Announcing the Winners of the 17th Annual Theme Park Insider Awards

July 4, 2018, 12:00 AM · Happy Fourth of July! Theme Park Insider readers also know this day for the annual Theme Park Insider Awards, in addition to the celebration of American independence. Since the Fourth of the July is the height of the traditional summer vacation travel season, we've always thought it the best time to celebrate the best of the best in the world's theme parks, too.

So let's get on to it. Here are the winners of this 17th annual Theme Park Insider Awards, as selected collectively by the ratings submitted by readers on

Best new attraction: Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point

The Rocky Mountain Construction rebuild of Mean Streak earned high praise at its opening and even a first-weekend mishap that put the ride into one-train operation for a while could not mute the enthusiasm that fans have expressed for the world's first "hyper hybrid" coaster. Steel Vengeance beat out fellow RMC Twisted Timbers for the best coaster honors this year, but also rated high enough to win the overall Best New Attraction award. Read James Koehl's media day review.

Best new dark ride: Symbolica at Efteling

Missing eligibility for last year's awards by one day (the ride officially debuted July 1, 2017), Efteling's new centerpiece attraction has remained a fan favorite since its opening. Read Ben Mills' media day review.

Best full-service restaurant: Tiffins at Disney's Animal Kingdom


Tiffins repeats in this category, winning its second honor overall.

Best quick-service restaurant: The Three Broomsticks at Universal Studios Hollywood

The Three Broomsticks

Like Tiffins, USH's Harry Potter restaurant has won its honor in every year of its operation, making it three-for-three this year.

Best hotel: Universal's Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando

Universal's Portofino Bay Hotel

Four-star quality, convenient location, and front-of-line access throughout the parks? The Portofino Bay wins for a record-extending eighth time and sixth in a row.

Best theme park: Efteling


You picked this one in our tournament last spring. The Netherlands' most popular theme park repeats as Theme Park Insider winner in the Best Park category, driven this year by support for Symbolica and the park's family-friendly attractions. Read my Thanksgiving Day trip report.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Replies (15)

July 4, 2018 at 12:19 AM

Sorry but Portofino Bay is definitely not the best hotel and Efteling is definitely not the best theme park. I've been to all the [major] parks in the world and while Efteling is definitely under rated it gets blown away by parks like Animal Kingdom and Disney Sea. Also Portofino Bay is the definition of mediocre. Up close it looks like a cheapo Wisconsin Dells hotel, it does not look like Italy at all.

July 4, 2018 at 2:41 AM

Not sure i agree with these awards here Robert! Efteling is a decent park, but to say it's the best is just an opinion i can't share. It's nothing compared to the Orlando parks.

July 4, 2018 at 4:00 AM

@the_man: Opinions, eh mate? But the parks you mention have one thing Efteling does not, movies and all the artwork and other stuff that comes with it to base their attractions on. Efteling is completely original and they have to come up with stuff from zero. It's also not part of a big conglomerate. That has to count for something.

July 4, 2018 at 5:38 AM

I'm impressed at the diversity of the winners this year. It's good to see that excellence across the entire theme/amusement park world is being recognized.

July 4, 2018 at 11:51 AM

Having just got back from Cedar Point, Steel Vengeance is spectacular--and with Cedar Point's gazillion other "that was amazing" coasters, well worth the visit.

I think that next year, you should add a 'Best Amusement Park' category. There's something to be said for Cedar Point's nearly unadorned collection of rides on a peninsula beach.

July 4, 2018 at 12:12 PM

To the above poster, on no planet is Animal Kingdom the best theme park in the world. A park with only 9 rides 20 years after it opened has no business being in that discussion. Especially when of those 9 you include a cheap spinner & mouse coaster, a train to nowhere, a value engineered rapids ride and an overrated "upgrade" of the Matterhorn with an expensive statue. On the top of that, the animal exhibits pale in comparison to Busch Gardens in the same state.

Disneyland and Islands of Adventure remain the two best theme parks in this country by far. After Star Wars and the new Potter coaster open next year, no other park will even come close.

July 4, 2018 at 2:26 PM

Polls are polls, at least the "winners" are all valid options. Unlike today's other supposed awards list, the ill-advised "50 Influencers" judged mostly by people with very little reason to be choosing the top fifty influencers in an industry they are mostly not a part of. Like having fleas judge the Westminster Dog Show, really.

July 4, 2018 at 3:31 PM

I wouldnt necessarily call Animal Kingdom the best theme park n the world but attractions aren’t everything. AK remains one of my favourite parks by a country mile, not for the attractions, (although it has some extraordinary ones) but simply because it so perfectly realised, so lush, so appealing to walk around and enjoy regardless of actually going on anything. Disney created something very different with AK and I for one absolutely love it.

July 4, 2018 at 8:55 PM

After just recently visiting Efteling, I can say I enjoyed it FAR MORE than I thought I would, and it easily beats the parks in Orlando. Islands of Adventure and Magic Kingdom are clearly top dogs in the theme park industry in America, but even still they’re beat by Disneyland...and Efteling has it all: great food, fantastic theming, an amazing kid area, interesting dark rides, awesome coasters, and the park is beautifully kept up and lush. Oh, and it’s not CROWDED.

July 5, 2018 at 1:01 PM

If only there was some way to make this data-driven, instead of opinion-driven. Oh wait, that's exactly what Robert has done!

July 5, 2018 at 3:23 PM

can someone please explain the love for Portifino Bay. I am by no means an expert but have stayed at a handful of Orlando area hotels and this was easily one of my least favorites. It looks good from afar but once you stay their you realize its really not that special. Plain rooms, average shops (The lobby gift shop is a joke) restaurants with very limited hours. I know its suppose to have a slightly weathered look but it seemed rundown to me.

The main pool was pretty nice with a fun slide but overall the place was really boring.

I have stayed at three of the hotels at Universal and Portifino is easily the worst of the three. Hard Rock is better in every way (even the location) and Cabana Bay is better in every area besides location.

on the Disney side I have stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge which I think should easily win this award and Boardwalk which seems to be the Disney version of Portifino but is much better.

Honestly the only Hotel in Orlando I have stayed at in Orlando that is worse than Porifino (again very few so I am sure there is much worse out there) is Port Orleans Riverside and that's mostly because its a hotel themed after a slave plantation.

July 5, 2018 at 3:34 PM

Animal Kingdom is not even the best park in Orlando, maybe 5th just because Studios was basically half closed. Once it opens up, AK goes all the way to the bottom again for me.

July 7, 2018 at 12:29 PM

I've only got one day of experience at Efteling; but I've got to say it is one of the best experiences I have ever had at a theme park. I haven't been to Disney Sea so I can't judge it versus Efteling. I'd agree with the Efteling award with some qualifiers.
1. Best for the price you are paying. (It's less than half one day admission to any Orlando park)
2. Low wait times (At least from my one day of experience and other testimonials)
Because of those two I'd agree for best theme park experience you can have. I know that barring some miracle I can never have the type of day I had at Efteling at any US Disney Park.

July 9, 2018 at 5:42 PM

There is a big difference between something being more enjoyable and something being better. A park that is really crowded may not be enjoyable...ok..that doesn't mean the park is worse, that just means its really crowded. When I was at Disney Sea the waits for the major attractions were all 100+ minutes which is normal there, that in no way makes it a worse park then Efteling, it just means its more crowded.

July 10, 2018 at 12:25 PM

I don't get the questioning of the worthiness of Portofino Bay. I was ambiguous in previous years because I had never stayed there, but having stayed there a few weeks ago, I understand all of the praise given to the resort. It's right there with the Grand Floridian, but has more up to date furnishings, thicker walls for better privacy, and a much more compact layout. Portofino is gorgeous, and trumps GF because guests get Universal Express.

From a value standpoint, I still prefer The Royal Pacific (not sure why Portofino and Hard Rock are so much more than RPR), but when price is not object, PB is top of the class.

Hey, at least a water slide didn't win the Best Roller Coaster this year, so that's got to be a plus.

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