Published: December 22, 2014 at 12:24 PM
Remember, I made this list from the parks I have visited, so no park that appeared on last week's list will appear on this one. To determine the order, I asked myself which park in the world would I most want to revisit, if money and travel hassles weren't issues. That got me my number one. Then I thought of the park I'd most want to visit after that, to pick my number two park, and so on.
Since that's how I picked the 10 parks this week, I thought it would make more sense to present the list in that order, from number 1 to 10, instead of counting down from 10 to 1, as we typically do for this feature.
As you read through my list, I invite you to think about which parks you'd put on your top 10 list, then to share that list with us in the comments.
This was the easiest call on the entire list. Theme Park Insider readers' choice for the "world's best theme park" title is my choice, too. Give me the means to go to any theme park in the world, right now, and I'm heading to DisneySea. Journey to the Center of the Earth. The Shiriki Utundu. Gyoza Dogs. Fortress Explorations. Sindbad's Storybook Voyage. If you love theme parks, a visit to Tokyo DisneySea is a day in heaven on Earth.
So, while I'm in Tokyo... ;^) Tokyo Disneyland offers a "best of" mix from Orlando and Anaheim, combining the best elements of classics such as the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean with delightful originals including Pooh's Hunny Hunt and Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek. Plus, the Tokyo Disney Resort offers the best theme park food on Earth. I'm still craving that curry popcorn.
This is where I really had to start thinking and making some hard choices for my list. Parks three through six are a bit of a toss-up for me. These are my four favorite theme parks in the United States, but none of them stand completely clear of the others. Still, I came up with an order that appeals to me. The original Disneyland, in Anaheim, California, leads these four thanks to its top-to-bottom depth of attractions and overall quality of its food. "What to eat" is an important factor for me in inspiring my desire to come back and visit again. In a park with great food, I'm always finding something new to try, even if I've experienced all the attractions. Set me up with some Plaza Inn fried chicken and give me a ride on the original Pirates, and I'll be a very happy theme park fan.
Diagon Alley moves USF into the number four slot, and makes me think hard about moving the park up even higher. If I were compiling a list of best theme park lands, rather than entire theme parks, Diagon Alley would top the list, beating even the best lands from DisneySea. But USF doesn't offer Disneyland's depth, at least not yet, with a kiddie land filled with tired properties and the head-rattling Rip, Ride, Rockit. With more changes coming to this park in the next few years, however, USF might still challenge Disneyland to become my favorite theme park in the U.S.
Of course, I can't overlook USF's neighbor. The original Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man rank among my favorite places in the world of theme parks. I love the whimsy of Seuss Island, the sarcasm of Jurassic Park, and the more I keep typing, the more I'm talking myself into swapping IoA with USF again. But, ultimately, Diagon Alley keeps USF one spot ahead — until I get to ride the new Kong at IoA in two years, of course. Then, well, we'll see if anything changes.
I come back to California to round out my U.S. top four. Buena Vista Street, Cars Land, the Aladdin show, and consistently good food selections make California Adventure a wonderful place to hang out for a local and a must-visit destination for theme park fans across the United States. Why wait in long lines for Soarin' and Midway Mania in Orlando when you can enjoy those attractions with shorter waits, and in a better park, in Anaheim?
While I debated with myself the order of parks through six, the parks I would include in my top six were easy selections for me. At the number seven slot, my decisions got quite a bit more difficult to make. I flipped numbers seven and eight about a jillion times before settling on USS in this position. This is Universal's smallest park, but every inch of it charms, with the best version of Revenge of the Mummy anywhere, a delightful Far, Far Away, a neat Sesame Street dark ride, and the original Transformers. Throw in the return of Battlestar Galactica, and I'd be thrilled to spend more time on Sentosa Island at USS.
Not that I wouldn't love a return trip to Paris, too. DLP's unique takes on Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion make it another dream visit for theme park fans. The park offers what is (for now, until Shanghai opens) the world's best Disney castle, too. But, outside of Walt's, the food at the Disneyland Paris Resort might be the worst in the Disney theme park chain, which is just nuts for a resort in France. C'mon, this is the home to some of the best food in the world. Ultimately, I'd move Paris over Singapore if I could just get some better stuff to eat here.
The Magic Kingdom is the first, and only, Walt Disney World theme park to make my top 10 list. The New Fantasyland, along with the traditionally strong west-side lineup of attractions including the Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain, make this the top choice among the WDW parks, as well as the world's most popular theme park. Perhaps when Walt Disney World gets done with much-needed improvements and additions to its other three parks, I will feel more enthusiasm for return visits to them. Until then, though, it's "been there, done that."
Speaking of construction projects, when Universal Studios Hollywood completes its Evolution project in a few years, it might crash this list. Or if I could make it to some of the parks on last week's list, some of them might displace the parks here. But, for now, I give Busch Gardens Williamsburg the final spot on my top 10 list, the only non-Disney/non-Universal park to make the cut. Beautifully landscaped, delightfully themed, and offering a strong line-up of tasty food options, BGW long has been one of my favorite theme parks, and another dark ride or two might ensure that it stays safely on my personal top 10 list, despite the competition.
What are your 10 favorite theme parks in the world? Please share your list with the rest of us, in the comments.