Sign in or Join the Community!

Theme Park Insider

YouTubeFacebookTwitterInstagramGoogle+Email Newsletter
Home Park guides Hotel reviews Saving money Travel tips Community
  • Top 10 Theme Park CastlesOur editor's picks for the world's best theme park castles
  • The Wizarding World of Harry PotterOur in-depth guidebook to Universal's Harry Potter lands is now on sale!
  • When Should You Buy a Disney Annual Pass?When does it make sense to upgrade from daily tickets?
  • A Closer Look at Universal Studios BeijingUniversal's building a new theme park in China. But what will be in it?
Top 10 Flume Rides The Wizarding World of Harry Potter How to Celebrate Your Birthday at Disney A Closer Look at Universal Studios Beijing
Robert Niles

Monday Top 10: The World's Best Theme Park Castles

Published: October 20, 2014 at 3:19 PM

What are the world's best theme park castles? Castles provide the iconic centerpiece for many of the world's most popular theme parks. The home of kings and queens in so many fairy tales, castles evoke memories of grand storytelling, setting an inspiring scene for people entering a theme park.

But which castles do the best job of inspiring those theme park visitors? Let's set a couple of criteria to judge these landmarks: 1. How much do you want to take a picture of it? And, 2. What can you do in it?

For previous Monday Top 10 posts, we've relied on Theme Park Insider reader ratings to determine the honorees. However, we haven't collected ratings for castles per se — simply for the attractions and restaurants that might be located within them. So for this post, your editor is using those ratings as a guide, then just picking the ones he believes best satisfy the two questions above. So let's get to it! Here are the Theme Park Insider editor's picks for the Top 10 Theme Park Castles in the World:

10. DarKastle
Busch Gardens Williamsburg


The home of the mad King Ludwig, DarKastle hosts Busch Gardens' 3D motion-base ride, The Curse of DarKastle. While this castle wins points for hosting such an ambitious ride, the facade itself is tucked away in a corner of a park and hasn't earned the same iconic status as other castles on this list.

9. Sleeping Beauty's Castle
Hong Kong Disneyland

Sleeping Beauty's Castle Hong Kong

Located in the traditional place of honor at the far side of Main Street, Hong Kong Disneyland's castle is of the same design as the Disneyland original, but it lacks that park's walk-through attraction, making this Disney castle, essentially, just one, somewhat impressive facade.

8. King Harold's Castle
Universal Studios Singapore

King Harold's Castle

The centerpiece of the Shrek-themed "Far, Far Away" land, King Harold's Castle houses the park's "Shrek 4D" show. While the castle earns well-deserved points for housing an attraction, it loses some for not even being the top photo op in its own park, an honor that instead falls to the jaw-dropping Revenge of the Mummy facade next door.

7. Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Sleeping Beauty's Castle Disneyland

The original theme park castle (okay, maybe not the original... keep reading!), lands at the number seven spot in our rankings. Surpassed by more visually impressive castles in the Disney kingdom, Disneyland's original Sleeping Beauty's Castle still gets credit for its charming walk-through attraction, intimate surroundings, and the lovely photo op with the Matterhorn next door.

6. Cinderella's Castle
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Cinderella's Castle Disney World

Okay, we can hear the complaints from Disney fans: "Cindy's Castle isn't even in the top five?!?" It's not that we don't love the most-visited theme park castle in the world, it's just that we love the ones ahead of it on this list even more. Remember our criteria? While Florida's Cinderella's Castle wins huge points as a photogenic icon, there's just not much to do in it — no attraction and a restaurant with limited capacity. Disney even cuts off the access from the hub during forecourt stage shows. Disney World's castle is like an elusive Hollywood star — thrilling to see, but most often appreciated at a distance.

5. Cinderella's Castle
Tokyo Disneyland

The Tokyo Disneyland version earns the spot ahead of its Orlando twin for the "Cinderella's Fairy Tale Hall" walk-through that opens the castle to thousands more guests each day.

4. The Fortress Explorations Citadel
Tokyo DisneySea

Fortress Explorations Citadel

Does a citadel count as a castle if no king or queen lives there? Okay, maybe we are pushing the definition of "castle" by including this landmark on our list. But the home of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers offers one of the world's best walk-through attractions and one of the world's best theme park best restaurants. It looks fabulous in pictures and it's a delight to visit for hours on end. That's good enough for us to put the citadel on our list.

3. The Towers
Alton Towers

The Towers at Alton Towers

The Towers wins huge points from us for being the only theme park castle that actually is a castle! Built in the early 1800s, the former home of the Earls of Shrewsbury stands on grounds that had been in the hands of the family for more than 700 years, making this the true original theme park castle. (Totally selfish note: One line of my ancestors — the Snows — traces back to Staffordshire and the land near the Alton Towers, making this my family's neighborhood theme park. Well, sort of.) Today, the towers not only provide an iconic focal point for the park, they are the home of the park's "Hex - The Legend of the Tower" ride.

2. Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant
Disneyland Paris

Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant

Disney's best theme park castle not only offers its most fanciful design and a crowd-eating walk through attraction, but Paris' version of Sleeping Beauty Castle also would beat its siblings in Magic Kingdoms around the world for no other than it has a dragon in its dungeons!

1. Hogwarts Castle
Universal's Islands of Adventure

Hogwarts Castle at Universal Orlando

Stunning, photogenic icon? Check. World-class walk-through attraction inside? Check. But when you consider that walk-through tour of Hogwarts is simply the queue for one of the top 10 rides in the world, Hogwarts has to move to the top of our list.

What is your favorite theme park castle?

 style= Comments (11) | Submit Comment | Archive Link

Robert Niles

Disney Rebrands 'Glow with the Show' and Introduces Its Own Interactive Magic Wands

Published: October 20, 2014 at 10:13 AM

Disney announced today that it will rebrand its "Glow with the Show" ears as "Made with Magic"... and expand the product line-up to include light-up Mickey hands, a Minnie headband, and (yes, Universal!) an interactive magic wand.

Made with Magic items
Photo courtesy Disney

The psychedelic Mousekeeter ears will remain on sale and continue to work in synch with selected Disney nighttime shows and indoor attractions. The hands and headband will operate in the same way as the ears. The magic wands, however, also will have the ability to trigger changes in the light patterns on the other items. (When they aren't overruled during a show by the set lighting program, that is.)

It appears that the wands will take on some of the functionality of the light-up paint brushes that Hong Kong Disneyland has been selling in support of its new Paint the Night parade. Another version of that parade is tipped to come to Disneyland in Anaheim, California next week for that park's 60th anniversary celebration. And, of course, there's this other theme park resort that's been selling its own interactive magic wands lately, too. So now Disney's got something to compete directly with that. ;^)

The headband should be on sale within the next few weeks, while the gloves and wands should hit stores in late November or early December. All items will sell for $25 each.


 style= Comments (4) | Submit Comment | Archive Link

James Koehl

Review: Midnight Syndicate Live! Legacy of Shadows, at Cedar Point

Published: October 20, 2014 at 9:46 AM

I heard someone state that "if Midnight Syndicate ever stopped producing music, Halloween would have to be cancelled." I thought that comment was a bit over the top until I saw them perform at Cedar Point in their first live stage show, "Legacy of Shadows" at the Ghoul Time Theatre (Good Time Theatre the rest of the season, still known by many as the Cedar Point Cinema). HalloWeekends at Cedar Point will never be quite the same for me.

Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka are the current members of this remarkably talented, uniquely creative musical duo. The darkly gothic instrumental sounds they create with a few keyboards have, in little more than a decade, become the music that means "Halloween" for films, haunted houses, and now amusement and theme parks across the country. Cedar Point has scored a coup in bringing Midnight Syndicate to perform live on stage for the first time for the thousands of guests who each fall weekend brave the often cold, windy and (while we were there) drizzly Cedar Point site.

The huge stage of the Ghoul Time Theatre is filled with an appropriately creepy set reminiscent of an abandoned mausoleum, with crumbing tombstones, evilly-lit stained glass windows, forbidding mist and a full moon that rises up behind the structure as the show begins. Large video screens flank each side of the stage and are used throughout the performance, including before it starts as a video technician projects a live feed of the guests as they arrive in the theatre, with an occasional technical "glitch" that foreshadows much of the performance to come.

Midnight Syndicate
Midnight Syndicate Live! Legacy of Shadows, performing at HalloWeekends in October 2014. Photo courtesy the artists.

The performance itself lasts about 25 minutes, and while there is not a true plot to it, there is a progression of a theme that carries the audience from being mere observers of the talented Edward and Gavin on stage to being subtly involved in a theatrical experience that soon involves both the audience and the entire Cedar Point park outside the theatre. The use of films and live video feeds projected onto the screens flanking the stage, special effects using fog and lasers, a talented female singer who would appear and add her beautiful but appropriately sinister voice to the music, and the omnipresent darkly-gothic music that is Midnight Syndicate made the performance one of the most memorable Halloween events I have ever seen. I won't spoil the surprises, and there were many surprise moments that had the audience jump a bit, but suffice it to say that few if anybody left "Legacy of Shadows" feeling that they had not gotten a good dose of Halloween scares.

Edward and Gavin were waiting outside of the theatre in a "meet and greet" area, where guests could purchase CDs, posters and other Midnight Syndicate merchandise along with meeting the musicians. I found that these two talented performers, -- whose on-stage personas were creepy bordering on evil -- were charming, friendly and loved to pose for pictures with audience members, a complete difference from what I had expected. They are truly talented performers.

I hope that Cedar Point and Midnight Syndicate have many more years of working together, creating unique theatrical experiences that stand out at Cedar Point and make HalloWeekends one of the premier Halloween events in the amusement park world.

 style= Comments (1) | Submit Comment | Archive Link

Russell Meyer

How to Plan an Orlando Vacation: Part Two

Published: October 18, 2014 at 4:49 PM

 style= Comments (4) | Submit Comment | Archive Link

Robert Niles

Vote of the Week: What is Your Theme Park Dream Job?

Published: October 17, 2014 at 2:39 PM

 style= Comments (28) | Submit Comment | Archive Link

Russell Meyer

How to Plan an Orlando Vacation: Part One

Published: October 17, 2014 at 10:18 AM

 style= Comments (5) | Submit Comment | Archive Link

Robert Niles

When Should You Buy a Disney Annual Pass?

Published: October 16, 2014 at 2:16 PM

 style= Comments (13) | Submit Comment | Archive Link

Robert Niles

Could This Be the World's Best-Themed Dive Coaster?

Published: October 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM

 style= Comments (9) | Submit Comment | Archive Link

Robert Niles

Now on Sale: 'Theme Park Insider Visits The Wizarding World of Harry Potter'

Published: October 14, 2014 at 7:53 PM

 style= Comments (6) | Submit Comment | Archive Link

Get more from Theme Park Insider: