Why Islands of Adventure is the world's best theme park

January 1, 2024, 9:40 AM · Theme Park Insider readers once again have ranked Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure as the world's best theme park. Islands of Adventure topped the year-end reader surveys that determined the winners of this year's Theme Park Insider Awards, announced this morning.

Islands has won Theme Park Insider's top award nine times since the Theme Park Insider awards started in 2002. Looking at readers' rankings for top attractions and top roller coasters, and it's easy to see the park's appeal, with three of the top five attractions in our reader survey and two of the top three roller coasters.

Universal Orlando's second gate opened in 1999, setting a new standard for theming in park lands - one that the park raised again in 2010 with the opening of Universal's first The Wizarding World of Harry Potter land. With multiple affordable, well-themed hotels within walking distance and a relatively hassle-free experience for visiting, Universal Orlando has become the primary Orlando destination for many theme park fans who looking for an alternative to Walt Disney World.

But make no mistake, Islands of Adventure is no budget alternative to anything. It is an industry leader in theming, storytelling, and thrills, making it once again the top choice worldwide for Theme Park Insider readers.

Other parks in Theme Park Insider readers Top 10 this year include:

You can see updated visitors guides for these and other major theme parks around the world at themeparkinsider.com/reviews.

More 2024 Theme Park Insider Award winners:

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Replies (16)

January 1, 2024 at 10:34 AM

I really love IOA. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man might still be my favorite ride of all time. Hagrid’s MCMA and Velocicoaster are incredible additions to what was already a stellar lineup. That having been said, some areas of this park need some serious TLC. Cat in the Hat is plagued with lots of nonworking and very dated effects, and they really need new ride vehicles and a different restraint system to restore the spinning sequences. Also, for a world-class park, they are sorely lacking in shows. I wish they would demolish/repurpose Toon amphitheater and give us something as good as Matt Hoffman’s Aggrocircus was. Anyways, I doubt any of that is happening until after Epic Universe opens.

January 1, 2024 at 11:10 AM

IOA has long been a very top-heavy park. But those heavies are true heavyweights, hence the enduring popularity. Kong is a dud IMO outside of a stellar queue and awesome repurposing and refreshment of the giant AA Kong torso, Suess Landing could use some love and the old Lost Continent isn’t long for this world, but the rest of the park is superlative in its attraction offerings. My favorite way to experience IOA is on a slower day with a multi-park pass so you can board the Hogwarts Express. If you are staying at a premier resort and have an Express Pass you can knock out almost all of the must-do’s at both parks in one day. Very excited to see what lies behind the curtains when Epic Universe is unveiled.

January 1, 2024 at 1:54 PM

I may have never been to Tokyo Disney, but I am willing to bet that the only reason neither of those parks are the winner is because there is most readers here also never went :p

Still, Spider-Man is an all timer, and a good reason for Universal to keep the Marvel theme park rights in perpetuity.

January 1, 2024 at 5:26 PM

Having been to every park on the list multiple times, including DisneySEA, it's not just a case of some voting readers not having been to Tokyo in my opinion.

DisneySEA is great, but I prefer IoA by some margin. It was already excellent, but Hagrids and Velocicoaster's additions really cemented that status for me and reinvigorated the park.

January 1, 2024 at 11:14 PM

I think Islands of Adventure is a worthy winner for best theme park in the US, but Europe has so many theme parks with their own individually crafted stories that I'm not sure I'd call IOA the world's best. Personally, my favorite is still Phantasialand, which consists of many areas crafted around either general themes or in-house IP, all themed at an extremely detailed and immersive level. I unfortunately have not yet visited Efteling, but I've heard great things about that one.

Regarding Tokyo DisneySea, after finally getting the chance to visit this year, I'd say it's actually a bit overrated by Disney fans who journey to Japan to visit and don't visit a lot other theme parks around the globe. That doesn't mean it's bad by any means, but more that its high ratings feel like they're more based on the legacy of the place than an objective look at it in today's theme park landscape. I have no doubt the park was unlike anything else when it opened in 2001, but these days it feels like other parks match or even exceed the theming quality of DisneySea and many of the attractions don't quite hold up compared to newer creations. It's probably considered a bit of a hot take, but personally I thought Universal Studios Japan was the best park I visited over there.

January 1, 2024 at 11:29 PM

I have been to Tokyo Disney and I am from Orlando so have been to IOA a million times. TDS was probably the best park in the world 20 years ago but there are two main problems that bring it down a peg (at least for me). The first being a serious lack of good original attractions, by the time I made it to TDS I had already been on most of its major rides many times because they are clones or slight alterations (the Journey to the Center of the Earth ride looks amazing and has an awesome queue, but I found the ride itself pretty lackluster). Also the park is always slammed yet for whatever reason they built the low capacity version of Tower of Terror and Toy Story Mania, which doesn't seem like that big of a deal on the surface, but its a huge deal when you personally find yourself in the 100+ minute lines TDS always has.

IOA has its own annoyances, the main one being a serious lack of children's attractions (a big issue with UO in general). I can see why Cat in the Hat is 36" because it was designed to be kind of a wacky ride for older kids with spinning vehicles, but even the peoplemover type ride that goes around Suess Landing has individual lapbars with a 36" height requirement. Its a shame because Suess Landing is amazingly themed and going there with a child you should get to really appreciate it. The other gripe with IOA is it has two big empty amphitheaters with nothing going on for many years (except the one in Lost Continent being used as overflow queue for Hagrid during the pandemic). Lost Continent has basically been a shell of its former self for like 15 years which is a shame because when the park it opened it was really great.

January 2, 2024 at 5:16 AM

As a “Ride park”, it is the clear best in class. Most other “ride parks” sacrifice theming and story (Merlin, 6 Flags, etc) whereas Universal manages to remain within Disney levels (and perhaps exceed) Disney level theming levels.

Clearly well deserved.

January 2, 2024 at 7:59 AM

Awesome, and if the Zelda rumors are true, this will continue being a top tier theme park for decades.

January 2, 2024 at 11:24 AM

I agree with what others have said about DisneySEA. It's a great park but definitely a bit of a victim of some of its own hype, and it hasn't really developed too much over the last 20 years despite a couple of high-profile additions (generally clones or near-clones as pointed out).

Phantasialand is an interesting suggestion, and I'd say more deserving than Efteling but if any European park is missing, surely it's Europa Park?

January 2, 2024 at 11:28 AM

i love the orlando parks but Dollywood and Efteling are 2 of my absolute faves...and Efteling is the only European park i've visited, unfortunately.

January 2, 2024 at 12:33 PM

I really think Disneyland gets overlooked. It is the park that really started it all, has what this site regards as the best attraction in the world, and has one of the largest collection of top attractions found in any single park. Sure, Disneyland's not perfect, but there are far more warts on IOA.

January 2, 2024 at 1:57 PM

@russellmeyer, definitely don't disagree with that assessment...especially since lost continent is only mythos. the OG DL still rocks!

January 2, 2024 at 3:36 PM

I always forget about Disneyland because of the crowding and pinch points, but pound for pound it’s the OG and still in championship form. Not to mention, it’s a more beautiful park than Magic Kingdom (Cinderellas Castle notwithstanding)

January 3, 2024 at 3:23 PM

Clearly the best park in the United States. They arguably made the best ride on the planet 4 times (Spider-Man, then Forbidden Journey, then Hagrids, then VelociCoaster).

January 4, 2024 at 7:03 PM

A great park but not the easiest to navigate. Long walk to get in and it took me about an hour to get out because I didn't see an easy exit and had to ask multiple people how to get out so that I could make my flight back home.

January 7, 2024 at 3:12 PM

Sorry, but it's in Florida, a place I'd rather avoid, at least until women and girls are able to reclaim personal autonomy there.

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