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Winners announced in 9th annual Theme Park Insider Awards

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Published: July 2, 2010 at 7:40 AM

For the ninth year, the readers of ThemeParkInsider.com have honored the best of the best in the theme park industry with the annual Theme Park Insider Awards. This year's winners represent the highest-rated institutions among the nation's theme parks, based on ratings submitted by ThemeParkInsider.com visitors over the past 12 months.

The 2010 Theme Park Insider Award winners are:

Best Theme Park Restaurant
Winner:
Bistro De Paris, Walt Disney World's Epcot

Bistro De Paris

Runners-up:
Les Chefs de France, Walt Disney World's Epcot
Mythos Restaurant, Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure

Year after year, the restaurant award is the most closely contested of all the Theme Park Insider Awards, and 2010 provided no exception. With specialities including rack of lamb, pan-seared lobster and filet mignon, Epcot's Bistro de Paris wins praise for "great food and great service," providing "a great way to experience classic French cuisine without having to fly across the world." This is the first year winning the Best Theme Park Restaurant honor for Bistro de Paris, which edges out last year's winner, Les Chef de France, as well as the 2003-2008 winner, Mythos.

Best Theme Park Hotel
Winner:
Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Walt Disney World

Disney's Wilderness Lodge

Runners-up:
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Walt Disney World
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort, Walt Disney World

A runner-up last year, Disney's Wilderness Lodge in 2010 wins the Best Theme Park Hotel honor for this first time. Located near Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, the Wilderness Lodge nevertheless is set back into the Central Florida woods, evoking the resort's theme of a national park lodge. Yet the level of service is pure Disney, winning raves - and repeat visits - from many ThemeParkInsider.com readers.

Best New Attraction
Winner:
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Universal's Islands of Adventure

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Runners-up:
World of Color, Disney California Adventure
Intimidator, Carowinds

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey dominated in 2010, winning the Best New Attraction honor by a wide margin. Not only does Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey enjoy the highest reader rating on ThemeParkInsider.com of any attraction that debuted in the past 12 months, it currently boasts the highest reader rating of *all* attractions listed on the website. Simply put, our readers say that not only is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey clearly the best new theme park ride of the year, it's the best theme park ride in the America.

Best Theme Park
Winner:
Universal's Islands of Adventure, Universal Orlando

Universal's Islands of Adventure

Runners-up:
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Propelled by the runaway enthusiasm for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including the Theme Park Insider Award-winning Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Universal's Islands of Adventure reclaims the title as the nation's top theme park by winning the 2010 Theme Park Insider Award. The winner of the Best Theme Park award in 2002-2004, Islands of Adventure wins praise not only for Harry Potter, but for a wide line-up of world-class attractions and restaurants, including former Theme Park Insider Award winners the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Mythos.

Readers' Opinions

From Nick Markham on July 2, 2010 at 7:52 AM
These all look very amazing winners! When you were at IOA last time Robert, did they still have the banner up for Theme Park Insider on Mythos? It would be great to show my family if it is still there!

I am also glad Wilderness Lodge won, being the hotel I stayed at four years ago when I visited WDW! Amazing rooms, a beautifully designed and very large lobby, and fun restaurants and atmosphere. It truly is a great resort, plus not the most expensive!

Also like the new picture in the website banner with the WWOHP!

From 66.66.140.92 on July 2, 2010 at 7:53 AM
Yes Islands totally deserved it.
From Brian Emery on July 2, 2010 at 8:06 AM
Banner was there in May when I was there..
From Anthony Murphy on July 2, 2010 at 8:10 AM
I think I could not disagree more with giving the award to IOA. I mean, I understand how it was broken down, but IOA is really fallen to the wayside with the exception of Harry Potter coming in. Again, I really do not understand the extreme hype to the point of almost obsession with Harry Potter. I am really starting to get worried that this will not meet my expections because of the rave reviews just like the Mummy next door at USO. I am also not a big fan of Harry Potter Banner in the top corner.

As from Bistro, I kinda disagree with that one too, but I could understand how it could win. I just do not think it is as accessable as the others.

I agree with Wilderness lodge which boasts good resturants, good food, good pool, and the most breathtaking lobby of them all!

So 2 out of 4 for me. I think that might be a better record of agreement than in the past!

Anyway, congrats to you Robert for bringing another fantastic year and season of TPI!

From Robert Niles on July 2, 2010 at 8:17 AM
Don't underestimate the power of Potter to drive up ratings. And, yes, the winner of the Best Theme Park gets a photo from it in the masthead until next year's awards. Since Potter was the reason IOA won (let's face it), I selected Wizarding World images for the masthead.
From Eric Malone on July 2, 2010 at 8:27 AM
I suspect Forbidden Journey will win Best Ride for the next handful of years to come, short of any crazy upsets (anyone remember Tower of Terror? ;)). Anthony, I don't think IOA's going to be there forever, so I wouldn't worry too much. Next year will probably be more agreeable for you.
From Jack Curley on July 2, 2010 at 8:57 AM
Just wait until Disney buys out Universal's rights to Marvel. IOA has learned the value of catering to obsessive fans and will launch Twilight Island!
From Anthony Murphy on July 2, 2010 at 10:10 AM
What was the masthead last time!

I mean, it looks great, but it would be nice if it went through a couple of banners! Good idea for the winners though and the picture is pretty good anyway!

From James Rao on July 2, 2010 at 10:52 AM
Bistro De Paris/Disney's Wilderness Lodge - until my kids grow up and move out, I can't justify the expense.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey - haven't ridden it (will next year).
Universal's Islands of Adventure - great park, not my favorite, but deserving of many kudos.

My personal favorites so far this year (keep in mind that I will ride I-305 in about two weeks, so this list could change):

Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe - a hidden gem at Epcot!
Disney's Port Orleans (Riverside) - the best moderate resort at WDW, and the only one that caters to a family of 5!
Sum of All Thrills - another hidden gem at Epcot.
Epcot - a precious diamond despite its many flaws.

From Robert Niles on July 2, 2010 at 11:34 AM
Thanks to TPI reader Don Neal for the new version of the site masthead!
From Robert Niles on July 2, 2010 at 11:37 AM
James,

I continue to be stumped why Epcot doesn't get more love in the awards. (Remember, I am the person who just about jumped off a Web server when y'all voted Impressions de France out in the first round of the tournament this year.) Still, the restaurant awards are a nice honor!

From Anthony Murphy on July 2, 2010 at 11:58 AM
I think EPCOT has attractions that you either love or hate, but its eateries are undisputed as the best food generally for a theme park. It takes alot of work to have a HORRIBLE meal at EPCOT. I also think that EPCOT's attractions are underrated because many are turned off by their educational value. Besides Captain EO/Honey I Shrunk the Audience and Mission Space, every other attraction teaches you something about the world, technology, or science.

I used to really hate Impressions, but now after being to Paris and actually understanding what is going on in the movie with the music and scenery, it is the most subdued and underrated attraction there.

The awards rarely go to my favorites, except for hotels. I am personally suprised that Wilderness Lodge doesn't beat the rest every year. It literally has something for everybody including two fine resturants in Disney style: one family, one adult!

James, I agree with you fully on your pick of Port Orleans. I feel that its the perfect middle resort, but I also have love for the Carribean Beach!

From Margaret Olivia on July 2, 2010 at 12:57 PM
Yay! Wilderness Lodge! I stayed there in 2009! I've never been to Islands of Adventure.
From Noah Villaverde on July 2, 2010 at 1:22 PM
I'm Happy for Universal that they are getting more love than they usually do. I'm also happy for Disney! I hope Disney can find a great idea to be what we call a "Harry Potter Killer" Never mind, the always get love every year, i just wish EPCOT gets some love too. It is truly one of the greatest parks in the world, but not as good as IOA which to me is the 2nd greatest park in the world. Right behind Disneyland.
From 174.49.134.138 on July 2, 2010 at 2:50 PM
harry potter rocks
From Russell Meyer on July 2, 2010 at 3:07 PM
It bothers me a bit that a ride that has been officially open less than 2 weeks wins best new attraction. I would be surprised if it's clocked more than 50,000 rides to date. To me, there's just not a large enough sample size to award Forbidden Journey best new attraction. TPI should have waited until next year for this attraction to be eligible. Same goes for World of Color, granted at least you could kind of experience the show online, and it is playing for thousands upon thousands of guests every night.

As far as the other awards, I think the restaurants are a bit tricky, especially since the top two are right next to each other. There are TONS of great theme park restaurants, and I would say at least 3-5 that are better just in EPCOT including LeCellier, Coral Reef, and Restaurant Marrakesh.

From 97.104.55.118 on July 2, 2010 at 3:52 PM
Good choices all around. Superior choice of Forbidden Journey in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I don't think there has ever been a ride that so fully takes you into the mindset and feel of being in an ancient Wizard castle surrounded by magic. I am absolutely blown away by all of Hogsmeade. The best part is I can buy a VIP Tour and skip the lines!
Wilderness Lodge at the holidays is hard to beat, and a good spot to watch the fireworks on New Years Eve!
From Thomas Caselli on July 2, 2010 at 4:06 PM
I have been to many of the restaurants in Walt Disney World. It would be hard to pick my top 2 or 3. I don't think I have ever been to the restaurants in France. Of all the restaurants at all the amusement and theme parks that I have been to, I would consider the restaurants at WDW the best. Of all the theme parks, I would consider the Magic Kingdom the best.
From 72.218.118.134 on July 2, 2010 at 5:20 PM
IOA is a great park. I still remember the first time I went to the park (with my grandparents) and my grandpa went on Dueling Dragons with me, it was a blast. I also love the runner up, BG Williamsburg. Great turn out for the awards this year, although, I do wish that Forbidden Journey would have been put over into next year for eligibility, but it sounds like a great ride anyway.
From Nick Markham on July 2, 2010 at 5:31 PM
I am starting to feel most of these readers hating so much on Harry Potter may not have chance to visit Harry Potter soon and could be looking for any sort of reason to be happy about it.

If it is not that, I don't know what it is. The ride is amazing from what EVERYONE has said. By the end of the year, probably near half of America will have been down to experience Harry Potter, and the only complaint about it is the weight issue. An attraction should not accommodate to the heavier standards, the heavier standards should loose weight and accommodate to the attraction, doing much more good than vise versa.

From 166.204.171.41 on July 2, 2010 at 8:18 PM
I thought the Twilight Island comment was both humorous and probably accurate. There will be dueling coasters named Jacob and Edward!..... lol.
From Sylvain Comeau on July 3, 2010 at 3:10 AM
Disneyland, last year's winner, is still easily the best theme park in America. But IOA was bound to win this year, thanks to the excitement over WWOHP. I'm stunned that Disneyland didn't even come in second or third, though.
I love both Orlando resorts, but come on, Disneyland has the highest concentration of rides and attractions (and some of the best in the world, like Indy and Pirates), it is the most beautiful and charming park, and has easily the most fun and easy to navigate layout, among many other great qualities. None of the three winners this year really come close, even if Forbidden Journey is the best ride.
From Bob Miller on July 3, 2010 at 1:21 PM
^Nick, I've been holding back on my comment about Harry Potter untill now. I beg to differ on your post about all the people of America rushing to see FJ and Potterland. May I state that Zachary and I own all the books and the movies that are available on VHS and DVD, so I guess that makes us fans, sort of.

So to challenge your statement, I went to Internet Movie Database(IMDb.com) and looked up these facts. For All Time Box Office Movies here in the USA, the first Harry Potter movie ranked is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and sad to say it's ranked #25 for all time movies.

It's only when you look up for ouside the USA do you find the fisrt movie ranked in the top ten and that's HP and the Sorcerer's Stone ranked at # 6. And World Wide the first movie ranked is the Sorcerer's Stone at # 7.

So you can see Nick, by those stats, Harry Potter is not so hot here in the United States as you stated. Granted, he's very popular overseas, but not so much here. Zachary and I may go see FJ next year when we go down to Florida but after going to Universal last year, I may not go just for one ride even though we are fans.

From James Rao on July 3, 2010 at 5:14 PM
The series to this point has earned $1.7 billion domestic and $5.4 billion worldwide. Seems pretty popular to me, Bob.
From Bob Miller on July 4, 2010 at 8:43 AM
James, I still stand with my statement that HP is not that popular here as he is worldwide. If your talking money, POTC made over a billion in the USA with just three films and 2.6 billion worldwide with the same three movies.

Star Wars with it's six film series made over 2 billion in the USA but only 4.6 worldwide. And if your just talking money and popular movies, look what James Cameron did with just two films. Over 1.3 billion here and over 4.5 worldwide.

Harry may have a large fan base overseas, but to have his top rated movie ranked 25th here speaks volumns to me at least. I can understand the rush to Universal right now, but I think it will cool down quite a bit in the next few years. Once all the first timers get their taste of Potterland and butterbeer, you'll see the drop off,imho.

From Anthony J on July 4, 2010 at 8:48 AM
Islands of Adventure and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey undoubtedly deserve the awards this year. Islands of Adventure is a great park, completely underrated in its theming and attention to detail all over. Harry Potter just helped push it to that next level to really position itself as one of the absolute best theme parks in the world.
From James Rao on July 4, 2010 at 10:28 AM
Bob, with about 5% of the world's population in the US, we contributed almost 30% of the worldwide gross for Harry Potter movies. Whether the US is as crazy about JK Rowling's brainchild as the rest of the world is irrelevant. The fact remains, we're just wild about Harry!
From Joshua Counsil on July 4, 2010 at 11:08 AM
Best Restaurant
My meal at Les Chefs was better, though I am impressed that Disney has a restaurant within a theme park that actually enforces a dress code (albeit, a very casual one). No screaming children, no stroller wars, no wife-beaters and associated body odor. Calm, quiet, accommodating. Fair choice.

Best Hotel
I once stayed at the Wilderness Lodge. Though the lobby and restaurants are beautiful, we were very disappointed in our rooms. They were dilapidated and cramped. Paint was peeling off of the walls in the room and hallways. We could hear everything our neighbors were doing. Maybe we were unlucky and ended up with one of the old rooms requiring refurbishing, but we felt pretty ripped off. My personal favorite theme park hotel is the Saratoga Springs Resort. Like Bistro, it is calm, quiet, and accommodating. The rooms are nicely arranged and appointed. The views, particularly at sunset, are gorgeous. We loved the kitchenette and balcony. We were walking distance from Downtown Disney and a short bus ride from most of the parks. I'd like to see more love for Saratoga.

Best New Attraction
No complaints here. Haven't ridden it, but if Universal outdid Spiderman, then it must be amazing.

Best Theme Park
Many complaints here. IOA is a half-day park. Too many of the attractions are dilapidated and malfunctioning, especially considering how young the park is. The locker system is inconvenient. Most of the queues feature very little theming. The loading platform employees are inefficient. It's still a great park, but the greatest? I'm with James on this one. Epcot is my favorite, followed by Universal Orlando. I was happy to see Animal Kingdom as a runner-up. I had a near-perfect day there on my last visit. Great attractions, theming, and service.

From David L. on July 5, 2010 at 2:41 PM
Best Restaurant: I have not been able to go to the Bistro de Paris but it's downstairs partner is phenominal. Le Celier is also amazing.

Hotel: Once again i have not been able to stay here but it looks great. My choice would be Polynisian.

New Attraction: haven't been to IOA this year so can't say i've ridden it but it looks great.

Theme Park: IOA? really? this park won't deserve it even if they add 2 more rides on par with spidy and harry p. IOA is too choppy. Many parts haven't had maintenence for years(or so it seems). If the whole park had the consistantsy of Harry potter world(from what i've heard) it would be a great park. Epcot and Animal Kingdom have themeing throughout the park that makes IOA look like an abandoned themepark. Even DHS is better than IOA because of the great details throughout the whole park. IOA is great, but not great enough.

From 194.127.5.247 on July 6, 2010 at 9:26 AM
how much does disney pay this rag? How any disney park can rank over Cedar Point is beyond me.
From Joshua Counsil on July 6, 2010 at 1:10 PM
Disney pays us rather handsomely, 194.127.5.247. With all the extra money they've earned by attracting tourists seeking quality parks with an appropriate mix of thrills, laughs, atmosphere, theming, live entertainment, customer service, comfort, and food, they've been able to create and maintain a seemingly unbiased website with thousands of fans (cast members with aliases, naturally) contributing fictional trip reports, accident watches, park, restaurant, and hotel reviews, weekly votes, ticket discount sources, general theme park tips, and daily news blogs, ALL with the intent of promoting the superiority of Disney above all other organizations.
From James Rao on July 6, 2010 at 2:27 PM
Yep... all that extra Disney dough has allowed me to live a life of luxury and ease in sunny, beautiful, Missouri, the hotbed of theme park activity in the United States.

Cha-Ching!!!

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