Announcing the Winners of the 16th Annual Theme Park Insider Awards
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, 2016 and June 30, 2017 were eligible in the Best New Attraction categories. Let's get to the honors!
Best New Attraction Flight of Passage, Disney's Animal Kingdom
The centerpiece of Walt Disney World's ambitious new Pandora - The World of Avatar, Flight of Passage delivers the most exhilarating simulation of flight yet developed in a theme park.
Previous winners: Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure , Justice League Battle for Metropolis , Banshee , Mystic Manor , Transformers The Ride , Star Tours The Adventures Continue , Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey , Manta , The Simpsons Ride , Mystery Mine , Expedition Everest 
Best New Roller Coaster Krakatau Aqua Coaster, Volcano Bay VIDEO
Okay, it's got water, not rails, and a half-tube, not a track. But its launches, drops, and high-speed turns make Krakatau a delightful coaster experience and the best new coaster in the world this year.
Previous winners: Mako , Thunderbird 
Best New Show Mickey and the Magician, Walt Disney Studios Paris
Debuting last summer, Mickey and the Magician held off strong challenges from a pair of Magic Kingdom shows — The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History and Happily Ever After — to claim the honors with this musical production.
Previous winner: Frozen Live at the Hyperion 
Best New Theme Park Volcano Bay, Universal Orlando Resort VIDEO
Featuring one of the best visual weenies in the industry — with some wicked slides inside that 200-foot volcano — Universal Orlando's new water theme park delights, even as fans (and Universal) get used to its innovative virtual queueing system.
Previous winners: This is our first award in this category.
Best Counter Service Restaurant The Three Broomsticks, Universal Studios Hollywood
The restaurant in Hollywood's Wizarding World of Harry Potter repeats in this category, winning the award in each of its two years of operation.
Previous winners: The Three Broomsticks , The Leaky Cauldron , Miss Lillian's Chicken House 
Best Table Service Restaurant Tiffins, Disney's Animal Kingdom
Located at the entrance to Pandora - The World of Avatar, the newest restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom has surged ahead of all competition, delivering exceptional food and service in an intriguing setting.
Previous winners: Magellan's , Monsieur Paul , S.S. Columbia Dining Room [2013-2014], Bistro De Paris [2010-2012], Les Chefs de France , Mythos Restaurant [2003-2008], Blue Bayou Restaurant 
Best Hotel Restaurant Victoria & Albert's, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Simply the best restaurant on property at any theme park resort, Victoria & Albert's is one of the top restaurants anywhere.
Previous winner: Victoria and Albert's [2015-2016]
Best Hotel Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Universal Orlando Resort
The stunning Portofino Bay repeats, claiming our honor for a record seventh time.
Previous winners: Universal's Portofino Bay Hotel [2002, 2009, 2013-2016], Disney's Grand Californian Hotel [2003-2004, 2011-2012], Disney's Wilderness Lodge , Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge [2005-2006, 2008], Disney's Polynesian Resort 
Best Park Efteling
And here's the upset. Knocking off six-time champion Tokyo DisneySea, the Dutch park that's long been a favorite of themed entertainment designers finally claims the top spot in our ratings. And that's without help from Symbolica, its
ambitious new trackless dark ride that missed the June 30 cut-off for eligibility in this year's awards by one day.
Previous winners: Tokyo DisneySea [2005, 2012-2016], Universal's Islands of Adventure [2002-2004, 2010-2011], Disneyland [2008-2009], Busch Gardens Williamsburg [2006-2007]
Congratulations to all the winners!
DE EFTELING! Shook. But thrilled. (See you all this time next year for the Best New Attraction award, yeah?)
Slow year for coasters?
I can't believe charging for parking didn't stop Volcano Bay from winning Best New Theme Park. What a world we are living in. Universal continues to knock it out of the park. Plus Best New Roller coaster. Home run!!
Hamilton won Best Original Score and Best Actor in a Musical in its 1st eligible year at the Tony Awards. Volcano Bay is basically the Hamilton of TPI Awards. I don't know what else even compares. Congrats again Universal.
You're going to get some serious criticism for the "Best New Roller Coaster" winner (including from me). Coaster fans are very particular when it comes to defining what is actually a "roller coaster" (rides like Pinfari's Looping Star is advertised as a roller coaster by parks, but does not actually fit most coaster fans' definition of roller coaster since the trains never actually "coast"), but just about anyone would agree that something branded a "ROLLER coaster" should have wheels or rollers.
Yes, let's devalue the award based a small sample of people that Russel perceives is the makeup of web hits for this site. This is a theme park enthusiasts website and in my opinion has been dominated in the comments and articles(not by Robert) by roller coaster enthusiasts for far too long. I applaud this decision and dismiss Mr. Meyer's long winded retort.
What about 'Best Night Show'?
Oh, Barry - It's great to see that you did not give away your shot. Very, very funny.
I meant to do a post on the coaster eligibility issue, but when no one mentioned it after I included Krakatau on the nominees list last month, I didn't get around to it.
I acknowledge that the TPI audience is much more than just roller coaster enthusiasts, but if you're giving an award for "Best New Roller Coaster", the winner should actually fit the definition of "roller coaster". Why bother having categories if you're going to give awards to attractions/parks/hotels/restaurants that don't fit the category? Under that premise, I would argue that Tower of Terror (DHS) should qualify for the Best Hotel category, and my kitchen should qualify for Best Resort Restaurant. I don't mind stretching category boundaries, but if you're going to bother having categories, the winners should fit within those.
I think it's a little controversial to include Volcano Bay as a park and Krakata as a roller coaster. That is feeding into the Universal narrative that we as readers and writers should determine. Typhoon Lagoon has never been considered for any awards, but have been doing "Volcano Bay" 20+ years before.
Roller coaster implies wheels, right? A water coaster is it's own category. It's no big deal anyways. Let's include Splash Mountain as a roller coaster. No, it's a flume ride, but it has rollers and it goes up and down in the dark in one segment.
"Typhoon Lagoon has never been considered for any awards"
Rusell seems very quick to tell us all why Krakatoa should not have won the award. Despite all his bluster he never once mentions what he thinks is the best "roller coaster" of the year...
I think the average park-goer will disagree that Volcano Bay is the best new park. Check out the park's dismal reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp (2-1/2 stars each).
Well done 'Flight of Passage'! This remarkable attraction is a sign of the even greater innovations planned at all six of Walt Disney World's theme parks.
I'd like to turn back the hands of time and imagine a day before the Internet was created. Let's imagine that Theme Park Insider existed, but as a paper newsletter that got mailed out once a month.
I can't wait to ride the Krakatua Aqua coaster. I don't know how many readers have had the pleasure of riding a true water coaster but it's a theme park enthusiast must. In 2015 my wife and I made the journey to Indiana to visit Holiday World. While I was geared up for the new Thunderbird, the voyage, the legend, and the raven, I left the park with two different favorites. They were both water coasters, wildebeest and mammoth. I reported my feelings in a short discussion in which some thought might be overstating the fun and excitement compared to the "real" coasters. However, these results prove the water coasters can compete with what we generally call roller coasters. Also, I believe they are game changers for water parks and I'm very glad to see them popping up over the country. River Rush (Dollywood), Krakatua, and Thunder Rapids(SF Fiesta) are on my list. Thanks to all the site contributors, it's enjoyable to have discussion with you all with similar interests.
Perhaps I'm totally wrong here, but it seems people are arguing against Volcano Bay, as if the category is Best Water Park.
3 words, Happily Ever After!?!?!?! As much as I enjoyed Mickey and the Magician, no show has ever made me cry like the end of Happily Ever After. Is there another category where it belongs? Otherwise it was completely robbed. I'm not even going to go to there with the aquacoaster argument...
As for the aquacoaster argument, I'll just say that in my opinion, it's more similar to a roller coaster than it is similar to a log flume.
FWIW, I'll add my name to the list of those who do not consider a water coaster to be the same as a roller coaster (RCDB doesn't list water coasters, either), or a water park to be the same as an amusement or a theme park.
Surprised Poetofino Bay wins best hotel so much. It's a nice hotel, but is actually the least popular at Universal. Being further away from the parks and not having self service laundry kills it for me.
Congrats to the Efteling! This park cannot be compared with any other. I hope they will welcome many more international visitors!
Who cares who won the best rollercoaster ride/slide
Just realised... this is the first year anything from Europe has won a TPI award. And two in one go!
I am not an insider but a senior marketing and advertising expert that loves to visit parks etc. around the globe. We have been in +100 parks in Europe and The US. In the pipeline next year Japan. But not only me (chauvinistic Dutchman) but even my Swedish wife is impressed by the performance of the Efteling. It looks, for a relative small park with probably limited budgets great and we use it in our family discussions a lot as a benchmark. Kuddo's for them.
My Son is crazy about the Efteling. He cant stop talking about it.
Well its been a relatively weak year for coasters in 2017 compared to other recent years: Mystic Timbers, Invader, Mine Blower and the ones in Dubai.
Well, I have to friends from the USA coming over to the Netherlands this month, and we already booked tickets for the Efteling so this is going to be a real treat for them.
Yes! I knew that 'Efteling' would be the best park because it is! Flying all over the world and visiting amusement Parks everywhere, still think that Efteling is the best!
I find it odd that Volcano Bay emerges as 'best new theme park' when its Tripadvisor rating, which is, whatever we think, reflecting the views of real people, is so negative. I just looked and of the last 20 reviews posted in the last few days ELEVEN of them are 1 star and with suitably negative comments, and the overall rating is an abysmal 3.5 stars. These are not fanboys or girls or Disneyfans slating the competition. These are just ordinary fee-paying punters and by an over-whelming majority they don't like it. Somewhere there is a serious disconnect there, but it sure doesn't sound like the 'best' of anything. Yet.
This coaster controversy is all very interesting, but to me, the bigger story is that Disney has won "best new attraction" two years running, and both feature cutting edge technology. Great to see Disney reinvesting in their parks and pushing the edge of the rider experience.
Robert you are losing it. Or are you after more advertising revenue? With your rant about global warming and dismissing The Bible now you put a water ride as a roller coaster. Now it might be time to look for a better place to talk about them parks. InvadR is the best woodie I have ever ridden.
@Vernon Griffin: Please, please, please go look for a better place to talk about parks.
Give global warming a few more years and they'll all be water rides anyway.
Yes Efteling!! Well deserved!!
I can't believe a water park has sullied the long and storied history of the Best New Theme Park award, which began all the way back in 2017.
Six Flags Fiesta Texas opened a new 'water coaster' "Thunder Run" but I don't consider that to be a roller coaster nor does the park itself, given they did not add that ride to their coaster count. (In a sickening irony here, SF Over Georgia is still counting the Joker (Larson Super Loop) as a coaster.
Yes! Yes! This is so great! The Efteling is this wonderful, glorious, lovely and totally beautiful Dutch theme park.
Thumbs up to Ben for that comment!
New coaster related article out today:
"Rusell seems very quick to tell us all why Krakatoa should not have won the award. Despite all his bluster he never once mentions what he thinks is the best "roller coaster" of the year..."
"Best of..." lists exist specifically for the purpose of giving people something to argue about. By this standard, Robert, you've hit a home run!
Have to agree with Russell and A.J. here. To call Krakatau a roller coaster strikes me as the height of absurdity. This is way off track. It would indeed have been nice if the voting had been limited to one of the genuine articles such as Mystic Timbers or InvadR.
"This is way off track" -- I see what you did there. Nice! (And 100% correct, of course!)
Fair enough Russell. In other news... TPI awards Krakatau as Best New Roller Coaster and the general theme park community (4-5 avid posters on a theme park message board) lose their minds!
@Barry/Fonzie, one correction. Your "In other news" comment should start out as follows: "...TPI
"It would indeed have been nice if the voting had been limited to one of the genuine articles such as Mystic Timbers or InvadR."
@James Rao...Subtle nods (maybe not so) to great works of art my friend. It's lost on some for sure. Fonzie is assuredly not a part of it.
I wonder if some of you folks so opposed to Krakatau being classified a coaster have taken an ACE credit for Avalanche at Kings Dominion? I don't see any rails on that ride, so AJ Hummel's definition of a rollercoaster certainly doesn't apply, but ACE calls it a coaster.
@Tim Re: "...is there really that much difference between a water coaster and a bobsled coaster?" Yes. The latter is a roller coaster, the former is not.
The decision came down to honoring Krakatau, which was getting excellent ratings on the site, or nothing, as the average ratings being given other new coasters this year were far below the average ratings of the other winners.
I understand your reasoning, and appreciate your good intentions in shedding light on a water park attraction that you and others have enjoyed. However, I still don't agree with your choice. Better to give Krakatau "honorable mention" in the Best New Attraction category than to shoehorn it into an existing award like beating a square peg into a round hole. And while I think Mystic Timbers, InvadR, and a few other true roller coasters are worthy candidates for the this year's prize, I would rather the Best New Roller Coaster award sit idle for a year than give it to a non-roller coaster. But hey, this site is Robert Niles' TPI.... your vote is the deciding one.
Tim, I coincidentally have ridden not only Avalanche, but also Alpine Bobsled at Great Escape, the defunct Disaster Transport at Cedar Point, and Flying Turns at Knoebels. All of them are what is known as a bobsled coaster, and while my definition above could be argued I'd say that they qualify. While very rare, there are railroad-type systems that utilize side-friction track, where there are no wheels on the base of the train and they are instead guided by horizontally mounted guide wheels rolling against the wall of a trough. A bobsled coaster follows this principle, but just uses a trough wide enough to allow trains to take variable paths through the channel. Yes, the ride experience is more similar to a water slide or alpine slide than a traditional roller coaster, but mechanically they are similar to the latter.
I agree with your point AJ, but disagree with the tact you've taken in your argument. I think that all three styles of "aqua" coaster parallel the gravity control of many roller coasters. The conveyor belt styles (like many traditional log flumes) are very much like a standard chain lift on a traditional roller coaster, while the laminar flow jets (like Master Blaster and Crush 'n Gusher) are like coasters that use friction drives to accelerate up hills (like Hulk and many Mack kiddie coasters like Shamu Express), and LSM slides (like Krakatau) are very similar to LSMs on more modern coasters like Maverick and Lightning Rod. While there aren't a lot of coasters right now that use LSMs as hill ascenders, there are enough to draw a comparison, and for that reason I could see why Robert could argue Krakatau as more roller coaster than water slide.
Nicely done, Russell. Agree on all fronts. However, I do feel that if Robert changes the award to Best New Coaster (allowing for aqua coasters to join the fray), he needs to include other water parks outside of Disney and Universal in the ratings. Mammoth and Wildebeest could have been in the running in recent years past, but because TPI caters heavily to Universal and Disney, other company's great water parks are not even included for the voting. And what about cruise ships? Doesn't Disney have an aqua coaster on one of their boats? We may be opening up a can of worms if we continue down this slippery slope.
I think it's perfectly fine for Robert to set a new precedent with the award, but should have simply awarded "Best New Coaster" this year to Krakatau, not "Best New Roller Coaster". He could have justified it just as he's doing now by saying that it was a weak crop of new roller coasters this year necessitating expanding the eligible attractions beyond traditional wheeled machines. It would not have required him to go back and change any past awards, but going forward, he would need to continue to allow future new aqua coasters to be eligible for the Best New Coaster award.
Sounds good. I'm game for whatever makes the most sense. Amusement park and roller coaster fans still have the industry standard Golden Ticket awards to debate and discuss, so Mr. Niles can certainly broaden his scope to include whatever criteria works best for his website.
Maybe the category should be "Best New Coaster"?
I live in the netherlands prox 20 minute drive from the Efteling i have an annual pass .go there at least twice a month. This means a lot to us ... Thx All. since the Efteling is so everyday for me im curious what to expect when i visit other parks ...... to be continued.... kind Regards Frankie from Eindhoven
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