Having not visited the Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest since 2005 (reviewed here), we thought it was high time for a return visit last night. Unfortunately, having purchased our tickets and paid for parking, after waiting in line for our first maze of the evening, we were informed that we need a wrist band to enter the Jokester's Lair. Wrist bands are available at the Guest Relations building for an additional charge ($5).
We were so outraged by this bait-and-switch technique that we stormed out and demanded our money back. The addtional $5 may seem like small cauldron of brew, but there is a certain principle at stake - which is that you don't sell someone a ticket and then later tell them that the ticket doesn't buy everything you thought it did.
The admission price for Knott's Scary Farm and Universal's Halloween Horror Nights is $52.99 and $49.99, respectively. Magic Mountain's ticket price is $59.99. That's right: their base admission price is more than Knott's or Universal, and then they want to charge an additional fee on top of that? We don't think so!
Let's be honest: The Magic Mountain Fright Fest is no match for Knott or Universal. Magic Mountain's one advantage has always been that they did not charge extra for their Fright Fest; you paid the regular price, enjoyed the roller-coasters during day, and thrilled to the monsters by night. Their Halloween attractions are not bad, but you can enjoy equally good Halloween entertainment at numerous professional haunts around Southern California for far fewer dollars.
There is a sad irony here. Magic Mountain is the theme park the established a new business model, charging one admission price that allowed you access to all the attractions inside. Before that, theme parks like Disneyland charged for admission and then sold tickets inside the park for their rides. (We have been around long enough to remember the old Disneyland "E Tickets" - the ones that granted access to the really good rides, not the tame rides for kids. The phrase "E Ticket Ride" even came to be a figure of speech indicating something especially exciting.) Competition from Magic Mountain forced other theme parks to change the way they did business - which was a great boon for consumers.
Having set this standard, it is sad to see Magic Mountain reverting to the old way of doing things. We imagine that this year's extra charge for Fright Fest mazes (which were told was a last minute corporate decision) is an experiment to see whether the can get away with it. This year, charge $5 for a wrist band that grants entrance to all the mazes. Next year it could be separate tickets for each maze. After that, who knows? They may got the Knott's-Universal route and charge separate admission for Fright Fest. For us, it's just not worth it.
UPDATE: In the interest of fairness, I should add that Magic Mountain does offer a two-for-one deal when purchasing admission tickets online, lowring the price to $30 apiece. This, plus $5 for the wrist band to enter the haunted mazes, totals $35, which matches the bargain prices for Knott's and Universal early in the season (their bargain prices go up later in the month). Therefore, even with the additional charge, Magic Mountain's prices are still competetive if you purchase online.