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Theme Park Insider's Best Ride in North America tournament returns next week

By Robert Niles
Published: March 10, 2009 at 11:07 AM
Next Tuesday, March 17, 2009, Theme Park Insider will kick off its second annual "Best Ride in North America" tournament, pitting the 64 highest-rated North American theme and amusement park rides on the site against one another in a single-elimination tournament.

Tower of TerrorLast year's winner, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror from Disney's Hollywood Studios, will claim the top seed, by virtue of last year's win. It will face 63 other rides over three weeks of reader voting on ThemeParkInsider.com to see if it will defend its crown.

The basic format will remain the same as in last year's tournament. Each day we will publish several match-ups, pitting one ride against another in the field. You, and other Theme Park Insider readers, will vote for your favorite among the two. The winner moves on to the next round. With 64 rides in the tournament, we'll have six rounds of voting, with the sixth being the final match-up, on Monday, April 6.

Match-ups will be posted as entries on Theme Park Insider's front-page Blog Flume. So you and other TPI readers will be able to talk in the comments about the match-ups, and campaign for your favorites. (Or talk trash about the ones you don't like so much....) Voting will remain open for just one day for each match-up, so don't forget to check the site every day during the tournament, if you want your voice heard.

Here's how we decided which rides to include in the tournament, and how to seed them:

  • Like last year, only rides are eligible. No shows. The idea is to preserve as many apples-to-apples comparisons as possible.
  • No kids' rides. After a few mismatches last year, for this year's tournament, we decided to exclude rides that are aimed primarily at children riders, such as Disney's Dumbo and the like. Not that those aren't great rides for their audience, but we want to find the best ride that's aimed at the broadest audience.
  • No clones. Only the highest-rated version of a particular attraction is included in the tournament, even if its sibling would have been among the top 64. For example, only Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean and Disney World's Tower of Terror are in the tournament, and not their siblings from the other coast.
  • Because the vast majority of TPI's readers live in the United States, the tournament is open this year just to rides in North America. Again, there are many outstanding rides in parks in Europe and Asia, but with relatively few TPI readers having experienced them firsthand, we felt it wasn't fair to include them in the tournament. We do, however, have rides from Canada in the mix this year, which is why the tournament is now the best ride in "North" America this time. As TPI's European readership increases, we hope to add European rides into the mix soon.
  • The defending champion gets the top seed. From there, seedings are determined by the rides' average reader rating on Theme Park Insider. We have moved some rides up or down a few places in the seedings in order to create better tournament match-ups. When possible, we've tried to link match-ups by some theme, whether it be ride type, ride theme or theme park company. We've also tried to avoid first-round match-ups that would place a lower-seeded Disney attraction versus a higher-seeded attraction from another company, given Disney's overall popularity as a theme park brand. (Of course, given Disney's popularity, it didn't have as many attractions in the lower half of the draw anyway.)

    Contest!

    Just like last year, we're running a reader contest with the tournament. We're giving $100 to the reader who does the best job in predicting the outcome of the tournament. All you have to do is tell us which rides you think will be the final four rides left in the tournament, and which of those four you think will be the winner.

    E-mail your picks, along with your name and mailing address to contest@themeparkinsider.com. The contest is open to residents of the United States, age 18 and up. No purchase necessary, yada, yada, yada. Employees of Niles Online (that's me and my wife) are not eligible, although I'll make picks just so we can all see how badly I do. Only your first received entry will be considered, so don't bother e-mailing more than once.

    The contest closes at 8 am, PDT, on Tuesday, March 17.

    If you'd like some extra help picking your four, I'll be e-mailing the tournament bracket and voting schedule to subscribers to Theme Park Insider's e-mail newsletter on Monday, one day before I post them on the website (and one day before the contest closes). So if you have not yet subscribed to the TPI e-mail newsletter, just fill out and click the form under "GET NEWS BY E-MAIL" on the upper left of any Theme Park Insider page.

    So, please spread the word and be ready to vote next Tuesday!

    Readers' Opinions

    From brian lochridge on March 10, 2009 at 1:15 PM
    Get ready for the Disney nuts to come out again in droves. I'm sure there’s already a viral campaign starting trying to get all the Disney nuts out there to get on here and vote. Don't get me wrong I'm a huge Disney fan but come on, TOT isn’t even the best ride at Disney, much less the Champion. I'm pumped for this, thanks Charles, I can't wait to see who Cinderella is this year.
    From Ryan Sanford on March 10, 2009 at 2:52 PM
    Can't wait till' the 17th!
    From Pyra Dong on March 10, 2009 at 4:17 PM
    I know I'm still fairly new to TPI, but... COME ON... for real? TOT was the winner last year? So I'm putting a call-out to the non-Disney fans out there because my impression of this contest is that the majority of voters are Disney-lovers... and I think rides OUTSIDE of Disney are just as awesome-- if not better. So let's balance the vote!
    From Nick Markham on March 10, 2009 at 6:58 PM
    Well, I can't do the contest, but I think it will be between Tower of Terror, Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Toy Story Mania, and The Simpson's Ride!
    From James Rao on March 10, 2009 at 7:42 PM
    While this web site has a fairly diversified following, it does tend to celebrate traditional theme parks like Disney and Universal over Iron Ride Parks like Cedar Point and Magic Mountain. Parks that put story and immersion above thrills and upset stomachs! However, in a world filled with "balanced and fair" reporting, there are plenty of other sites and awards that celebrate traditional amusment parks and the "highest" and "tallest" and "fastest" of this ride or that. The Golden Ticket Awards are very thrill ride oriented, for one example.

    Don't get me wrong, most of us wimpy and weak Disney Fanboys like a good coaster as much as the next burly and bruising Cedar Point Jock, but in the end, to us a coaster is still just a coaster, while a good story lasts forever (I think Marty Sklar of WDI once said something very similar).

    So be warned: most of the voters in this contest will indeed give props to story over thrills, theming over speed, and immersion over height. Accept that fact, and move on. Don't hate the playa, and all that...

    But, trust me, the dichotomy between Theme Parks and Iron Ride Parks is the spice of life...and the comments will be ablaze with supporters of both sides. It will be a hoot!

    And in the end, because every ride/attraction in this tournament is worthy of some measure of praise, it is us, the voters, who are the true winners!

    From James Rao on March 10, 2009 at 7:54 PM
    Can I just go ahead and pick my final four now?

    4. Ariel's Grotto
    3. Cinderella's Golden Carrousel
    2. Pooh's Playful Spot
    1. Pixie Hollow

    Incidentally, I am getting a shirt made for this tournament. It will be a black "T-shirt" with a big picture of Tinkerbell on the front and a series of heart-shaped Disney Princess lockets imprinted on each sleeve. And in true Rod Smart fashion the name on the back of the jersey will be: "He Hate Me."

    Anyone else as fired up as I am!!!!!????

    From Rob P on March 11, 2009 at 3:00 AM
    Can't argue with James on this. Good points and well made.

    I'll be surprised if some of the perennials don't win out here.......and rightly so. At the end of the day : if more people like a particular ride and vote for it then it deserves to win no matter what Park it's in.

    Perhaps some of the overboard thrill junkies will still be shaking too much to hit the keyboard to vote( lol )

    From W McDougal on March 11, 2009 at 7:37 AM
    I hope Snow White takes down a coaster or two.
    From Don Neal on March 11, 2009 at 10:34 AM
    James, can you get me a Large in one of those shirts you described? And on the back of mine, I want it to say "chaps make the man" Thanks! ;)

    And yes, this was a blast last year! Really looking forward to it!

    From brian lochridge on March 11, 2009 at 12:13 PM
    Is there going to be a play in game? You could match two lower rated rides and have them square off to be the first ride to face the defending champ TOT. Just a thought to make things a little more fun.

    And James come on, we all know Mr Toads Wild Ride will return form the dead to take it all.

    From James Rao on March 11, 2009 at 12:54 PM
    I <heart> Chaps and Toads!
    From Don Neal on March 11, 2009 at 1:49 PM
    Chap wearin' Toads FTW!!
    From Joshua Counsil on March 11, 2009 at 4:13 PM
    Damn ... can't do the contest.

    Still, here are my final four guesses:

    Tower of Terror
    The Incredible Hulk
    Expedition Everest
    The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman

    Same picks as last year.

    From Charles Reichley on March 16, 2009 at 11:00 AM
    Looking forward to voting.

    It surprised me though that BG-Williamsburg has 3 coasters in the tournament, while it looks like Kings Island and Kings Dominion have none.

    I kind of expected one of the woodies from KI to be there, and maybe the Dominator at KD. Guess they aren't as popular as I thought they were. :-)

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