirely gone for weekends over three months into the future. Then in November, the Believe Key also sold out amidst a similar shortage of reservation availability.
That left only the Enchant Key and Imagine Key available for purchase. At the beginning of this summer, both of these had their statuses change to “Currently Unavailable” on Disneyland.com. This coincided with the summer season blockouts for the lower-tiered APs. Once summer ended, renewals resumed for existing Keyholders with tweaks and higher prices, but not new sales.
Then out of left field, Disneyland Resort resumed sales of select Magic Key Annual Passes just as the busy Christmas 2022 season started. The Inspire, Believe and Imagine APs all resumed new sales, with the Enchant pass will remain unavailable for new sales but is still available for current pass holders to renew.
“With an incredible year ahead, we’re happy to open new sales for select Magic Key passes in time for holiday giving and to create opportunities for guests to treat themselves and their families to a year full of experiences during the upcoming Disney100 celebration,” a Disneyland official said in a statement.
This was incredibly short-lived. After only a couple days of sales–complete with a virtual queue to access the sales page with a wait time of 8 to 10 hours–Disneyland suspended all Magic Key sales. With that, the question of when Disneyland would resume Magic Key sales in 2023 is once again being asked.
In hindsight, none of this should come as a surprise. Back when the new Magic Keys were announced, Disneyland Resort stated: “Pass types may be limited in quantity, and may not be available for purchase or renewal at any time.”
A Disneyland spokesperson indicated that passes had sold out “due to the popularity of the new Magic Key program and in order to deliver a great guest experience for all guests.” However, it’s also noteworthy that this occurred on the day before Thanksgiving last year, at a time when reservations were extremely limited or downright unavailable for regular ticket holders.
By Disney’s own admission, the decision to suspend new Magic Key sales occurred due to anticipated crowds at Disneyland Resort during the holiday season. As soon as the higher-tier Magic Key sales were suspended last holiday season, more reservations opened up for regular tickets.
Even with AP sales paused, crowds were absolutely bonkers last November and December. We visited the parks on numerous days that historically would’ve been shoulder season only to find peak season crowds. Wait times for attractions were high, but the biggest issues were congestion and dining. Mobile Order time slots were often far into the future, waits upon arrival were still lengthy, and menus remain incredibly scaled back.
Crowds really picked up around Presidents’ Day weekend and remained elevated through Easter. Some of the summer was slightly less busy, but there was minimal off-season this year after schools went back into session. Since pretty much the start of Halloween season, crowds have been bad. Finally, holiday season attendance exploded in October through December, and is still incredibly high as of early January 2023.
Diminished reservation availability has been exacerbated by the fact that Disneyland Resort still isn’t operating at 100%. It may seem minor, but there’s missing entertainment, an entire land is closed, and not every venue in the park is fully efficient due to staffing shortages. Even attraction capacity is reduced because there’s been more Cast Member turnover than normal, and new employees aren’t as good as experienced ones at dispatching ride vehicles efficiently. All minor in isolation, but it adds up in the grand scheme of things.
In short, there’s currently more demand for Disneyland than there is supply or capacity, and it’s most advantageous for the company to restrict Magic Key sales in favor of single and multi-day ticket purchases. As we’ve explained before, Annual Passholders are advantageous to Disneyland, but not in a constrained capacity environment at the expense of tourists.
Statistically speaking, per visit spending is significantly higher among infrequent visitors than APs. Or as Disney now-infamously put it, more Magic Keyholders in the parks results in an “unfavorable attendance mix.” It thus makes sense that Disneyland would want to prioritize those demographics and not fill the parks with Magic Key Passholders at the expense of more lucrative vacationers during busier seasons. (All of this may seem like irrelevant or excessive ‘backstory,’ but we’ll be circling back to all of it in the analysis.)
Which brings us to the present question: when will Disneyland start selling new Magic Key annual passes? (NOTE: What follows is now an obsolete (and incorrect) prediction, but I’m preserving it for posterity so as to not be accused of ‘revisionist history’ or anything of that sort.)
One such potential impediment to new sales is a Magic Key Passholder filed lawsuit in the Central District of California following months of limited reservation availability. This alleges that Disney misled and deceived pass purchasers by artificially limiting capacity and restricting reservations. The suit contends that Disney has effectively created a second tier of blockout dates by virtue of allocating reservations differently for passholders and regular ticket holders, in order to maximize the number of tickets that Disney can sell.
Disney filed a motion to dismiss on all claims, and was successful on some of them. However, the federal judge found that the “plaintiff has adequately pled facts supporting how a reasonable consumer may be deceived by the advertisement, which states ‘no blockout dates.'”
This has led to some speculation that Disneyland is reticent to sell Magic Keys. It’s possible that fundamental flaws exist in the Magic Key program, making it possible that the company has paused new Annual Pass sales while waiting the resolution of this case. However, we think this is highly unlikely.
As noted above, Magic Key renewals resumed this off-season, along with minor changes and major price increases. If the company truly feared a massive class action lawsuit, no passes would be sold at all–not renewals, not new APs. On top of that, Disney could easily avoid future litigation by clearly defining blockout dates and how those function in relation to reservations.
Since the passes originally went on sale last fall, additional verbiage has been added to its marketing doing exactly that. When Disneyland began Magic Key renewals, even more language was added to make it abundantly clear that “it may be difficult or not possible” to get park reservations. It thus does not seem like there’s legal exposure going forward with AP sales.
Another fan theory is that the company is embracing the “Disney Vault” strategy of creating demand through scarcity, or rather, perceived scarcity. It’s possible that Disneyland has survey data showing a high dissatisfaction rating among Magic Key purchasers and low intent to renew or purchase.
That wouldn’t be surprising, especially with the difficulty so many have reported in securing reservations. However, if these same fans believe they might not be able to simply purchase passes at their leisure down the road, they might err on the side of caution and renew when their time comes.
Personally, I don’t give this theory much credence. It’d be one thing if Disneyland felt the need to artificially “juice” Magic Key sales or play marketing games to increase attendance. That simply is not the case. Even in the face of ever-increasing prices, there is no shortage of demand. If new Magic Key sales opened with 20% higher prices across the board, there would still be a multi-hour virtual queue to buy.
Rather than believing there’s a contrived or convoluted explanation for the lack of new Magic Key sales, we’ll apply Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation is that the same underlying issue is causing all of this: crowds. More demand for admission and reservations to Disneyland than there is available capacity or supply.
The most straightforward explanation is that new Magic Key sales are suspended due to concerns about Disneyland’s ability to meet demand for regular tickets once Annual Passes are available again. It’s entirely possible that renewals help Disneyland fill the parks and meet attendance targets, but that internal projections show that new Magic Key sales would (once again) “break” the reservation system and lead to reservation shortfalls yet again.
As long as the parks aren’t operating at full capacity and there’s the potential for unsatisfied demand among higher-spending tourists, this is the simplest and clearest explanation for the lack of new Magic Key Annual Pass sales.
As discussed above, Disneyland suspended Magic Key sales ahead of Thanksgiving. That move probably occurred too late, and should’ve happened before Veterans’ Day based on crowding and reservation availability.
With all of that said, there are a few possible timeframes for the return of Magic Keys at Disneyland. The first is that new Annual Pass sales resume on or after January 9, 2023. This is not necessarily the precise date that APs will return to Disneyland Resort, it’s simply the week after Los Angeles and Orange County schools go back into session following winter break. In a normal year, this would mark the start of the winter off-season.
However, we do not think this is likely to occur, as it probably won’t be a “normal” winter off-season. Instead, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens and the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration at Disneyland Resort starts at the end of January 2023. That celebration brings with it new nighttime spectaculars to each park, plus character costumes, new merchandise, food & beverages, and everything else locals love.
Consequently, Disneyland might wait until mid-February to resume new Magic Key sales, wanting to capture some single-day ticket purchases from Californians who cannot resist seeing the festivities early-on. Maybe February 6, 2023 would make sense from that perspective.
We also do not think this is likely to occur. That’s during the heart of the popular Lunar New Year festivities and only a couple weeks before the busy Presidents’ Day holiday. Shortly after that, spring break season starts. Moreover, Disneyland has already announced that the reimagined Mickey’s Toontown will open and the Magic Happens Parade will return in Spring 2023. All of this will draw colossal crowds without new Magic Keyholders added to the mix.
The next logical time for Disneyland Resort to sell new Magic Keys would be after spring break season and Easter 2023. This would put the new AP sales starting around April 18, 2023…just in time for Tax Day!
I’m less inclined to dismiss this date out of hand like the others. This is pretty far into the future, and by this time it’s entirely possible that pent-up demand has exhausted itself and locals have gotten their fill of the new offerings by then. The general economic environment could also take a turn for the worse. Who knows–that’s literally 6 months into the future at this point. Still, I would not bet on this occurring.
Rather, my actual prediction for new Magic Key sales is next fall off-season, about the same time they originally went on sale. While it’s way too early to offer a specific prediction, I’ll nevertheless go with August 14, 2023. That’s the date by which most Los Angeles and Orange County schools will be back in session, which is the typical start off fall off-season.
As economic conditions continue to normalize–the labor market, household savings, and staffing shortages–there could be less of an issue with reservations being unavailable. By then, it’s also entirely possible that the non-stop price increases and cash grabs alienate enough locals and tourists that Disneyland is once again in a position of needing to lure back locals. It’s entirely possible that this actually occurs sooner, perhaps during the second half of summer season (which is how things actually played out last year).
In any case, it’s safe to say that new Magic Key sales will resume at some point, and will not enter the “Disney Vault” for years. In normal times, Disneyland is dependent upon locals during the off-season when tourism to Southern California is low because the weather is colder or school is in session (or both).
Although Disney has tried to make Disneyland Resort a standalone vacation destination (and moved it in that direction since the debut of Cars Land), it is still reliant upon Californians and not tourists for much of the year. While those same locals cause attendance problems, Disneyland has not shown that it can subsist on travelers to the same degree as Walt Disney World.
The challenge is in finding a balance. Disneyland is a Southern California institution, but it’s also becoming a popular destination for families on the West Coast. While most Disneyland Resort guests come from somewhere in California, people travel from other states, more and more. Utah and Nevada are chief among these, with Oregon, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Washington also heavily represented. For the last several years, we’ve observed crowd spikes when major districts in those states (especially Utah and Nevada) have breaks.
Disneyland also has a huge local population, with a high degree of disposable income. The collective population of Los Angeles and Orange Counties is nearly 14 million, which is higher (by millions) than the local population near Walt Disney World. Once you throw San Diego and other areas into the mix within a reasonable driving distance of Disneyland, you have around 20 million potential guests that can easily do day trips to Disneyland. And Disneyland only has two parks.
In the meantime, our expectation is that Disneyland finds this balance with more California resident ticket deals. Typically, one of these is released shortly after New Year’s crowds have subsided. Our guess is that the upcoming one runs from January 3, 2023 through May 25, 2023. It’ll likely be valid on weekdays only, which is consistent with recent precedent.
The biggest wild cards are whether all Californians will be eligible or just Southern California residents. If it’s everyone, expect blockouts around peak dates (possibly including the start of 100 Years of Wonder). Disneyland has been leaning on these 3-day ticket specials more and more in the last few years.
Ultimately, our prediction is that Disneyland Resort resumes new Magic Key sales at higher price points in 2023. Personally, I think sales restarting in January 2023 is highly unlikely, and would require a surprising slowdown in attendance to occur almost immediately. That’s possible given the latest round of price increases…but right before the holiday season? Again, highly unlikely.
At some point, things will normalize. Staffing shortages will be fully resolved, pent-up demand will fizzle out, and consumer spending will fall back to normal levels. All of that might happen by Spring 2023 or it might take until the tail end of next summer. For the better part of a year, we’ve been wondering when demand would slow…and it’s only grown stronger during that time. As such, we’re now firmly in the pessimistic camp, expecting sales of new Magic Keys to remain paused for a long time to come.
Of course, that’s just our guess from the outside looking in. I never would have predicted this happening back when Magic Key sales started last fall. (In fact, I didn’t! My expectation was that it would take a long time for Disneyland to rebuild its AP base, which I suppose was technically correct, but I also figured that meant low crowds.) Then again, Disneyland Resort also did not predict those problems. Disney executives have said they were surprised by sales and the company was clearly caught off-guard by the sky-high demand. So we shall see what happens next!
Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!
When do you expect Disneyland to start selling new Magic Keys? Think sometime in mid-January 2023 is a safe bet for AP sales, or will Disney wait, being more cautious this time? Think we might not see new Annual Passes until Fall 2023 to ensure there’s ample capacity for more lucrative tourists? Would you purchase a Magic Key right now if you could? 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!
As of today, the only Magic Key Pass that is available is the Inspire for $1599. Is there any risk in purchasing this? It’s a lot of money obviously, but I’m looking at it for my wifes birthday. We are in SoCal and would make multiple trips with different sets of grandkids throughout the year. In the past, we’ve always had APs and loved it…obviously times have changed and it’s more complex. But thinking it’s time to start going back to Disneyland. Thoughts? Thank you
Great write up and informative. Thanks for this!
we are probably the ideal magic key holders from a disney perspective… the reservation calendar works out great for us… we are from phx area, so we plan our trips in advance… take about 4 to 5 trips out there during the course of the pass… since we aren’t near home, we eat all most all our meals at disney restaurants for the long weekend we’re there… we only go when it isn’t busy… we buy beer and treats and clothes and souvenir and even special event tickets… we are basically like ppl buying 4 day park hoppers 4 to 5 times a year… super touristy… the more I think about it, disney should prolly be giving us annual passes for free… unfortunately, we have always bought our passes right before a trip (or sometimes even converted park hoppers to passes at the end of our first trip) and then let our passes expire until the next slow season… so these last passes we had, we bought in oct 21 (and went to oogie boogie) went then, again in jan, again in mid march, again in sept 22 and finally in oct 22… then our plan was to let it expire and wait til spring 23 or fall 23 before we buy them again… it feels to me that disney should take advantage of our kind of passholder by having a pass that is the opposite of the “inspire” key… only for ppl living outside the so cal area… these are the ppl that are gonna go to the park just like a regular single day ticker holder and spend just like a regular single day ticket holder…
Great write up.
Disney could lessen the crowds and increase revenue by building more theme parks. Several years ago there were rumors that Disney was going to build Disneyland North in the Northern California area near Sacramento (Tracy, Ca). That never materialized. A few more parks in strategic areas may help the overcrowding and lessen the travel for families to get to them. Just my .02.
Disneyland, is the place where family memories are made. I have fantastic memories of when I was a child with my siblings from 45 plus years ago. when I thought the Disney Characters where real.
so I hope that Disney can figure out a way to expand the tradition that bring families together and keep inviting people, friends, friends for generations. maybe add a third park in order to spread out the inflow of visitors. and start new traditions for future generations.
I think you did an amazing job with your in-depth analysis and I appreciate it! It really helps in my attempt to strategize when to reengage with Disney. To the person who accused you of writing regurgitated out of date information – I haven’t found your point of view anywhere else – So I really don’t know what they’re talking about. Maybe they just found your intelligence offputting!
I have kicked myself so many times for not purchasing the magic key when they came out. I had figured it was going to be hard to get one for my daughter once she turned 3yr. If I had known what I know now, I would’ve purchased. Now I just wish they bring it back so we could go.
I wonder if Disney has ever considered limiting the amount of times a Magic Key holder can attend per month. I imagine this would be unpopular, but would surely help the crowds. I personally would rather be limited in this way, as opposed to dealing with the crowds as of late.
Tom, If I wanted to be watching for the New Magic key card holders date when it opens… Where to you suggest I watch? Is there a insider website? Which Instagram/ Facebook site is Best? I’m ready to get My Husband & I a Magic Key pass after the Amazing Day we just had!!! We LOVE The Magic Kingdom in the Fall
Tom, you obviously visit Disneyland a lot to create this blog. What will your strategy be once your MagicPass expires if you can’t renew? Will you have to start paying full whack for tickets every time you visit? Would that affect your blog output?
I am a Magic Key holder from out of state. we love it because when we want to go we are able to. yes there are days we might have to use a regular ticket but that is okay. we try to go when available. Needing to fly, get a hotel and we have kids and a grandson that we spend plenty on in the park so they are still getting lots of my money. as for food we don’t want to carry items so we purchase what we need. Again just because we are Magic Key holders doesn’t mean we don’t spend money. It gives us the freedom to go 4-5 times a year and get our pins, clothes and other items we like. yes I could just order the items but being there is just so much better. Not all Magic Key holders are bad.
So are you saying if my AP expires in February 2023, I should have renewed in August 2022?
How successful was Disneyland in using “California resident ticket deals” to replace APs in terms of getting people into the park during its slower periods in the past year?
I let my magic key expire. I don’t miss it yet. Disneyland has been so crowded that they certainly don’t miss me. The crowds and sky high prices were motivation for me to take a break. If the keys never go on sale again, I’ll be okay with that too. My family became Knott’s passholders a few years ago. We’ve also added Universal. I kinda feel like they appreciate passholders more than Disneyland. So I will continue to give them my money instead. Not to mention a family of five can probably go to Hawaii for week, all for less than what magic keys cost.
I am so glad to hear your honest response about Magic Keys. We typically go twice a year so the magic keys aren’t necessarily worth it for us. However, I have always felt a little left out considering I don’t even have the option right now to buy one if I wanted to. I appreciate knowing that you don’t miss it. I get a discount on merchandise because I have a Disney Visa Card, so that takes care of that perk. You have given me much to think about if the keys become available again. I may decide not get them in the end because I agree. I would rather stick to visiting Disneyland once or twice a year and then using my money to take other kinds of Family vacations. Those who only go to Disneyland and no where else have issues. (just kidding).
The snowman in the article thumbnail is creepy lol
All the info in this article is spot-on, up to date and accurate and the article provides a great review of the large amount of background info that is necessary to understand where things currently stand with the “AP” situation in Disneyland. As someone who also closely tracks these things, Bricker’s predictions seem spot-on (as much as anything like that can be.) _IF_ any form of AP will go on sale in the future (a big if considering all the factors covered well in the article) next April or more likely next fall seem the _very soonest_ possible dates, even if Disney were to get new leadership today (unfortunately not likely . . . ).
The information in this article is dated and regurgitated…. The writer is trying to sound too educated which THUS takes away from the article and ADEQUATELY gives me enough reason to stay away from future posts from this blog.
Aside from the recap about past Magic Key sales and pauses (which is the foundation of the predictions), what about this is dated? This article was written yesterday.
As for being too educated…I readily admit to having no inside info. The very first paragraph says this is speculation. Elsewhere, I concede having been wrong about Magic Keys in the past.
You are very correct about crowds. They are bonkers! We went in the “off season” last week in Sept. So, so crowded. As far as mobile order, it was faster to leave and go to subway, then come back. Disneyland does not seem to need the AP. I can only imagine how horrible the crowds would be if they did. Looking forward to old off season days again. Fingers crossed. Thank you for keeping us updated on Disneyland. We visit both CA and FL parks. I visit your site daily to get my fix. Thank you
You make a great case for the date you picked. If they resume sales, that seems like the soonest it would likely occur.