But which castles do the best job of inspiring those theme park visitors? Let's set a couple of criteria to judge these landmarks: 1. How much do you want to take a picture of it? And, 2. What can you do in it?
For previous Monday Top 10 posts, we've relied on Theme Park Insider reader ratings to determine the honorees. However, we haven't collected ratings for castles per se — simply for the attractions and restaurants that might be located within them. So for this post, your editor is using those ratings as a guide, then just picking the ones he believes best satisfy the two questions above. So let's get to it! Here are the Theme Park Insider editor's picks for the Top 10 Theme Park Castles in the World:
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
The home of the mad King Ludwig, DarKastle hosts Busch Gardens' 3D motion-base ride, The Curse of DarKastle. While this castle wins points for hosting such an ambitious ride, the facade itself is tucked away in a corner of a park and hasn't earned the same iconic status as other castles on this list.
9. Sleeping Beauty's Castle
Hong Kong Disneyland
Located in the traditional place of honor at the far side of Main Street, Hong Kong Disneyland's castle is of the same design as the Disneyland original, but it lacks that park's walk-through attraction, making this Disney castle, essentially, just one, somewhat impressive facade.
8. King Harold's Castle
Universal Studios Singapore
The centerpiece of the Shrek-themed "Far, Far Away" land, King Harold's Castle houses the park's "Shrek 4D" show. While the castle earns well-deserved points for housing an attraction, it loses some for not even being the top photo op in its own park, an honor that instead falls to the jaw-dropping Revenge of the Mummy facade next door.
7. Sleeping Beauty's Castle
The original theme park castle (okay, maybe not the original... keep reading!), lands at the number seven spot in our rankings. Surpassed by more visually impressive castles in the Disney kingdom, Disneyland's original Sleeping Beauty's Castle still gets credit for its charming walk-through attraction, intimate surroundings, and the lovely photo op with the Matterhorn next door.
6. Cinderella's Castle
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Okay, we can hear the complaints from Disney fans: "Cindy's Castle isn't even in the top five?!?" It's not that we don't love the most-visited theme park castle in the world, it's just that we love the ones ahead of it on this list even more. Remember our criteria? While Florida's Cinderella's Castle wins huge points as a photogenic icon, there's just not much to do in it — no attraction and a restaurant with limited capacity. Disney even cuts off the access from the hub during forecourt stage shows. Disney World's castle is like an elusive Hollywood star — thrilling to see, but most often appreciated at a distance.
5. Cinderella's Castle
The Tokyo Disneyland version earns the spot ahead of its Orlando twin for the "Cinderella's Fairy Tale Hall" walk-through that opens the castle to thousands more guests each day.
4. The Fortress Explorations Citadel
Does a citadel count as a castle if no king or queen lives there? Okay, maybe we are pushing the definition of "castle" by including this landmark on our list. But the home of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers offers one of the world's best walk-through attractions and one of the world's best theme park best restaurants. It looks fabulous in pictures and it's a delight to visit for hours on end. That's good enough for us to put the citadel on our list.
3. The Towers
The Towers wins huge points from us for being the only theme park castle that actually is a castle! Built in the early 1800s, the former home of the Earls of Shrewsbury stands on grounds that had been in the hands of the family for more than 700 years, making this the true original theme park castle. (Totally selfish note: One line of my ancestors — the Snows — traces back to Staffordshire and the land near the Alton Towers, making this my family's neighborhood theme park. Well, sort of.) Today, the towers not only provide an iconic focal point for the park, they are the home of the park's "Hex - The Legend of the Tower" ride.
2. Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant
Disney's best theme park castle not only offers its most fanciful design and a crowd-eating walk through attraction, but Paris' version of Sleeping Beauty Castle also would beat its siblings in Magic Kingdoms around the world for no other than it has a dragon in its dungeons!
1. Hogwarts Castle
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Stunning, photogenic icon? Check. World-class walk-through attraction inside? Check. But when you consider that walk-through tour of Hogwarts is simply the queue for one of the top 10 rides in the world, Hogwarts has to move to the top of our list.
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