Weekly Top 10: The Best Live Shows in Theme Parks
We'd bet that most people think first of rides when they think about theme parks. And while we love all the great rides in the parks, we know that top theme parks also provide some wonderful shows for our entertainment. This week, we honor the Top 10 live shows at major theme parks, as determined by the collective rating of Theme Park Insider readers. You can visit our Park Reviews
page to start rating the shows, rides, and restaurants you've visited. And if you take a moment to register
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10. Pets Ahoy!
SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Diego (as Pets Rule!)
Cats, dogs, birds, and even a pig perform in this gag-filled show. Some of these four-legged stars were rescued from animal shelters, and there's usually a pitch at the end of the show encouraging the audience to adopt rescue animals.
9. Mystery Lodge
Knott's Berry Farm
An elderly storyteller greets you from inside this Native American longhouse, where a fire burns in the middle of the room. As smoke from the fire twists into shapes, the storyteller believes to have seen an owl, a symbol of death. That prompts the man into a reflection upon his life, as he shares stories from his past, which collectively help illustrate the Pacific Northwest Native American experience.
8. Universal Horror Make-up Show
Universal Studios Florida
Located behind a recreation of the facade of Hollywood's Pantages Theater, Universal's look at the work of special effects make-up artists is one of the few attractions that remains from the park's opening. Sure, there's a bit of gore and the gruesome in this live show, but the overall tone is mostly light, with a heavy dose of Universal's distinctive, sarcastic humor.
7. Festival of the Lion King
Disney's Animal Kingdom, Hong Kong Disneyland
Dancers, acrobats, singers, and costumed characters celebrate The Lion King in this musical performance in-the-round. No, it’s not the Broadway show, or even an abridged retelling of the movie plot, but more a lovely, rousing concert that tries to get the audience cheering, and often succeeds.
6. Carkitt Market Stage
Universal Studios Florida
Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express much of the attention in Universal's Diagon Alley expansion, but don't overlook the live shows playing on this small stage in Carkitt Market. Those who take a few moments to watch Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees in concert or the performance of "Tales from Beedle the Bard" rave about these shows.
5. Fantasy Faire Royal Theatre
The clever Elizabethan musical storytellers Mr. Smyth and Mr. Jones present their slightly twisted take on some of Disney's fairy tales. Originally rotating shows of "Beauty and the Beast" and "Tangled," it's all "Frozen" these days. But it's a retelling of the story that even parents who've sat through their kids watching the DVD a million times still can enjoy.
4. Celtic Fyre
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
This celebration of Irish music, dance, and culture plays in the Abbey Stone Theatre, featuring an impressive display of singing and tap dancing.
3. Blue Horizons
SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Diego
Blue Horizons tells the story of a girl named Marina (get it?) dreaming about the sea and the wonders within it. And, yes, those dreams do include jumping dolphins.
Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Singapore, Universal Studios Japan
Set in a world where the polar ice caps have melted, covering the continents in sea water, our hero Helen has discovered dry land. But the evil Smokers are after her and the secret of dry land's location. It's up the Mariner to save Helen, and fight off the Smokers. Meanwhile, stunt performers dangle from high above the stage, plunge into the water, and stuff blows up all over the place. And, oh yeah, keep your eyes open for the plane.
Disney California Adventure
A 50-minute retelling of Disney's animated classic, California Adventure's "Aladdin" paved the way for Disney's current Broadway hit and continues to entertainment visitors with an ever-refreshed script that allows the Genie to riff on pop culture while the rest of the production dazzles with wonderful songs and staging.
Great shows on this list and a few I'm anxious to check out! Does anyone know, however, if the Aladdin flying carpet is working right now? I saw the show a week or two ago and the carpet was a no-show. Without it the whole thing kind of falls flat. I can't believe Disney doesn't have a better plan in place for shows when the carpet isn't operating, especially after the extended time the carpet wasn't flying after the malfunction. Just hearing the voiceover while the landmarks move by is rather dull on its own. Can't they just change the carpet lift in the stage to stay up for the whole song? Thankfully a good genie can mostly save the show when there's no carpet.
I expect Sea Lion High to be in this list next year!
I'd list Lion King and Horror Make-Up a little higher, but overall this is a good list from what I've heard about all the shows. But I do have to go on my soap box about one thing.....Blue Horizons.
Fantasmic, mystic rhythms, and Mickeys magical map blow away half the shows on this list.
I'm completely shocked that Finding Nemo the Musical could not crack this top ten.
Great lesson from the continued success of The Lion King show: you don't need to re-tell the story to have a great IP-based theme park attraction. Wish that insight was used more often, not just for shows, but other attractions, too.
No Nemo or Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular?
The only one I have seen is waterworld. And I can say, it's pretty darn good.
No Fantasmic? :( :((
There are only two theme park shows I consider an absolute must-see, no exceptions: Aladdin and Waterworld. I'm glad to see that these two topped the list. Waterworld is the absolute best stunt show I've seen as it is 5 minutes of set-up followed by 10-15 minutes of non-stop action, and I know people who say Aladdin is just as good as, if not better than, many of the shows currently playing on Broadway.
The Shamu show easily tops "Pets Ahoy". I guess we are politically correct these days.
I'm honestly just glad that Lion King, my favorite show, is somewhere on the list. Admittedly would've liked to see Fantasmic and One Ocean, but I'll take what I can get
No Indy in the top 10 is shocking, it's better that most on the list. I'm assuming Fantasmic! is not included as an oversight because it would top the list otherwise. Jedi Training Academy should probably make this list.
Surprised that Fantasmic didn't make the list.
The irony is that Blue Horizons and any and every Shamu show variation have probably done more to increase the general public's awareness of, and sensitivity, to marine wildlife endangerment issues than all the PETA and animal activist preaching combined.....
I have harped on about how last year was my first time in SoCal after 25 years visiting Orlando but...
This list is the top shows in North America.
Glad to see Horror Make Up Show make the list. Maybe the attraction in Orlando with the worst map description, as it never mentions 'funny'.
I have seen 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10. Very good selection out of a hundred shows available. 4.Celtic Fyre at Busch Gardens Williamsburg was the best Irish music song and dance show I have ever seen. Fantasmic is a finale fireworks show, not a several shows a day show so it isn't the same. Jedi Training Academy is cute but totally boring after 2 minutes if you don't have your children on stage. Blue Horizons amazes me every time with the music and acrobatic action, the dolphins part is minor and they just swim and jump around the pool. The dolphins push swimmers around the pool also, quite dangerous for the swimmers but no danger to the dolphins.
I agree with both of you, David and Robert, about the Shamu shows vs PETA.... 100%!! My complaint about BH is just the fact it's silly and dumbed down from the educational show they used to have in that theatre.
How on earth did Fantasmic! miss this list? The Disneyland version should be in first place.
I'm amazed that I've seen almost half of the shows on this list. I agree; where's Fantasmic? The possible answer is the east coast slant of the readers here. DHS's Fantasmic doesn't hold a (roman) candle to DL's.
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