There many theme parks all over the world, but we all have our favorites. These are the ones we return to again and again…and again. What parks do people all over the world love the most? Here are the world’s top 10 best theme parks as rated by their visitors in 2012.
10. Islands of Adventure (Universal Orlando Resort) – Florida, U.S.A. – 7,981,000 visitors last year
The area where the theme park stands now was supposed to be used for a shopping mall called the Galleria Orlando. Those plans were cancelled in 1990 and in May 28, 1999 Islands of Adventure was opened as part of the plan to convert Universal Studios Florida into the Universal Orlando Resort. The theme park, which focuses on adventure, has seven “islands” featuring different attractions. These islands are Port of Entry, Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, Seuss Landing. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, their latest addition, was finished only in 2010. One of its attractions is the Pteranodon Flyers, a ride were passengers are suspended on seats and “flown” high above a Jurassic Park setting.
9. Universal Studios Japan – Osaka, Japan – 9,700,000 visitors last year
As one of four Universal Studios theme parks owned and operated by USJ Co., Ltd. with a license from NBC Universal, Universal Studios Japan was opened in March 31, 2001. It is one of the biggest theme parks in Japan at 54 hectares (108 acres). Just like the Universal Studios in the U.S., it has different areas namely Areas: New York, Hollywood, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Snoopy Studios, Sesame Street Fun Zone, Lagoon, Water World, Amity Village and the Hello Kitty Fashion Avenue. Its current attractions include Snoopy’s Great Race, Hello Kitty’s Cupcake Dream, Elmo’s Bubble and Jurassic Park: The Ride. The park is also developing another area The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, just like its Orlando counterpart. It is expected to open in 2014.
8. Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort – Florida, U.S.A. –9,912,000 visitors last year
There’s no business like show business. Formerly known as Disney-MGM Studios, the Walt Disney Co. initially intended this place to become their exclusive studio where they would shoot all their films and television shows. When those plans did not push through it was turned into a showbiz-themed park and opened in May 1, 1989. Its areas are Hollywood Boulevard, Echo Lake, Streets of America, Animation Courtyard, Pixar Place, Sunset Boulevard while its attractions include Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, The Great Movie Ride and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. One of its more famous annual activities is Star Wars Week from May to June where Star Wars celebrities and fans from all over the country and the world get together for special events. Activities include picture-taking and autograph signing with Star Wars films key figures, Jedi Academy “training classes” and a parade by participants in Star Wars costumes.
7. Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort – Florida, U.S.A. – 9,998,000 visitors last year
This is Disney’s wildlife and nature themed park. Opened in April 22, 1998 (which was also Earth Day) the park was intended to inculcate a sense of animal conservation and nature appreciation among its visitors, especially the young. Along with its areas, the park also exhibits exotic animals like African Spoonbills, Australian White Ibis, boars, Bronze-winged Ducks, Buffleheads, Chiloe Wigeons, Eleonora Cockatoos, Florida Cooters, Giant Anteaters and more. Currently the largest single Disney theme park in the world at 235 hectares (580 acres), it is also accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums as having met its standards in educating people, conservation, and animal research. Its most famous attractions include the Expedition Everest, the Kilimanjaro Safaris and the Dinosaur exhibit.
6. Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort – Florida, U.S.A. – 11,063,000 visitors last year
If Disney’s Animal Kingdom was the park for animal lovers, the EPCOT (Epcot stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) is the Disney theme park for lovers of science and technology and world culture. Formerly known as the EPCOT Center, it was opened in Oct. 1, 1982. Instead of the usual Sleeping Beauty castle as the common dominant figure in any Disney park, this one has the Spaceship Earth, a huge geodesic globe that also serves as one of the attractions. The park’s areas are Future World, World Showcase and EPCOT Character Spot. Its attractions include the Test Track, Mission Space and the Spaceship Earth which lights up at night. At 120 hectares (300 acres) this park is twice the size of the Disneyland Magic Kingdom.
5. Disneyland Park at Disneyland Paris – Marne-la-Vallée, France – 11,200,000 visitors last year
Opened in Apr. 12, 1992, it was called Euro Disneyland until Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner decided it was too glamorous-sounding. Its layout is similar to that of the Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California and Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida; it even has a Sleeping Beauty castle. There are changes and modifications to the design of the park to make it better suited for the Parisian weather; the hotels and restaurants have fireplaces and covered walkways were built around the park. Occupying an area of 56.656 hectares (140 acres) its attractions include Phantom manor (their version of the Haunted Mansion), Space Mountain: Mission 2 and Disneyland Railroad.
4. Tokyo DisneySea – Tokyo, Japan – 12,656,000 visitors last year
Said to be the most expensive theme park ever built at $4 billion, the Tokyo DisneySea also has the record of being the visited theme park in a short matter of time since opening. Twenty-five months after its opening in Sept. 4, 2001 it had posted over 10 million visits. The idea behind a nautical exploration-themed park was hatched in Long Beach, California, but after it failed to materialize there the idea was snatched up by The Oriental Land Co., which licenses Disney characters and themes from The Walt Disney Co. The park has seven areas, or “ports of call” as they are called in the park; these are Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, and Mysterious Island. Its attractions include rides like Journey to the Center of the Earth, Raging Spirits and Aquatopia.
3. Tokyo Disneyland – Tokyo, Japan – 14,847,000 visitors last year
Just like Disneyland Park at Disneyland Paris this park was built after the blueprints of Disneyland in California and Magic Kingdom in Florida, and just like Tokyo DisneySea it is owned by The Oriental Land Co., under license from The Walt Disney Co. Opened on April 15, 1983, it features seven themed areas; the World Bazaar, Adventureland, Westernland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, Critter Country and Mickey’s Toontown. Its attractions include Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek, Western River Railroad, Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, Space Mountain and The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai! On March 11, 2011, an offshore earthquake struck Japan, forcing the resort to cease operations at noon. No one was hurt in the incident but some 20,000 visitors that day were forced to spend the night inside the theme parks after Tokyo’s public transportation systems had to be closed.
2. Disneyland at Disneyland Resort – California, U.S.A. – 15,963,000 visitors last year
Opened in July 17, 1955, this park would become the only Disneyland park built under the direct supervision of Walt Disney himself. This would also become one of two theme parks built at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, with the other, Disney California Adventure Park, being opened in 2001. Since its opening it has been under constant renovation and expansion. A new area, New Orleans Square, was added in 1966, while Bear Country (now known as Critter Country) was added in 1972 and Mickey’s Toontown in 1993. Its attractions include the Alice in Wonderland Ride, the Astro Orbitor and Big Thunder Ranch.
1. Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort – Florida, U.S.A. – 17,536,000 visitors last year.
Opened in Oct. 1, 1971, the Magic Kingdom was intended as a bigger, larger and better version of the one in California. One novel innovation of the park was the building of secret utility tunnels called utilidors (short for utility doors) that allowed actors to get to their designated areas without being seen by the public, thus not ruining the ambiance of the different displays and exhibits. Visiting VIPs were also allowed to use the tunnels to keep away from the public.
Its current attractions include Space Mountain, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor and the fireworks display. Open all year round, the Magic Kingdom has been closed only five times; during hurricanes Floyd, Frances, Charley, and Wilma and the September 11 terror attacks.
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