Theme Park of the Day: Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom

The Awards

The awards are in.....but do they make sense?

From Jeff Elliott
Posted September 19, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Well, the awards are in and Modern Family pretty well cleaned house for all of the comedy awards......wait, what? Not those awards? Oh......the Golden Ticket awards were given over this last weekend…..yeah, who cares about the Emmys…..those little statues of Atlas holding the world, aren’t even accurate, as Atlas was a dude and dudes don’t have such a lumpy front.....or wings for that matter....

Golden Ticket Awards – Well, the awards are in…..and the only thing of high significance is how noticeably missing Six Flags parks are. Cedar Point and Schlitterbahn kept their crowns for Best Park and Best Waterpark. The only park award that Six Flags was even close on was a second place for Best Shows at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, something that is not really a huge selling point for the franchise. Here is a list of the winners:
Best New Ride: New Texas Giant @ Six Flags Over Texas
Best New Waterpark Ride: The Falls @ Schlitterbahn
Best Children’s Park: Idlewild
Best Marine Life Park: SeaWorld Orlando
Best Seaside Park: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Best Indoor Waterpark: Schlitterbahn Galveston Island
Friendliest Park: Holiday World
Cleanest Park: Holiday World
Best Shows: Dollywood
Best Food: Knoebels
Best Water Ride: Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls @ Islands of Adventure
Best Waterpark Ride: Wildebeest @ Holiday World
Best Kid’s Area: Kings Island
Best Dark Ride: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey @ Islands of Adventure
Best Outdoor Show: Epcot
Best Landscaping: Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Best Halloween Event: Universal Orlando
Best Christmas Event: Dollywood
Best Carousel: Knoebels
Best Indoor Coaster: Revenge of the Mummy @ Universal Studios Orlando
Best Walk-Through Attraction: Noah’s Ark @ Kennywood
Living Legend Award: Dick Kinzel

Top Ten Parks:
1. Cedar Point
2. Knoebels
3. Euopa-Park
4. Dollywood
5. Disneyland
6. Universal’s Islands of Adventure
7. Busch Gardens Williamsburg
8. (tie) Tokyo DisneySea
8. (tie) Kennywood
10. (tie) Holiday World
10. (tie) Pleasure Beach Blackpool

Top Ten Steel Coasters:
1. Millennium Force @ Cedar Point
2. Bizarro @ Six Flags New England
3. Nitro @ Six Flags Great Adventure
4. Goliath @ Six Flags Over Georgia
5. Phantom’s Revenge @ Kennywood
6. New Texas Giant @ Six Flags Over Texas
7. (tie) Apollo’s Chariot @ Busch Gardens Williamsburg
7. (tie) Expedition GeForce @ Holiday Park (Germany)
9. Top Thrill Dragster @ Cedar Point
10. Magnum XL-200

Top Ten Wood Coasters:
1. The Voyage @ Holiday World
2. Phoenix @ Knoebels
3. El Toro @ Six Flags Great Adventure
4. Boulder Dash @ Lake Compounce
5. Thunderhead @ Dollywood
6. Ravine Flyer II @ Waldameer
7. The Beast @ Kings Island
8. Hades @ Mt. Olympus
9. Shivering Timbers @ Michigan’s Adventure
10. Prowler @ Worlds of Fun

To check out the full list of winners, please click on Golden Ticket Awards

A couple of things that I have not been able to figure out, and please post any comments below to justify any points or problems that you may have with these results.
1. How did Knoebels get so high in the voting?
2. While Cedar Point makes sense to me, why is Magic Mountain nowhere to be seen as co-coaster capital of the world?
3. Are Knoebels, Europa-Park, and Dollywood all better than Disneyland?
4. Is there any particular reason why the Magic Kingdom and Epcot are nowhere on the Best Parks list?

From James Rao
Posted September 19, 2011 at 12:28 PM
Jeff, Amusement Today is as biased toward iron ride parks as TPI is toward theme parks. Take Golden Ticket awards with a grain of salt and use them to differentiate the various iron ride parks as opposed to the theme parks. Let TPI be your theme park guide.

And no, the awards don't make sense. As I have noted before, Cedar Point was voted the Best Amusement Park (again) yet it failed to win even an honorable mention in any other category except steel coasters (MF is ranked #1). Sure, it is a fine iron ride park, but how can it be the best when it fails in almost every other important category? For my money, I'd rather go to Knotts Berry Farm or Kings Dominion. At least they are both close to some really great theme parks (Disneyland / Busch Gardens).

Anyway, it is nice to see my local woodie, the Prowler, hanging on for another year!

From Zackiel Marsh
Posted September 19, 2011 at 11:42 AM
I just looked at the Awards and then came over and saw this on this site. Anyway the Awards are more inclined towards the other kind of theme park enthuiast. IMO there are three kinds of enthusiasts. There are the theme people who only like well themed parks and think anything without theming is bad and that everything should be liked Disney or Universal. This site belongs to that group. Then you have thrill seekers who don't really care about theming and all they want is a good coaster.The last group is people who enjoy both. The awards are more for the second group though there is some of the third group so obviously places with better coasters and rides rise above well themed parks. I do have to agree that Six Flags should be on here more and Magic Mountain should be on best parks since they are the coaster king currently and have very thrilling coasters (never been but I hear X2 is the most thrilling coaster ever). I would also think Great Adventure could be on best parks with two #3s in Nitro and El Toro other good coasters. Another huge mistake is Epcot doesn't win best food. Other than that the awards did a very good job.

From James Rao
Posted September 19, 2011 at 12:42 PM
I would argue that while this site has a theme park bias, most of us would fit into that third group you mentioned, not the first one.

Still, one must question the validity of any award list that a) doesn't mention the coaster capital of the world, b) thinks Richard "Dick" Kinzel is a genius, c) spells "Children" wrong (Childern? Really?), and d) doesn't even mention the world's most popular theme park.

But again, use the Golden Ticket awards the way they are intended: to help guide you in your more localized amusement park travels (as opposed to your vacation destinations). The Amusement Today folks do know thrill/iron ride parks quite well (as evidenced by the Voyage continuing to be the #1 wooden coaster in the world), and if a coaster makes the top ten in one of their lists, you can bet it will offer a fine ride indeed!

From M. Ryan Traylor
Posted September 19, 2011 at 1:07 PM
Magic Mountain doesn't make the list because Nicholas Russo has been campaigning against them ever since he got a lifetime ban in April of 2010.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted September 19, 2011 at 1:17 PM
+1 for Mr. Traylor.

From Andrew Carrieri
Posted September 19, 2011 at 1:39 PM
Great year to pick Dudley Do Right for best water ride considering the fire (not to mention the most uncomfortable seating IMO in Orlando theme park history).

From Tim Chatlos
Posted September 19, 2011 at 4:08 PM
I'm not sure in what universe Cedar Point is better than every Disney park and every Universal park, not to mention Dollywood, Silver Dollar City, Busch Gardens Williamsburg and more than a few others.

As pointed out above, how can Cedar Point be the "best" when it doesn't even place in the top five of any other category? Shouldn't the best park just maybe have something like the best food, friendliest employees, best shows, best landscaping, etc. or at least be somewhere near the top of such lists?

As for Knoebels, I think a lot of the affection for the park comes from its distinctly unique spirit and genuine charm. Knoebels isn't a polished chain park by any stretch of the imagination and that's perhaps precisely why it is so loved. The recent historic flooding and truly remarkable quick recovery of the park has only added to the "street cred" of Knoebels as someplace special.

More specifically Knoebels probably wins in the food category for having a surprisingly strong selection of traditional park food at jaw-droppingly low prices. While it can't hold a candle to the variety and quality of somewhere like Epcot, Knoebels is perhaps better food-wise than most major chain theme parks. Again, you wouldn't expect it to look at the place but somehow they make it happen.

From AJ Hummel
Posted September 19, 2011 at 5:16 PM
I used to really believe these awards but in the past couple years I've begun traveling to various parks and realized they are extremely biased. Every year, the winners are typically the same, and they are usually the parks that have the best enthusiast events. For the top ten parks list, I've been to five of those and Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Disneyland, Dollywood, and Holiday World are all significantly better parks than Cedar Point, but Coaster Mania is (arguably) the best park sponsored event in the industry (I've never been, so I wouldn't know). It also doesn't hurt that Cedar Point has five really good coasters, even if the the other coasters and most of the non-coaster rides generally range from standard to poor.

As for the top coasters lists, these are going to vary significantly between individuals and should only be used as a guide for which coasters are worth traveling to ride. The polling system is also not that great, as a ride with a hundred #10 votes would beat one with 9 #1 votes, even if those nine people are the only ones that voted for both coasters. For coasters, the Mitch Hawker poll is the typically the most accurate, although my personal rankings often vary a bit.

Most of the other Golden Ticket categories are fairly accurate or are relatively unimportant so I don't pay much attention to them. However, as a lot of it is subjective, everyone will have their own opinions. I can, however, say that a few of them could be split to make the voting more fair (best traditional park food and best food in general instead of one food category, separate funhouses and haunted houses into their own categories, etc.)

As for why Six Flags doesn't show up, I've been to 7 Six Flags parks and most of them aren't really that great. Sure, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Six Flags Great Adventure have some awesome coasters, but what else do they have? Not much. How does the most well-balanced Six Flags park I've been to (Six Flags St. Louis) fare in the coaster department? Not too well, at least compared to many others in the chain. With the possible exceptions of Six Flags New England (which is well balanced even though there are only two good coasters), none of the Six Flags parks are deserving of any awards, except the coaster ones. That is one thing Cedar Fair parks are able to do well...remain balanced. They are better as overall parks, even though many of them have only one or two above-average coasters in their line-up.

From James Rao
Posted September 20, 2011 at 6:50 AM
Nice breakdown, AJ. I couldn't agree more.

As for Six Flags, I have been to three SF parks in the last two years. Of those, Six Flags Saint Louis is largely a pit, the worst Six Flags park I have visited. Six Flags New England and Six Flags Over Texas are both decent parks, and I would argue that Over Texas is every bit as good as Cedar Point, especially with the revamping of the New Texas Giant - which I agree with Amusement Today is probably the best new coaster of the year, and quite a ground breaking achievement (although, I have not ridden Cheetah Hunt yet).

Cedar Point is a fine old park, and it has some very unique and pretty views, and a handful of high quality coasters. But their additions in the last few years have been disappointing to say the least, and next year does not look any better. Other than the unique location, CP is almost interchangeable with any of the better parks in the Cedar Fair chain and becoming more so with every passing season. Furthermore, as a theme park vacation destination for me and mine, it would barely crack the top fifteen. But hey, if all you like is steel and iron, Cedar Point is your Magic Kingdom. Each to their own.

From Robert Niles
Posted September 20, 2011 at 12:04 AM
I like our awards.

Why? 1) Your ratings determine them, and 2) You're smart people with great taste. :^)

From James Rao
Posted September 20, 2011 at 5:26 AM
Agreed. And they are a bit more consistent with reality. ;)

From Jeff Elliott
Posted September 20, 2011 at 6:14 AM
I agree with Robert, but thought this would stir everyone up a bit. Was going to put this in my column but it got too big so I broke it out on its own...

From Andy Milito
Posted September 20, 2011 at 2:17 PM
Well, I knew HPFJ would win something! However, I'm shocked that Cedar Point was best park, and Magic Kingdom was nowhere to be found.

From Andrew Rector
Posted September 22, 2011 at 9:06 AM
I know why Cedar Point won. They may not come close for food or friendliest park, but they win 3 out of 10 for best steel coasters including #1. They are iconic in many coaster enthusiasts' (who vote in these awards) minds and are considered the coaster mecca of the world. Even though Magic Mountain is tied with CP for most coasters (or soon to be), it is located in a competitive So Cal market with many theme parks to steal its spotlight while CP is standing on its own on Lake Erie as a coaster destination. I have yet to make a pilgrimage to CP and have been to MM many times being its about a 3 1/2 hr drive from where I live, but I would love to be able to make the comparisons between these two parks for myself one day.

On food, I agree they should be two categories: best traditional park food and best theme park dining. Knoebels could win the former and Epcot or Tokyo Disney could win the latter.

One more comment I want to make on this poll, it claims to be international but is very US centric. Otherwise Tokyo Disney Sea would win best park in the world. Although I haven't been to Tokyo Disney Sea (yet), I am convinced from all the reviews, pictures, and trip reports of the place that its the best. Journey to the Center of the Earth at TDS is clearly one of the best dark rides in the world, yet doesn't even crack the top 5 in these awards.

From Robert Niles
Posted September 22, 2011 at 1:50 PM
FWIW, TDS did win the Theme Park Insider Award for best theme park one year, but has fallen below the minimum threshold for votes the past several years. Last year, Madagascar at Universal Studios Singapore has enough votes to be eligible for Best New Attraction, but its votes weren't high enough to get into the top three. So at least we are open to international parks, even though we struggle to get enough votes on those attractions to make them eligible.

From Thomas Caselli
Posted September 27, 2011 at 1:46 PM
I don't understand why Knoebels would win best anything, especially food. I have been there at least a few times and the food doesn't impress me one bit. It isn't bad but I can't imagine why anybody would say it is the best or anywhere near the best.

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