Top 5 Ways South Dakota Beats Disney Says Robert Wright
Robert Wright was a Northeasterner (New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey) until he discovered the Great Plains at age 40. He is now the Nef Family Chair of Political Economy at Augustana College in Sioux Falls and the author of 17 books, including Little Business on the Prairie: Entrepreneurship, Prosperity, and Challenge in South Dakota (Center for Western Studies, 2015). He recently took his family to Disney World in Orlando, Florida for the first time but soon wished he had vacationed in South Dakota instead.
Waiting to Wait
At Disney, waiting is the name of the game. First you wait to pay to park. Then you wait to be ushered to a spot. Then you wait for a tram to take you to the reputed entrance. Then you wait for your bags to be inspected, for what no one is quite sure. Then you wait to take a train or ferry to the actual park. Then you wait to buy your entrance pass. Then you wait to scan the pass and finally gain admission. Then the real waiting, for access to rides, commences. Driving from attractions in, say, Custer to ones in Deadwood is more interesting, sometimes faster, and certainly cheaper.
Including taxes, Disney passes, of which there are a dizzying variety, can run on the order of $200 per day per person. What a family spends on the passes alone for a few days could instead buy several kayaks, a modest boat, or a snow machine that will provide years of fun under the Dakota sun.
A Sauna, Then a Fire Hose
Much of the year, Orlando’s climate is like a sauna – very hot and very, very humid. That makes all the waiting seem even more onerous. In addition, the long waits combined with the price structure of the passes induce visitors to stay active even during the hottest parts of the day – if they are lucky. If they aren’t, and they often aren’t, round about 3 pm come torrential downpours, often accompanied by lightening, that effectively close the parks or at least the best rides. No refunds or rain checks, however, are to be had. Best brush up on your meteorological knowledge of central Florida before buying.
Perhaps most frustratingly of all, Disney sells so-called “fast passes” that allow visitors to bypass the poor slobs who can’t afford the “fast pass” fee. Worst off of all, though, are the visitors who buy the passes only to discover that the “fast pass” times allotted for their favorite rides are many hours later, when they planned to be elsewhere, like another park, a restaurant, or dodging lightening.
Inauthentic ExperiencesA hot air balloon flight out of Sioux Falls may not excite some people as much as one of Disney’s coasters do, but it, like most South Dakota adventures, is more authentic than canned Disney rides, which are pretty much the same for every rider, every time. The cultural side of Disney is even less authentic. For example, the Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom, which purports to be a “colonial-style inn serving New England-inspired fare,” offers neither alcohol nor rabbit. “Freedom Pasta with Sautéed Shrimp” is on the menu, but Sam Adams and other “Founding Fathers” surely did not gobble down much of that.