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What's the best roller coaster park in the world?

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Published: May 3, 2012 at 9:49 AM

Yesterday, in our post about Wildcat closing at Cedar Point, Theme Park Insider reader James Rao asked an intriguing question: "What park has the most GOOD coasters on the planet?"

James' question was prompted by the fact that Cedar Point's decision to close the Schwarzkopf roller coaster ceded the supposed "coaster crown" - for the park that has the most roller coasters in the world - to rival Six Flags Magic Mountain. Quantity is one thing, but as James asked, what about quality? Bu how can we determine which parks has the most "good" coasters?

Well, Theme Park Insider readers have been voting on that question for years. So I decided to run the numbers on our reader ratings to determine what you - collectively - think is the best quality coaster park in the world.

Six Flags Magic Mountain
Six Flags Magic Mountain is Theme Park Insider readers' pick as the number one roller coaster park in the world.

I decided that to be qualified as a "good" coaster, a ride had to have an average reader rating of 8 or higher (Actually, 7.5 or higher due to rounding). But that still left a lot of coasters on the table. So I decided to look for "elite" coasters, as well. To be listed as "elite," I decided a coaster needed an average reader rating 9 or higher. (Coasters had to have a minimum number of votes to be eligible, and "kiddie coasters" didn't count.)

The spirit of this exercise was quality over quantity, so I ranked the parks by the total number of elite coasters, with total number of good coasters as the first tie-breaker. Since that still left quite a few ties, I used the average reader rating of the park's top coaster as the second tie-breaker - meaning that all else being equal, the park with the better top coaster got the higher spot on the list. If there were to be a tie among the top-rated coasters at two parks, I was going to go with total coaster count as the third tie-breaker, but I didn't need to go that far.

So here's the list - Theme Park Insider's best roller coaster parks in the world. Remember, these are your cumulative rankings before the 2012 season. I'd expect Hersheypark, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Port Aventura and Canada's Wonderland to move up the rankings after their roller coaster openings this season.

  1. Six Flags Magic Mountain (9 good coasters, 4 elite, top coaster - Tatsu)
  2. Cedar Point (7 good coasters, 4 elite, top coaster - Millennium Force)
  3. Busch Gardens Tampa (4 good coasters, 4 elite, top coaster - Sheikra)
  4. Six Flags Over Texas (6 good coasters, 3 elite, top coaster - Mr. Freeze)
  5. Carowinds (5 good coasters, 3 elite, top coaster - Intimidator)
  6. Hersheypark* (5 good coasters, 3 elite, top coaster - Lightning Racer. *Skyrush opening this spring)
  7. Busch Gardens Williamsburg* (4 good coasters, 3 elite, top coaster - Apollo's Chariot. *Verbolten opening this spring)
  8. Kings Dominion (7 good coasters, 2 elite, top coaster - Dominator)
  9. Six Flags Great Adventure (6 good coasters, 2 elite, top coaster - El Toro)
  10. Six Flags Great America (4 good coasters, 2 elite, top coaster - Raging Bull)
  11. Knott's Berry Farm (4 good coasters, 2 elite, top coaster - Xcelerator)
  12. Holiday World (3 good coasters, 2 elite, top coaster - The Voyage)
  13. Universal Studios Singapore (3 good coasters, 2 elite, top coaster - Revenge of the Mummy)
  14. Worlds of Fun (3 good coasters, 2 elite, top coaster - Prowler)
  15. SeaWorld Orlando (2 good coasters, 2 elite, top coaster - Manta)
  16. Port Aventura* (2 good coasters, 2 elite, top coaster - Dragon Khan. *Shambhala opening this spring)
  17. Silver Dollar City (2 good coasters, 2 elite, top coaster - Wildfire)
  18. Kings Island (7 good coasters, 1 elite, top coaster - Diamondback)
  19. Six Flags Over Georgia (6 good coasters, 1 elite, top coaster - Goliath)
  20. Canada's Wonderland* (5 good coasters, 1 elite, top coaster - Behemoth. *Leviathan opening this spring)

Plan your summer roadtrips accordingly! The hornet's nest is open in the comments. ;^)

Readers' Opinions

From 70.239.199.8 on May 3, 2012 at 10:15 AM
so, as a frequent reader of TPI, i've often wondered where the disdain for Magic Mountain comes from. i've even asked robert why there were so few posts on that particular park.

but i eventually got it: i am not a theme park fan as much as i am a roller coaster fan. so i do not really care about the theming in the different worlds. you couldn't pay me to attend magic mountain with a child or children in tow. and as long as the food is on the way to the next coaster, that's good enough for me.

and that being said, Tatsu and X2 are two of the best coasters in the world.

From 207.38.197.242 on May 3, 2012 at 10:19 AM
i don't think that six flags in CA is the best in the world six flags in new jersey has better roller coaster has more roller coaster the CA but that just what i think.
From 198.7.238.40 on May 3, 2012 at 10:22 AM
I think this post put into words why I like the Busch Gardens parks so much. Yeah, Magic Mountain and Cedar Point both have a lot of coasters, but if you go to a Busch park, well, out of the 8 good coasters, 7 of them are elite. That is a pretty good track record.
From Tim Odom on May 3, 2012 at 10:26 AM
I think this post put into words what I have always believed. I like Cedar Point, and while I have not been to Magic Mountain, I am sure I will like that. But, I absolutely love both Busch Gardens parks, and the fact that out of the 8 'good' coasters, 7 of them are 'elite' (and the one that is not elite is still a really fun coaster) tells me that if you go to a Busch park you will not have a 'clunker' of a ride (like, say, Mean Streak.)
From Justin M on May 3, 2012 at 10:49 AM
I think that Busch Gardens Tampa really has 5 good coasters (Gwazi, Montu, Cheetah Hunt, Sheikra and Kumba) and 4 elite (Montu, Cheetah Hunt, Sheikra and Kumba). I see TPI has Gwazi rated as a 6, really??? So what it’s a little rough, it’s a wooden roller coaster what do you expect?
From Robert Niles on May 3, 2012 at 11:08 AM
I expect both BGW and Hersheypark to move into the top 5 after their new coasters debut this spring, though their order will be determined by whether Skyrush makes elite status or not.

SFMM, CP, Hersheypark and the two Busch Gardens as the top five coaster parks in America? I can get behind that.

(All this reminds me that I need to make Hersheypark a top priority on my next US roadtrip, whenever that turns out to be.)

From Daniel Etcheberry on May 3, 2012 at 12:22 PM
If location were considered as well, Cedar Point would be #1.
From 70.234.227.212 on May 3, 2012 at 1:07 PM
Love Magic Mountain; however I give the edge to CP because me and my dad spend about 5 hours at Magic and were ready to go. At CP we spend atlest two days enjoying the park. We go to each park every other year.
From James Rao on May 3, 2012 at 1:36 PM
Just looking at coasters - and nothing else - I have absolutely no issue with this list. Great job, Robert, thanks for crunching the numbers!

This list does confirm one simple fact: great coasters do not equal great attendance. Of all the parks on this list, only SeaWorld Orlando ranks in the top ten when it comes to park attendance (North America). So, all us Coaster Boys and Girls must accept one thing: we are a niche audience - but hey, what's wrong with being a little different?

From James Koehl on May 3, 2012 at 2:32 PM
^James, you must also take into consideration how length of season affects attendance. Northern parks are not open 365(6)days a year and must make their attendance figures over about 120 days. That skews the figures dramatically.
From Doug Jenkins on May 3, 2012 at 3:13 PM
Not sure why Universal Orlando did not make the list if Singapore did. While not known as a coaster park, I would consider it as having 4 good coasters and 2 elite (Hulk and Mummy).
From Anon Mouse on May 3, 2012 at 3:53 PM
I feel like outgrown roller coaster parks. I no longer find them interesting.
From AJ Hummel on May 3, 2012 at 4:14 PM
I definitely agree with this list. Not only does Six Flags Magic Mountain have 9 good coasters, but there isn't really a bad coaster in their entire collection. Additionally, they probably have the most variety out of any coaster park. Cedar Point's collection is good, but I don't think they have quite as much variety as SFMM and a couple of their coasters are bad. However, the best parks are not the ones that have the most good coasters, but the ones that have the most good coasters AND have a veriety of attractions for those that don't enjoy them (such as the Busch/SeaWorld parks and Holiday World from this list).

I guess Dollywood just missed the cutoff. They may only have three non-kiddie coasters (four now with Wild Eagle, and excluding the hybrid Blazing Fury), but any one of them would be a must ride attraction at most of the listed coaster parks.

From N B on May 3, 2012 at 4:19 PM
I am going to respectfully disagree with Sea World Orlando or any park that only contains two coasters being on the list.

Doug, I was also thinking the same thing...

From James Rao on May 3, 2012 at 5:35 PM
@James, coaster parks get a huge attendance boost from teens and college students with season passes. That demographic has to go back to school during the winter months, which is why other year round coaster parks like Knotts and BGT don't pull the numbers you would expect. Heck, the top gun on this list, Magic Mt., goes to a weekend schedule once school is back in session because attendance (and potential employees - largely teens) takes a huge nose dive. So, the "seasonal" argument is somewhat invalid.

Now, before another common argument rears its ugly head, I want to dispel the myth that Cedar Point would somehow become the #1 attended park in the world if it was open just six more months. That CP is somehow hamstrung by its short season, and if Ohio was more like Orlando, the Point would rival the attendance of the Magic Kingdom which pulled ~17 million last year.

So, for the sake of argument, let's presume that CP was indeed open year round (six more months than today).

The Point is drawing roughly 16K a day right now. To surpass Disney's flagship, CP would need to pull in roughly 6 times as many guests as it does today (6 * 3 million = 18 million). Therefore, the former self proclaimed coaster capital of the world would need to draw in 80,000 guests each and every day for the six additional months.

Not gonna happen.

However, to your point (!), at 16k a day, Ohio's main squeeze would certainly be in the top ten at about 5.8m visitors a year. But as I said earlier, 16k a day would not continue once school was back in session. CP would probably pull numbers similar to Knotts and BGT, both very respectable, but not in the top ten.

In other words, having the greatest coasters in the world does not equate to having the greatest attendance in the world. Despite the fact that we (TPI-ers) absolutely LOVE coasters!

(Incidentally, Epcot, which has ZERO coasters, pulls roughly 28,000 visitors a day, 365 days a year).

From 198.228.234.73 on May 3, 2012 at 4:52 PM
Robert,

I think the top 5 justifies being a list on your right column with attedence. Rides....

Expands your audience beyond the core Disney, Universal, Busch audience.

Joe

From James Koehl on May 3, 2012 at 5:53 PM
^Wow, James got a new calculator for his birthday! ;+) Something told me that you would have all the facts and figures about this. You presented everything very well, as always. I'm not saying that, all things being equal, CP could ever equal most of the CaliFlorida parks in attendance if it was open year round. Have you ever been to Sandusky in the winter? Except for this year, it is colder than a witch's.....uh, you get the point, and with CP being out in the middle of Lake Erie it's even colder. Even if global warming makes the North Coast subtropical in January Cedar Point still would not pass most of the Top Ten parks, but I think it would rank higher than it does. The Peanuts gang will never be able to compete head-to-head with the massive vault that Disney has to pull from, and Cedar Point is not the same type of park that Disney promotes, and frankly I'm glad that it is a different type of park. There is room in the world for both "Theme" and "Amusement" parks.
From James Rao on May 3, 2012 at 6:19 PM
James, not only are you a very good writer with a keen eye for the truth, but your first name is phenomenal! BTW, I completely agree with you.

And I am just shocked my math actually worked out!

From Tony Perkins on May 3, 2012 at 9:15 PM
Shouldn't Disneyland be on this list with three elite rated coasters: Matterhorn, Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain? Universal Singapore makes the list with three, so why doesn't DL?
From Robert Niles on May 3, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Again, if a coaster doesn't rate a 9 on the site and have double-digit votes, it's not "elite" for the purpose of this ranking. So it's not just one person's (i.e. my) opinion here. It's the collective opinion of the people who have been rating and reviewing on the site.

(FWIW, Matterhorn was supposed to be closed to rating since it's down for an extensive rehab, with new cars being installed. So I just reset its votes.)

From 76.0.240.55 on May 4, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Have been to all Disney Parks in Cali-florida. Only one of them is a true Amusement park. With a standing record of 18 true roller coasters Magic Mountain is King. I will someday make my way east and Check out Cedar Point. I read that its a very close race between them. But First, for all that have never been to Magic Mountain. See for yourself. And you will understand why MM is King.
From 220.255.1.70 on May 4, 2012 at 2:06 AM
The Best Roller Coaster should be Battlestar Galactica...
It beats ROTM by far...
From Mark Kausch on May 4, 2012 at 4:00 AM
@Doug - I don't think UniOrlando would have made the list anyway as it's actually two separate parks. Studios has two good coasters and one elite. IOA has the same - 3 good if you count both sides of Dragon Challenge.
From Caroline Davis on May 4, 2012 at 4:05 PM
I would swap BGT and BGW around, for sure. Both Kumba and Montu were big disappointments for me when I went. Kumba was rougher than Gwazi! Sheikra is brillant and the only coaster there I would call elite. Unfortunately, last time I was there Cheetah Hunt was just being built, so I can't comment on that one.

BGW has Loch Ness Monster, which just looks spectacular and is unique (even if it doesn't feel as good as it looks). A clone of the best ride at BGT, Griffon. It has Apollo's Chariot which is a lovely coaster and the criminally under-rated Alpengeist. And that's without Verbolten.

There are so many parks here that are on my bucket list.

From Anthony Murphy on May 6, 2012 at 8:55 PM
It is good to see SFGA in the top middle! I was there yesterday and it still stands up for its roller coasters.


While I have pride in my home park, I believe that if it got crowds or press on TPI as Magic Mountain, it would be higher up. I guess thats just the way the chips fall since the website is very heavy on the CA and FL parks (cause lets face it, we have all been to those).

I agree, Raging Bull is the top coaster there!

Make sure to catch my press report on SFGA's X Flight on Friday, possibly Monday. From initial tests, I think this one may be a game changer!

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