More people visited Orlando, Fla. in 2011 -- 55.1 million -- than any other city in the United States [source: Visit Orlando]. We always assumed people flocked by the millions to central Florida for the indigenous rock formation exhibit at the Orange County Regional History Center. But maybe these Disney folks play a small role. Entirely by coincidence, the number of estimated visitors to Disney's four Orlando mega-theme parks and two water parks was more than 51 million in 2011 [source: Visit Orlando].
Much like Vegas exists to drain the bank accounts of gullible amateur gamblers, Disney's Orlando empire exists to drain the bank accounts of parents with small children, who must shell out big to go through acres of product placement-themed attractions, only to see their offspring melt into pools of tears when a dude in a Goofy costume tries to slap them five during the two-hour wait for Magic Mountain. Anyone with small children instinctively knows that hot weather, tons of sugary food, long lines and insanely overblown expectations equals parenting hell. But try explaining that to your 6-year-old in the princess costume.
At $89 per ticket for anyone over age 10, a family of four will pay well over $1,000 just to enter the half-dozen Disney parks over three days. Add the cost of lodging, meals and souvenirs from said theme parks and you're looking at a very pricey vacation.
If Disney isn't your thing, don't worry. Universal Studios, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens are right across the street. But the prices are about the same. For a lower budget experience, try the Weeki Wachee Mermaid Show at $13 a head.