Tokyo DisneySea, Transformers claim top spots in 11th annual Theme Park Insider Awards

July 2, 2012, 11:02 AM · It's Fourth of July Week, typically one of the busiest weeks of the year for theme parks in the United States, but that also means it is time to present the annual Theme Park Insider Awards. Can you believe it's the 11th annual Theme Park Insider Awards this year? Where does the time go?

Oh, yeah - as the cliche says, it flies when you're having this much fun!

Best Theme Park
Tokyo DisneySea

Tokyo DisneySea

We've changed the criteria for our Best Theme Park Award this year, moving from rewarding the park with the highest average rating for all attractions and restaurants to the one with the largest number of highly-rated attractions and table-service eateries. (That way, a large park with a huge number of attractions rated 8 and above on the site wouldn't be penalized for also keeping less-popular attractions open, as well.) But when we ran the numbers, the change didn't make a difference at the top, after all.

Tokyo DisneySea stood atop the Theme Park Insider reader ratings in 2012, no matter how you crunch the numbers. Led by Journey to the Center of the Earth, Tokyo DisneySea's impressive line-up of attractions drove the Japanese park to our top award in a year when the Tokyo Disney Resort recovered from the devastating tsunami and power crisis that crippled much of the country in 2011.

Disneyland Park
Disney California Adventure

Disney also claimed the next two spots in our reader ratings, with Disneyland and its younger sibling, the recently rededicated Disney California Adventure, finishing a close 2 and 3 in this year's awards. With strong initial ratings for the attractions of Cars Land and the Carthay Circle Restaurant on Buena Vista Street, it will be interesting to see if California Adventure has a chance to move up the list in the years to come, challenging not only for the title of Best Theme Park in Southern California, but maybe for Best Theme Park in the World, too.

Best New Attraction
Transformers: The Ride (Universal Studios Singapore and Universal Studios Hollywood)

Transformers: The Ride

The Best New Attraction Award this year featured the closest battle in the 11-year history of the Theme Park Insider Awards. Universal's Transformers: The Ride and Disney's Radiator Springs Racers claimed two of the three highest initial average reader ratings since the site began in 1999. (Universal's Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was the third.) But only one of the two could claim this year's honor.

And, by the margin of a 4K, 3D piece of animated shrapnel, the award goes to Transformers: The Ride. A classic good-vs.-evil battle helped power Universal Creative's next generation 3D motion-base thrill ride to the top honor. And yet, we must also recognize Radiator Springs Racers - Disney's highest rated new attraction in the history of Theme Park Insider - an amusing romp around the world Disney/Pixar's Cars movies, featuring some of the most impressive animatronics that Disney's Imagineers have ever created. (Also keep in mind that this award is for a single, individual attraction. But if theme parks keep creating wonderful new experiences such as Cars Land and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, maybe we'll have to create an award for Best New Themed Land some day.)

Radiator Springs Racers

Due to the gap between Transformers and Radiator Springs Racers and the rest of the field, we've declined to name any other runners-up in this category this year.

Best Theme Park Hotel
Disney's Grand Californian Hotel (Disneyland Resort)

Disney's Grand Californian Hotel

The Grand California repeats this year, winning its second consecutive Theme Park Insider Award, and fourth overall. An inspired mash-up of the Greene and Greene Arts and Crafts architecture of Pasadena coupled with the grandeur of western National Park lodges, the Grand California offers top-level service and amenities (including free WiFi!), as well as an unsurpassed location overlooking the resurgent Disney California Adventure theme park, as well as Anaheim's Downtown Disney.

Universal's Portofino Bay Hotel (Universal Orlando Resort)
Disney's Beach Club Resort (Walt Disney World Resort)

Theme Park Insider readers apparently value having their hotels be within walking distance of great theme parks, as the next two spots in the reader ratings were claimed by top-quality hotels located a short walk from popular theme parks. Disney's Beach Club hotel stands just steps away from Epcot's International Gateway entrance, while Universal's Portofino Bay lies close to the two parks of the Universal Orlando resort, where Portofino Bay guests can skip the lines at almost all of the attractions, thanks to Universal Orlando's Express benefit for on-site hotel guests.

Best Theme Park Restaurant
Bistro de Paris (Epcot)

Bistro de Paris

Epcot's Bistro de Paris wins its third consecutive Theme Park Insider Award this year, edging Epcot's Japanese steakhouse, Teppan Edo, by a knife's blade margin. Epcot's "upstairs" French restaurant continues to impress with its high level of service and French cuisine, claiming this year's award for best table-service restaurant located inside a theme park.

Teppan Edo (Epcot)
Mythos Restaurant (Universal's Islands of Adventure)

Thank you to all of Theme Park Insider's registered members and readers who voted on the attractions, restaurants and hotels they've visited in the past year. The Theme Park Insider Awards are determined entirely by the submitted ratings from Theme Park Insider's readers.

Replies (8)

July 2, 2012 at 11:29 AM · One day I will get to Tokyo DisneySea, one day.
July 2, 2012 at 1:58 PM · Is it not awarded to the ride with the highest average rating? Therefore -use it not *more* impressive that Transformers managed to fend off RSR, as newly listed attractions will typically be first swarmed by the fan collective before more objective audiences get around to voting?
July 2, 2012 at 2:20 PM · Could have sworn I commented on this, but I can't see it, or Dom's. However, Dom and I agreed that the results are skewed by the fact that Radiator Springs Racers has been open only about 18 days.
July 2, 2012 at 4:40 PM · FWIW, RSR already has more votes than the USH version of Transformers, which opened a month before RSR. Also, in general on the site, new attractions hit their highest rating about a week or so after debuting, then the average starts to decline.

So I don't think timing alone provides an explanation here.

July 2, 2012 at 6:20 PM · To clarify, the Best New Attraction, Restaurant and Hotel awards are given to the locations in those categories with a minimum number of votes and the highest average reader rating.
July 3, 2012 at 8:59 AM · I'm a bit surprised that Disney's version of Benihana beat out Mythos. I know Mythos has been getting some stiff competition, and still strives to be an affordable sit-down in IOA, but come on, the experience at Teppan Edo is no different than most people can get at your local teppanyaki restaurant down the street. There are dozens of theme park restaurants, half of those or more just in EPCOT alone, I would spend my money at before I ate at Teppan Edo.
July 3, 2012 at 10:40 AM · Agreee Russell

the idea of a japanese restaurant being one of the best shocks me because we have 7 of those types of places in town

July 4, 2012 at 9:01 AM · The restaurant category is really getting competitive. There are a lot of really good restaurants hovering around the same average rating, which is why it's so important to encourage as many readers as possible to submit ratings for the places where they dine. And if some of the international restaurants hit the minimum vote count, watch out. The S.S. Columbia, Magellan's, and Walt's all are legitimate candidates to win this award, too.

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