One of the categories will be "Best New Attraction." Since we give out the awards on July 4, the eligibility for this category includes all attractions that had their official debut between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. The winner will be the eligible ride or show that receives the highest average reader rating, with a minimum number of ratings submitted.
Since some of these attractions are so new, getting to that minimum number of votes can be a challenge, so if you've been on any of these new attractions, please submit a rating for each one you've experienced. Just follow the links below for each eligible new attraction.
That said, please do not vote on any attraction you've not been on yet! We want these awards to reflect the first-hand experience of Theme Park Insider readers and not some ballot-stuffing campaign. This year is stacked — possibly the deepest line-up of new attractions we've considered in the past 14 years — so your participation will help us to make sure that we select the very best attraction as our winner. All Theme Park Insider readers are eligible to rate attractions on the site. Readers who register with the site may also submit comments and photos, too.
We have a long-standing "no clones" rule in this category, so no attraction that is a substantial copy (in name and design) of one that debuted in a previous year is eligible for this year's award. That's why we are not including Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff from Universal Studios Japan's Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (If you have been on those rides in Osaka though, we encourage you to follow the links and rate them anyway!)
Clones that debut in the same year are considered for the award, though we will pool the votes for all versions of the same new ride or show in determining the winner. That means we will combine the ratings for the two Hogwarts Express rides, the two Paint the Night parades, and the two installations of Justice League Battle for Metropolis, instead of considering each location separately.
Here are this year's eligible Best New Attraction nominees, in the order they opened (more of less):
Plus, this year brought substantial changes or addition to two existing attractions:
If we're missing anything new in the past 12 months from a park that we cover, please let me know in the comments, and I will edit the post to include it. Tomorrow, we will list links to the leading candidates for the "Best Table Service Restaurant" award. Remember that on-site hotel restaurants will be eligible this year, for the first time!
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I can only speak for things at USO, so.... The new Potter attractions are awesome, and the whole Diagon Alley experience is the most immersive I've ever seen. But since it's individual attractions we're talking, not complete "lands", I give my personal edge to the Raptor Encounter. I have not enjoyed watching any single attraction as much as this one in a long time. The amount of expression and humor the operators are able to covey in that animatronic/costume/hi-bred whatever-it-is is just amazing.
@Melanie Howe - The Raptor Encounter was amazing. I was not expecting much, just a silly and fun little detour for a few minutes. I was very surprised by how awesome the overall experience was.
Also, Robert, if you include El Diablo you should probably also include Joker's Chaos Coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia. It's the same exact ride with an alternate theme, so it would probably fall under the rules for clones (I doubt it would win anyway), but for completeness sake it should probably be listed.
Although we covered the media day for Ratatouille, it's official opening wasn't til July 10.
But what does strike me from looking at that list is the lack of offerings from Disney. It's been all about the Magic Band Experience for them this year with no new attractions at all, (I don't really count parades or shows). That may well prove to be a big winner in the long term but as a hard-core Disney fan I do worry when they haven't got a single entry in a list like this......
My vote would be for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
The express trains were cute for 1 ride, but riding more than once, it quickly lost the coolness. It's the *exact* same ride every time--they could have mixed it up a bit, had something like 4 or 5 different videos, etc. I'd actually just prefer a quick way to get from either of the parks without walking all the way around. The theming was great on all the HP sections.
I liked Fury 325, but felt Leviathan was better despite the more abrupt ending.
Laff Trak was OK, but nothing remarkable, just like Tempesto.
As far as lesser themed attraction, Falcon's Fury would easily win over Zumanjaro despite the Jersey drop tower being nearly 100 feet taller. If there was a bit more to Falcon's Fury (a story or pre/post show like Dr. Doom), it would be right up there with the Potter and JL attractions.
I really liked Thunderbird, sadly it broke down after about 3 hours of operation the day we were there a few weeks ago so I only got on it a handful of times (probably could have ridden over a dozen had it not broken down), but ultimately the wing coaster design is never as intense as I expect it to be and Thunderbird is no exception, though the slow roll at the end is pretty sick, particularly on the left side of the train.
It has been quite a remarkable year for theme parks and yet I think it's quite telling that Disney didn't add a single notable attraction, and probably won't have one for next year either. How people keep throwing money their way when they take years off from adding new stuff is beyond me. I've deliberately held off planning another Disney trip until Avatar opens in 2017 (probably will go that fall) because they are taking forever to develop and build new attractions. In fact, with Mako, Cobra's Curse, Kong, and a current 5-year old that will be tall enough for virtually everything at Legoland in 2016, we might very well plan our very first Central Florida trip ever that strategically avoids WDW because it's simply not worth spending the oodles of money to get into those parks for virtually nothing new, aside from Frozen assuming it even opens next summer. Disney needs to get off their hands and refresh their parks (particularly EPCOT and DHS) instead of making glossy improvements to the off-park guest experience. Improvements to Downtown Disney (um Disney Springs) and the resorts are nice, but those improvements won't elicit return visits to the parks. Also, the whole Magic Band debacle, which has caused more consternation than happiness, is all well intentioned, but should not have slowed developments to improve the parks and attractions. The WDW parks are essentially licenses to print money, yet over the past 2 years they have taken guests' generosity for granted, and without something significantly new on the horizon until 2017 at the earliest and another major addition (Star Wars) not likely until 2020, why would any fan of the parks (those that visit every year or 2) consider continuing their current visit frequency? There is absolutely no reason WDW cannot add something significantly new to at least one of the 4 WDW parks every single year. Disney showed they could develop fast with the changes made to DCA over a short 3 year period, yet significant changes to WDW take a decade, where permitting and building can be done at lightning speed compared to California. Eventually the masses will start speaking with their feet and their money, and Disney will need to come to the realization that they are no longer the only game in town.
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