Theme Park Insider

Monday Top 10: The Theme Parks You Dream of Visiting Someday

December 15, 2014, 11:34 AM · For much of the past year, we've been featuring weekly Top 10 lists drawn from the attraction, restaurant, and hotel ratings submitted by Theme Park Insider readers. This week, we are taking the Top 10 in a more personal direction, with a list of the Top 10 theme parks around the world that our editor (me!) has not visited but most wants to, someday. And we would like to invite you to respond in the comments your own Top 10 list of parks you most would like to visit.

Next week, we will follow up with my list of the Top 10 theme parks I have visited and most want to visit again, with an opportunity for you to submit your own personal Top 10 theme parks list. And since that will be our Christmas week Top 10, we will offer a year-end thank you to one lucky respondent, so be sure to register now if you haven't yet, to be eligible for that giveaway.

So let's get to this week's list: I've been to a lot of theme parks (33 to be exact), but I have a lot left to go. Here are the Top 10 theme parks I haven't yet visited, but want to, someday.

10. Six Flags Great Adventure

El Toro and Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure

Home to some of the world's most notable roller coasters, including our Theme Park Insider Award-winning El Toro, Six Flags Great Adventure is the only theme park in the TEA/AECOM annual attendance report's top U.S. theme parks that I haven't yet visited. With all my roadtrips and other travel over the years, I have visited 45 of the 50 U.S. states, missing at this point only Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and... New Jersey. I have no idea how I managed that.

9. Tivoli Gardens

Denmark's Tivoli Gardens isn't known for individual world-class attractions, but its legacy shaped the theme park industry, proving a model for a themed entertainment space that influenced Walt Disney's development of Disneyland, among many other designers and visionaries over the decades.

8. Port Aventura

Shambhala at Port Aventura

Once aligned with Universal Studios (though no longer), this Spanish theme park lures Europeans with top-quality roller coasters and abundant sunshine.

7. Ferrari World

Ferrari World

Home to the world's fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa, Abu Dhabi's Ferrari World is one of the world's largest indoor theme parks, appealing both to the worldwide Tifosi of Ferrari faithful as well as to theme park fans.

6. Ocean Park

The world's most popular theme park not branded to either Disney or Universal, Hong Kong's Ocean Park offers a mix of thrill rides and marine mammal exhibits. Like Universal Studios Hollywood, the park is separated into two sections, one atop a mountain and one below. However, the separation at Ocean Park is much larger, and the two sections are connected by a funicular railway instead of a series of escalators.

5. Alton Towers

Alton Towers

Featuring one of the world's best theme park castles (by virtue of actually being a castle!), Alton Towers blends theme with thrills to draw theme park fans into the English countryside. It's also located in my ancestral home of Staffordshire, so I probably ought to be ranking Alton higher than this!

4. Europa Park

Arthur at Europa Park

Europe's most popular non-Disney theme park is a showcase for attractions designed and built by its owner, Mack Rides. With a centerpiece geodesic dome that evokes Epcot's Spaceship Earth, surrounded by roller coasters and other thrill rides, Europa Park offers a blend of themes and thrills should put this park on many fans' wish lists.

3. Hong Kong Disneyland

Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland

Mystic Manor. I really, really want to see Mystic Manor for myself. Plus, visiting Hong Kong Disneyland would allow me to say that I've visited every Disney theme park on Earth, as it's the only one I'm now missing.

2. Universal Studios Japan

Back to the Future at Universal Studios Japan

The Osaka park is the only Universal theme park I've not yet visited, and offers the world's only opportunity to ride Back to the Future one more time, as well as to experience Jaws, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter all in one theme park. And the park's Hollywood Dream: The Ride from all reports seems to be the delightful high-speed thrill that Universal Studios Florida's rough Rip, Ride, Rockit should have been.

1. Efteling

Joris en de Draak at Efteling

Anton Pieck's masterpiece is home to several of the world's best dark rides not found in a Disney theme park, including Theme Park Insider reader favorites Fata Morgana and Droomvlucht. And I would love to experience its themed dive coaster, Baron 1898, which opens next year.

What are the Top 10 theme parks you haven't yet visited, but wish you could?

Replies (28)

December 15, 2014 at 12:28 PM · I need to get to Canada's Wonderland.

Once upon a time, there was a park called Wonderland Sydney (nee Australia's Wonderland). It like the other King's parks had a Hanah Barberra land, other common elements in rides...

...Including my much missed first Roller Coaster, the Bush Beast, a close copy of which exists as the Wilde Beast in Canada.

I guess its as close as I'm going to get unless the "New Wonderland" project happens in Sydney (and I get back to Australia of course).

December 15, 2014 at 12:28 PM · 1. Tokio Disney Sea
2. Carowinds
3. Six Flags Georgia
4. Holidayworld
5. Tokio Disneyland
6. Efteling
7. Hong Kong Disneyland
8. Fuji-Q-Highland
9. Happy Valley Shanghai
December 15, 2014 at 12:33 PM · From this list, definitely Alton Towers, for both the ambience and the awesome rides. It would be an interesting challenge to go through 14 inversions provided that the problem-plagued Smiler was up and running. I had hoped to go there last season, thinking that I had a free trip coming to me, but in addition to the 40,000 avios required to fly on British Airways (I do have over 40,000 in my account), the airline was going to charge a bundle in taxes and surcharges so it was a no-go. My second choice would be Ferrari World. I'd like to ride something that goes even faster than Kingda Ka. Speaking of Kingda Ka, Great Adventure is the only park on this list that I've visited and my home park. If you ever make plans to get there, please let me know and I'll stop by to say hello. I couldn't tell you much about where to dine in the park or what the best flat rides are, but I could tell you anything you ever wanted to know about the coasters.
December 15, 2014 at 12:35 PM · Haven't had the chance to ride Hollywood Dream - The Ride backwards at USJ. The regular ride is smooth, but not really thrilling. The track lay out reminds me of the Hulk at IOA, but without the high speed launch and heartline roll. The express pass has a ticket for Hollywood Dream - The Ride, but not for the backwards portion.
December 15, 2014 at 12:43 PM · As an expat living in the UAE I will offer the advice that you should only visit Ferrari World if you just have to check the "world's fastest coaster" box, or if just happen to be in the area for something else. Formula Rossa is awesome and unparalleled, but all the other attractions at FW are terrible.

In January I am going for my first visit to TDL and TDS. And in June I will be visiting Efteling and PDL, so yay for me. ; )

December 15, 2014 at 12:46 PM · Let's see here:
10. Disneyland Paris
9. Silver Dollar City
8. Knotts Berry Farm
7. Six Flags Great Adventure
6. Cedar Point
5. Hong Kong Disneyland
4. Six Flags Magic Mountain
3. Universal Studios Singapore
2. Tokyo Disneyland
1. Tokyo DisneySea
December 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM · 10. Rumored BBC Theme Park
9. Warner Bros. Studio London (not really a theme park but close enough)
8. Alton Towers
7. Six Flags Great Adventure
6. Disneyland Paris
5. Universal Studios Japan
4. Shanghai Disneyland (when it opens)
3. Hong Kong Dinseyland
2. Tokyo Disneyland
1. Tokyo Disney Sea
December 15, 2014 at 2:17 PM · My top ten to do would have to be..
10- Gardaland
9- Heide Park
8- Tivolli Gardens
7- Canada's wonderland
6- Busch gardens Williamsburg
5- Six flags magic mountain
4- Hong Kong Disneyland
3- Tokyo Disneyland
2- Tokyo Disney sea
1- Europa park
December 15, 2014 at 2:37 PM · I have lived in New Jersey all my life. I don't have any interest in going to Great Adventure ever again. I would rather make a special trip to anywhere else then to go to Great Adventure again. Disneyland would be at the top of my list of parks that I have never been to, that I would want to go to.
December 15, 2014 at 5:28 PM · I'll stick with US parks since I likely will never make it to Tokyo... and I will include a few parks I have already visited, but that visit was so long ago it really doesn't count anymore.

Just missed the cut: Universal Studios Hollywood – I have visited this park before, back in the 70's but probably need to go again when they are done with all their copycat Potter construction. However, other than the park’s one of a kind tram tour, I struggle to think of a single reason to visit USH over USO. But maybe, one day, if someone gives me a free ticket, and I happen to be in the area, I’ll go.

10. Lagoon – I am sure this park will be a bit of a letdown, but it has a couple coasters that intrigue me, especially the new one, Cannibal.

9. Carowinds – Fury 325. ‘Nuff said.

8. Six Flags Fiesta Texas – I have heard many good things about this park, and not just about its rides, but also about its theming and shows. And who doesn’t want to ride a coaster that performs a zero-g roll on top of a rock quarry wall?

7. Six Flags Great America (Gurnee) – I used to visit Marriott’s Great America in Santa Clara quite a bit when I was a kid, but have never made it to their Chicago park. I am most anxious to ride Goliath, but the Whizzer reminds me a lot of the Zambezi Zinger which used to be at Worlds of Fun (sadly, my home park). The Zambezi Zinger was removed from WoF years ago… *sniff*

6. Six Flags Great Adventure – Kingda Ka and El Toro. Sure, I’ve heard from many people that Top Thrill at Cedar Point > Kingda Ka, but real Coaster Boys (and girls) have to find out for themselves.

5. Knoebels – I lose a lot of street cred for having not visited this park. I will rectify that issue one day.

4. Hersheypark – The last time I visited Hershey I believe they only had one or two coasters and whatever they had, I was too short to ride.

3. Six Flags Magic Mountain – I used to go to Magic Mountain quite often back in the days when Colossus was new, but since we moved from SoCal in 1981, I have not been back to the park. I almost visited back in 2013, but X2 was closed, so we added another day at Disneyland instead. Therfore, I still need to get back to the Coaster Capital of the World someday.

2. Knott’s Berry Farm – Like Magic Mountain, I used to visit this park in my youth. Back then I think they had one coaster, Corkscrew, and classics like the Timber Mountain Log Ride and the Calico Mine Ride. I should have revisited Knott’s when I returned to SoCal back in 2013, but the rumors about Calico’s revamp were swirling so I decided to wait. Now I definitely need to revisit the park… and soon.

1. Busch Gardens Tampa – Despite all the doom and gloom around the SeaWorld/Busch parks, I regard BGT as the park I most want to visit in the US that I have not visited before. It appears to have an excellent assortment of coasters along with a nice complement of exhibits, shows, and food. My next trip to Florida WILL include a stop at BGT if at all possible.

December 15, 2014 at 3:28 PM · The only park on Robert's list that I've visited is Six Flags Great Adventure, and while it's a great Six Flags park it's still just a Six Flags park. El Toro is amazing, but if you were to take that away I find Six Flags Magic Mountain significantly better with regards to coasters (I will give SFGAdv the edge for non-coaster attractions and operations, however).

As for my personal list, I've got a three page list of all the parks I'd like to visit. I update it annually, but at the moment the following are my top ten:

10. Phantasialand (a mid-size German park with some outstanding looking rides)
9. Six Flags Over Texas (just because it's the original Six Flags)
8. Silver Dollar City (I loved Dollywood and this park is similar)
7. Heide Park Resort (one of Europe's biggest thrill parks with some creative rides)
6. Kennywood (this was my grandparents' local park when they were growing up)
5. Liseberg (4 world class coasters and numerous other unique attractions)
4. Busch Gardens Tampa (Busch Gardens Williamsburg is one of my favorite parks)
3. Alton Towers (ever since I discovered this park on RCT I've wanted to visit)
2. Europa Park (Mack's showcase park and the German equivalent of Disneyland)
1. Universal Orlando Resort (or rather all the Orlando parks in general...yes, I know this is cheating)

I didn't list any of the Asian parks on here (Tokyo/Hong Kong Disneyland, Universal Studios Japan/Singapore, etc.) mainly because while I'd like to visit the parks I'm not so sure how much I'd like traveling to Asia.

December 15, 2014 at 3:26 PM · 1 & 2. Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySeas
3. Shanghai Disneyland
4. Disneyland Paris
5. Legoland Florida
6. SeaWorld Orlando
7. Universal Studios Japan
December 15, 2014 at 4:02 PM · Bobbie Butterfield - Taxes are high due to the Air Passenger Duty Levy, which is supposed to be for environmental reasons.

There is good news Kids under 12 in Economy no longer attract the levy.

Also, be on the lookout for changes that may make flying to Scotland (Edinburgh and Glasgow) cheaper as the Scottish Government is supposed to be getting the power to lower this levy.

At the moment British Airways don't get the idea that people don't always want to go through London, but during the Scottish Independence referendum they were supportive of Independence for APD reasons... maybe they'll bring back a minihub up here....

December 15, 2014 at 4:12 PM · AJ: Kennywood is a great choice. A gem of a old time park that still has it's charm, rides that don't exist anywhere else, some great old time & present day coasters that don't ruin the landscape like most coaster parks, and excellent ambiance. On the small side though at only apx. 40 acres. But they still have free parking.
December 15, 2014 at 6:04 PM · I don't want to just visit Efteling. I want to LIVE in Efteling.
December 15, 2014 at 6:12 PM · I'm not really that knowledgeable about the park, but the ride POVs etc. I've seen from Phantasialand have been really interesting. It really does not get covered on here much though..... so I'm not sure what to think.... Is it not that great of a park, or is it just obscure to Americans?
December 15, 2014 at 7:18 PM · 1. Tokyo Disney Resort
2. Walt Disney World
3. Cedar Point
4. Kings Island
5. Busch Gardens Williamsburg
6. Alton Towers
7. Ocean Park
8. Nagashima Spa Land
9. Six Flags Over Texas
10. Fiesta Texas
December 16, 2014 at 6:51 PM · 10. Silver Dollar City
9. Cedar Point
8. Alton Towers
7. Efteling
6. Universal Studios Singapore
5. Walt Disney Studios
4. Disneyland Paris
3. Universal Studios Japan
2. Tokyo Disneyland
1. Tokyo DisneySea
December 15, 2014 at 10:28 PM · Rob, just because a park is small doesn't make it less enjoyable. For example, Knoebels is one of my favorite parks and it's only mid-sized. But you've listed almost all the reasons I want to visit the park. Kennywood is not large enough for me to consider making a special trip for it, but it's close enough to Cedar Point and Hersheypark that I'll probably try to include it to my next trip to one of those (if I was old enough to rent a car at a reasonable rate I would have done it this summer when I visited Cedar Point).

Also, to the poster who mentioned Phantasialand, TPR's Phantasialand page has quite a bit of information about it. I don't want to over-promote other fan sites on here, but I will say that Theme Park Review's Park Index is the best source of information I've found for international parks. On most sites, it's rare to hear about European and Asian parks outside of Disney/Universal or really well known parks like Alton Towers.

December 16, 2014 at 9:23 AM · These arent in order - but parks i really would like to visit are:
Six Flags Magic Mountain, Cedar Point, Europa Park, Efteling, Port Aventura, Disneyland, Six Flags Great America.

Those are the main ones on my list. But it would be cool to also visit some Japanese parks like the Disneyland/DisneySea :)

December 16, 2014 at 10:06 AM · So many I want to visit...but my top ten are:

10. Canada's Wonderland
9. Hong Kong Disneyland
8. Alton Towers
7. Kennywood
6. Eiftling
5. Tokyo Disneyland
4. Six Flags Great Adventure
3. Disneyland Paris
2. Universal Studios Japan
1. Tokyo Disneysea

December 16, 2014 at 10:34 AM · Long time listener, first time caller...
I flew to Osaka last year specifically to ride BTTF one last time. Totally worth it.
I mean, we took in several temples, gardens, etc as well- but the impetus was straight up ramming Biff Tannen back to the correct Hill Valley. The journey from present day (2013 when I went) to the distant future of 2015 is as great as we all remember. I still don't understand why Universal parks in the US don't just grab a couple of those shady, mid-mall simulators and charge nostalgic rubes like myself five bucks to 'relive the magic'. I think they'd make a tidy profit.
The entire park is awesome, btw. My favorite international theme park (bearing in mind I've yet to visit Tokyo Disney). The Jaws boat tour operator basically did a baton routine with the shotgun when not fending off the star of the show. That, plus Hogwarts is visible from the lagoon for the whole tour which makes the experience a touch... surreal. Space Fantasy is the dark ride/coaster equivalent of a vivid fever dream featuring a sun flare that looked suspiciously like the Cheerios Honey Bee. Then again, I guess there are only so many ways to slap ping-pong ball eyes on a mascot and call it anthropomorphized.
Go during the Christmas season. Trust me, the decorations are over the top and the end of day show is projection mapping at its most awesome. Also, everyone is super friendly and polite to eachother- a holiday tradition that has yet to make it to American theme parks. Zing!
December 16, 2014 at 2:01 PM · Tokyo Disney, particularly DisneySea. Number one on my bucket list.
December 17, 2014 at 4:25 AM · Exciting to see such Phantasialand love! It's a great park that has in recent years really started to up its game, while keeping some of its delightfully old-fashioned elements. I'm surprised not to see Blackpool Pleasure Beach get a mention - it should feature on the list of anyone with a penchant for amusement park heritage. Port Aventura is sadly still yet to quite hit its potential, but Europa Park is the most well-rounded park in the continent, and should be on anyone's list.

Not sure I've got a ten, but my five would be:
1. Tokyo Disneyland/Sea
2. Puy du Fou
3. Hong Kong Disneyland
4. Cedar Point
5. Holiday World

And yes, let's be honest - Shanghai looks like it's going straight to the top for *everyone* when it opens.

December 17, 2014 at 9:12 AM · My top 10 would be:
1. Tokyo Disneyland (I drove by once, but didn't get to go. Still regret that.)
2. Tokyo DisneySea
3. Canada's Wonderland (It's so close for an international park, it seems a shame not to have been there.)
4. SeaWorld (Any of them. Never been to one.)
5. Busch Gardens (Again, any of them.)
6. Hong Kong Disneyland
7. Alton Towers
8. Disneyland Paris
9. Efteling
10. Tivoli Gardens (My sister went once and loved it, I want to see it for myself.)
December 19, 2014 at 5:32 AM · I live about an hour from Great Adventure and we NEVER go there. I've only been there 3 times and each time I swear I am NEVER EVER going back again. The last time was a couple of years ago and my now grown son and I agreed that it would be our last trip. The rides are good but the place is rundown and dirty and overrun with out of control teenagers. I actually find this to be the case at every Six Flags property I've ever been to. Six Flags won't be getting any more of my money.
December 19, 2014 at 9:58 AM · I've been to every park mentioned in this thread (park count is just shy of 400) except for Ferrari World and Puy du Fou, which I abashedly admit that I'd never heard of before, but it's probably because they don't seem to have any rides, and I'm a coaster counter.

People are missing some European gems like Grona Lund in Sweden (glad someone mentioned Liseberg, also great), as well as several great Danish, Dutch, Belgian, and German parks (nice to see Heide Park on someone's list). Check out Hansa Park, Plopsaland, Toverland, the Walibi parks, and Farup Sommerland, among others.

Don't forget Lotte World and Everland in South Korea, which are both amazing. I also didn't see Waldmameer, another great American park.

I don't understand the Great Adventure hate. It's our home park, it's got a great coaster and ride collection, and we always have a great time there. In fact, we always have a great time at any park, even tiny weird ones where we don't speak the language. Attitude makes a big difference when you're trying to have fun.

Next up for us: Philippines, Indonesia, and China in 2015. Have a great holiday and new year, everyone!

December 21, 2014 at 8:23 PM · I've been to quite a few of these: Alton Towers, Port Aventura, Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park.

Ocean Park is a pretty terrible day, to be honest. When I went with my girlfriend, we did the animal side of things which is quite interesting. When I went with another mate, we did the rides.... and they're just fairground rides. Don't take the train up, either, the cable cars are far better as you get to see Hong Kong's natural beauty.

HKDL is a fantastic park, though, especially for couples or young families. Thrill seekers need not apply, go to Universal Singapore for that (another fantastic park I've had the pleasure to going to).

Alton Towers is a joy of a park, probably the only "real" theme park in my home country.

I haven't been to Port Aventura in a long time, since it was Universal owned. But I still remember that absolute peach of a ride: Dragon Khan. World's largest (at the time) loop.

Parks that I want to experience, but haven't had the chance yet, include the Japanese Disney / Universal parks, and the California parks. Hopefully I'll see Japan within the next year or so. California will remain a dream for now.

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