What Is the World's Top Theme Park Brand?

March 31, 2023, 3:49 PM · As we approach the 2023 vacation season, I would like to find out where everyone's loyalties are. What is your favorite theme park brand these days?

It's time for another Vote of the Week here on Theme Park Insider. This time, I am asking about brands, rather than companies or chains. For the biggies - Disney, Universal, etc. - those line up, but you will see a few exceptions in the poll below.

First, Busch Gardens and SeaWorld get separate places on the ballot, as those are different brands even if they are part of the same company. Legoland also makes the ballot, even though the rest of the Merlin theme parks do not, as the rest of that chain does not share a single, customer-facing brand.

That's also the reason why I have not listed Cedar Fair on the ballot. While I know that many fans love their parks, especially flagship Cedar Point, the company just hasn't developed Cedar Fair as a consumer brand name like the other theme park brands on this list. Ditto for Parques Reunidos.

Now if your favorite theme park brand happens to be one of the individual parks run by these or other companies, that's great. Just vote "Another brand" in the poll. And if you do not have a single favorite brand (spoiler alert: I don't!), you can vote for "I don't have one favorite."

Otherwise, I have listed six big theme park brands for your consideration: Disney, Universal, Six Flags, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Legoland. Even though China is now the third-largest market for reading Theme Park Insider (behind the United States and United Kingdom), I did not include Chimelong, Fantawild, and OCT on the ballot, since I have not covered those brands much here on the site and felt it unfair to have them compete in a poll like this until we have given them more coverage.

In the comments, I would love to hear any thoughts as to why your choice is your favorite. Thank you, as always, for being part of the Theme Park Insider community.

A reminder: For our reader rankings and advice on visiting top theme parks around the world, please visit our our Theme Park listings page.

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Replies (10)

March 31, 2023 at 5:19 PM

I get it about Cedar Fair, but the two CF parks I know well--Knott's and Cedar Point--are great parks that seem to be working on a brand, which includes high-quality, well-maintained rides, more theming than Six Flags, food festivals featuring a local ingredient, and the Peanuts characters. I wonder how many of the "another brand" votes are for Cedar Fair.

March 31, 2023 at 6:04 PM

Universal. Disney has the intertia, but the trends are following what Universal does.

March 31, 2023 at 7:29 PM

I spent several days at both the disney and universal parks in orlando a couple weeks ago and was surprised to leave feeling disney, pretty convincingly, has the better parks and resort. I love many of universal's attractions and lands more than what's on offer at the disney parks, but when it comes to ~the package deal~ universal isn't all that competitive.

and in california it's not even a fair fight. universal studios hollywood remains a half-day park without any cohesion and one good restaurant (quick-service at that) while california adventure is now a good park and disneyland is arguably the best theme park, pound-for-pound, on earth.

March 31, 2023 at 8:46 PM

I...I can't do it. That's like asking to pick a favorite child.

April 1, 2023 at 1:24 AM

I don't think anyone beats Disney for brand power. Whether or not they are truly the best parks, when it comes to resort-wide synergy and recognition by casual audiences, they're absolutely at the top.

That said, I've found the experience Disney provides less and less appealing in recent years, and have cut my number of visits to the company's parks to about a quarter of what they were five years ago. For me, I'd say Universal, SeaWorld, and to a lesser extent Six Flags are the brands I'm most loyal to at the moment, with Universal being my favorite of them. To me, these chains are currently providing the best experience of the larger theme parks and are also the ones currently adding the most interesting new attractions.

April 1, 2023 at 6:53 AM

@ J. Trex: "That ain't hard ... Until he cleans his room, my daughter.

April 1, 2023 at 7:46 AM

I just think Disney is more of an institution. A family trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland is more of a rite of passage than any of the other theme park operations. As kids grow older (as their demographic/interests change) those same families divest their choices. But, at least in the domestic market, Disney has always had a solid cultural foundation.

April 2, 2023 at 12:36 AM

I have my positives and negatives for each one, but taking business practices out of it this is what I came up with (and this is just my personal opinion)
1. Disney
2. Sea World/Busch Gardens
3. Herschend (SDC and DW...Wild Adventures is one of the worst parks i've ever been to)
4. Cedar Fair
5. Universal
6. Six Flags
If "business practices" were a factor I would put them all last with a special dead last category for Sea World.

If Six Flags had decent maintenance and operations i'd put them over Cedar Fair, TBH I do like many Six Flags parks on paper, but in practice going to them always leaves me mad at myself for giving them another chance and wasting my time.

On the other hand there is only one Cedar Fair park that i'd consider elite (which is obviously Cedar Point), and even with that, the last two times i've been there the experience has been awful due to understaffing and underfunding for maintenance. Kings Island is another park I really like on paper and liked it back in the day, but last time I was there all of the rides were extremely rough except for Mystic Timbers (even Diamondback was somehow extremely rough) and the park just felt lackluster. A lot of stuff needed to be repainted and the landscaping was poor and a lot of weeds all around the park. I will fully admit though I live in Orlando so my standards for this kind of stuff are higher than most. Since then they have completely retracked the beast (my favorite coaster in the park) and repainted Racer so its probably better now.
The last time I went to KD I loved the park and thought it was much improved from previous visits, but they need a good replacement for Volcano which was the best coaster there up until Twisted Timbers was built. I don't disagree with removing Volcano but it was a really damn good ride that needs a good replacement. The addition of Tumbili IMO made the park worse, what an awful attraction.
Don't care much for Carowinds, been there once and never had any desire to go back (they even had Fury when I was there and I didn't like it that much).
The rest of the CF parks (and i've been to all of them) are mediocrity defined. I do like the landscaping and overall feel of WOF but all of the smaller CF parks need major new attractions BADLY, it feels like they are stuck in the 90s.

I've never been on the Universal bandwagon as many of their popular new attractions make me sick. I think IOA is definitely an elite park now with Hagrids and Velocicoaster, and I also really liked Universal Studios Japan, but the rest of their parks don't do anything for me (and once again i've been to all of them). I liked the queue for Forbidden Journey when it first came out but the ride is nauseating, Universal Studios Florida is just an outdated park that lacks attractions (and Diagon Alley doesn't do anything for me), Universal Hollywood has always been lackluster to me and Nintendo isn't appealing to me at all. I've always found Epic Universe to be a cash grab because that stuff could have easily been added to their existing parks since there is so little at USF but instead they decided to build another park to make people buy another ticket and spend another day there.

Disney Parks overall are the best experience although even with so much being built over the last decade the WDW parks still lack enough e-tickets in each park which leads to major overcrowding, especially when one of the major attractions breaks down. The Disney Parks were the best to me for the year or so after they re-opened from the pandemic because there was no Fastpass. Every kind of industrial engineering trick they do to spread crowds around ends up just being confusing and frustrating and making the park worse. Also i've always kept Disney up a peg since they didn't have a paid line skip program, but now that followed the scummy business practices of all the other companies, I have to knock them for that as well.
I will give them credit though generally their parks are running full capacity on everything and their parks are well staffed and have good landscaping. I think the big problem with Disney is that everything they do is so expensive and takes so long for no reason other than corporate bureaucracy that they always seem behind the curve (a perfect example being that Studios park in Paris...like WTF that park is over 20 years old and its STILL bad. And across their esplanade there at Disneyland they haven't built a major attraction since like the 90s).

April 2, 2023 at 6:38 PM

I think the Universal branded projects in Vegas and Texas show how strong their brand is to support specialized parks and attractions.

April 3, 2023 at 9:27 PM

Disney still enjoys supremacy, but Universal has the momentum.

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