Final Round Vote: Picking the World's Best Theme Park

December 23, 2021, 5:21 PM · Thank you to everyone who participated in our Theme Park Insider Awards nominations and voting this year. We've made it to the final category, so now it's time to select our choice for Best Theme Park.

Two parks stood miles ahead of all others in the nominations this year, so let's allow these two front-runners to battle for the title. Each one is wonderful, but only one can be our winner. Let's take a video walk around each park as we decide which one that will be.


Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure

Time to vote.

If you haven't voted in the other categories yet, these remain open for your vote:

We will announce the winners in all categories of the 21st annual Theme Park Insider Awards on January 1, 2022.

Replies (15)

December 23, 2021 at 8:00 PM

Islands of Adventure is great. But, in my mind, Disneyland will always win. Still the best theme park in the world.

December 23, 2021 at 8:33 PM

Bay Beach Amusement Park. Hands down. No ride costs over a dollar. Bob Chapek would have a heart attack if he ever found out.

December 23, 2021 at 11:11 PM

I love IOA, I do....

But Disneyland is always Disneyland and can't beat that.

December 24, 2021 at 12:13 AM

IOA has some fantastic rides (quite a few of them!) and some themed areas that are quite clever. Plus Port of Entry is truly beautiful; it's maybe the best stateside entry to a theme park!

But I don't think it is better than the totality of Disneyland's ride line up, entertainment, food, and numerous themed areas.

December 24, 2021 at 7:31 AM

This really is a tough call ! I’ve never been disappointed with either.

IOA probably has more top tier attractions, but you can spend 2 days at DL without many repeats.,

If you take weather into account, that’s a score for DL, but one thing that diminishes the overall view of DL is its setting within the City of Anahiem.

I’ll also say that if you have young kids or anyone prone to motion sickness in your party, IOA is probably not going to deliver even 1 full day of happiness for them. DL on the other hand can keep all types satisfied for up to 2 days.

As great as they are, both parks certainly have room for improvement, as both of their “Toon” lands can be an easy decision to skip over (especially in the winter months) without missing much. Jurassic River Adventure is kind of a let down after you’ve experienced Hollywood’s Jurassic World version as well (and I’m not so sure the layout in Florida is suitable for the upgrade).

Since I’m voting as an individual, I am going to go with IOA. But when taking my entire Family into consideration, I think we would get better results for the entire group at DL.

One idea I certainly agree with in this poll though, is that the best US Disney Park is in California…

December 24, 2021 at 8:17 AM

In the last 5 years, IOA has become a juggernaut. Rebuilt Hulk, Hagrid and Velocicoaster is a tough lineup to beat.

Hulk for classic coaster thrills (and the best opening sequence in a coaster, hands down)

Hagrid for complete story immersion

Velocicoaster for a truly next-gen coaster experience

December 24, 2021 at 8:27 AM

These are absolutely the two best theme parks in the US. I wish DL had at least one great thrill ride. Since my kids turned 10, our best memories as a family have been on thrill rides. IOA takes it with FJ, Hagrids, Hulk, Velocicoaster. Having two Potterheads in our household doesn't hurt either.

December 24, 2021 at 1:26 PM

I think it's fair to say that if you strip away the resorts and look solely at individual parks, Disneyland and Islands of Adventure are the two best theme parks in the United States (not sure about the world, though). However, it's really difficult to say which one is better, as both have their strengths and weaknesses.

Disneyland is the dark ride king of the industry, with over a dozen dark rides and several additional attractions that are similar in nature. These span the entire range from the most high-tech (Rise of the Resistance) to simple old-school spook house (Mr. Toad's Wild Ride), with almost everything in between represented somewhere. Beyond dark rides, the park is themed to the nines throughout, and offers enough to be a two day park even without setting foot in DCA, especially for first time visitors.

Disneyland is not without it's flaws, however. It is not built to the appropriate scale for a park of its patronage, resulting in massive bottlenecks and temporary queues sprawling through sections of the park even on only moderately busy days. While the park has a ton of attractions, a vast majority of them are 20+ years old with limited modernization, which can be a pro to those who grew up with the park but a con to those visiting after experiencing newer and more modern parks. Disneyland also lacks anything that could be considered a true thrill ride, meaning that it can seem a bit dull to the adrenaline junkie or those who don't connect with the IP featured at the park. Lastly, Disneyland is still operating in a lessened state due to lingering effects from the pandemic, which while a temporary issue, does notably diminish the quality of the experience.

Islands of Adventure, on the other hand, has perhaps the most complete ride roster out there. They have four dark rides of different designs for different intensity levels, three major roller coasters that are among the best of their type, three outstanding water rides, and enough filler rides to easily occupy guests for at least a full day (with first-time visits probably warranting two). I would also say that while a smaller park than Disneyland, IOA handles the crowds better due to its straightforward layout and wider walkways. Theming wise, the rides themselves might not match the best Disneyland has come up with, but IOA does a better job with the queue lines on many of the newer attractions and the area theming is on par between both parks. Unlike Disneyland, IOA also seems to be adding new attractions quite frequently, typically installing at least two new attractions for each one added to Disneyland.

IOA's most notable flaw is that it has limited offerings for the very young, very old, or very timid. Those below grade school age will likely be either too short or too scared to experience a majority of the park's headliners, and those in the senior citizen category likely cannot handle the intensity of them. Unlike Disneyland, the park also has a pretty small selection of non-ride activities, with no major shows and few diversions. IOA is also a top heavy park, with lots of D and E ticket attractions, but few smaller rides aside from very common flats (dressed up, of course).

So, which is better? I visited both parks within a month of each other this year, and based on the experience I had, I'd give a slight edge to Islands of Adventure. That said, once Disneyland is back up and running at 100%, I think it will reclaim the title for me (provided Genie+ doesn't wreck the experience excessively). I think a good way to sum it up is this: ride-wise, IOA is the winner, but overall park-wise, Disneyland wins.

December 24, 2021 at 3:26 PM

Disneyland is more for the children but could come close but the park is terribly undersized for the number of admissions. For the Parade and nightly fireworks, it is as if you are in a Japanese subway car. Islands of Adventure is the better experience hands down!

December 24, 2021 at 4:09 PM

This one is easy: Disneyland.

December 24, 2021 at 6:22 PM

Disneyland, best park ? … hahaha

December 25, 2021 at 8:06 PM

This one is easy: IOA

December 27, 2021 at 9:40 AM

I absolutely LOVE IOA as a theme park, and it's about as well-rounded as they come, especially for the more modern theme park guest. However, the park is not without its flaws. Lost Continent and Toon Lagoon have fallen seriously behind as the rest of the park has kept up with the changing times. Because of the installation of WWoHP (Hogsmeade) and closure of the Sinbad show, there's little left in the Lost Continent worth visiting. You've got Mythos, Poseidon's Adventure (when it's actually operating), and the Mystical Fountain. Lost Continent is nothing more than a path to and from Harry Potter. While Toon Lagoon doesn't have the same lack of rides with Dudley Do Right and Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Barges, those soaking water rides have limited appeal. Like Lost Continent, there's a huge vacant theater harkening back to more exciting times for Toon Lagoon, but in general the land has become little more than a pathway to other islands.

Disneyland might lack the thrill factor that IOA can provide with Hulk, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Hagrid's, Jurassic Park River Adventure, and Velocicoaster, but its overall number of attractions and lack of dead space within the park make it the more complete theme park. The only real "dead" zone within Disneyland is ironically Toontown, which is about to get a major upgrade with MMRR, and unlike IOA, isn't a land that guests have to walk through to reach other destinations within the park (in fact was a dead end before Galaxy's Edge). Disneyland has enough thrills to satisfy most guests, but more importantly has the edge in quantity of various different attractions to satisfy the whole family.

Maybe in another 20-30 years IOA will be fully mature and provide a complete experience with few "dead" areas, but right now, Disneyland is easily the superior of the 2 parks even if IOA has 4 or more rides that top anything in the California park.

December 28, 2021 at 7:59 PM

If I had a choice I'll pick another park but this is easy for me, island of adventure. As AJ stated I'm a thrill junkie and there is nothing trilling at Disneyland. I'm at California right now and it's even funny that my 6 year old son will say some of the rides bored him or are for babies.

He even asked me when we going back to knott berry farm or six flags. He's been fortunate that I've taken him to a handful of theme park and is a little speed demon.

December 30, 2021 at 2:14 AM

The answer is definitely Disneyland. haha
Fall guys

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