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Universal, Disney parks claim 2011 Theme Park Insider Awards

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Published: July 1, 2011 at 9:40 AM
The readers of ThemeParkInsider.com have presented their annual Theme Park Insider Awards to the best of the world's theme park industry. The awards are presented to the highest rated theme park, new attraction, table-service restaurant and on-site hotel, based on average reader ratings over the past 12 months on ThemeParkInsider.com.

Best Theme Park

For the second year in a row, Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida wins the Theme Park Insider Award as the world's best theme park. Powered by the debut of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Islands of Adventure recaptured the crown last year, and Harry Potter's continued popularity allowed it a second straight award in 2011.

Universal's Islands of Adventure

Runners-up in for Best Theme Park were two newcomers to the awards in this category, Busch Gardens Tampa and Disney California Adventure. While Busch Gardens' Williamsburg has been a perennial reader favorite, the Tampa park has moved up in the ratings thanks to popular new shows and roller coasters over the past few years. Once one of the lower-rated theme parks in our annual survey, California Adventure has vaulted toward the top of the list over the past two years, thanks to an ongoing $1 billion-plus makeover of the park.

Best New Attraction

The Force was with the Walt Disney theme parks this spring, as Theme Park Insider readers voted Star Tours: The Adventures Continue at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios as the Best New Theme Park Attraction of 2011 by a wide margin.

Star Tours, image courtesy Disney

Two roller coasters claimed the runners-up spots for Best New Attraction: Cheetah Hunt, Busch Gardens Tampa's new Intamin launch coaster and Texas Giant, the reconstruction of Six Flags Over Texas' classic wooden coaster.

Best Restaurant

Orlando-area restaurants dominate again as Epcot's Bistro de Paris wins its second straight Theme Park Insider Award for Best Theme Park Restaurant, as Theme Park Insider readers honored it for its world-class cuisine and service.

Bistro de Paris at Epcot

Runners up included long-time Theme Park Insider reader favorite Mythos Restaurant at Universal's Islands of Adventure, as well as a newcomer, Via Napoli, the new Patina Group Italian restaurant at Walt Disney World's Epcot.

Best Hotel

The Disneyland Resort in California captures its second Theme Park Insider Award of the year as Disney's Grand Californian Hotel reclaims Theme Park Insider readers' honor as the world's best on-site theme park hotel.

Disney's Grand Californian Hotel

Readers voted Universal's Portofino Bay Hotel and Disney's Beach Club Resort as their runners-up in this category, honoring three hotels not only known for their world-class service and amenities, but also for being within walking distance of their respective theme parks - something valued by readers eager to get away from their cars while on vacation.

About the Site

ThemeParkInsider.com is an online consumers' guide to the world's leading theme and amusement parks, read by more than 200,000 people each month. It has been named the top theme park site on the Internet by Forbes and Travel + Leisure magazines, and is a former Webby Award finalist and winner of the Online Journalism Award, presented by the Online News Associated and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony J on July 1, 2011 at 10:26 AM
Congratulations to the winners!

Happy that Universal Orlando gets recognition for a second straight year and also happy to see California Adventure come in third place. The park seems like it's come a long way already.

I also agree that the Grand Californian is just a spectacular hotel. Pricey beyond hell but you literally could not be more immersed in two of the best theme parks in the world.

From James Rao on July 1, 2011 at 10:57 AM
I can't argue with any of the winners, but I can urge everyone who likes coasters to take a jaunt down to Six Flags Over Texas and ride the Texas Giant. This coaster has experienced a baptism of sorts, being reborn as a pristine and new creature ready to inspire the spirit of coaster lovers for years to come. The Iron Horse solution the Six Flags brass decided to implement is brilliant and it provides hope for dilapidated Dinn Corp woodies everywhere!
From 71.226.16.76 on July 1, 2011 at 11:32 AM
Islands of Adventure is totally "outrages" is the good sense. And was worth the cost of the annual passes I purchased for my family. We never get tired of the Harry Potter venue - every visit we seem to see something new... an outstanding venue for detail; the best on the planet. I'm waiting for Disney to top "Harry". P.S. I live 2 miles from Disney and have been an annual pass holder for over 15 years. This was the first year I didn't renew.
From Eric S on July 1, 2011 at 11:35 AM
This is slightly unrelated, but I saw a commercial on TV yesterday for Islands of Adventure that mentioned Harry Potter's win last year and cited TPI. Congrats to Robert for taking this site to the heights that it's reached.
From Robert Niles on July 1, 2011 at 1:46 PM
I can't believe that I spaced this in the article and press release, but this year's awards were the 10th annual Theme Park Insider Awards. Time flies!
From José María Sandoval on July 1, 2011 at 1:51 PM
It's time for Harry Potter, awesome,
I hope cars land win next year.
From Paula Werne on July 1, 2011 at 2:50 PM
Congratulations to all the winners!
From Dominick D on July 1, 2011 at 7:41 PM
All the winners are perfect! Next year, I predict Despicable Me will be the best new ride, and IOA will still remain the best park.
From Robert Niles on July 1, 2011 at 9:15 PM
Oh, we wanna start handicapping 2012 already? ;^)

I'm looking forward to Despicable Me, but next year's going to be tough in the Best New Attraction category with Transformers at Universal Studios in Singapore and Hollywood and Radiators Springs Racers in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure. And that's before we get all the official announcements of new coasters at the regional parks for next spring.

I'm really looking forward to next year!

From Dominick D on July 1, 2011 at 9:49 PM
Same here Robert. But, I fear Transformers will just be a Transformers version of Spiderman.Radiator Springs Racers and Despicable Me are completley different then Test track and Jimmy Neutron though.
From Mark Hollamon on July 2, 2011 at 5:51 AM
Mythos was a great choice for runner up in the table service division (I voted it #1), but how could Via Napoli possibly even rank in the top 100?

My wife and I have dined there twice and each time the wait staff was horrible! Not mean or rude, just "Duh where do I go now George" horrible!

The food quality was a joke! Gino's Pizza on Orange Ave in Orlando is a THOUSAND times better than this crud. It was "Take and Bake" quality at best.

To add insult to insult...We ordered the "Kool Aid" mix of the day and both had refils and were charged like $5 for each refil of this swill.

Each time we pleaded our case with the Manager (not complained heatedly in front of people or threw a tourist fit) and each time we received a shrug and nothing off our check.

This place is TRASH in my book! First Disney ruined Alfredo's and now they created a Mouse Ear version of Domino's.

Either evil lightning struck twice for myself and my wife or something went terribly wrong with the voting!

From Anthony O'Neal on July 2, 2011 at 4:55 PM
Can't argue with the results either, and I agree with James on Texas Giant (see my review of the ride from Opening Day).

Now that I'm thinking about it, I'll have to think about when I'm going over there next! It won't be tomorrow (it's supposed to be 103 degrees), though!

From Tim Hillman on July 5, 2011 at 9:43 AM
Wow! We've been voting on the best in the theme park business for 10 years? Doesn't seem that long.

But, when you think about it, look at all of the changes over the past ten years.

Eisner and his cheapskate cohorts are gone.

California Adventure is becoming a real theme park.

IOA is finally a full day park.

Fantasyland is getting a much-needed upgrade.

and Six Flags may have actually figured out how to provide thrills and good customer service.

Its a good time to be a theme park enthusiast.

BTW. Congratulations on the site, Robert.

From Robert Niles on July 6, 2011 at 7:49 PM
Thanks, Tim.

I feel so much more encouraged as a theme park fan than I did when we started these awards 10 years ago, for all the reasons that you mention. Here's hoping the improvements continue.

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