Florida residents are beach rich, with more than 2,000 miles of tidal shoreline. But there’s more than hot sand driving the Sunshine State’s huge tourism industry, which provided more than $71 billion in tax dollars to the state of Florida in 2012 according to the state’s official tourism marketing agency. The biggest non-beach contributor to Florida’s tourist trap-ness? Theme parks.
The Sunshine State boasts seven of the top ten parks in annual attendance, with the Magic Kingdom coming in at #1 with almost 20.5 million visitors in 2015. But it’s not just the tax dollars that Florida residents benefit from. They also have some pretty big perks when it comes to making the most out of these state treasures.
1. Resident pricing
This is the no-brainer: All the big parks give price breaks to local residents. To get the special rate, all you have to do is show a driver’s license or other Florida ID, or something like a utility bill (check each park’s policy for requirements). For Disney, the savings on single tickets are huge—currently a one-day ticket starts at $73 for residents vs. $97 for non-residents.
2. Multi-day tickets
One of the biggest benefits of proximity is the ease of returning. While most of the rest of us poor Yankees have to squeeze all our park visits into one trip hitting different parks on consecutive days, residents can take advantage of multi-day tickets, most of which you have up to six months to use. Multi-day tickets can cut your per-day cost down by half, so buying a six-day pass would be like getting two three-day visits for the price of one.
3. Season pass options
There isn’t much of a point in buying a season pass if you’re only going to visit once a year. But for residents, these season passes are by far the best value. For about what a non-resident would pay just for a three-day pass at Universal Studios ($201), a resident can get an annual pass ($235), giving them an unlimited number of visits. There are some blackout days, but those days are usually the ones that smart residents avoid anyway.
4. Special events
Sure, every visit to Disney is special. But for a truly unique experience, visit on one of the special days like Halloween, or July Fourth, or New Years Eve. The crowds will be insane, but so is the experience. A true Disney aficionado has to see it at its fullest at least once.
As a kid in Florida, the absolute best, hands-down days to visit a theme park were when I had a day off from school and all the other schools were still in session. On days like these, you could ride the best roller coasters in the park, and when you finished, if there was nobody waiting (which happened regularly), you could just stay on and ride, over and over again. It was truly glorious.
6. Pressure-free visits
When I visit parks now as an adult, with kids in tow, and having paid non-resident admission, there’s a certain amount of pressure to get all the fun in. Tired toddlers, grumpy grown-ups, or even rain days—these are all luxuries that aren’t available to me. As a resident, though, no matter what happens, there’s always next time. Because you probably have an annual pass anyway. Which you bought for the same price I paid for my single visit. It’s like you’re getting an extra helping of the magic.