BTT Presents-The Third Annual Thrill Weekly Awards:The Best of 2012


2012 was a hugely exciting year for theme park fans, filled with great new attractions, experiences and adventures. Since the last week in October we have been releasing new polls every week that asked you, our readers and theme park fans, what YOU thought were the best of the best in the theme park industry for 2012. You voted to give your answers on everything from the “King of Halloween” and “Waterpark of the Year” all the way to which park you thought had the best food. After a record breaking year of votes, we are pleased to announce the winners of the Third Annual Thrill Weekly Awards, and crown the Best of 2012 as voted by you!


best of template

We would like to start off by thanking everyone who voted, and those who helped promote the polls for a hugely successful year. It was your votes, and your support that have made the Thrill Weekly Awards possible for a third year in a row. We would also like to point out that the Thrill Weekly Awards are a direct result of votes tallied in our Thrill Weekly Polls, a series of weekly polls that began in late October and ended in the first week of January. We encouraged our readers to vote in the polls and spread the word via Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. We also encouraged the theme parks nominated in the polls to let their fans know that they were nominated. The parks that promoted their nominations were usually the parks that won the category. In other cases, an event or ride was so popular that it was won without a single promotion. In either case, the awards are not the opinion of, our staff, or advertisers. They are the opinion of our readers and those who voted.

We would also like to offer our sincerest congratulations to the winners! You are truly the best at what you do!

How the Thrill Weekly Awards Work:

Before we get into the awards, we would briefly like to explain how the awards work. We have a total of eleven categories in the Thrill Weekly Awards.

They are:

  • King of Halloween-Theme Parks
  • King of Halloween-Non Theme Parks
  • Best Theme Park Food Destination
  • Best Theme Park Show
  • Best Christmas Event
  • Theme Park News Site of the Year
  • Theme Park Fansite of the year
  • Attraction of the Year
  • Waterpark of the Year
  • Park of the Year
  • Editor’s Choice-Best Theme Park Experience

In each category, except Park of the Year, Attraction of the Year, and Editor’s Choice, we have a single poll in which we nominate what we believe are the best and open the polls to our readers for voting. Readers have a chance to nominate any park or event that we missed, for a period of two days. During that time, we will add those with the most nominations to the list of nominees.

For Attraction of the Year we let our readers nominate the attractions they think are the best of the best. We take the top 30 nominees of those attractions and open the voting to our readers.

For Park of the Year we have a series of four polls, one for each region of the country. The top two of each region move onto a final round where they compete for the title of Park of the Year.

For Editor’s Choice, the editors and staff at Behind the Thrills choose the theme park experience or attraction that we feel encompasses the  best possible theme park experience possible.

We base this decision on three factors, and only three factors.

  1. Unique Experience-Does this offer something that no one else does
  2. Immersive environment-Does it take you places like no other attraction or park can
  3. Customer Service-Do the employees help break the barriers that keep you in the real world? Do they make you feel like you’re really stepping into a different world?


Now, without any further ado, it is my pleasure to announce the Best of 2012!


King of Halloween

Halloween is fast becoming the most wonderful time of the year! Instead of celebrating for just one night, the haunt industry has stretched it into almost two months! Haunts have become more elaborate and extraordinary over the years. This year was no exception. We split the category into two groups, the first celebrates the best Halloween event at theme parks. The King of Halloween Award names the top Halloween Event in the country. Nominees are selected based on several factors including popularity of the event, reach of the event and the impact the event has on the industry.

And the King of Halloween for 2012 is:

theme park King of Halloween

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood has grown so much under the guidance of John Murdy. This year John and the creative team, along with the creative team in Orlando, brought the world of AMC’s The Walking Dead to life. As a house, and as part of the Terror Tram experience, The Walking Dead feasted on the fear of guests every night of the event. Halloween Horror Nights also saw Silent Hill, and Alice Cooper goes to Hell. Bringing local legends to life, La Llorona became the Child Hunter, and Universal Monsters went dubstep. All of these ingredients made a recipe for the King of Halloween! Congratulations to Universal Studios Hollywood!


Visit the official Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood website!


King of Halloween non parks

Theme parks aren’t the only places that great haunts are popping up. This year we decided to take a look at all the great haunts that pop up in the dark corners, abandoned prisons, and farms all across America. Nominees are selected based on several factors including popularity of the event, reach of the event and the impact the event has on the industry. It also helps that a few of the nominees threatened us with chainsaws and flaming pumpkins.

And the King of Halloween for 2012 is:

King of Halloween non theme Parks1

Sinister Pointe bills itself as a year round haunted event, but they’ve become so much more than that. Sinister Pointe is Southern California’s one stop shop when it comes to getting your supply of screams. Not only do they offer up a show stopping haunted attraction, but they also do Horror Movie nights, and several “LIVE” events throughout the year. This year they amped things up with the “Not So Merry Holiday”. Santa’s with chainsaws, festive freaks. Congratulations Sinister Pointe! You are the King of Halloween!


Visit the official Sinister Pointe Website!


Best Food Destination

This year we saw a complete change in the way that theme parks feed their guests. The days of corn dogs, and pizza being the only thing you can are long gone. Instead we are treated not only with amazing taste creations, but also a feast for our senses. Whether it be in a themed restaurant with characters all around you, or a unique drink creation, theme park food has stepped up the game. Nominees for this category are based on several factors including reader reviews, critic reviews, and distinctive cuisine.

And the Best Theme Park Food Destination of 2012 is:

Best Food

Busch Gardens Williamsburg has won this award three years in a row! For three years they have changed many different tastes in their park, and kept guest mouths watering for more! With all the tastes of Europe, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is the Best Theme Park Food Destination of 2012! Congratulations!


Visit the official Busch Gardens Williamsburg website!



Theme park fans can be the life blood of a park, especially during the off-season. Fans and enthusiasts are the ones that get extremely worked up and excited at every little detail about the park or event they call home. Over the past few years, fansites have become a key place to get information when planning a trip, or to find out about the latest happenings in the parks, because, who pays more attention to things than rabid fans? Fansites differ from news sites, as they deal primarily with one park, event, or aspect the amusement industry (i.e. coasters) .The nominees for this category are based on several factors including popularity, the parks covered, and frequency of updates.

And The 2012 Fansite of the Year is:


Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Disney parks are at the core of what Mice Chat talks about, but if you dive a little deeper you’ll find a very passionate group that covers everything from Universal, Busch Gardens and all parks in between. From pictures and videos, to trip reports and even rumors, Mice Chat is the 2012 Fansite of the Year!


Visit Mice Chat online!


Best Theme Park News Site

Where do you get your theme park news from? How about your rumors from inside sources? Theme park news sites do several things within the theme park industry. Apart from the normal news and rumors that you’ve come to expect, Theme Park News sites keep the information flowing on your favorite theme parks much more than the mainstream media. While the rest of the world is worrying about what Hollywood star is doing what, Theme Park News Sites have the latest information about your coasters and parks…fast becoming the mainstream. The nominees for this category are based on several factors including popularity, theme parks covered, and frequency of updates.

And the Best Theme Park News Site of 2012 is:

News Site

Screamscape has been around for over ten years bringing news, and rumors to the forefront of public thought. He has a vast network of insiders, informers, and people who just hear things.  This is the third year that has taken the award. In other words, Hail to the King baby! Congratulations!


Visit Screamscape online!


Best theme park show

Theme Park Shows can add to your day at a theme park. They can be a great escape from the crowds and the heat, a wonderful accompaniment to a meal, or the perfect ending to an amazing day of fun. This all new category showcases the many talented people that it takes to put on a great show. Whether it’s music, comdey, pyrotechnics, or night time wizardry, Theme Park Shows add a key part to any park. This category caused a first in the history of our Thrill Weekly Polls…a TIE. We had to have a sudden death overtime vote to choose a winner.

The nominees for this category were chosen for many factors including popularity of the show, effectiveness of the show and the overall performance of the show.

And the Best Theme Park Show for 2012 is:

best show

This show has quite possibly the longest name of any show at any theme park.  How do you celebrate 100 years of a huge library of films and a rich tapestry of history? By putting it on water, and highlighting some of the biggest names in movie history. The creators of this show poured a true love of film into it, and it shows with the stunning effects and the films used. Congratulations Mike Aiello and Universal Orlando, Cinematic Spectacular is the Best Theme Park Show of 2012.


Visit the official Universal Orlando website!


Best christmas event

Christmas has come a very long way from years past. Most theme parks used to be closed at Christmas, with very few exceptions. Now Christmas is a huge time of year, with most parks beginning in November! From ice shows, and Christmas Pageants to real ice and parades many try, but only one event is worthy of Santa’s Pride. The nominees in this category are based on a variety of factors including popularity, uniqueness of the event, and Christmas spirit.

And The Best Christmas Event of 2012 is:

Christmas Event

A Sea of Trees dancing to Christmas music, Ice shows, fireworks, thousands of Christmas lights and of course Santa at the North Pole gives SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration a huge edge over all the other events. It’s all included with park admission, and it gives guests a taste of just about everything families love for the holidays. Add in all the regular fun of SeaWorld, a Christmas Market and of course Clyde and Seamore and you have one of the great family traditions, which is why SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration is the Best Christmas Event of 2012.


Visit the official SeaWorld Orlando website!


Waterpark of the year

Waterparks push the boundary of excitement by giving bigger, faster, and more immersive thrills than ever. Whether it’s dropping straight down several stories into a shallow pool, or simply relaxing near some exotic animals, or maybe just under a cool shade tree, Waterparks are a great way to spend time with friends and have fun. This is another new category this year, celebrating waterparks and all the wet fun they give. The nominees for this category were chosen based on several factors including popularity of the park, types of attractions, and overall atmosphere of the park.

And the 2012 Waterpark of the Year is:


Aquatica Orlando was the first SeaWorld Waterpark, and it let guests slide by the sea. Since opening in 2008 the waterpark has set a standard for fun, and interaction. Inspired by the success and ingenuity of Aquatica Orlando, SeaWorld San Antonio opened Aquatica San Antonio. SeaWorld San Diego also announced plans for an Aquatica park. Aquatica Orlando, however is the only place you can interact with playful commerson’s Dolphins and slide down dozens of unique slides. White sandy beaches, palm trees swaying in the breeze and relaxing rivers make Aquatica Orlando the Waterpark of the Year!


Visit the official Aquatica Orlando website!


Attraction of the year

What makes a theme park attraction the best? Is it the death defying drops of a coaster, or the classic fun of a dark ride? Maybe it’s a show that gets your feet tapping, or even a waterslide that sends you rushing to a big splashdown. For Attraction of the Year we opened up the nominations to you! We asked you to nominate your favorite attractions, and you did in full force! The only rule to this award is that the attraction had to be open for the better part of 2012. New attractions, old attractions, attractions that closed this year…you nominated over 100 different attractions. We narrowed it down to the top 30 of those attractions to give you the Attraction of the Year.

And the 2012 Attraction of the Year is:

attraction of the year

Wild Eagle at Dollywood is the nation’s first B&M Wing Rider coaster. It’s nestled on top of a mountain in the rustic little theme park, and soars with the wind. It was an automatic fan favorite when it opened in 2012. Was it the big air time, or the way you have nothing above you or below you that made it so popular? Maybe, but we think it was the theme song sung by Dolly herself! Regardless of what makes it the best, Wild Eagle at Dollywood is the 2012 Attraction of the Year!


Visit the official Dollywood website for more information!


Best Theme Park Experience

Editor’s Choice is the award that we here at Behind The Thrills choose completely by ourselves. This award is awarded to a theme park attraction, area, land or theme park that exudes excellence in three categories.

  1. Unique Experience-Does this offer something that no one else does
  2. Immersive environment-Does it take you places like no other attraction or park can
  3. Customer Service-Do the employees help break the barriers that keep you in the real world? Do they make you feel like you’re really stepping into a different world?

The winner of this award is never an easy choice, as there are so many parks and attractions that deserve it. This year was especially tough because all of the editors of Behind The Thrills could not come to agreement on which was most deserving. After several names being called, cooler heads, and magic cards we are pleased to announce the Best Theme Park Experience.

And the Editor’s Choice for Best Theme Park Experience of 2012 is:


editors choice

Cars Land opened in the summer of 2012 at Disney’s California Adventure. The park had just undergone a huge $1 Billion dollar renovation, in which many facets of the park were changed. The park had been in desperate need for a change, pretty much since it’s opening. Attendance was down, and interest in the park was extremely low. Since the renovation attendance has been up and spending has also been up. Cars Land was the feather in the parks hat. The whole area is themed to the Cars films, from the scenery to the signature attractions to even the food and drinks. Themeing in Cars Land is top notch, and the ride experiences one of a kind. Those who haven’t been to the park liken the signature attraction Radiator Springs Racers to Test Track, and understandably so. The ride system is nearly identical. The ride itself, however couldn’t be anymore different. The entire area is full of wonderful sites, and unique flavors. Guests can sip a drink in their very own Traffic Cone and even go for a whirl with Mater. This area has set a new standard for what guests should expect out of Disney attractions. Disney has effectively painted themselves into a corner, as the current “change of theme and call it new” to an existing ride is no longer acceptable, thanks in large part to the detail and excitement put behind Cars Land. Just as everyone, we expect Cars Land to be the new level to which Disney entertainment is held.

Congratulations to Disney’s California Adventure and the team behind Cars Land!


Visit the official Cars Land website!



Which park is the park of the year? That’s a loaded question, and the answer depends on who you ask. For some it’s a park that gives you the best thrills with a fun coaster ride. For others it’s the ability to have fun with the entire family. Still for others it’s the complete and total immersion you get just from walking through the gates. We put every park in the country up to vote, breaking things down by region. The two parks in each region with the most votes went on to the finals.

Here are your finalists:

Region 1

  • Dollywood-Pigeon Forge, TN
  • Discovery Cove-Orlando, FL

Region 2

  • Idlewild-Ligonier, PA
  • Sesame Place-Langhorne, PA

Region 3

  • Kings Island-Kings Mill, OH
  • Cedar Point-Sandusky, OH

Region 4

  • Disneyland-Anaheim, CA
  • SeaWorld San Diego


And the 2012 Park of the Year is:

 Park of the Year

This is the second year that Dollywood has been named Park of the Year. The little park in Tennessee has grown by leaps and bounds this year. The park has added it’s first B&M Coaster, and is constantly changing entertainment in the park. It’s themeing, employees and food all are continuously praised as some of the best in the industry. Though the park has changed in leaps and bounds, we have a feeling we are still in store for huge things from this little theme park in the Smokey Mountains.

Congratulations to Dollywood!

For more information, visit the official Dollywood website!



Thank you so much to everyone who voted and participated in the polls! We had so much fun doing the Thrill Weekly Polls and appreciate all who voted, and helped to spread the word for your favorite parks. The Thrill Weekly Polls will return at the end of October for more fun!


Be sure to tune into Behind the Thrills Daily, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all of your theme park news, rumors and trip planning resources!


Congratulations to all the winners!



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