In 2013, we saw wooden coasters do amazing new things, watched as giant robots battled across Orlando, pulled an all niter with Monsters, and walked with the dead, through cabins and woods and many other dark and demented places. With so many amazing things that happened in 2013 in the amusement industry, we are really excited for what 2014 brings. Before we finally close the book on 2013, however, we will pay tribute to the best in the amusement industry for 2013-as voted by you! We are proud to announce the winners of the Fourth Annual Thrill Weekly Awards-The Best of 2013!
Beginning in October of 2013, we rolled out a series of weekly polls asking you to vote for your favorite theme parks and events in a variety of categories. The Thrill Weekly Polls asked theme park fans, guests and geeks to pick what they thought was the best in the amusement industry.
The categories are:
- King of Halloween-Best Theme Park Halloween Event
- King of Halloween-Best Stand Alone Haunted Attraction
- Best Theme Park Show
- Best Family Friendly Theme Park Destination
- Best Theme Park Food Destination
- Best Theme Park Website
- Santa’s Pride-Best Christmas Event
- Attraction of the Year
- Waterpark of the Year
- Park of the Year
- Editor’s Choice-Best Theme Park Experience
In each category, except for Editor’s Choice, we opened voting for one week, allowing readers, and fans to vote for their favorite park in each one of the categories. The polls were shared via Facebook and Twitter, with our various readers, and followers. We also encouraged each of the theme parks nominated to announce that they were nominated for the award, via their various social media networks.
Each of the winners are the direct result from the polls, as chosen by the readers of BehindTheThrills.com and the various fans of the theme parks who announced their nominations. The winners are not necessarily the results of the opinions of the Behind The Thrills staff, or advertisers. Every single winner, with the exception of the Editor’s Choice Award, is the direct result of the Thrill Weekly Polls.
Without further ado, BehindTheThrills.com is proud to present the Fourth Annual Thrill Weekly Awards:The Best of 2013.
Halloween is the second most popular holiday behind Christmas. Theme parks have taken full advantage of that, and have presented a huge array of events ranging from family friendly, to the not for faint of heart. 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 Best Theme Park Halloween Event is-
Knott’s Scary Farm has been in the Halloween business for over 40 years. They have been a huge inspiration to many other theme parks when it comes to signature mazes, mischievous characters, and fun haunting shows. This year they stepped things up by bringing back one of the original pieces to the Haunt, Elvira. The mistress of the dark had a huge presence this year as she brought her campy, but scary fun back to Knotts in nightly shows. The park also revolutionized the haunted maze this year with Skeleton Key. Skeleton Key is an upcharge add on that gives you a way to unlock the rest of the story in your favorite haunted houses.
Congratulations to Knott’s Berry Farm and the Haunt team!
Stand alone haunted attractions spring up every year from the end of September, all the way until Halloween. These days, some haunts even venture into holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day, giving all the haunt freaks out there a little dose of Halloween at different parts of the year. There are even some haunts that do it year round. These haunts bring a little more intensity to the scares, because they aren’t trapped within the confines of theme parks, and therefore don’t have to follow all the same rules. 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 Best Stand Alone Haunted Attraction is-
Nightmare New England in New Hampshire is more than just a haunted house. It is six mazes of pure terror, a monster midway, and of course the things your nightmares are made of. The haunted attraction in Litchfield, New Hampshire has been the winner of several awards celebrating it’s terrifying, demented attractions and we think it’s going to win a lot more. Nightmare New England is promising even more horror in 2014, as it prepares for several big changes.
Congratulations to Nightmare New England and their army of fear inducing terrors!
A day at a theme park is full of great attractions, rides and yes…even shows! A great show can make give you a break from the crowds, inspire you to do amazing things, and even cap off an amazing trip by emblazoning the memories. 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. The winner was chosen by you, the readers and fans of the show.
And The Best Theme Park Show is-
Battle for Brickbeard’s Bounty carries the tradition of Ski Shows that started over 75 years ago with Cypress Gardens. The Ski Show was the staple of the young theme park’s line up, and helped to make the park world famous. It was something that Legoland Florida took very serious when they were planning a line up of attractions in the park. They wanted to pay homage to the legacy of Cypress Gardens, but bring it back to life with Legoland style. The result is the fun, and very family friendly Battle for Brickbeard’s Bounty, which mixes acrobatic skiers with the fun whimsy of Lego.
Congratulations Legoland Florida, and the cast of Brickbeard’s Bounty!
Theme parks are generally magnets for family fun. The atmosphere of tons of rides, shows and good food usually makes for a great experience for everyone. Some theme parks, however, are more family friendly than others. These parks cater not only to one type of rider in the family, but offer something for just about everyone in a well rounded atmosphere that everyone can enjoy. But which one is the MOST family friendly? The nominees for this category were chosen for many factors, including types of attractions, range of height requirements and variety of attractions and shows.
And The Best Family Friendly Theme Park Destination is-
Holiday World, in Santa Claus Indiana is like a blast from the past. While they do have coasters, they aren’t the full throttle metal speed machines that most coaster parks have. They also have a variety of shows, dark rides and kids attractions that the family can enjoy together. Holiday World is even themed around the most family friendly time of the year, the holidays!
Congratulations Holiday World, and the entire Holiday World Family!
Theme park food is traditionally thought of as corn dogs, funnel cakes and what you would find at your local fair. The parks have taken what guests loved, and expanded on that as tastes change and palettes expand to crave a wide variety of flavors. Parks have gone through great lengths to make food not only something you eat, but in many cases an experience. Nominees for this category are based on several factors including reader reviews, critic reviews, and distinctive cuisine. The winner was chosen by you in the Thrill Weekly Poll.
And The Best Theme Park Food Destination is-
Silver Dollar City is part of the Dollywood family of theme parks, both owned by Herschend Family Entertainment, so it should come as no surprise that such a family oriented chain would have such down home food and favorites. Silver Dollar City dominated this year’s Best Food Destination, as their fans spoke loud and clear. With farm fresh ingredients, and all the flavors of home with comfort foods like fried chicken, to pizza and even smoked ribs, it’s no wonder the Branson Missouri park is the destination for the best food. The park boasts over 20 different restaurants, which guarantees something for every taste bud.
Congratulations to Silver Dollar City and the culinary staff!
When it comes to theme park news and information, there is a huge variety of choices. From hungry fansites that give you every minor detail of your favorite theme park, to mommy blogs giving you what’s best for the family, and of course news and rumors sites, there’s something for every bit of theme park information out there. The nominees for this category are based on several factors including popularity, the parks covered, and frequency of updates.
And The Best Theme Park Website is-
Hail to the King. Screamscape has been the top voted website for the past four years of the Thrill Weekly Polls. It’s no wonder, as Screamscape gives tons of information and rumors about every single park in the industry. For over ten years, Screamscape has been the go to website for rumors and news for their favorite parks and rides. Many people get the news about new ride openings, and closures long before many theme parks make it public from the Screamscape team.
Congratulations to Screamscape on another year! Hail to the King.
Christmas is called the most wonderful time of the year, and if you’re celebrating it at a theme park, you would most likely be right! Thousands of dazzling lights, special parades and shows make the season bright. There are many types of events that feature piles of snow for those who normally dont have it, or mean green Christmas thieves who have a change of heart. Each one touches on a special feeling that we get only at Christmas. 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 Best Christmas Event is-
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas gives you the holiday as Dolly Parton herself would celebrate it, and probably as she did celebrate it. Family, friends, music and food all around. This year saw Dollywood take on the classic tale of The Christmas Carol as only Dollywood could tell it. It integrated new technology with music and of course the classic Christmas ghost story of Christmas long long ago, as told originally by Charles Dickens. Add in the lights, the classic Christmas story and of course the music, and you have the same Christmas that we all can call home.
Congratulations to Dollywood and the entire park!
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. If you wanted it, you got it! The nominees for this award had to be open for the better part of 2013. That’s it! We left the nominees in your hands New attractions, old attractions, attractions that closed this year…you nominated over 100 different attractions. We received over 500 different attraction nominations, and narrowed it down to the top 30 most nominated attractions. We then opened the Thrill Weekly Poll for you to choose.
And The Attraction of the Year is-
White Lightning is Orlando’s first wooden coaster, ever. Located at Fun Spot America, just minutes away from some of the biggest meanest steel coaster, White Lightning has made Fun Spot a must visit location for any visit to Orlando. The coaster is a GCI wood coaster, that has steel supports. It is a fast, fun, family coaster that gives a great ride. It features a double up and double down, the first in Florida, that gives riders the feeling that they are going to come right out of their seats! We have a feeling that this is only the first really fun original coaster that we can expect to see from Fun Spot.
Congratulations to Fun Spot America and the Great Coasters International team!
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. 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 Waterpark of the Year is-
This is the second year in a row that Aquatica Orlando has taken home the title of “Waterpark of the Year”. SeaWorld’s first waterpark, that lets you slide next to the sea, brings you amazing animal interactions and gives you the chance to experience some of the most beautiful sandy beaches, right in the heart of Orlando. Whether you are playing with the little ones in on of two kids areas, or rushing through the habitat of Commerson’s Dolphins on Dolphin Plunge, Aquatica Orlando has a little something for everyone. It’s a formula that has been so successful for the park, that they opened up the second Aquatica in San Antonio in 2012, and the third in San Diego in 2013. In 2014 they are going to go after the thrill seekers with Ihu’s Breakaway Falls. Not all the information is known about it just yet, but we do know it’s going to open in 2014, and there will be “Nothing Taller” in Orlando.
Congratulations to the Aquatica Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando team!
Which theme park is the best of the year? That probably depends on who you ask, and where they live. What makes a theme park the best of the year, however is something different. It could be the park with the best rides. Maybe it’s the park with the best service, or cleanest pathways. We’d like to think that it’s the park that takes all the areas serious, and strives to be the best in the industry. To choose the park of the year, we nominated every single theme park we could think of in the country. We broke the country into four different regions, and had polls for every single region as part of our “Park of the Year Playoffs”. The top two theme parks for every single region moved from the playoffs, to the finals.
The Eight Finalists for Park of the Year Are-
- Universal Studios Florida
- IdleWilde&Soak Zone
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg
- Silver Dollar City
- Cedar Point
- Universal Studios Hollywood
And The 2013 Park of the Year is-
Silver Dollar City had one amazing year. The park broke records and captured thrill seekers with the amazing wooden coaster Outlaw Run. The park kept the momentum going throughout the summer, and into the holiday season with An Old Time Christmas. The little park is a regional favorite, and will continue into 2014 with the huge new Kapau Plummet at their Whitewater Waterpark. The park is fast becoming more than just a regional destination, and has already been a family destination in Missouri for many years.
Congratulations to Silver Dollar City, and the entire staff on being crowned the 2013 Park of the Year!
The final award is the Editor’s Choice-The Best Theme Park Experience. Editor’s Choice is the award that is chosen completely by the editors of BehindTheThrills.com. This award is awarded to a theme park attraction, area, land or theme park that exudes excellence in all of the three following categories.
- Unique Experience-Does this offer something that no one else does
- Immersive environment-Does it take you places like no other attraction or park can
- 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 attraction or area does not have to be a new experience, land or attraction, but it does have to be an amazing experience all the way around. It is always a difficult decision, as there are so many theme parks that do things brilliantly every single day. This is the only award that is not voted on, and is solely the decision of BehindTheThrills.com
And The Best Theme Park Experience of 2013 is-
Holy macaroni! What can we possibly say about Springfield at Universal Studios Florida that hasn’t been said already? How about we start with the opening of the Simpsons Ride in 2007. It was not our favorite attraction. It did capture the essence of the show, but there always seemed to be something missing. Who ever would have guessed that it was fast food and beer! It’s actually a lot more than just fast food and beer.
Springfield brings the animated world of The Simpsons to life in a way that is beyond imagination. From the larger than life Lard Lad who greets you with a doughnut as you make your way into the area, to the honking of Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck, you are instantly transported to Main Street Springfield, USA. The iconic images from the past 25 years are there, as well as your favorite characters. Then you walk through the purple(ish) doors of Moe’s Tavern and take a sip of Duff Beer. It’s an actual beer that is brewed specifically for Springfield at Universal Studios Florida. You will not be able to get the same beer anywhere else in the world! The Flaming Moe comes to life in a smoky explosion of orange fog and is great for the entire family. Then of course, there’s the food. It’s exactly what you would expect Homer J. Simpson to eat.
“The food here is just like Homer” says Executive Chef Steve Jayson “It’s sloppy and silly, just like him!”
It is very sloppy, and yeah, eating something called a “Klogger” is definitely silly. Then of course you have the carny-style games and ride out in front of the new land pulling it all together, as the huge Simpsons Ride looms ahead. The Universal creative team has literally pulled the cartoon into the real world. While that may have been done with other rides and attractions before, it’s never been so detailed as it is with Springfield. A two dimensional world, brought into three dimensions without the use of computer imaging.
It is our Editor’s Choice for Best Theme Park Experience of 2013.
Congratulations to the entire Universal Orlando team!
Those are your winners for the Best of 2013-As voted by YOU!
Once again, the Thrill Weekly Polls started in mid-October and continued with a new category each week. Every park and attraction that won was a direct result of the polls, with the exception of the Editor’s Choice Award.
Want to see the results and how your other favorite parks ranked? Click here for a run down of the Top Five in each category!
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!
Thank you to all who participated, and congratulations to all the winners!