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High Ho! Disneyland hikes ticket prices by up to 10%

Fireworks at Disneyland
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Fireworks at Disneyland

Disneyland announced big increases to its ticket prices Sunday night, the latest evidence the massive upgrades made to the parks during the recession are paying off.

The price of the popular "One Day Parkhopper" tickets, which allow visitors to enter both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks in California, rose 9.5% to $150, says Disneyland blog MiceChat.com. Meanwhile, the price to visit just one park rose 4.3% to $96. Disneyland's Suzi Brown confirmed the price increase to USA TODAY.

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But perhaps the biggest shock to residents of the Southern California area is Disney saying "Let It Go" to sales of new annual passes for locals. Sales of tickets are suspended unless consumers already have one.

These tickets became so popular with Southern Californians that the parks were getting stuffed with local residents on Sunday. The demand for the passes was robust despite big increases in the prices: Disney even offers a payment plan for these season tickets.

Yes, some people have a Disneyland payment.

While annual passes are no longer being sold to new customers, consumers who already have them can renew at the increased prices.

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And Disney's stock has been magical for investors, too. Shares of Disney are up 94% over the past three years, blowing away the 40% gain by the Standard & Poor's 500. Over the past three years, Disney has boosted its net income by an average annual rate of 16.6%, says S&P Capital IQ.

The big investments made in Disney's parks are turning this namesake business into a bigger driver of the company's profit. Currently, the Parks & Resorts unit accounts for 20% of the value of Disney's stock, says stock research site Trefis.com. That's narrowing the gap with ESPN Channels, which accounts for 35% of the Disney's stock price. In 2010, Parks & Resorts accounted for 28.1% of Disney's revenue and ESPN was 25%, Trefis says. This year, Parks & Resorts are estimated to bring in 31.4% of the revenue vs. ESPN Channels' 25%.

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CEO Robert Iger's gutsy decision to invest billions enhancing the company's parks during the recession, while many other big companies were pulling back on investment, is proving to be one of the savviest business moves in recent history.

Despite the stock's big run, the average Wall Street analysts still rate the stock an "outperform," S&P Capital IQ says. The average 12-month price target on the stock is $87.67. Shares closed Friday at $80.39, up 24 cents. (Click here for the latest quote.)

Read More Theme parks 'out of reach' for some families

Walt Disney theme parks remain the most popular in the world, drawing more than 126.5 million visitors in 2012, the latest data available from industry tracker Themed Entertainment Association. Disneyland is the second most popular theme park in the world, just behind Disney's Magic Kingdom in Florida, with more than 16 million annual visitors in 12. Meanwhile, thanks to massive additions to Disney California Adventure park, including an addition of Cars Land in 2012, the popularity of that park as skyrocketed. In 2012, California Adventure was the 11th most popular themepark in the world with 7.8 million visitors.

By Matt Krantz of USA Today

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