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It's almost time for the 2013 Theme Park Insider Tournament

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Published: March 1, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Spring approaches, which means that regional theme parks will start reopening soon, and that it's time for the annual Theme Park Insider Tournament.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Last year's Best Themed Ride champion: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, from Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando

In our ever-lasting quest to explore new tournament formats, we're trying yet another way of running the tournament this year. Rather than place every type of attraction under the sun against each other as we have in the past, this year we've decided to focus on the attractions that Theme Park Insiders love most: themed rides. Based on your reader ratings, and with a little executive judgment thrown in, I've selected 16 top themed rides to participate in this year's tournament.

We'll get started Monday, with daily one-on-one match-ups until we've got a champion. Each weekday, I'll present a write-up of the day's contestants, along with photos and maybe some on-ride video, too. Then it'll be up to you to vote. Each vote will be open for just 24 hours, so you'll need to visit the site every day to not miss a match-up.

If you've been on both the rides in a daily match-up, great. You'll be a most-informed voter and I'll hope that you'll speak up in the comments to make the case for your favorite. But if you've not yet ridden both contestants, please do go ahead and vote anyway. Just read the descriptions, watch the videos, see what others are saying in the comments, and go with the ride you think you'd prefer. Think of it this way: If all that information we're giving you in each post was what you knew about the rides from a guidebook, and you were suddenly transported to a theme park with both of the day's competing attractions, which one would you want to ride first? Vote for that one, then.

Here are the rides that will compete for the 2013 Theme Park Insider Tournament title (in alphabetical order):

  • Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Men in Black Alien Attack
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Pooh's Hunny Hunt
  • Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges
  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Sindbad's Storybook Voyage
  • Splash Mountain
  • Tower of Terror
  • Transformers: The Ride

I've created a bracket, but I'm going to refrain from labeling the rides as 1-16, in an attempt to avoid biasing the vote. Plus, I've arranged the bracket to create what I hope will be the most interesting possible match-ups throughout the tournament, rather than trying to impose a strict ranking order on the rides.

So please be here on Monday for our first match-up, and stick with us daily for the following 14 contests in this year's tournament. Let the campaigning begin!

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Readers' Opinions

From TH Creative on March 1, 2013 at 3:21 PM
I hope this finally gives TPI regulars the opportunity to debate which theme park resort is better: Walt Disney World or Universal orlando.

SNARK!

From Robert Niles on March 1, 2013 at 3:38 PM
Oh, TH, you know the answer to that question as well as anyone:

Tokyo Disney.

(ducks)

From Dominick D on March 1, 2013 at 3:53 PM
TH, you got a point there. I'm hoping Haunted Mansion takes home the gold this year!

(hides)

From James Rao on March 1, 2013 at 4:57 PM
What an amazing collection of attractions!

IMHO, Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean is the ultimate themed attraction. Spider-Man is a close second. The rest are all just variations on those unsurpassed masterpieces.

However, in response to Mr. Niles' post, the attraction on this list that I am most anxious to visit is Radiator Springs Racers. Maybe later this year....

XOXOXO!

From José María Sandoval on March 1, 2013 at 5:03 PM
Great list, journey and winnie the pooh! and mistic manor next year.
From AJ Hummel on March 1, 2013 at 5:59 PM
Sounds like a good list, and since most of those are some form of dark ride it will eliminate the poor comparisons present in some previous tournaments. Of the rides I've been on that are present in the list, I'd say Indiana Jones Adventure is my favorite (closely followed by Pirates of the Caribbean), and it will be interesting to see where everything ends up.
From Bryce McGibeny on March 1, 2013 at 6:32 PM
Aw, glad to see Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges made the list! I'll still be rootin' for my precious Tower of Terror though!
From Justin Knight on March 1, 2013 at 6:38 PM
Great List although im really surprised Toy Story Midway Mania didnt make it with how popular it is.
From Daniel Etcheberry on March 1, 2013 at 7:15 PM
I have ridden all of them except the ones in Japan and Popeye. It's going to be a tough decision, but I have to say that I loved RSR. I liked it even more than Transformers. Forbidden Journey is a marvel in technology, and I will always have a place in my heart for PotC, so tough decision.
From James Trexen on March 1, 2013 at 10:18 PM
Last year, I took Forbidden Journey as top. This year, I'll spice things up and try to bring Splash Mountain (my personal favorite) to victory.

Who's all against me?

From Flavio de Souza on March 2, 2013 at 4:25 AM
No Star Tours! No Mission Space! No Everest ( for me its more a theme ride than a coaster)!

From Dominick D on March 2, 2013 at 6:55 AM
Flavio, this year has a focus on set themed rides, so Star Tours (despite it's high rating) and Mission Space aren't on here. Though I do agree on why Everest isn't here.
From TH Creative on March 2, 2013 at 7:12 AM
I am voting for 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' -- Early and often!

Robert, would Journey fit in the space currently occupied by the Tommorowland Speedway?

From Matt Babiak on March 2, 2013 at 8:10 AM
My 2 cents, my favorite format was when you had a separate bracket for themed rides and coasters (32 total) and then had the winner of each bracket face each other in the finals. I don't have a problem with this, though; it's just a sized down version of said format.
From Daniel Etcheberry on March 2, 2013 at 9:47 AM
The problem with voting for Journey to the Center of Earth by just watching it online is that one is missing the airtime experience toward the end of the ride. It would be like voting for ToT just by watching it online.
From David Kirby on March 2, 2013 at 10:44 AM
Dueling Dumbos got snubbed.
From Robert Niles on March 2, 2013 at 12:26 PM
And David Kirby wins COTD.
From Robert Niles on March 2, 2013 at 12:33 PM
I want to back up and address TH's awesome suggestion about bringing Journey to the MK. Based on nothing more than a quick look at Google Maps, it appears that you'd need a site approx. 300 feet by 250 feet to accommodate the attraction. The MK Speedway site has that space, but siting the attraction might be a trick, given the railroad and PeopleMover tracks.
From 50.89.13.35 on March 2, 2013 at 4:12 PM
Regardless of what someone may think about the Tommorowland Speedway, it takes up a significant amount of space on what is arguably the most valuable real estate on the planet. What makes placement of a WDW edition of 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' thematically perfect for that location is because it sits between a world of fantasy and a world of science.

And while the geography may require an interruption of the Walt Disney World Steam Railroad and the People Mover, these inconveniences would be temporary and decidedly small sacrifices considering the opportunity to amplify the entertainment value of the east side of the Magic Kingdom.

From Mike Gallagher on March 2, 2013 at 5:51 PM
Two points:

1. Some of these attractions exist in more than one park. I think what will happen is that will swing votes, as people will vote for it based on having been on ANY version.

2. I probably won't vote much, if at all. I've only been on some of these, and I don't believe in voting for something I haven't been on...rave reviews, awesome video, and vivid descriptions not-withstanding.

From Tony Duda on March 2, 2013 at 11:21 PM
I don't understand the inclusion of Kilimanjaro Safaris. That is really just an animal look-see ride, no real theme. Having that and not having a very themed ride like Journey to Atlantis seems wrong. Kilimanjaro Safaris looks so out of its league when compared to the other included rides.
From Tim Smyth on March 3, 2013 at 5:34 AM
Manta got snubbed for theming too. I would have voted for Manta hands down just for theming alone.
From robert morris on March 3, 2013 at 9:31 AM
Love the inclusion or Popeye and from my guess...it looks like 11 of the rides could have a shot...depending on brackets

Might have liked Journey to Atlantis, just to mix in some Ea orld into the mix (kind of like a conference champion from a smaller conference in the tourney)

Wondering if later the coasters are going to do a similar style format tourney regardless of construction style


From Matt Babiak on March 3, 2013 at 7:59 AM
I'm feeling RSR going deep into the tourney, and not because it's a good ride, but because of the "new toy" factor. If its a coin flip situation for a voter, they will go with the new ride.
From 109.145.60.41 on March 3, 2013 at 3:50 PM
I wish more international parks were represented. :)

There should be a block on Disney and Universal :)

From robert morris on March 3, 2013 at 4:28 PM
Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (IOA)
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (IOA)
Haunted Mansion (MK)
Indiana Jones Adventure (DL)
Journey to the Center of the Earth (TDS)
Kilimanjaro Safaris (DAK)
Men in Black Alien Attack (USF)
Pirates of the Caribbean (DL)
Pooh's Hunny Hunt (TDL)
Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges (IOA)
Radiator Springs Racers (DCA)
Revenge of the Mummy (USF)
Sindbad's Storybook Voyage (TDS)
Splash Mountain (MK)
Tower of Terror (DHS)
Transformers: The Ride (USH)

Assuming I picked the right park for clones the park breakdown is such:
IOA 3
MK 2
TDS 2
DL 2
USH 1
USF 1
DAK 1
DHS 1
DCA 1

So 11 Disney, 5 Universal and everyone else shut out

Still waiting for a showdown between Spiderman and Transformers and someone refering to Spiderman as the "classic"

From Json Son on March 4, 2013 at 4:32 AM
Harry Potter is the best attraction of all time, but this year- the year of 2013- belongs to Cars Land.
From Anon Mouse on March 4, 2013 at 10:50 AM
The big problem with your contests is there are TOO MANY. I'm sure you're trying to lessen the contests. I will wait and see. I usually give up after doing a few. Last year, you had over 20 contests. They are ridiculous. Although I look at them as helpful for the park goer, it is mostly for the park superfan who cares for such data.

You should only have new contests if a new ride causes a new comparison. Otherwise, don't do them so much.

From Robert Niles on March 4, 2013 at 11:04 AM
You know, Anon Mouse, if you hate this site so much, perhaps you should try reading something else for a change. No one's forcing anyone to read or participate in the tournament.
From Anon Mouse on March 4, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Who said I hate your site? I am offering constructive criticism. I may try to be challenging, but this is my way. Sorry if I offend.
From TH Creative on March 4, 2013 at 5:24 PM
I could've sworn I left something here a couple of hours ago.

Hmmmmm ...

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