Orlando Parks Dominate 2004 Theme Park Insider Awards

Universal Orlando leads the way again with four awards in the third annual competition. Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Legoland California each capture one award from TPI readers as well.

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Published: July 3, 2004 at 6:50 PM

The Independence Day holiday in the United States brings fireworks, crushing theme park crowds and... the annual announcement of the Theme Park Insider Awards. Here's this year's announcement of the winners:

Theme park fans around the world again selected Universal's Islands of Adventure as the world's top theme park, as Orlando parks dominated the 2004 Theme Park Insider Awards. The awards are given each July 4 following a vote of more than 8,000 registered correspondents on ThemeParkInsider.com.

Islands of Adventure also won the top honor in 2002 and 2003, though the Universal Orlando park faced strong competition this year from SeaWorld Orlando and Disneyland Paris, as well as its sibling Universal Studios Florida.

Universal Studios Florida surged in the park rankings this year thanks to several new attractions. One of those, Revenge of the Mummy, won the Theme Park Insider Award for Best New Attraction this year, edging Mickey's PhilharMagic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Islands of Adventure's Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man won its third consecutive award for Best Overall Attraction, while Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom won the honors for Best Family Attraction (given to the top-rated ride or show with no height restriction.) The Walt Disney Company dominated this new category, placing the top nine attractions in it.

Universal Orlando picked up its fourth award in the seven categories as Islands Of Adventure's Mythos repeated as Theme Park Insider readers' choice for Best Theme Park Restaurant.

California parks captured the other two awards, as Theme Park Insider readers again picked Legoland California as the world's Best Theme Park for Kids and Disneyland's Grand Californian Hotel as the world's Best Theme Park Hotel.


Best Theme Park: Universal's Islands of Adventure

Best Theme Park for Kids: Legoland California

Best Attraction: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (Universal's Islands of Adventure)

Best Family Attraction: Festival of the Lion King (Disney's Animal Kingdom)

Best New Attraction: Revenge of the Mummy (Universal Studios Florida)

Best Restaurant in a Theme Park: Mythos Restaurant (Universal's Islands of Adventure)

Best Hotel at a Theme Park Resort: Disney's Grand Californian Hotel (Disneyland)


ThemeParkInsider.com is the leading online source for consumer information about theme parks around the world. It was the first travel-related website to win the prestigious Online Journalism Award, given by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and the Online News Association. ThemeParkInsider.com serves more than a quarter-million unique readers each month and is edited by Robert Niles, a former online editor and staff writer for the Rocky Mountain News and Los Angeles Times.

Readers' Opinions

From Philip Curds on July 4, 2004 at 3:36 AM
I do think that the website has in recent months, chosen to make itself more 'family friendly' than themepark thrilling. This viewpoint is clearly evident in the results picked by themeparkinsider.com readers. What is perhaps, interesting about this years results are its emphasis on Orlando and California, much to the detriment of those site visitors wishing to hear comment from other American and European destinations.
From Robert Niles on July 4, 2004 at 10:07 AM
That just comes down to the number of visitors, ultimately. Many, many more people in the English-speaking world visit theme parks in Orlando and Southern California than in other communities. (Japan would be the exception, but a lack of a Japanese translation for TPI at this time limits the number of Japanese theme park visitors contributing to the site.)

Disneyland Paris made a strong run in the overall park category this year, if rumors pan out, it sounds like Busch Gardens Williamsburg might have a strong contender for next year's best new attraction.

But, ultimately, there's a reason why the SoCal and Orlando parks attract so many visitors each year: They're really good.

From Robert Niles on July 4, 2004 at 1:47 PM
To clarify on the eligibility for the Best New Attraction award (since a few folks have asked):

That category is open to attractions which debuted to the public on or after June 1, 2003. New attractions must be original and unique to be eligible for this award. New installations of attractions that share the same name, theme and/or or layout with an attraction that debuted before June 1, 2003 are not eligible for this award.

(Interesting note: The way we've set this up, Universal Studios Hollywood's Revenge of the Mummy would have been eligible for next year's award, as it debuted to the public on June 25, 2004. But since it shares a name, theme and a significant portion of its layout with the Orlando version, which won this year, USH's RotM *won't* be eligible next year.)

From Scott Carter on July 5, 2004 at 12:11 PM

that explains it,because DCAs TOT should have beat Mummy :D
From Robert Niles on July 5, 2004 at 2:32 PM
Have you been on both? Because I would love to read a trip report from someone who's been on both the Mummies, plus both the ToTs. Anyone?
From Adrian Walker on July 6, 2004 at 4:25 AM
IOA leads again! Damn its a good park.
From Dave Bradley on July 6, 2004 at 5:28 AM
WOW! Robert, we were just watching our local news station, wftv.com channel 9, and the scrolling marquee at the bottom read, " Universal's Islands of Adventure voted best theme park in 2004 by Theme Park Insider. " I just thought that you would like to know. I went to their web site but I didnt see any reference to it there yet. But was on during the "Good Morning America Show".

Dave Bradley

From Lenny Schas on July 6, 2004 at 11:41 AM
Too bad more people have not been able to experience Tokyo DisneySea. I consider myself very lucky.
From Anthony Murphy on July 6, 2004 at 1:47 PM
I'm glad to see that Disney has finally won something. Yes, I see a shift to the overall family orientation of Themeparkinsider.com. I just wanted to know how these awards were determined and if anybody can vote for the awards!
From Robert Niles on July 6, 2004 at 2:34 PM
Yep. When you register for the site, you can start rating attractions, restaurants and hotels. Those ratings are then compiled and used to designate the winners each July.

It is funny, though, that so many people on Disney fan sites accuse TPI of being filled with Disney-hating teens, while folks on roller coaster fan sites criticize TPI for being too family-oriented and not devoted to thrills. I guess that shows that we've got a pretty good mix here, with a variety of viewpoints to satisfy -- or infuriate -- just about anyone.

From Robert Niles on July 6, 2004 at 2:37 PM
To follow up on Lenny's comment, one of the frustrations I've had with this site is that its single language (English) limits its ability to attract readers (and thus, reviewers) of theme parks in parts of the world where English is not the dominant language. Still, plenty of English speakers do visit reportedly wonderful parks like DisneySea and I wish we could reach more of them, to get them rating and reviewing on TPI.

As always, readers' help in spreading the word about the site is sincerely appreciated. Remember, the more viewpoints we solicit for this site, the more likely we are to have a viewpoint here that will help us on our next theme park vacation.

From Adrian Walker on July 7, 2004 at 7:06 AM
It's unfair that different types of people accuse and criticise this site because of this and that. If their so concerned about ratings why don't they just VOTE THEMSELVES!?
From mark walker on July 7, 2004 at 7:07 AM
Don't feel bad Robert, I think this is a great site, better than any other theme park sites I've been to. Sadly I don't know why the English parks .e.g. Thorpe park never do that good.
From Robert Niles on July 7, 2004 at 11:35 AM
You're just begging for a Ben Mills rant, aren't you?
From Mike Burnette on July 9, 2004 at 9:30 AM
Congratulations to Theme Park Insider. It seems every year this is the most quoted source when it comes to theme park rankings.

Although I agree with the rankings for the most part, I'm wondering how the votes are tabulated. Are votes from previous years included or just the current year? Are small parks with a better average attraction rating at an advantage over large parks who may have more highly rated attractions but have the average dropping because of a few bad places to eat or many childrens rides? Maybe a new ranking could be added for a park that has the most 9.0+ attractions.

From Ben Mills on July 9, 2004 at 9:37 AM
My reputation preceeds me, I see.

Seriously though Mark, unless that was very well placed sarcasm, I don't know how you can pick Thorpe Park out as an example of a great English park. Alton Towers - while I would disagree - I could understand you sympathising with. Chessington has improved to a state of almost-worthiness in recent years. But Thorpe Park? Honestly? You really believe that it could stand alongside parks like Disneyland Paris, Europa Park or Efteling? When Thorpe gets those kick-ass new coasters I might be more reluctant to get all pissed off, but until then, I think you need to get some theraputic visits to REAL theme parks in.

From Mike Burnette on July 9, 2004 at 9:39 AM
Also, is it fair to equate an eating establishment's rating as the same as an attraction? How many of us actually go to a park to eat? I think they should be factored in to the equation at only 1/4 of the weight an amusement ride has.
From Ben Mills on July 9, 2004 at 9:45 AM
"How many of us go to a theme park to eat?"

Depends whether we're talking about Epcot.

From Robert Niles on July 9, 2004 at 10:08 AM
All votes expire after 12 months. And anyone who tries to pad the totals by voting a lot of 10s or 0s gets all their votes purged and their voting rights rescinded.

All votes cast toward a park's attractions and restaurants count toward its overall rating. If you think about it, that weighs the votes properly, as a visitors will only eat at a couple of restaurants during a visit, but could hit a dozen or more rides. If they vote what they've done, then that's two restaurant votes for a park, along with 12 or more attraction votes. Which is how it should be. Along similar lines, there will be more votes cast for the more popular rides, and few votes cast for the ones hardly anyone goes on. Which, again, is how it should be.

In a park like Epcot, to use Ben's example, many votes are cast for the restaurants, because more people visit those than some of the attractions there.

From Mike Burnette on July 12, 2004 at 1:20 PM
Robert-Great explanation and very valid points.
From Matt E on July 17, 2004 at 5:03 PM
I'm curious as to how votes are tabulated myself, especially for the "best new attraction" for this year. I've been out of the mainland US for over 3 weeks so I don't know what the averages were when these "awards" were given, but as of today when I'm writing this, Shrek 4D, Philharmagic and Mission Space all have the same rating as ROTM with an 8. Yet all of the previous have many more votes total than ROTM. For instance, Mission:Space has over 80 some votes vs ROTM's 30 some votes. Isn't an attraction that has garnered over 50 more votes than ROTM yet still have the same average rating potentially indicate a better ride? Since average ratings seen on the site are only whole numbers and not carried out to the decimal points, I imagine that ROTM was given the title ahead of Shrek, Philharmagic and Mission Space because it was a "higher 8", but shouldn't the total number of votes also be considered? Its easier to "pad" votes when there are less votes to average together, right? Unless I missed the voting when I was gone, wouldn't a better system for determining the recipient of these "awards" be an annual vote with specific questions and answers to choose from rather than using average ratings from the site?

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