Announcing the Winners of the 16th Annual Theme Park Insider Awards

July 3, 2017, 11:34 AM · 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

Flight of Passage

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 [2016], Justice League Battle for Metropolis [2015], Banshee [2014], Mystic Manor [2013], Transformers The Ride [2012], Star Tours The Adventures Continue [2011], Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey [2010], Manta [2009], The Simpsons Ride [2008], Mystery Mine [2007], Expedition Everest [2006]

Best New Coaster
Krakatau Aqua Coaster, Volcano Bay

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 [2016], Thunderbird [2015]

Best New Show
Mickey and the Magician, Walt Disney Studios Paris

Mickey and the Magician

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 [2016]

Best New Theme Park
Volcano Bay, Universal Orlando Resort

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 Three Broomsticks

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 [2016], The Leaky Cauldron [2015], Miss Lillian's Chicken House [2014]

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 [2016], Monsieur Paul [2015], S.S. Columbia Dining Room [2013-2014], Bistro De Paris [2010-2012], Les Chefs de France [2009], Mythos Restaurant [2003-2008], Blue Bayou Restaurant [2002]

Best Hotel Restaurant
Victoria & Albert's, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Victoria & Albert's

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

Universal's Portofino Bay

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 [2010], Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge [2005-2006, 2008], Disney's Polynesian Resort [2007]

Best Park


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!

Replies (67)

July 3, 2017 at 12:03 PM

DE EFTELING! Shook. But thrilled. (See you all this time next year for the Best New Attraction award, yeah?)

Also, congratulations to DLP. MatM is a great show, well-deserving of a win.

July 3, 2017 at 12:14 PM

Slow year for coasters?

July 3, 2017 at 12:17 PM

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!!

July 3, 2017 at 12:26 PM

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.

July 3, 2017 at 12:32 PM

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.

Sorry Robert, but that's a huge jumping of the shark by awarding an "aqua-coaster", which it's own creators use specific language to clearly identify it as NOT a "roller coaster", in the Best New Roller Coaster category. I know TPI has typically tried to distance itself from the coaster fan crowd, but this choice is going to create a lot of dissent, especially since many parks are proud to display TPI Award accolades in their parks (see Mythos and El Toro). There weren't a lot of new roller coasters to debut this year, but shoe-horning something into this category that doesn't belong devalues the award and belittles the winners from previous years (including those in the straight Best Roller Coaster category, which for some reason wasn't announced). I think this was a very poor decision, and while ride manufacturers and theme park designers are continuously creating attractions that defy categorization, giving an award to a ride that clearly doesn't fit the description of attractions in that category is short-sighted. If Krakatau was worthy of an award (I can't say since I haven't been on it), it would have been simple to come up with a special category for it (it's done all the time in this and many other industries), but calling a water slide a roller coaster is borderline heresy and in my opinion decreases the prestige of not just this, but all of the TPI Awards.

July 3, 2017 at 12:48 PM

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.

July 3, 2017 at 12:50 PM

What about 'Best Night Show'?

July 3, 2017 at 12:52 PM

Oh, Barry - It's great to see that you did not give away your shot. Very, very funny.

July 3, 2017 at 12:58 PM

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.

With its lifts and launches, I can't categorize Kratakau as a water slide. (Those are gravity powered alone, and you start from the point of greatest potential energy [GPE], i.e. the top.) You also are riding in a vehicle and not sliding directly in the tube.

The only purpose of the power on Krakatua is to carry the ride vehicle up to points of GPE, from which the ride "coasts" through the rest of the course. That's a roller coaster.

Yes, there's water, but there's water as a functional and non-thematic element on other coasters, too, including the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

So, to me, keeping Krakatua out of the roller coaster category was splitting the hair too finely, especially given the fact that it was far outperforming the other, more traditional coasters that opened this year. (I think many of us can agree that this was a weak year for coasters.) So that's why I made the judgment call to include Krakatau as eligible for the coaster award.

July 3, 2017 at 1:11 PM

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.

A prime example is the Best New Theme Park winner, which is a water park. Under normal circumstances, a water park would not qualify as a theme park, but Universal was clearly attempting to market Volcano Bay as something more than your typical water park. Based on what I've seen and heard, it does sound like it fits into the definition of a theme park (something TPI has been hesitant to do for years with other highly themed water parks). However, Krakatau's designers explicitly state it is an "aqua coaster", not to be confused with a "roller coaster", yet Robert finds a way to contort the definition of the "Best New Roller Coaster" category to accommodate an attraction that neither "rolls" nor "coasts" (it's always being propelled by either flowing water or the LSMs). I'm sure it's a fine ride, but if it doesn't fit into an established category, either don't give it an award, or create a category for it. Now Mako's and Thunderbird's wins have to be defiled by an award winner that does not meet the minimum requirements of the category.

It's great to see Universal get credit for Volcano Bay (it took guts to demolish Wet 'N Wild, and go months without revenue before VB was ready), but I don't think TPI needed to redefine the term roller coaster to give UO more kudos.

July 3, 2017 at 1:18 PM

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.

The. Again, I'm not sure who got shafted in these awards so I'm generally ok with Universals water park winning a few awards.

What's an awards presentation without some controversies, eh?

July 4, 2017 at 8:50 AM

July 3, 2017 at 1:30 PM

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.

July 3, 2017 at 1:51 PM

"Typhoon Lagoon has never been considered for any awards"

Even more recently constructed Aquatica isn't recognized as a theme park by TPI. I would also add that Volcano Bay is not even listed under the TPI global major theme park catalog...

Again, I don't have an issue buying into Universal's PR and calling VB a "theme park", but TPI should then retroactively do the same for similar major highly themed water parks and add them to the global ratings. However, redefining a term that has been well established for over a hundred years for something even the ride designers and manufacturer would concede does not fit the widely accepted definition is going too far. We can argue about the "coasting" part of Krakatau (Robert can say it coasts since it goes down hills with gravity, while I would contend that there's a function of the velocity of the attraction comprised from being pushed by the flowing water like any other water slide, and thus it never actually coasts), but there's no doubt that Krakatau does not have wheels/rollers, and is thus as much of a roller coaster as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey or Peter Pan's Flight (both have wheels on track but never "coast") or Giant Slides (a potato sack slide attraction where guests "coast" but there's no "rolling"). An attraction must both "roll" and "coast" to be a "roller coaster" (more restrictively, it should also have track), and while the "coasting" is up for debate, there's no argument necessary to tell that Krakatoa does not "roll". Certainly there are some cross-over attractions that combine water and roller coasters like Journey to Atlantis and the defunct Typhoon SeaCoaster, but those attractions actually had vehicles with wheels that at some point locked into a track. I don't think a highly regarded theme park website should be redefining a very well established industry term. I'm afraid that TPI, a website I've followed and contributed to for over 13 years, lost some credibility today with this award.

July 3, 2017 at 2:00 PM

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...

July 4, 2017 at 8:50 AM

July 3, 2017 at 2:16 PM

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).

July 3, 2017 at 3:42 PM

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.

July 3, 2017 at 3:59 PM

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.
The date - July 4th weekend, 1959. The annual Theme Park Insider awards have just been announced. Winner of "Best Roller Coaster of the year" is given to a brand new contraption at Disney's folly out in Anaheim. It's called The Matterhorn and it's described as a "Roller Coaster type ride" but it's not made from flat rails and it isn't built on a wooden superstructure. Multiple short two car trains run on the track simultaneously. It's just weird! Many think this blasphemous piece of engineering can not be considered a Roller Coaster as it runs on tubular steel track.
Some fans revolt considering it heresy to open up the idea that what has always been considered a roller coaster won't always be what will always define that ride type. Others appreciate how a new system and method has broken old stereotypes and applaud a new way.
What is this world coming to?

July 3, 2017 at 3:59 PM

July 3, 2017 at 4:32 PM

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.

July 3, 2017 at 5:42 PM

Roller Coaster: A type of amusement ride attraction that utilizes a form of elevated railroad track designed with tight turns, steep slopes, and sometimes inversions.

Sorry, but regardless of how the awards choose to classify the attraction, I will never consider the Krakatau Aqua Coaster to be a roller coaster. I also doubt a majority of the general public would consider it to be one. To me, it has more in common with a log flume than a roller coaster, and I'd truthfully consider Splash Mountain or Dudley Do-Right closer to a legitimate roller coaster than Krakatau. I have no problem with including the attraction in the awards and even being included in the same category as roller coasters, but in that case the category needs to be reclassified as "gravity powered attraction" and include all eligible rides of that type rather than just strictly roller coaster.

I also submit that if Volcano Bay qualifies for the awards, then all waterparks listed on the TEA/AECOM attendance report should be included in future awards and should be eligible for rankings on this site. It is perfectly fair to include Volcano Bay, but only if similar parks around the country/world are eligible. Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, and Aquatica are all worthy of inclusion, as are the Schlitterbahn parks of Texas (or at least the original in New Braunfels). Most major water parks have at least as much theming as the typical Six Flags park, so if the latter qualifies the former should too.

July 3, 2017 at 7:21 PM

Perhaps I'm totally wrong here, but it seems people are arguing against Volcano Bay, as if the category is Best Water Park.

It's not.

I double-checked, and it's Best NEW Theme Park.

July 3, 2017 at 7:25 PM

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...

July 3, 2017 at 7:58 PM

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.

A log flume is basically a lazy river...and a drop at the end. **Jurassic Park**
A roller coaster is an exciting thrill ride.

I'm not going to say Krakatau is a roller coaster. But it's more roller coaster than log flume.

July 4, 2017 at 6:52 AM

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.

For best roller coaster, I probably would have voted for Mystic Timbers at Kings Island. But honestly, I would have taken any true roller coaster (InvadR, Mine Blower, Star Trek: Operation Enterprise, etc.) over a water ride. Krakatau would have made more sense (I guess) in the “Best New Attraction” category, but no way was it beating out Flight of Passage.

As for best new theme park, what else was even in the running? OWA opens later this year... Legoland Japan? Why even add a "Best New Theme Park" category at all? It's pretty much a worthless category with very little, if any, competition on an annual basis. Furthermore, it hasn't been a category in the TPI awards list since it started in 2002, so what would prompt it to be added now, years after so many other deserving THEME parks were built (e.g., Hard Rock Park, Universal Singapore, Shanghai Disneyland)? And since when does TPI give a rip about water parks, anyway? Take a look at the TPI “Park Guides” section of the site: not one water park is listed. Even locations that have water parks in them (like the excellent Splashin’ Safari at Holiday World with TWO brilliant, record setting water coasters), only have listings for the “dry park” attractions. I know TPI loves to find ways to toot Universal's horn, and in other cases it is deserved, but in this case it doesn't make any sense.

One thing is for sure, it is a down year in the industry when a water park and a water coaster win these types of awards.

July 3, 2017 at 11:54 PM

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.

July 4, 2017 at 4:49 AM

Congrats to the Efteling! This park cannot be compared with any other. I hope they will welcome many more international visitors!

July 4, 2017 at 5:17 AM

Who cares who won the best rollercoaster ride/slide
Efteling best park.
Havent been there in 3 year but now that my son turns 3 it's about time to introduce him to the wonders of the fairy tale forest.
Older than the disney parks and more creative (most likely because they haven't got a billion dollar company backing them and therefor have to be more creative and get more out of their buck)

July 4, 2017 at 5:35 AM


Anyone has been to the Efteling in Holland (the Netherlands)?
I live in Holland and i'm curious what you think of it!

Greetzz Twan.

July 4, 2017 at 5:49 AM

Just realised... this is the first year anything from Europe has won a TPI award. And two in one go!

July 4, 2017 at 5:57 AM

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.

July 4, 2017 at 6:25 AM

My Son is crazy about the Efteling. He cant stop talking about it.
Even he won't go in the baron, but from YouTube he knies everything about it ??

July 4, 2017 at 6:28 AM

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.

But please be patient because barring a 2018 coaster from Six Flags, we already know the odds on favourite for this award next year: RMC Mean Streak or whatever it will be called. =)

July 4, 2017 at 7:03 AM

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.

I've been there a couple of times, and even as a kid I could not imagine any other park in the world being better than ours.
We may live in a small country but we have many great things here :)

July 4, 2017 at 8:34 AM

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!

July 4, 2017 at 9:18 AM

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.

July 4, 2017 at 10:09 AM

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.

July 4, 2017 at 10:20 AM

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.

July 4, 2017 at 11:58 AM

@Vernon Griffin: Please, please, please go look for a better place to talk about parks.

July 4, 2017 at 3:06 PM

Give global warming a few more years and they'll all be water rides anyway.

July 4, 2017 at 3:52 PM

Yes Efteling!! Well deserved!!

July 4, 2017 at 7:23 PM

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.

Seriously, while I wouldn't have made the call to include a water coaster in the roller coaster category, this strikes me as an argument that should have happened weeks ago when the nominees were announced -- -- not after it actually wins.

July 5, 2017 at 12:58 AM

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.

Clearly the award categories need more rigid definition.

July 5, 2017 at 2:49 AM

Yes! Yes! This is so great! The Efteling is this wonderful, glorious, lovely and totally beautiful Dutch theme park.

This is so well-deserved!
From a proud Dutch person.

July 5, 2017 at 6:09 AM

Thumbs up to Ben for that comment!

Hey! If the awards didn't have some controversy, we wouldn't be arguing about this right now and reading. Well done by Robert on that front.

Do I think Typhoon Lagoon is better than Volcano Bay? No, but I find it a tad annoying that Universal is acting like they invented the water park. I have no doubt that Volcano Bay is spectacular and another great addition to the resort.

Perhaps it is finally time for a best water park (or water park ride) category in the awards. We now have competition between Universal, Sea World, and Disney in FL alone.

July 5, 2017 at 6:45 AM

New coaster related article out today: New York Times - 6 Roller Coasters to Ride This Summer.

Where's Krakatau?! Oh wait, I forgot, it's not a roller coaster!!!!

The same author has another article that talks about water coasters vs. roller coasters, explaining the similarities, but still keeping the two separate.

Perhaps, as Anthony suggested, new award categories should be added: Best Water Park & Best NEW Water Slide/Coaster. I vote we keep the wet and dry park awards separate.

July 5, 2017 at 7:26 AM

"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..."

Thanks for noting that Barry, because I would not consider myself qualified to vote for a best new roller coaster for 2017. The only eligible attraction I have ridden this year is InvadR, and while I think it's an amazing addition to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, I could not call it the best without having ridden at least one other eligible attraction. I did rate InvadR as an "8" here, and would consider it a top tier wooden coaster (would still rate El Toro, Voyage, Phoenix, and Goliath (SFGA) higher though). Whether that's better than Mystic Timbers or other 2017 coaster installations I could not tell you, but I know for sure that it's a better roller coaster than Krakatau, because the Volcano Bay attraction IS NOT a roller coaster!

July 5, 2017 at 9:26 AM

"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!

My $0.02: If it doesn't run on an elevated track, it's not a roller coaster. But I don't know why you wouldn't consider a themed water park a 'theme park.'

July 5, 2017 at 10:20 AM

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.

July 5, 2017 at 10:23 AM

"This is way off track" -- I see what you did there. Nice! (And 100% correct, of course!)

July 5, 2017 at 10:37 AM

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!

July 5, 2017 at 11:51 AM

@Barry/Fonzie, one correction. Your "In other news" comment should start out as follows: "...TPI erroneously awards Krakatau as Best New Roller Coaster..." Otherwise it is spot on. ;)


July 5, 2017 at 12:11 PM

"It would indeed have been nice if the voting had been limited to one of the genuine articles such as Mystic Timbers or InvadR."

That's the thing Bobbie, the TPI Awards are based on collective ratings, not a voting system, so it was a singular editorial decision to give this award to Krakatau. It's not like people were casting ballots voting Krakatau as Best New Roller Coaster over InvadR or Mystic Timers. Instead, the average rating of the attraction was compared to others Robert considered part of the category. He could have put any attraction he wanted to contort into this category if he felt like it...Flight of Passage could have gone in this category, because after all, riding on the back of a Banshee is described as "like a roller coaster" by some of Disney's press.

I'll be honest that I just skimmed his article last month calling for final ratings for the 2017 awards, and completely missed that Krakatau was listed under the Best New Roller Coaster category. I did notice Volcano Bay under Best New Theme Park, but felt that was justified because UO marketing was defining their new gate as a theme park not just a water park. I probably would have said something then, but it didn't register because to me it was simply in a list of what Robert was calling "nominees" (really just eligible attractions/hotels/restaurants/parks for each of the listed categories), and I had not experienced many of them recently having not been to a Disney or Universal park in almost 3 years, so skipped over most of the "nominees" that I could not accurately evaluate. I would presume that many of the visitors that provided ratings for Krakatau similarly didn't think the attraction was going to be categorized as a "roller coaster" (though it does say as much at the top near the current rating), thus comparing it to the likes of InvadR, Mystic Timbers, and previous coaster award winners Mako, Thunderbird, El Toro, and others. I think given that tidbit, many TPI visitors would reconsider their rating, and instead of comparing Krakatau to the likes of Crush 'N Gusher, Master Blaster, Wildebeest, and Mammoth, would have instead compared it to Maverick, Mako, Hulk, and the like. Having not experienced it personally, I cannot say how good Krakatau is, but it's certainly conceivable that it's the best aqua coaster ever created, which would validate its current rating of "10", compared to "8" for Mystic Timbers and "9" for InvadR. However those 2 GCI woodies were most likely rated by visitors as compared to other true roller coaster experiences (particularly wooden coasters like El Toro, Voyage, Raven, Ghostrider, etc...), while Krakatau was likely rated compared to other similar attractions and water slides, assuming visitors even knew where to rate it aside from the hyperlinks provided in Robert's articles from the opening or the more recent list of "nominees", since Volcano Bay is not even a listed park on TPI.

In the end, Robert can do whatever he wants with TPI, but I think he's doing the visitors a disservice by putting Krakatau in the same category with world class roller coasters.

July 5, 2017 at 1:27 PM

@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.

July 5, 2017 at 2:17 PM

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.

After all, is there really that much difference between a water coaster and a bobsled coaster?

Oh, and look - ACE classifies Journey to Atlantis at Sea World a coaster! So if a water ride has rails and goes down hills it is a coaster but if it doesn't have rails it is a flume?

Looks to me like the criteria for calling a ride a coaster is somewhat subjective.

July 6, 2017 at 6:36 AM

@Tim Re: " there really that much difference between a water coaster and a bobsled coaster?" Yes. The latter is a roller coaster, the former is not.

July 5, 2017 at 5:49 PM

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.

Remember, we used to give just a Best New Attraction award, and that was it. I added the other categories as a way to honor additional rides that were getting really good reviews from readers but not quite getting the top spot. That doesn't describe any of the other coasters this year, save Krakatau. So if Krakatau couldn't have won Best New Coaster, I would have felt better not giving out that award this year.

And giving it a "Best New Aqua Coaster" award would have seemed especially weak. What was the competition there?

So I made the call I did, to honor a ride that readers collectively liked. A lot. In retrospect, I also should have added a "Best Drop Ride" award for Guardians of the Galaxy (which almost won Best New Attraction) just to further inflame everyone.

July 6, 2017 at 7:52 AM

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.

July 6, 2017 at 1:50 AM

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.

To me, Journey to Atlantis qualifies because the majority of the ride is spent attached to a track. All flume rides do use some type of rail system, but for most it is only on the drops, which is not enough to qualify it.

One other requirement I forgot to mention about a roller coaster is that the ride is primarily powered by gravity. Once the ride obtains kinetic energy, it must use this kinetic energy to complete other elements. Multiple lifts or launches are fine as long as a substantial portion of the ride is unpowered. On a water coaster like Krakatau, riders never truly coast...they hit the bottom of a drop, then are pushed up the next hill via magnets. Other water coasters utilize water jets or conveyor belts for this purpose, and having experienced a half-dozen of these rides (including representatives of all three types), none of them have the same feel as a roller coaster. While hydromagnetic slides do come the closest, you still feel the force of the boost as the raft climbs the hill and never get the coasting feeling felt on a normal roller coaster.

July 6, 2017 at 6:58 AM

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.

However, where the distinction falls between LSM slides and LSM coasters is that roller coasters have wheels, and actually "coast" down hills. There are no wheels on Krakatau and other similar water slides, and you could also argue that the "rafts" accelerate down the hills beyond the pull of gravity (less friction) because of the flowing water in the tube. It's really quite simple, roller coaster = wheels, aqua coaster = water, thus roller coaster is not equal to aqua coaster.

Now, Robert made an interesting distinction in his response above that would have gotten him out of this pickle from the get go by saying, "So if Krakatau couldn't have won Best New Coaster, I would have felt better not giving out that award this year." If he had called the award "Best New Coaster", I don't think anyone would have a beef, because even Universal categorizes Krakatau as an aqua "coaster". By dropping the "roller" out of the award title, you could legitimately have water, aqua, roller, and any other type of "coaster" vie in that category. If you were to draw a Venn Diagram, coasters would encompass all types of attractions that "coast" at some point using gravity, while roller coasters and aqua coasters would be mutually exclusive. It's a very slight nuance, but one that makes a big difference, especially with industry professionals and particularly roller coaster fans.

In terms of the bobsled coasters like Avalanche, Flying Turns, etc..., those are all roller coasters because they have wheels, and while they all spend a significant amount of their course not locked into a track, there are sections where the wheels do connect to a traditional track segment, particularly at the loading platform, lift hill, and MCBRs. Many log flumes are similar in their design, and also have wheels, however, for much of the flat sections of the flume, the ride vehicles are being continuously propelled by the flowing water (not by coasting on their rolling wheels), while bobsled coasters are propelled solely by the forces of gravity and momentum (coasting with wheels turning in contact with a track/trough almost 100% of the time). Aqua coasters are much more like glorified log flumes than roller coasters for this very reason, but primarily cannot be considered roller coasters because they don't have wheels.

July 6, 2017 at 8:00 AM

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.

Robert should have just written an article proclaiming, "I absolutely LOVE Krakatau" and been done with it. Leave the roller coaster awards for the coaster boys and girls who do still frequent this site.

July 6, 2017 at 8:25 AM

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.

I do think by awarding Volcano Bay and Krakatau awards now forces TPI to recognize and allow ratings for all major water parks around the world. The cat's out of the bag, and if you're buying into Universal's marketing that VB is a water "theme park", then Typhoon Lagoon, Blizard Beach, Aquatica, Discovery Cove, Adventure Island, Water Country USA, Schlitterbahn, Splashin' Safari, and dozens of others should be listed on TPI along with at least their top 5-6 attractions. Perhaps a cutoff could be established based on estimated attendance on the TEA/AECOM annual report, but now that Volcano Bay has been recognized by TPI as a theme park, other water parks must similarly be added for future ratings and potential awards.

July 6, 2017 at 8:39 AM

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.

July 6, 2017 at 10:50 PM

Maybe the category should be "Best New Coaster"?

By the way, if Volcano Bay is a theme park, then so is Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.

July 7, 2017 at 1:41 AM

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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