Coming soon: The 2019 Theme Park Insider Awards

January 3, 2019, 7:10 PM · Starting next week, we will open voting for the 2019 Theme Park Insider Awards, honoring our readers' picks for the "best of the best" among the world's top theme parks and attractions.

The Theme Park Insider Awards started in 2002, and we have awarded the honors on the Fourth of July holiday every year since. Starting this year, however, we are moving the awards to the beginning of the calendar year... and changing the selection process.

Up until now, reader ratings accumulated over the previous 12 months have determined the winners in each category. This time, the reader ratings will select the six finalists in each category, and then a reader poll will determine the winner. The 2019 Theme Park Insider Awards categories will be:

The Best New Attraction Award will return in 2020, to honor readers' pick as the best attraction to open at a major theme park during the previous calendar year. Since attractions that opened after July 1, 2018 were not eligible for the 2018 award that Cedar Point's Steel Vengeance won last July 4, we will have a one-time 18-month eligibility period for the 2020 honor in this category.

(In other words, the Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi attractions will get their shot against the new Harry Potter coaster and Disney's Star Wars attractions, plus whatever other members of the class of 2019 can rise to the top of the reader ratings. SeaWorld's Infinity Falls can join that party, too... if it gets back up and running, of course.)

By switching to calendar-year eligibility and a reader vote among the finalists, I hope that these changes will make the selection process for the Theme Park Insider Awards quite a bit more intuitive for everyone. We will start the voting next week, so this would be a great time to subscribe to our email newsletter to ensure that you are notified of each category's vote when it opens.

Replies (11)

January 3, 2019 at 7:26 PM

Robert - Any chance of adding a Best Thrill Ride category? Expedition Everest and WDW’s Tower of Terror should always receive a pat on the back. And in what category does DAK’s Flight of Passage fall? There seems to be a lot of great attractions that are being left on the table.

January 3, 2019 at 9:15 PM

I might rename Best Dark Ride to Best Dark Thrill Ride or Best Themed Thrill Ride, since those also would cover the six nominees. Thanks for the suggestion.

January 3, 2019 at 9:53 PM

Please don't remove awards. I like best Dark, Best Themed, and Best Dark Thrill all as separate. The more the merrier. I consider Forbidden Journey and Haunted Mansion to be both dang near perfect, but one is a thrill and one is not. I would encourage a best coaster as well. I long for the days when you could have a valid steel and wooden category, but most woodens gone hybrid. Now you have hyper, hybrid, family, and themed, but I am really confusing things now...

January 3, 2019 at 11:05 PM

For the record, last year's award categories and winners were:

Best theme park: Efteling
Best new attraction: Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point
Best new dark ride: Symbolica at Efteling
Best quick-service restaurant: The Three Broomsticks at Universal Studios Hollywood
Best full-service restaurant: Tiffins at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Best hotel: Universal's Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort

January 4, 2019 at 12:40 AM

I like the new format, but I really wish there was more than one ride-based award for this, especially given that both hotels and restaurants get two. Perhaps you could split it into best thrill ride and best story ride to at least have two ride-based categories. Other than that, I'm looking forward to seeing what ends up happening this year.

January 4, 2019 at 11:14 AM

Next year would be a good one to revive Best New Park, too. Between WBWAD, Europa Park's promising new water park and (presumably) the opening of whatever Fox Malaysia turns into, it should be a strong and varied category.

January 4, 2019 at 12:28 PM

Yeah, Best New Park is like one of those Academy Awards categories that requires enough eligible contestants to trigger it.

Ultimately, I don't like having too many categories, because I think that waters down the value of each award. I mean, who cares if you win "Best Motion Base Ride with 3D?" That's why I went with, in essence, Best Ride and Best Show. Period.

But you are all convincing me that there is room for a Best Themed Dark Ride, or whatever we end up calling it, as well as a Best Roller Coaster, so I will add that category. But that's it!

Until I change my mind again, of course. ;^)

January 4, 2019 at 12:46 PM

Evermore Park certainly deserves some attention here- immersive, unique and revolves around actual storytelling.

January 4, 2019 at 2:50 PM

Best Theme Park - Disneyland, CA is close to regaining its title here. Just one Tomorrowland makeover away and Disneyland could hold onto this title for years to come.
DAK is getting close but could use a dark ride or two and redevelopment of Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
In the end, Tokyo DisneySea should reign supreme once Soarin and its three fantasy inspired Peter Pan/Tangled/Frozen mini lands open in 2023, that with the addition of a 2nd in-park deluxe hotel!

I’m also liking the chances of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort winning Best Moderate or Value Hotel, hands down my family’s favorite resort in all of Orlando.

January 5, 2019 at 11:17 AM

Doesn't it make more sense to do this after the summer when people have had a chance to experience all of these things? None of them are even open yet.

January 7, 2019 at 10:42 AM

That's the point the_man. These awards used to happen in July, but they moved to the end of the year now, similar to the way most other entertainment awards are given. That means a ride that misses a summer debut due to construction delays is not forgotten in the next year's voting. The new cycle allows most new attractions to be open for months before voting is tabulated, which is far more fair than trying hold a vote when an attraction has only been open for a few weeks.

I also think switching to a nomination and then voting process makes the awards far more credible. The previous awards process was less susceptible to bias, but I think resulting in award recipients that went against the grain of popular opinion. Trimming the field using the site's ratings system combined with a vote is how virtually every type of award is administered these days. While it may mean some of the smaller, less-visited gems of the theme park world don't win, they will still receive attention through nomination.

Also, from a news standpoint, shifting the voting to the winter months allows these awards to fill a typically dead news period in the theme park business. Trying to hold this between the flurry of new attraction debuts during the early part of the summer and announcements for next year's attractions at the end of the summer was always a tricky proposition. Theme park news never stops, but I think we can all agree that there's far less interesting stuff to talk about between January and March.

I would make one recommendation though, and that is to not allow users to see the results of the voting until it is complete. If users can see that their favorite attraction is losing, they could create lots of bogus accounts in an attempt to stuff the ballot box to put their favorites over the top if the voting is close. Leaving the polling results hidden until the end of the voting period is critical to ensure the most unbiased results and most legitimate awards possible.

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