The BLOGFlume—Golden

Amusement Today's 2005 Golden Tickets are announced.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: August 28, 2005 at 8:56 PM

2005 Golden Tickets Announced
Amusement Today 8/27/05

The annual best-of list from Amusement Today, better known as the Golden Tickets, were just released, and in this edition of the BLOGFlume, I’m going to dissect the results. The results, as usual, are not terribly surprising, but there were a few changes from last year’s results. So let’s get to the winners…

Best Park

1. Cedar Point 37%
2. Islands of Adventure 14%
3. Blackpool Pleasure Beach 9%
4. Europa Park 7%
4. Knoebel’s 7%

This list does not offer much of surprise, other than Cedar Point increasing its popularity from last year (35% in 2004 to 37% in 2005). Cedar Point is a great amusement park, but I don’t feel that it has gotten significantly better over the years. As with many other awards, the status quo continues to rule. Europa Park displaces Kennywood from the top five, but the others are repeats from last year.

Best Waterpark

1. Schlitterbahn 52%
2. Splashin’ Safari 17%
3. Blizzard Beach 7%
4. Noah’s Ark 5%
5. Typhoon Lagoon 3%

Schlitterbahn continues its dominance in the waterpark category with Disney’s two waterparks staying in the top five. Noah’s Ark in Wisconsin Dells displaced Boomerang Bay at Paramount’s Kings Island, but once again the status quo is maintained.

Best Children’s Park

1. Legoland 44%
2. Idlewild 12%
3. Kiddieland 9%
4. Sesame Place 8%
5. Dutch Wonderland 6%

Legoland maintains its top spot in this category as the best theme park for kids. As with the other categories, four of the top five are repeats from last year, with Chicago’s Kiddieland taking the place of Cleveland’s Memphis Kiddie Park in this year’s top five.

Friendliest Park Staff

1. Holiday World 47%
2. Dollywood 17%
3. Cedar Point 7%
3. Knoebel’s 7%
5. Magic Kingdom 4%

Holiday World once again is tops in this category, with the next four repeats of last year’s top 4. A new entry this year, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, breaks into the top five by knocking out Silver Dollar City.

Cleanest Park

1. Holiday World 37%
2. Busch Gardens Williamsburg 10%
3. Cedar Point 9%
4. Magic Kingdom 7%
5. Disneyland 6%

All five of these repeat from last year with Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Cedar Point pushing Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom down two spots to #4.

Best Shows

1. Six Flags Fiesta Texas 30%
2. Dollywood 19%
3. Busch Gardens Williamsburg 10%
4. Silver Dollar City 6%
5. Cedar Point 5%
5. Disney/MGM Studios 5%

The status quo is once again maintained with the top five parks in this category. Disney/MGM Studios manages to sneak into a tie with Cedar Point in this category.

Best Food

1. Knoebel’s 26%
2. EPCOT 13%
3. Busch Gardens Williamsburg 12%
4. Dollywood 11%
5. Silver Dollar City 9%

Once again four of the five in this categories are repeaters from last year with Dollywood cracking the top five and pushing Kennywood out. It seems that the simplistic fair-style food of Knoebel’s is more popular than the exotic and international cuisine of both EPCOT and Busch Gardens Williamsburg. However, the gap is beginning to close.

Best Landscaping

1. Busch Gardens Williamsburg 43%
2. Efteling 18%
3. Bonfante Gardens 7%
4. Europa Park 4%
5. Busch Gardens Tampa 3%

This category saw one of the biggest changes in the top five with two Disney parks, EPCOT and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, inexplicably dropping from the top five to be replaced by Europa Park and Busch Gardens Tampa. I’m not sure how a Disney park cannot be on this list, but I guess it’s just a major theme of these awards.

Best Outdoor Night Production

1. EPCOT 27%
2. Six Flags Fiesta Texas 21%
3. Disneyland 13%
4. Disney/MGM Studios 12%
5. Cedar Point 9%

In a departure from the general trend, the Amusement Today voters finally recognize a Disney park by giving the Golden ticket to Illuminations at EPCOT. This was the one major award that saw a change at the top from last years, as EPCOT’s show trumped last year’s winner, Six Flags Fiesta Texas. However, the entire top five was in last year’s top five.

So, as it would seem, the Amusement Today voters are pretty good at making photocopies of last year’s ballots, but the one award that could not repeat last year’s results showed a somewhat surprising result.

Best New Ride for 2005

1. Hades 45%
2. Kingda Ka 16%
3. Italian Job 8%
4. maXair 6%
4. Powder Keg 6%
4. SheiKra 6%

By an overwhelming majority, Hades at Mt. Olympus wins this Golden ticket over a ride that didn’t operate for half of the year. The one glaring omission from this list has to be Theme Park Insider’s best new attraction winner, Curse of DarKastle at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Now lets move onto everyone’s favorite and most controversial lists, the top coaster lists…

Best Steel Roller Coaster

1. Millennium Force Cedar Point
2. Superman: Ride of Steel Six Flags New England
3. Magnum XL-200 Cedar Point
4. Apollo’s Chariot Busch Gardens Williamsburg
5. Nitro Six Flags Great Adventure
6. Expedition GeForce Holiday Park
7. Top Thrill Dragster Cedar Point
8. Phantom’s Revenge Kennywood
9. Raging Bull Six Flags Great America
10. Montu Busch Gardens Tampa
11. Raptor Card Point
12. X Six Flags Magic Mountain
13. Superman: Ride of Steel Six Flags Darien Lake
14. Steel Force Dorney Park
15. Dueling Dragons Islands of Adventure
16. Nemesis Alton Towers
17. Alpengeist Busch Gardens Williamsburg
18. Superman: Ride of Steel Six Flags America
19. Incredible Hulk Islands of Adventure
20. Goliath Six Flags Magic Mountain

The top three coasters remain unchanged, and I still cannot figure how Magnum is a top 10 roller coaster, while one of the best coasters on earth, Kraken at Sea World Orlando, was left on the outside of the top 20 at #26. I cannot complain about most of the coasters on this list, but I would probably have arranged them a little differently.

Best Wooden Roller Coaster

1. Thunderhead Dollywood
2. Boulder Dash Lake Compounce
3. Shivering Timbers Michigan’s Adventure
4. Phoenix Knoebel’s
5. Raven Holiday World
6. Hades Mt. Olympus
7. The Legend Holiday World
8. The Beast Paramount’s Kings Island
9. Lightning Racer Hersheypark
10. Ghostrider Knott’s Berry Farm
11. Avalanche Timber Falls
12. Texas Giant Six Flags Over Texas
13. Megafobia Oakwood Leisure Park
14. Cyclone Astroland (Coney Island)
15. Tremors Silverwood
16. Ozark Wildcat Celebration City
17. Rampage Visionland
18. Cornball Express Indiana Beach
19. Colossus Heide Park
20. Comet The Great Escape

There’s not much to complain about this list as the voters vault Dollywood’s Thunderhead to the top spot ahead of Boulder Dash. The high debut of Hades at #6 would suggest that it’s in line for #1 next year, since Thunderhead debuted on last year’s list at #7.

So that’s the major categories, and just like every year, parks change, but these awards seem to stay the same. While I agree with giving credit to a lot of the theme parks that are not owned by Disney, it’s really confusing to see Disney parks omitted from a number of these lists. I agree that Cedar Point is a great park, and that it has some great coasters, but these awards show quite a bit of bias towards the Sandusky, Ohio park. These awards also seem to ignore the work done by Disney to keep their parks as some of the most visited tourist attractions in the world. At any rate, there they are, and now it’s your turn to dissect them.

Readers' Opinions

From Jason Lester on August 28, 2005 at 9:05 PM
Not many surprises here. I'm a little bit shocked that DarkCastle was left out of the Best New Ride category. Oh well.
From Robert OGrosky on August 28, 2005 at 9:33 PM
Glad that 2 new wooden coasters in my neck of the woods, Hades at Mt. Olympus and Avalanche at Timer Falls in the Wisc. Dells scored as highly as they did. They are great rides and deserve there ranking!!
From Cameron Rust on August 28, 2005 at 9:52 PM
How many years has Busch won the Best Landscaping award?

I was shocked about DarKastle. Even more at it not getting mentioned in either of the two categories (Best new ride and best dark ride).

From Adriel Tjokrosaputro on August 29, 2005 at 1:46 AM
There's only one answer.It is absolutely not match with Theme Park Insider.But I think there's a big mistake.In our list,Kraken holds number one best attraction.How could it be at #26 only for the best roller coaster.The reason is because all of the member in Theme Park Insider maybe didn't vote for the better coaster?I don't know.What do you think?Who was right?TPI or Amusesement Today?
From Anthony Murphy on August 29, 2005 at 7:03 AM
This makes no sense, how could neither Disney nor Universal be closer to the top? How was this judged because I would not think that our overall views of the park would be that much different than these results. Also, I am very suprised in the family category. Yes, Lego Land is very good, but you are telling me Disney is not even second? I find something fishy here. Thanks for dissecting it though!
From Justin Bates on August 29, 2005 at 7:50 AM
I'm also very surprised about DarKastle not being in any category. I'm also surprised that BGW wasn't even in the top 5 for having the best shows. I mean one of the huge things they're known for is their great live entertainment. Oh well. I think that people give Cedar Point too much credit. I mean it is a great park, dont get me wrong, but I think its time people start to recognize some of the other parks and the things that they are doing.
From Robert Niles on August 29, 2005 at 9:05 AM
Well, I don't think it is much of a surprise that *Amusement* Today's awards skew toward amusement park-style attractions while *Theme* Park Insider's skew toward more highly themed attractions. Different readership's from different segments of the niche, that's all.

Personally, while I love Kraken, I think it is overrated on TPI right now. In general, I think we have too many roller coasters on the Top 25. (I'm sorry, but neither X nor any other ride that can't run on a regular basis belongs in the Top 25.) Where's Men in Black? DarKastle? Orlando's Mummy? Haunted Mansion? All belong on the Top 25 ahead of some of the one-note coasters up there now.

From Russell Meyer on August 29, 2005 at 10:05 AM
Actually Justin, BGW was third in the "Best Shows" category. However, it was not in the top five for best outdoor night show.

I would agree with Robert that these awards always seem to skew towards "amusement" parks, but the fact that they consistantly give awards to "theme" parks in many categories is hypocritical. If they are going to give awards to "amusement" parks, than "theme" parks should not be eligible to win any awards. What I think has happened is that the voters for the Golden Tickets are fans of the "amusement" industry, and just don't know how to recognize the efforts of "theme" parks. I think the voters also hadicap parks that get the massive attendance numbers like Disney and Universal because they don't want their awards turning into a public popularity contest. If that were the case, these awards would end up like Billboard, where the parks with the highest attendance would win everything.

I just wish the voters for these awards were forced to prove that they attended at least 10 different parks during the year to show that they have a somewhat objective outlook on the industry. What we end up with instead is a bunch of people who vote for a park that they may not have visited in a few years, or one they go to 10-15 times a year without knowing what any other parks are like, and just voting for what park won last year. It's almost become redundant to give these awards away, because they rarely ever change.

From Cameron Rust on August 29, 2005 at 10:08 AM
I heard somewhere that AT didn't like Disney or Universal, because of their "resort" status. Some people classify the whole resort as one theme park, and others each park. At least Disney won best nighttime outdoor show (really surprised Imaginique wasn't in this listing).
From Justin Bates on August 29, 2005 at 10:25 AM
oh sorry, i must have been thinking about the outdoor night show. but i still dont see how a six flags park beats them. i've never been to sfft so maybe they do have really good shows.
From Russell Meyer on August 29, 2005 at 11:41 AM
I don't think Imaginique really falls into the nighttime outdoor show category. At it's essence, it's a Cirque D'Soleil show. I think the category is more reserved for fireworks and laser shows. EPCOT deservingly won this year, but Six Flags Fiesta Texas, last year's winner, has an incredible show. Sadly when I was there earlier this spring, they weren't running it yet (it only runs in the summer), but I've heard nothing but great things about it. Since the park is located inside of a quarry, they use the walls of the quarry to project images that work in concert with the pyrotechnics and music to create a very impressive display. I was a little disappointed to see Cedar Point in that list ahead of some great shows like Mystify at Sea World and Wishes at Magic Kingdom, but it seems to be par for the course to recognize Cedar Point for just about everything.

Anthony, if you didn't know, Theme Park Insider also recognized Legoland as the #1 park for kids. The kids park category is supposed to be for parks specifically designed for kids, not "kids of all ages." Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Disneyland are great parks to take kids to, but they are designed with whole families in mind. Parks like Legoland, Dutch Wonderland, and Sesame Place are designed with just kids in mind.

From Jason Lester on August 29, 2005 at 2:01 PM
I think putting X in any top category is a mistake. It's never running, has unbearble lines, and once you've ridden once, the novelty is completely gone. It has one trick to show you before it's just another coaster. I agree more dark rides should be in the top 25.
From Rhys Evans on August 29, 2005 at 6:10 PM
I'd sure like to see Tokyo Disney Sea get credit for their nighttime show's just as good as Fantasmic, if not better.
And the thing about Fiesta Texas having great shows AND being part of the Six Flags family is easily explained: they had great shows before they were Six Flags.
From Derek Potter on August 29, 2005 at 7:19 PM
I love it when these awards come out...the debates rage..especially on this site. This always raises the question about the difference between an amusement park and theme park. The only real difference between them is the way they build their rides....that and the amount of money they have. Whats the best attraction or park? It all depends on who you ask. Ask this site, and there is a definite lean towards theme parks. Disney, Universal, and to some extent Busch...bag all the awards here. Are some of them deserved? yes...but nowhere on the ballots will you see a little park like Knoebels Groves or Holiday. Heck even Cedar Point doesn't make it onto the list. The Golden Tickets on the other hand recognize mostly amusement park attractions. Is there a bit of a bias? I think more of one than there is here though. TokyoDisneySea is the best park here? How many around here have made it to that one? How many made it outside of Orlando or SoCal this year? It all comes down to who you ask, and their preference. Do I think that Mummy and Haunted Mansion deserve to be there...possibly, but that doesn't totally discredit the Golden Tickets. True the winners don't change much, but neither do they here. That's because most parks don't change from year to year. There may be a ride addition or new show, but one ride usually doesn't push one park past the other in terms of totality. Don't get me wrong here, the Golden Tickets aren't flawless by any means....

Millennium Force is without doubt number one in the steel category, but I too think that Magnum is a bit on the overratted side nowadays. No doubt that it is still a great ride, but I don't think it's number 3 (I would have given 3 to Apollo's Chariot)....then again, how does one distinguish between all of the B&M coasters out there that are pretty much the same? Kraken bears a pretty close resemblance to Dominator at Geauga Lake, and Superman Krypton at Fiesta Texas. There are 4 B&M inverts on the list, all of which offer the same elements in a different sequence. Another strange thing, there are 3 clones on the list. Superman Ride of Steel is on the list 3 times. I do think that Kraken should have made it past at least 2 of them. I did notice that this list is pretty much owned by two manufacturers. Intamin and B&M. The wood coaster category has a little more validity to it. I love the fact that the Coney Island Cyclone, and the Comet from Great Escape still deservedly make this list, and the Beast from Kings Island remains in the top ten.

DarKastle was indeed conspicuous by it's absence. Four roller coasters and a Giant Frisbee made it over BG's new offering. Despite Golden Ticket's lean towards amusement attractions and a bit of favor towards Cedar Point, that still begs the question from DarKastle that bad? Is it that forgettable that a Huss Giant Frisbee (and not the first one either) can slip in past it? I didn't make it to Williamsburg this year, so I'm just asking those who rode it.

Glad to see Cedar Point remains on top as well. They haven't been at the top of their game lately, and them being in the best show category is a bit out there, but I still think they deserve the recognition they get. It's a great place to go...better than any other amusement park, and most theme parks as well.

There will probably never be a totally objective poll and awards format given out...not unless somebody wants to pony up the dough for a few hundred random park enthusiasts to each go to 20 theme and amusement parks around the world. If someone does get that idea, don't forget to count me in.

From Anthony Murphy on August 29, 2005 at 7:25 PM
I like what Robert Niles said, it is more of an Amusement park think rather than Theme Parks. Though I will agree, most of the award winners are very good, but there is better in my opinion. Just think of it is a chance for somebody other than Disney, Universal, and Busch Gardens being reconized! I have heard good things about Disney Sea, would love to go there (and Japan) some time in the future!
From Adriel Tjokrosaputro on August 30, 2005 at 3:31 AM
O,yes!I think the best new ride for next year maybe Tower Of Terror at Tokyo DisneySea or Expedition Everest.
From J. Dana on August 30, 2005 at 3:31 PM
In my estimation, that whole Amusement Today list is just plain bunk and dog crap...and like Robert was alluding to, (in his nice diplomatic way) its voters are, for the most part, unsophisticated cretins. For best food, Amusement Today voters probably favored whichever park had the most Bud Lite booths (although they wisely chose Epcot, but look at the rest of that list)...and for landscaping, they favored whichever park provided the most low-rider parking spaces. And for best shows, yee-haw, they couldn't beat those good ole square dances.

Am I being elitist and mean? Yep. But I put as much stock in that list as I do a weight-loss book written by Rosie O'Donald. And to Derek Potter: Yeah, we here at THEME PARK insider would probably vote for THEME PARKS over amusement parks...we THEME PARK afficionados are kinda funny that way. (re: notice the name of the site)

Coasters are fun. And so are beer tents. But Amusement Today's list is just second rate by any standard. Let's flush it and get on to REAL evaluations by REAL theme park enthusiasts.

From Cameron Rust on August 30, 2005 at 4:35 PM
Um...Busch Gardens Williamsburg was one of the deserving winners of their landscaping award and are a theme park.
From Derek Potter on August 30, 2005 at 6:44 PM
Just to recap, heres what J Dana wrote...

"Yeah, we here at THEME PARK insider would probably vote for THEME PARKS over amusement parks...we THEME PARK afficionados are kinda funny that way"

Just like those at AMUSEMENT BUSINESS MAGAZINE (see Golden Ticket voters genius) would lean toward amusement parks.

Don't piss and moan about someone elses poll being biased when you yourself have the same bias for the opposite side. Your entire closed minded post reeks of hypocrisy, so how can you possbly be a credible judge of who deserves to win best anything in a park? Obviously you can't, because in your eyes...Disney is God. Don't drink the haterade because some people prefer amusement parks over theme parks, and they happen to vote for awards.

From TH Creative on August 31, 2005 at 4:38 AM
Congratulations to team Schlitterbahn!

Didn't the company who owns Schlitterbahn also design and develop 'Crush 'n' Gusher' for Typhoon Lagoon?

It will be interesting to see how the new waterpark planned for Sea World in Orlando will do on this poll.

From Anthony Murphy on August 31, 2005 at 7:29 AM
Now I love Disney, there is no doubt about that, but even I will admit, along with dana, that they are not perfect. However, I find it very strange that this article's results are, in a way, SO different from what is found here. Are the winners in the Golden Ticket thing good, yes, they are very nice, but they would not be choices that we would dream up. I am very suprised that Disney nor Universal really were represented and, in my opinion, not enough. I mean, children's park and friendliness staff? Disney is world famous for both of these. Also, in regards to best food, How could EPCOT not have it? It is the only park I know that has exclusive food from around the world. I mean, some of this stuff does not make sense! If somebody wants to stick it to Disney, give it to Universal. At least there you can make some kind of case! I really do not care who won because I take this site as being much better with the overall views of the parks, but thats their opinions, this is mine. Disney might not be a god, but it does deserve its dues along with Universal and Busch. Lets face it, these three rule Flordia!

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