Tournament Final 2018: What is the world's best theme park?

April 2, 2018, 7:43 AM · After nearly a month of voting, it's come to this — the finals of the 2018 Theme Park Insider Tournament, in which we pick the world's best theme park.

Our finalists are the world's most popular theme park, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, and the defending Theme Park Insider Award winner for Best Theme Park, Efteling. The Magic Kingdom defeated Cedar Point, Islands of Adventure, Disneyland, and the other three Walt Disney World theme parks on its way to the final. Meanwhile, Efteling beat Tokyo DisneySea, PortAventura, Disneyland Paris, and Europa Park to win its berth.

Thank you to everyone who has voted in this year's tournament and a special thanks to everyone who also has taken some time to submit ratings and reviews of the attractions listed here on Theme Park Insider. Your submissions help make this a better vacation planning (and, let's be honest, workday wasting) resource for everyone!

Update: And that's it! Congratulations to Efteling for winning the 2018 Theme Park Insider Tournament championship. Thanks to everyone who voted.

Replies (37)

April 2, 2018 at 7:55 AM

Don't be joking, I live in the Netherlands and I only visit the efteling once a year It's pretty boring.. all parks in the USA are better that i visited.(Universal,sixflags,magic kingdom) Greetz

April 2, 2018 at 8:14 AM

A little heartbreaking to see Efteling get this far just to be (presumably) crushed by Magic Kingdom because it's not as well attended/known. It might not be as big or flashy, but I know where I'd rather spend a day. Those in doubt - please check out some trip reports and spare a thought for the underdog!

That said - this has been a really interesting tournament to follow, with great discussion. Thanks Robert and all!

April 2, 2018 at 8:15 AM

Agreed with Ben. People are voting Magic Kingdom simply because it's the most visited or because it has the huge castle. It's ashamed this one is a beatdown. I feel bad for Efteling. Thank you Robert for this amazing tournament, I hope you do more tournaments like these again! I love them!

April 2, 2018 at 8:40 AM

The Magic Kingdom isn't even the best park in Walt Disney World (Animal Kingdom), or Orlando (Animal Kingdom and Island of Adventure), or the United States (those two plus Disneyland)... much less the world (those three plus both Tokyo Disney parks, Shanghai Disneyland, possibly Universal Studios Japan, and definitely Efteling). But I get only one vote, so... yeah.

April 2, 2018 at 9:18 AM

I admit, I love the videos I've seen of Efteling and would love to visit, great work there. However, I have to go Magic Kingdom for the themes, the thrills and such and thus have to give it to Magic Kingdom despite how great Efteling does it.

April 2, 2018 at 9:23 AM

I am voting for IOA.........

And Mr. Niles is correct - AK is the Best Disney park in Orlando..

April 2, 2018 at 9:25 AM

OK, the European vote just showed up after I sent the newsletter and posted my social links for the vote.

Now this gets a bit more interesting....

April 2, 2018 at 9:47 AM

Wait, Disney Sea didn't get to the end?
I mean I live in Florida and even I know the Magic Kingdom is not that great.

April 2, 2018 at 11:12 AM

For this vote I did check out some pictures and videos on Efteling.... it looks like a fine park, but even so it would not be my first choice for an overseas excursion. Not sure how it beat out DisneySea, to be honest. It reminds me of Busch Gardens Williamsburg, though not quite as picturesque. I guess Efteling has a solid contingent of followers and they are showing up in force. Good for them.

Personally, I voted for Magic Kingdom since all my other choices, Animal Kingdom, Cedar Point, and Silver Dollar City, are already gone, and because it is the devil I know in this fight. And it is a pretty great park as well.

April 2, 2018 at 10:52 AM

Holy carp...

April 2, 2018 at 11:06 AM

Magic Kingdom.

April 2, 2018 at 11:08 AM

In the 50's, 60's and 70's the Efteling as a playground and a fairy forest, it had a slow development (lack of money and no real competitors), but always relied on a tremendous creativity. Nowadays the parc went along with the foreign parcs (Disney, Europaparc, Phantasialand etc) and has become a worldclass parc, for all ages, also with many rapid rides etc. Now with the Symbolica in the centre of the parc, It still belonging to the world best theme parcs.So I vote for Efteling

April 2, 2018 at 11:13 AM

All of this would be completely different for me absent a few business decisions that substantially altered the enjoyment of MK a few years ago. You simply cannot go to MK on any given day and casually enjoy the park like you can at DL, IoA, or several other parks. Some of this is due to its own successes with the crowd levels, but much has to do with the FP+. Remove that and MK would easily be the best for me. Sure, many of the attractions at DL are better at DL, but the scale does it. Plus, you have all the options of WDW, but it is not to be. The perfect Orlando vacation used to be six days at Disney with two at Universal. Now, it is four days at Disney with two and a half at Universal with the half day at a pool. The last Disney day a casual day at EPCOT to get the micromanaged, armband, every-second-of-the-day-planned taste out of my mouth.

April 2, 2018 at 11:53 AM

@James Rao for me personally I do get you opinion. Efteling is a park you have to experience by just going to the park. It’s a unique park wich is strange in its own way. It’s hard to explain by what the efteling really means. But it’s not Disney. It does not have the big budget but still makes things feel very real. And technically it’s a nature park with attractions in it. Everywhere where you look it’s nature.

April 2, 2018 at 11:57 AM

The initial assumption is that MK must have a more solid ride line-up, given its overwhelming quantity and overall quality. But when you remove nostalgia and actually take a cold, hard look at the "Must Do" attractions…

Symbolica > anything at MK
Fata Morgana > Pirates (WDW version)
Droomvlucht > Peter Pan's Flight
Joris en de Draak > Big Thunder Mountain
Vogel Rok > Space Mountain
Sprookjesbos > Festival of Fantasy (not the same 'format', I know, but artistic intent is similar enough that I think this is a fair match)
(And, pre-emptively: Baron 1989 > Tron)

Vliegende Hollander ~ Splash Mountain

I'll give them Haunted Mansion > Spookslot, Happily Ever After > Aquanura, and the incomparable Carousel of Progress. (And literally anything at MK >>> Carnaval Festival.) But that's it. Sure, there's a raft of additional above-average attractions at MK like 7DMT, Mermaid and, Enchanted Tales. But none that - for me at least, I accept mileage may vary - would do much to influence a decision to visit, nor that trump the ability to treat your day as a vacation rather than military operation.

I suspect this vote has as much to do with the emotions people carry from the associated IP and visiting as children. (That applies as much to Efteling as MK, by the way: they've just rebuilt a completely unremarkable Vekoma DLC - rather than replacing it with something new - for no reason other than nostalgia.) So I guess it's fitting that they get to duke it out in the final.

But yeah. Another +1 for "where's DAK?" from me, anyway.

April 2, 2018 at 1:15 PM

It also might have to do with a lot more people visiting MK compared to Efteling. I personally don't like to cast my vote in surveys where I cannot provide a first-hand account to form my opinion. However, I can attest that MK is not even the best park in Orlando, so have chosen to cast an "anti-vote" against MK since I don't think it's fair to evaluate the quality of a theme park and attractions based on photos and videos alone. I have no doubt Efteling is a great theme park, and I hope to visit it one day, but I can say for sure that MK is NOT the best theme park in the world, so I refuse to stand idle and allow it to win based on shear volume of guests who have visited.

I'm sure at some point before the end of the voting period, the Disney Drones will show up and tip the scales, just like they did against IOA. Different strokes for different folks, but I'm definitely finding less joy in visiting the MK in recent years, mostly because of the shear dedication and hard work required to maximize FP+.

April 2, 2018 at 12:29 PM

Having been to both these Parks I must say Efteling beats MK. Apart from the rides wich are, as Ben says, comparable and a lot of them beter than in MK the surroundings are stunning, waiting times are shorter, prices are way better and there’s a more pleasant ‘feel’ to the park.

Also last year the new dive coaster ‘De Baron’ opened and it’s spectacular!

I will give MK the weather though, Efteling has a bigger chance of rain.

April 2, 2018 at 2:09 PM

Same as I said with our last presidential election, how in the world did we end up here. And just like then, I'm keeping my vote to myself.

April 2, 2018 at 2:16 PM

MK isn’t even the best park in Orlando! Between these two though, Efteling wins.

April 2, 2018 at 3:29 PM

I chose Efteling. They are doing such a great job with a very low budget. They present a classic darkride (Symbolica) which I think is the best darkride in the world built in the past 10 years. For only $ 40 million. A third of Ratatouille's budget and way better. It's the only park apart from Disney who has it's own unique identity and follow their own pad. They don't copy/ paste from Disney like Europapark does (except Carnaval Festival, which they still feel sorry for). It's also affordable, the shops are not screaming for your money. In many ways an example for Disney as it should be. A true farrytale. Tony Baxter's favorit as well.

April 2, 2018 at 4:31 PM

So, I don't really think either park should be here.

Yeah, MK definitely isn't my favorite park in Orlando. There are definitely better parks in the US. I also believe that Tokyo Disney Sea is vastly superior to Efteling. I'd go so far as to say that Disneyland Paris is a better park than Efteling.

I've been to both parks, but have unfortunately not ridden Symbolica. I can't comment on it (reviews do sound fantastic), but I really think that this should be a tighter race than what the poll shows.

To address Ben's comments comparing the rides, I'm surprised that one would argue that Symbolica is better than any ride at MK, but I'll roll with it.
-Fata Morgana is a similar (but I'd say lesser) attraction to Pirates at MK. They are both surrounded by well themed areas. The queue for Pirates is a million times better than Fata Morgana's bland entry walkway. I'd argue that the ride experiences themselves could go either way depending on a person's personal preferences. Both have cool effects along the ride. They are comparable in length. Pirates has a drop and I also prefer its moodiness.
-Yeah, Droomvlucht is easily better than Pan. It's one of the best rides in the park!
-Big Thunder is easily superior to Jooris en de Drake. Both are mildly thrilling, but Big Thunder is fantastically themed. Jooris has some mild thematic elements that can be found at higher quality Six Flags Park.
-Vogel Rok is pretty unmemorable to me. Both are dark with few things that can actually been seen during the ride. I'd give it to Space Mountain for being a more enjoyable roller coaster.
-I think Sprookjesbos is in a completely different league than any parade, though I haven't seen Festival of Fantasty. If this amazing walkthrough didn't exist, I would think Magic Kingdom should take this poll by storm.
-Baron 1898 is fantastic, though not very thrilling compared to other B&Ms. It is a joy to ride, though. I don't know how it would compare to Tron, though I suspect I'd prefer it.
-the Hollander is a fantastic ride, but it's no match for Splash Mountain. Splash Mountain has a multitude of fun effects and great AAs. the Hollander lacks Audio Animatronics. It has cool effects and is a touch darker than Splash Mountain. They are comparably thrilling, but Splash Mountain is so much more immersive.

Efteling also has another Six Flags style coaster in the Python in addition to some unique (to me) attractions like Spookslot, Villa Volta, and Bob. In general, the parks have comparable attraction lineups with regards to quality. I prefer the themed environments at Magic Kingdom (they're generally more immersive), but Sprookjesbos really puts Efteling ahead. It's explorable, immersive, innovative, and takes hours to completely see.

Once again, we really could have better parks here.

April 2, 2018 at 4:57 PM

I'm just a bit stunned at the size of the vote. 1056 for Efteling so far, compared to just 572 for it in the semifinals. The total number of votes in its semifinal was only 963. I'm not saying that Efteling isn't deserving of the votes or that Magic Kingdom should have more- it just seems odd that there was such a huge jump in the number of votes in a relatively short time. I guess that all of our European readers waited for the finals to get out the vote.

April 2, 2018 at 5:33 PM

Well guys, here's a note from the Netherlands. We truly appreciate that our homepark is so high rated overseas. For sure there are better themeparks than Efteling when you only judge a park for the amount and quality of rides.

Now there are other parks that do a very good job in being relevant to their specific audience. There's one that comes to mind, Efteling, which is a very small-budgeted park over in Holland. It's just as beautiful as Disney in many ways. The park is based on the conceptual ideas of Anton Pieck, who was a contemporary of Walt Disney, and who did beautiful illustrations back in the 20s, 30s, 40, and 50s. They have held to that. Like at Disneyland, if you go in there and are familiar with Anton Pieck's work, everything in there is reflected thematically. I find going to parks a very learning experience, and when you meet with their people, they will tell you that when they've diverted from that, and tried to bring in either generic roller coaster material, or do a Disney-type attraction that looks like our IP — they're kind of embarrassed by an attraction that is very Small World-like, but not Efteling-like. It even has an earworm song that I can hum for you, but I won't. [Laughs] They look at it and they go 'we didn't do the right thing, because it doesn't reflect the values of Efteling.' I think they've been more successful than any park I know of, other than Disney, of developing their own IP, their own rides. They have Pirates-sized rides there, with Audio Animatronics and everything that they generate internally. They don't buy things from outside vendors. So they were a contemporary of Disneyland. They were very small in the beginning, and learned a lot from Disney. I've gone there many times, and I've learned a lot from them. It isn't a phenomenon that Disney alone owns.

This part I didn't write myself, it's from Tony Baxter. David L. I agree alot from your judgement, but there's 1 important thing you forget to mention, which is budget and affordability. $ 45 for a day at Efteling and the commercial is not screaming to take your money. Souvenirshops? Yes but less and normal affordable price-settings. Efteling made a nice $ 20 milion profit in 2016. Disneyland Paris made a nice $ 750 milion loss that year. Better than the Efteling? Give me a break. Ratatouille $ 120 milion budget, Symbolica $ 40 million, 3 times cheaper but 5 times better. The worlds best darkride in the last decade. Now WDC comes with a 2 billion injection for Paris, to save them. Efteling doesn't have this moneytree.

April 2, 2018 at 6:02 PM

While I love Disney and the Magic Kingdom is my home park, one of the parks I've most wanted to visit in the past decade is Efteling. I'm finally making a trip there this summer. I'm so excited. Having watched so many videos about the park, it clearly looks far more relaxing and fun than the chaos that has become the Magic Kingdom. Sorry MK, while I love you, you're not better than Efteling.

April 2, 2018 at 6:24 PM

Said it before and I'll say it again. Efteling is ripe and ready for a US expansion. If they charge half what Disneyversal charges for that kind of quality and originality the flood gates will open!

April 2, 2018 at 10:08 PM

Dutchman, Thank you for the background from Tony Baxter!

You are right in that I failed to mention affordability. Yeah, Efteling is definitely cheaper than any Disney park. And I'm sure Symbolica is a superior ride to Ratatouille. Disneyland Paris, however, has a shear beauty that few parks on earth have. It makes for a very different park from Efteling. So, I'd say Disneyland Paris and Efteling are pretty close when it comes to quality of parks. I just personally prefer the style of Disneyland Paris to Efteling (and any theme park I've visited with the exception of Tokyo Disney Sea).

April 4, 2018 at 3:51 AM

Efteling is a deserving finalist. It has one of the best theme park shows around in Ravelijn. The show has great story telling, elaborate sets and attention-to-detail theming.

Baron 1898 is one of the best themed coasters with a dark ride segment at the beginning and recreated fog and smoke effects along the track

As a dark ride, Symbolica ranks right up there at the very top with Shanghai Disney's Pirates, HK Disney's Mystic Manor, DisneySea's Journey and Universal's Harry Potter.

With Sprookjesbos, it is simply not possible to cover all the relevant coasters, dark rides and main attractions together with this fairy tale forest, all in a single day.

Efteling is a cultural icon in its own locality, very much like Disneyland in southern California

April 3, 2018 at 2:31 AM

Efteling wins this one hands down.

This park is great in storytelling without relying on movie ip's. Symbolica alone is worth the trip to the Netherlands. The biggest difference compared to a Disney park is the way they build rides. Droomvlucht a ride from 1993 is still better than most modern Disney darkrides. Pure because it's an unique experience. It's hard to explain if you never been to the Efteling but i guarantee you the moment you enter that park you will understand why it's better. The Efteling build their rides with care, every detail matters. The color pallet they use make it seems everything you see has been there for ages. It's a magical world unlike anything you've seen before. Do yourself a favour and add it to your must see list when you visite Europe.

April 3, 2018 at 10:29 AM

Oh dear! Something doesn't stack up does it?

April 3, 2018 at 11:41 AM

I have my theories of why Magic Kingdom didn’t win. Trolls that hated Last Jedi highjacked the vote and voted for Efteling because of how mad they are at Disney. Or maybe Magic Band haters voted for Efteling for the same reason. One things for sure, it should have been a closer vote. Both are great parks, but Magic Kingdom is clearly the more popular park, even if its not the best.

April 3, 2018 at 12:36 PM

Randy, I can assure you the Dutch themepark community got notice of this competition and shared it on social media and on their forum:
http://themepark.nl/ubb/ubbthreads.php/topics/2467732/

April 3, 2018 at 3:05 PM

I know, I was only joking. Still, the results were highly skewed. I'm sure many of those votes were from people that have rarely, if ever been on this site before.

April 3, 2018 at 4:04 PM

This is completely fair! We americans did not visit Efteling either didn’t we? I think we could conclude that Efteling wins because of its charming and strange look, the non-disney look. Let us be honest and glad that a themepark other than disney wins. Disney needs to know that other parks are more authentic and affordable for everyone.

April 3, 2018 at 5:38 PM

Yay! Efteling! Great choice!

April 4, 2018 at 12:03 AM

Basically Disney is pop music and the Efteling is like a classic concert or an underrated rock. band.

April 4, 2018 at 7:32 AM

I did not vote, as I have not been to both parks, so I do not have enough information to give an honest opinion, but I am sure fans of one came out in droves, and people opposing how MK has changed how it is run voted against it. A couple of points, Efteling obviously should be proud, and based on this thread, I need to find a way to visit it. Also, MK needs to take note of the criticisms. Some may discount them, but they are valid. A few years ago I could go to MK at certain times of the year and experience many, many attractions each day. Those days are gone. I can still do that at DL. They need a better ride reservation system or none at all. WDW needs a fifth gate. They need to get back to the customer (guest) is the single most important person there.

April 5, 2018 at 9:50 AM

I live in the heart of Europe(Luxembourg)and have visited Efteling, Europapark, Phantasialand, Portaventura, Disneyland Paris, Alton Towers and Thorpe Park on multiple occasions.
I've also been to Disneyland, California Adventure, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, Seaworld, Busch Gardens Tampa and the 4 Disney Parks in Orlando.
I understand that Magic Kingdom is in the final as it is the most popular theme park in the world, the layout of the park is very nice, the cast members are very friendly, the weather is always good and there's a certain nostalgia factor for a lot of people.
The attractions however are (except Splash Mountain and perhaps Haunted Mansion) not as good as in California and Paris for example. Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain are amazing in Paris while they're pretty boring and rough in Orlando.
As for Efteling: This is a really lovely little park with a few good attractions (Joris en de Draak, Baron 1898, Fata Morgana) and a few very good attractions (Symbolica, De Vliegende Hollander, Droomvluucht), so attraction-wise it might be better than the Magic Kingdom and generally you don't have to wait for 70 minutes or reserve a Fastpass 1 month in advance to experience these rides.
But both parks, Magic Kingdom and Efteling, mostly appeal to families with small children.
If you are looking for the best park for a family with teenagers, adults and thrill-seekers, the two best parks in Europe are hands down Portaventura and Europapark. In the US it's Islands of Adventure in my opinion.
So basically it always depends on your own personal preferences, but neither Magic Kingdom, nor Efteling should have won this in my eyes.


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