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Best Ride in America Tournament: Round one, day seven

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Published: March 22, 2008 at 9:21 PM

Much GOTV yesterday led to some wild swings in the battle between Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster and Epcot's Spaceship Earth. But, in the end, Dragster prevailed, by the narrowest margin so far in the tournament.

Epcot's Test Track also won by the slightest of margins, edging out Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. In the other match-ups, SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken and Disney's Hollywood Studios' Twilight Zone Tower of Terror also advanced.

Today's the day I've been waiting for in the tournament, because I think we could have four tight matches on tap with these:

I can hear the Busch Gardens Europe fans already complaining about this draw. But it is (7) Griffon vs. (58) Universal Studios Florida's Jaws.

I'm a big fan of both of these attractions, but we're gonna have to pick one: (15) Kilimanjaro Safaris vs. Legoland's Robocoaster (50) Knights Tournament

Sorry, but the BGE coasters just didn't get any "C" ticket dark rides as opponents: Here's (23) Apollo's Chariot vs. (42) Animal Kingdom's Dinosaur

Finally, two trend-setting rides from different eras match up in (31) Matterhorn Bobsleds vs. (34) Men in Black Alien Attack.

Let's continue the debate in the comments....

Readers' Opinions

From Mark Tilsher on March 22, 2008 at 10:55 PM
SOmetimes when I see these I really have to ask myself if people have ever actually ridden the rides they are voting on... or if they just vote for the ride they have ridden.

I will not call out which contests I am talking about... sometimes it just seems like people are voting without riding both rides.

It is like people who review movies before they come out... they give it 5 stars and say... this movie is going to be soooo great... happens on netflix all the time.

/gripe over

From Robert Niles on March 22, 2008 at 11:03 PM
I haven't campaigned much for any rides to this point, but I am rooting hard for Men in Black and Knights Tournament here. I really believe that these are transformative rides in the industry, and deserving of some love in the tournament.
From Eric Ey on March 22, 2008 at 11:14 PM
As usual, Disney Dominates. The Matterhorn must win. I'm not so big on the thrills, but like themeing. The Matterhorn does just that.

Besides, it might as well be a historic landmark.

Disney Dominates. And that's the way it should be...

From Scottland Jacobson on March 22, 2008 at 11:40 PM
Jaws doesn't have a chance!

Apollo's Chariot vs. Dinosaur! That's tough! But Apollo is just so dang exciting. Disney does not always need to win.

And MIB vs. Matterhorn??? C'mon people!! MIB is absolutely the BEST. The Matterhorn is a classic, yes, but MIB MUST win!!

From Joshua Counsil on March 23, 2008 at 12:10 AM
I feel the same way too, Mark. It kills me because I see some of my favorites losing to rides I have never ridden, but out of honor for the rating system I can't vote for them. It's like watching your friends get attacked behind a locked gate (less extreme, of course).

This was an especially tough day, because I'm watching Jaws, Kilimanjaro, and Dinosaur up against rides I haven't ridden yet. And I'm watching the incredible MIB lose to the fun, but dated and rather plain, Matterhorn.

I still can't believe Big Thunder lost to Test Track, and that Spaceship Earth came so close to beating Dragster. The WDW fans are out in full effect.

From Sylvain Comeau on March 23, 2008 at 12:18 AM
It pained me to vote against Pooh yesterday, because I love that ride. I think it's the best in fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. But, how can you vote against TOT? That ride is a huge home run for Disney. It is an extraordinary meld of detailed theming, effects, and thrills.
From Mark Hollamon on March 23, 2008 at 4:31 AM
I think Mark is spot on in the first post. Surely there are people voting that have not experienced both rides. For some it is impossible. That is why the results of a vote such as this are a tough sell. It is fun though and I like to see the results of the voting on rides that are so diverse.
From Claudine Deshaies on March 23, 2008 at 6:57 AM
One person commented yesterday that theming is everything and a "coaster is just a coaster". I would just like to offer my opinion on that - if you disagree, fine.
First of all, on a dark ride, theming IS everything, I agree. Haunted mansion would be nothing without it's ghosts and eerie/silly music.
But (FOR ME) on a roller coaster, theming doesn't make up for lack of thrills. So if I were to compare Expedition Everest to Apollo's Chariot, I would vote for Apollo's Chariot. The themeing for EE is awesome. The queue is interesting and the ride itself is themed great. But, there are no big hills and it just made me queasy. Now AC is boring theme-wise, but is a great ride.
So while one may suggest that a good story endures, for me the memory of a scary drop or nighttime coaster ride will stay in my memory longer.
From Claudine Deshaies on March 23, 2008 at 7:25 AM
I'd like to add something here about Mark's comment.
Robert added guidelines for rating recently. These are guidelines for the ratings that appear on this web site. It is really important that a person rating a ride/show/restaurant has actually been to the place they are rating. That way people who visit this site will get a good idea of how good something is before they go.
BUT: it does not say these are guidelines for the Tournament. Here's what Robert wrote about the tournament when he announced it: "Readers will get to vote on their favorites and the winners will advance to subsequent rounds." He did not say you had to have been on the ride. If you picked the names of four attractions that you think will win in the end, you'd better be voting for them.
Personally, when I vote, if I haven't been on one of the rides listed, I look up the other one and give an honest opinion of which I like better.
The Tournemant and the rating system on this site are not the same.
From Danny Melillo on March 23, 2008 at 7:35 AM
Man, how is Apollos losing? I'm pulling for a JAWS over Griffon upset here. Kiliminjaro will dominate Knights.
From Larry Zimmerman on March 23, 2008 at 8:07 AM
I've been on both Dinosnore and Apollo's Chariot. I agree with previous posters - if the voters had actually been on Chariot, there's no way on earth they'd vote for Dinosnore. Chariot is the closest I've been to actually flying without being in a plane. Dinosnore is like a bad night in a strange bed. IMHO, of course...
From James Rao on March 23, 2008 at 12:00 PM
Claudine, I agree with you on one point, theming a bad ride will not make it great. Take a look at Cedar Point's Disaster Transport with its lame strobe light effects and useless 3D glasses as evidence of that fact. However, I would argue that DT is a better ride for the attempt, unfortunately, the theming stinks and the ride is not that great to begin with, so no amount of theme is going to save it.

Now for where I disagree (paraphrased from one of my previous postings):

I think the main thing a good theme does is it immerses you into the story. Where Everest is concerned, you are no longer Joe Vactioneer from Kansas City on yet another coaster with a long drop and some airtime, you are an explorer about to have an encounter with the fabled Yeti. It is called escapism. Good movies do it, good music does it, and good theme parks do it.

If I just wanted to ride thrill rides I could drive over to my local Cedar Fair park, Worlds of Fun, and ride their coasters and midway rides all day long. But there is nothing immersive about the park. No matter what I ride or how thrilling it is, I am still just passing time in a stationary carnival off of I-435, minutes from my house.

It is all in the immersion. That's why Walt Disney World is the #1 vacation destination in the world. And, that's why Expedition Everest is better than other more thrilling coasters: it offers thrills, chills, AND a great, immersive story. Other coasters just offer a ride. Maybe a great ride. Maybe a heart stopping plunge, or a killer loop, but you know what, I can get that same heart stopping plunge or killer loop at 50 parks across the United States. I can only get the Expedition Everest experience at one park.

From Robert Niles on March 23, 2008 at 12:59 PM
To follow Claudine's comment: I've been running TPI for, what, nine years now? So I've got a fair amount of experience watching readers' ratings for the attractions. :-)

But this is the first time I've done a tournament. =:-0 So I, purposely, was a bit vague about the criteria people should use for making a decision. I wanted to see how it went. Next year, there will be tweaks. I have some in mind already. ( I wrote about the kiddie rides yesterday, for example.)

In an ideal world, all of us will have been to the top 30 parks linked on the right side of the page, and be able to make an informed judgment about the relative merit of all the rides at them. What I love about this site is that so many readers actually are in the ballpark of having done that (especially the North American parks).

From Daniel Smith on March 23, 2008 at 1:07 PM
I'm only voting when I have ridden both rides in a vote, otherwise I don't vote :P
From Kelly Smith on March 23, 2008 at 1:22 PM
I actually like Dinosaur, and I understand it's Disney and all, but... beating Apollo's Chariot? No way.
From Eli Katzman on March 23, 2008 at 1:43 PM
If "Dinosaurs" wins, i'm gonna... I can't explain how mad i would get if Apollo's chariot doesnt win. AGHR! If you voted for Dinos, you probably dont like roller coasters
From James Rao on March 23, 2008 at 2:13 PM
I haven't ridden AC yet (I am going back to BGE in June - have not been there sine 1983), however I was very impressed with Dinosaur when we went to AK last summer. I am not sure why folks are down on it? It is amazingly themed, very loud, very thrilling, and has a few genuinely scary moments. It may not be as good as AC (I will find out in a few months), but it certainly is not a bad attraction by any stretch.
From Tyler W. on March 23, 2008 at 2:49 PM
Apollo getting beat by Dinosaur? Are you kidding me?
From Anthony J on March 23, 2008 at 2:52 PM
I've never been more stumped in a poll than Matterhorn vs Men In Black. How you guys did it, I do not know.. haha.

As for the comments above about Expedition Everest, I.. well.. the story is great, the theming is excellent, the Yeti is impressive, the mountain is awe-inspiring, the actual ride.. is completely lackluster. I do agree with all your praise for it except that I have never experienced neither thrills nor chills during Expedition Everest. I'm not gonna lie, I've probably gotten more thrills on Primeval Whirl.

From Justin Spisto on March 23, 2008 at 3:05 PM
All I can say is lets go Apollo's Chariot. Ive ridden both Apollo's Chariot and Dinosaur. Dinosaur is good but Apollo's is exceptional.
From Ricky Short on March 23, 2008 at 3:49 PM
I can't belive that Apollo is losing to Dinosaur. All I left Dinosaur with was a headache. When I left Apollo I felt lighter than air, with an adrenaline rush. Not to say that Dinosaur is a bad ride, they are just of two totally different classes. It would be a travesty for Apollo to lose.
From Mostly Anonymous on March 23, 2008 at 5:04 PM
Sorry Robert, Knight's Tournament is an exciting new concept, but as a ride it's a bit disappointing. Even some music would help - all you hear is the mechanical whirring. Kilimanjaro Safaris does deserve to win - although it'll win not because it's better, but because more people have ridden it.

I do agree that Men in Black should win, though. It's far and away the best shooter ride I've seen. I love that you shoot aliens, not targets. The Matterhorn is great too, but a simpler experience.

From Danny Melillo on March 23, 2008 at 5:51 PM
How is Apollos still losing? Guess the BGE fans are still eating.
From Jake Rivers on March 23, 2008 at 5:53 PM
Maybe cause Apollo's isn't worth waiting more than 10-15 minutes for! Use some common sense bro.
From Eli Katzman on March 23, 2008 at 6:03 PM
So, Jake, you're basically saying that Apollo's Chariot isn't very good? If so, you're the only one who thinks that. Either way, Apollo's Chariot has a much faster line than you would expect. If everything was running right for the day that you would go, there would always be a car waiting to be loaded.
From Danny Melillo on March 23, 2008 at 6:23 PM
How is it not worth waiting more than 15min? It's one of the best B&M hypers around. Dinosaur isn't worth more than 30 being generous. Apollos ia coaster that has theme, you can't compare that to a jeep ride with theme, even if it is Disney.
From Derek Potter on March 23, 2008 at 7:27 PM
"Disney Dominates. And that's the way it should be..."

Spoken like a true fanboy. Have you actually ridden any non Disney rides?

Seriously people. Apollos Chariot is one of the best steel roller coasters in the world. The fact that it is losing to Dinosaur is a testament to the Disney superfan turnout. Thankfully, Disney isn't the only one around here with a loyal fanbase that probably hasn't ridden half the rides they are voting on, although it seems like every ride Disney owns is in the tournament. I know it's based on the ride ratings here at TPI, but there are plenty of other great rides around that are taking a backseat to the C rated darkride.

A vote uncharacteristic of me was the choice of Jaws over Griffon. Jaws is one of those attractions that I can appreciate for some odd reason. It's been years since I've ridden it, but for some reason I remember it like it was yesterday. Griffon, for all of it's hype, comes off as a bit of a one trick pony to me. Some rides are meant to be like that (Dragster), but Griffons trick isn't nearly as impressive, and the ride is a bit short. Great experience, but for some odd reason, the coaster lover preferred Jaws in this case.

I also went for the Matterhorn out of respect. The ride is 50 years old, but was an absolute groundbreaker, and is the grandfather of all steel coasters. MIB is a fun ride too, but went with Matterhorn, and also Kilimanjaro.

As for Dragster's victory, I'll just say this. Just like there are plenty of Disney fanboys, there is a horde of Cedar Point superfans too. Don't underestimate the cult following of the Point. In my opinion, the better ride won, but I figured there would be some kind of static. Lord forbid a Disney ride actually loses to a Cedar Point ride right? I really doubt there has been any ballot stuffing though, that would be a bit pathetic. It really is all in fun people.

Of course all the voters haven't ridden all the rides they are voting on. It's a bit skewed that way. I'm staying out of contests that involve rides I havent ridden, although my travels have taken me to all of them so far. Honestly it appears that all one pretty much has to do is travel to LA, Ohio, and the Orlando/Tampa area to have first hand experience on the rides in the tournament, and that to me is a bit of a shame. I understand that the picks are based on TPI ratings, and that many of the other regional rides probably don't have enough votes to be eligible anyway. Thus is the current democratic process I suppose.

From David Kirby on March 23, 2008 at 7:27 PM
I love Dinosaur but there is no way it should be beating Apollo's Chariot. Sigh... Those Disney fans sure can be annoying.

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