Phoenix Rising Set to Soar Above the Serengeti Plain at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Spring 2024

Press Release from Busch Gardens Tampa

TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 2, 2023)  Expect a blaze of excitement in Tampa Bay this coming Spring, as Busch Gardens brings to life a legend with its newest roller coaster “Phoenix Rising,” – the park’s tenth coaster, and the largest family-friendly addition to the Pantopia area of the park.  This exhilarating new experience will have family members soaring above the Serengeti Plain before going on an exploratory journey over the Pantopia region, with its vibrant colors, thrilling attractions, and more. Riders will feel the rush of the wind and thrill of the flight in this suspended roller coaster that enable ride cars and riders to swing side to side as the train races along the track high above the Serengeti Plain. “Phoenix Rising” will be the first coaster to feature on-board audio, enhancing the ride experience with a one-of-a-kind soundtrack, integrated into an exhilarating array of twists, turns and surprises for families riding together.

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Our 2023 Golden Ticket Awards Ballot

Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards will be announced this weekend at Dollywood. As it seemed to be popular last year, I figured it made sense to once again share what my picks were this year and some of the rationale behind it. This of course is just my opinion, and it’s interesting to see how that changes even year to year. Without further introduction, let’s go through a selection of the categories.

Best Theme Park / Amusement Park of 2023
Universal Island’s of Adventure

With the recent additions of Velocicoaster and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, there are few parks out there that can match the level of theming, immersion and thrills as can be found at Islands of Adventure. There are so many other deserving parks, but this year Islands of Adventure stuck out with its cleanliness, incredible efficiency and overall guest experience.

Best Water Park of 2023

Last year I was able to visit Rulantica for the first time. While I haven’t gotten to posting a photo update around it, I must say I was astounded by the level of immersion, attention to detail and theming at this indoor / outdoor water park located right next to Europa Park. The park didn’t rest on its laurels and has continued to expand since its original opening. Seemed fitting to nominate a park that has added so much and is truly a world class facility.

Most Beautiful Park of 2023

Last summer I got to visit Efteling for my third time. Each time I have visited I have been astounded by the incredible charm this place holds. So much theming that is so unmistakably Efteling. The beauty extends to the landscaping of the vast park grounds especially in the Fairytale Forest.

Best Guest Experience of 2023
Holiday World

The criteria for best guest experience is efficient operations, friendly staff and cleanliness throughout the park. Holiday World scores high marks in all three areas and remained at the top in my opinion. Perhaps it is that Holiwood Nights hospitality, but my bet is it extends to most days.

Best Kids’ Area in a Park in 2023

Wildwood Grove got even better in 2023 with the addition of Big Bear Mountain. Even more exciting is that there is a phase 3 to the project still to come. Wildwood Grove has something for everyone including a pair of excellent family coasters (with Firechaser Express not too far away).

Best Food of 2023

EPCOT hosts 4 food festivals each year as well as is home to countless full service and quick service restaurants. This food juggernaut is almost impossible to compete with. I’ve barely every had a bad meal here. Other parks I would consider for this award would be Knoebels, Europa Park and Disney California Adventure.

Best Dark Ride of 2023
Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

No new dark ride that opened in 2023 has surpassed the magic that is Rise of the Resistance. I am excited to learn more about Zootopia in Shanghai Disney and have not yet been on their version of Pirates. It is worth at least leaving a shout out here for Volkanu at Lost Island which I had the pleasure of experiencing this year. That certainly is the best dark ride I’ve been on in a regional theme park, but alas it is no ‘Rise’.

Best Water Ride in an Amusement Park of 2023
Chiapas at Phantasialand

Chiapas is my favorite water ride. I had the chance to experience it again last summer and that did nothing to change my mind. No other ride can match the nonstop pacing, theming and thrills that Chiapas provides.

Best Family Coaster of 2023
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal Islands of Adventure

I through away my vote here as this ride has a 48 inch height restriction, but this is the best family coaster I have ever been on. This ride truly has it all, but I won’t spoil it for you here.

Best New Coaster of 2023
Arie Force One at Fun Spot America Atlanta

Congrats Fun Spot! You have a winner on your hands. There was tough competition this year with honorable mention to Zambezi Zinger and Big Bear Mountain. I didn’t vote for TRON Lightcycle Run as it is a clone of an existing attraction, but it also deserves mention.

Wood Coaster Rankings
#1 The Voyage at Holiday World
#2 Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce
#3 Wildfire at Kolmården
#4 Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City
#5 Ravine Flyer at Waldameer Park
#6 Thunderhead at Dollywood
#7 El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure
#8 Ghostrider at Knotts Berry Farm
#9 Colossos at Heide Park
#10 Legend at Holiday World

Steel Coaster Rankings
#1 Ride to Happiness at Plopsaland De Panne
#2 Velocicoaster at Universal Island’s of Adventure
#3 Helix at Liseberg
#4 Fury 325 at Carowinds
#5 Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point
#6 Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa
#7 Millennium Force at Cedar Point
#8 Time Traveler at Silver Dollar City
#9 Mako at Sea World Orlando
#10 Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland

 Midwest’s Tallest Pendulum Thrill Ride to Debut at Six Flags Great America

Press Release from Six Flags Great America

 GURNEE, Ill. — August 30, 2023 — Six Flags Great America, the Thrill Capital of the Midwest, announced today the Midwest’s tallest pendulum thrill ride, Sky Striker, will debut in spring 2024. Towering at an astounding 17 stories tall, the impressive swinging disk will reach speeds up to 75 miles per hour as it glides back and forth, higher and higher to give riders a breathtaking view of the park’s skyline. 

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 Silver Dollar City Reveals Record-Setting Indoor Family Coaster

Press Release from Silver Dollar City

 (Branson, MO – 8/14/2023) Silver Dollar City today announces the new groundbreaking $30 million FIRE IN THE HOLE indoor family roller coaster, the largest in the Midwest. Opening in spring of 2024, the highly-anticipated attraction joins the park’s lineup of revolutionary rides. Located in the newly incorporated Fire District, FIRE IN THE HOLE doubles the size of one of The City’s most popular areas, already home to Station No. 3 firehouse and a collection of family-friendly attractions. Just ten months ago, the 1880s theme park, Silver Dollar City revealed an additional $30 million investment in new guest experiences and improvements, hinting at further development in the next five years. Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, recently announced Silver Dollar City, located in the picturesque Ozark Mountains, as the number one amusement park in the United States based on traveler reviews and ratings. 

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