Theme Park Insider

Announcing the Winners of the 15th Annual Theme Park Insider Awards

July 4, 2016, 8:53 AM · Every year on the Fourth of July holiday, Theme Park Insider honors our readers' favorite theme park hotels, restaurants, and attractions with our Theme Park Insider Awards. The winners are the locations in each category with the highest average reader rating and a minimum number of ratings overall. Attractions that opened officially to the public at major theme parks between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016 were eligible in the Best New Attraction categories. Let's get to the honors!

Best New Attraction: Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure, Shanghai Disneyland

Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure

The world's newest major theme park wins our award this year for Best New Attraction. Shanghai Disneyland's version of Pirates of the Caribbean refreshes the wildly popular franchise with a new ride system and aggressive use of projection mapping and screens with the traditional animatronics to create a jaw-dropping adventure.

Previous winners: Justice League Battle for Metropolis [2015], Banshee [2014], Mystic Manor [2013], Transformers The Ride [2012], Star Tours The Adventures Continue [2011], Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey [2010], Manta [2009], The Simpsons Ride [2008], Mystery Mine [2007], Expedition Everest [2006]

Best New Show: Frozen Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure

Frozen Live at the Hyperion

Filled with visually stunning moments that accentuate the animated hit's beloved score, this version of Frozen already has become a must-see at the Disneyland Resort.

Best New Roller Coaster: Mako, SeaWorld Orlando

Mako

SeaWorld's latest Bolliger & Mabillard masterpiece is now Orlando's tallest and fastest roller coaster. The B&M hyper might be Theme Park Insider's favorite roller coaster model, and Mako's well on its way to the top of our coaster rankings.

Previous winner: Thunderbird [2015]

Best Quick-service Restaurant: The Three Broomsticks, Universal Studios Hollywood

The Three Broomsticks

Our winner in this category is a new restaurant this year — the dining hall in Universal Studios Hollywood's recently opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Featuring not only favorites from Orlando's original but also some meals from last year's winner, The Leaky Cauldron, Hollywood's The Three Broomsticks offers more than enough great options to keep wizards and witches coming back again and again.

Previous winners: The Leaky Cauldron [2015], Miss Lillian's Chicken House [2014]

Best Table-service Restaurant: Magellan's, Tokyo DisneySea

Magellan's

This Tokyo DisneySea restaurant wins its first Theme Park Insider Award, after years of knocking on the door. Located in the heart of the Mysterious Island Citadel, Magellan's is the headquarters of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers — a favorite franchise of Theme Park Insider readers.

Previous winners: Monsieur Paul [2015], S.S. Columbia Dining Room [2013-2014], Bistro De Paris [2010-2012], Les Chefs de France [2009], Mythos Restaurant [2003-2008], Blue Bayou Restaurant [2002]

Best Hotel Restaurant: Victoria and Albert's, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Walt Disney World

http://www.themeparkinsider.com/reviews/hotels/walt_disney_world/disney's_grand_floridian_resort/victoria_and_albert's/

Walt Disney World's most acclaimed restaurant wins this honor for the second year in a row.

Previous winner: Victoria and Albert's [2015]

Best Hotel: Universal's Portofino Bay Hotel, Universal Orlando Resort

Universal's Portofino Bay Hotel

Universal Orlando's flagship hotel captures our Theme Park Insider Award for the fourth year in row and the sixth overall. The exemplary service and accommodations would place the Portofino Bay near the top of our rankings by themselves, but the location and free Universal Express service for guests pushes the hotel to the very top.

Previous winners: Universal's Portofino Bay Hotel [2002, 2009, 2013-2015], Disney's Grand Californian Hotel [2003-2004, 2011-2012], Disney's Wilderness Lodge [2010], Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge [2005-2006, 2008], Disney's Polynesian Resort [2007]

Best Theme Park: Tokyo DisneySea

Tokyo DisneySea

Tokyo DisneySea wins our top honor for the fifth year in a row and the sixth time overall. But Disney's new Shanghai park is off to a strong start and continued expansion at the Universal Orlando Resort mean that theme park fans around the world are enjoying a resurgence of high quality in the theme park business. That's great news for fans, and something to look forward to seeing more of in the years to come.

Previous winners: Tokyo DisneySea [2005, 2012-2015], Universal's Islands of Adventure [2002-2004, 2010-2011], Disneyland [2008-2009], Busch Gardens Williamsburg [2006-2007]

Congratulations to all the winners!

Replies (25)

July 4, 2016 at 9:29 AM · I'm staying at the Portofino for the first time this year. Can't wait.
July 4, 2016 at 10:54 AM · I would like to see best National Rankings separate from best overall.
July 4, 2016 at 11:20 AM · Best Roller Coaster: El Toro (Six Flags Great Adventure)
The drop alone is the best on any roller coaster. Look out for the rolling thunder hill! The airtime is absolutely insane.

Actually I think Lightning Rod is a better contender for best new roller coaster.

July 4, 2016 at 11:20 AM · I'm in Tokyo Disney sea right now. It's Def worth the award to say the least!
July 4, 2016 at 11:36 AM · I actually don't like El Toro very much. After that drop it becomes a whiplash machine for me
July 4, 2016 at 12:03 PM · Pirates was a slam-dunk to win Best New Attraction. Here's hoping the upcoming Pandora rides will be anywhere near as impressive.
July 4, 2016 at 1:37 PM · What are the overall top ten theme parks from around the world? Does Islands of Adventure fall somewhere in the top five? I will say that I feel as though this ranking is a lot better than the other rankings that have just come out for other websites.
July 4, 2016 at 3:49 PM · Did we get to vote? I feel like you guys just pick your favorites every year.
July 4, 2016 at 5:21 PM · We had the worst experience at Portofino. We had to stay there once because the Hard Rock was booked. The service was terrible. The front desk staff was rude. We got lost and were supposedly supposed to get a map (but didn't). The pool area was terrible. We will never stay at Portofino again. If we can't stay at the Hard Rock, we'll postpone our trip for another day.
July 4, 2016 at 7:19 PM · No surprise on Pirates, the videos are amazing and the Jack Sparrow effect is miles beyond what even Universal does.
July 4, 2016 at 8:20 PM · Stayed half our trip at portifino and half at the beach club in October 2015. We weren't allowed to play in the pool at portifino and it wasn't very kid friendly and its ambiance was just quiet and reserved. The beach club is alive and the boardwalk is lively and inviting and the pool and pool staff and kid friendliness us second to none in the industry. Never having that resort win an aware is a travesty. For both a kid fav and parent fav it's tops for my family.
July 4, 2016 at 9:32 PM · Awards are determined by cumulative reader ratings. You can see real time top 10s in several categories by signing up for Insider benefits - https://www.patreon.com/themepark
July 4, 2016 at 10:38 PM · Frozen Live at DCA is meh - it deserves recognition for the innovative use of projections, but the show itself is kind of a mess.

I look at Magellan's and that one picture makes it look interesting, much more than the recently opened Tiffins at Animal Kingdom, which is like an art gallery in a restaurant, but I wouldn't call that an immersive experience, it's just like nice decorations. I expect a theme park restaurant to be immersive.

So which is the best ride in the world? Pirates, Spiderman or Forbidden Journey?

July 5, 2016 at 1:26 AM · Well done to the winners.
New Pirates (as I like to call it) and Mako have had a huge impact in a short time. It's good to see that!
July 5, 2016 at 7:35 AM · The new Pirates ride in Shanghai looks amazing to say the least but it's rather dubious that in all of a month and a half's time, enough TPI readers have actually made the trip to China and ridden it for it to have enough votes to qualify.

I've said it before, I question the legitimacy of these awards when so many overseas attractions, restaurants, etc. win all the time. I think people just read the glowing reviews or watch YouTube videos and vote without ever experiencing it for themselves. In five years of reading this site, I'm pretty sure Robert is the only person who ever mentioned eating at Magellan's and somehow that's the winner?

July 5, 2016 at 9:46 AM · @Will I kind of think the opposite. I think that if more people visited the foreign parks then their ratings would be even higher. For example if more people had the chance to stay at Tokyos Miracosta hotel I think it would be the hands down winner. Uber themed hotel, the best guest service in the world, restaurant overlooking Mediterranean harbor and all within the worlds best theme park? Definitely.
July 5, 2016 at 11:03 AM · Unless I'm missing something, it would appear that the best roller coaster (as opposed to best new roller coaster) category was eliminated this year, for reasons at which I can't even begin to guess. It would have been interesting to see whether El Toro could win it 3 years in a row. As to best new roller coaster, I too am surprised that Lightning Rod didn't prevail over Mako, Valravn et al.
July 5, 2016 at 12:34 PM · Lightning Rod probably didn't win, because it simply hasn't run very much yet. It ran for a couple of weeks in June, and has been back in "technical rehearsals" over the past week. There simply couldn't have been enough people that have ridden it who could have generated enough votes to get it to the top. You should never judge a coaster (or any other ride for that matter) by a POV. While TPI doesn't prevent guests from rating rides they've never ridden, readers should think twice before claiming a ride they're never set foot onto is the "best", or giving a rating to an attraction based on an on-ride video.

The love for Portofino Bay has always perplexed me. It is by far the priciest of the UO resorts, and is a 20+ minute walk/boat ride from the parks/CityWalk (about as far by foot as Cabana Bay). It's certainly a pretty hotel, but the Hard Rock is superior in so many ways. If you're judging by looks alone, all of the Disney Deluxe Resorts top Portofino.

July 5, 2016 at 12:44 PM · Daniel, I don't disagree. The quality of many overseas attractions seems to be nothing short of outstanding and likely would increase with actual patronage. That said, I do think there's a lot of over-voting (i.e. voting for things the voter hasn't experienced) directly connected to Editor's bias with the coverage and attention certain things receive. The Palm at UOR's Hard Rock Hotel has a perfect 10 score as does Shula's at the WDW Dolphin yet neither are ever mentioned on this site. Perhaps with a bit more spotlight and love, they too would benefit from over-voting along with other overseas attractions that aren't as highlighted.

Maybe these awards would work best if not tied to the ratings, but instead just open polling each year as they approach? I quite enjoyed the tournament format Robert did for attractions a few years back, not necessarily tied to have you actually experienced this but instead on your general thoughts and perception of it. I'm also curious what the minimum requirements are and how many "ratings" each attraction, restaurant, hotel actually receive.

At the end of the day though, it's all in good fun and makes for good debate. I'm also just playfully bitter that things I enjoy (like San Angel Inn and The Palm) get ignored while things I find lackluster (Mythos, Le Cellier, Impressions de France) get, in my opinion, unwarranted praise. Ironically, I think the reason why certain things I prefer get ignored is because not enough people have tried them, which makes the over-voting tied to Editor bias so maddening.

July 5, 2016 at 3:13 PM · Not that surprised by the awards this year. I figured Pirates and Frozen were likely going to win their respective categories, though if Lightning Rod had actually opened on time and run consistently that probably would have beat out Mako. I would like to see more categories next year...perhaps an award could be given for each of the Insider categories.

As for the integrity of the awards, there's no perfect way to do user-based awards without making it so complicated that nobody will vote. Personally, I think it's mostly fine the way it is. The only thing I would suggest (and this may already be done) would be to purge all ratings older than two years as opinions can change over time. If the rating guidelines say not to rate anything you haven't experienced in the past two years, then no ratings older than two years should factor into awards decisions.

July 5, 2016 at 3:24 PM · I saw a video of the Shanghai pirates and can understand why they won. It looks so amazing.
July 5, 2016 at 9:26 PM · We do purge the ratings after a couple of years, so the rankings stay fresh. Of course, that's not an issue with the new stuff, but does come into play for the hotels and theme parks.

I'm always concerned that we not have too many awards, as I don't want this to become overkill. I kinda like the idea of focusing more on the new stuff, but if there's a groundswell of support for adding the category overall awards, I'll throw those into the mix for next year.

July 6, 2016 at 1:27 AM · Best parks, rides, shows, attractions and two types of restaurants.

Last time I was in a park there might have been a gift shop or two.

July 6, 2016 at 10:28 PM · A simple open vote poll would determine everything. I'm surprised theme park insider doesn't grasp it. Love the site though just think some things can be more professional.Keep up the good work.
July 7, 2016 at 1:31 PM · Open polls become a simplistic contest to see which park can send more of its social media followers to dominate the poll. They fail to reflect the community of this website's readers. FWIW, I have a degree in statistics, and I find it more interesting to aggregate reader ratings of individual locations than to run yet another open Internet poll that can be freeped by any other community online.

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