With the Golden Ticket Awards presented by Amusement Today being announced this coming weekend in San Antonio at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, I figured it would be interesting to our readers to get some insight into the awards categories, who we voted for and our rationale behind it.
Best Theme Park / Amusement Park of 2022
Europa Park continues to offer an unmatched total package or rides, attractions and shows. This park has something for everything standing out from Disney parks through its added focus also on thrill rides. The addition of Rulantica further solidifies this resort as being the definition of world class. Runners up include Tokyo DisneySea, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Efteling and Disneyland. Europa Park certainly falls into the theme park category vs being just an amusement park. If best amusement park was a separate category, I’d be favoring voting for Cedar Point there.
Best Water Park of 2022
Volcano Bay stands out in a competitive field of waterparks due to its commitment to theming, innovative use of technology and wide assortment of top tier slides and attractions. I only hope that the park remains competitive and continues to add and innovate in the park to keep guests coming back.
Most Beautiful Park of 2022
Phantasialand’s commitment to theming is the best bar none. The park has a record of consistency when opening a new attraction of developing immersive lands that elevate their corresponding ride experiences. Sections of the park including Mexico, Africa, Klugheim and now Rookburgh have created contrasting fantasy worlds. Certainly there are other ways to interpret this category. From a landscaping perspective, the Disney parks continue to lead in their immaculate upkeep while theme parks such as Dollywood and Silver Dollar City master beauty in the picturesque settings that they find themselves in.
Best Family Park of 2022
This category to me was a race between LEGOLAND Billund and LEGOLAND Deutschland. While many LEGOLAND parks share many similarities, the diversity and variety of attractions in these two parks stand out amongst the reset. The LEGOLAND parks seem to be a step ahead of the competition of other family parks through their consistent innovation and new attraction introductions.
Best Wildlife / Marine Life Park of 2022
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
In a time where several wildlife parks are beginning to focus more on rides than wildlife, Disney remains true to its mission with its Animal Kingdom park. My largest concern here is that the park has not added a significant attraction since Pandora: The World of Avatar.
Best Guest Experience of 2022
Silver Dollar City
This category is about honoring the best operations, staff and cleanliness. During my park visits in 2022, Silver Dollar City stood out in a very competitive field including Holiday World, Dollywood and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Their is something about the congeniality of “The City” that elevates the guest experience.
Best Kids’ Area in a Park of 2022
I must admit that I have not had the opportunity to visit Paultons Park yet, but from what I have read online, the press coverage I have seen and videos I have watched- Paultons Park has made a lot of recent investments as of late culminating in its new Tornado Springs area that it seemed only right to give this park some credit.
Best Food of 2022
Best food is subjective and controversial It’s almost not fair to have all parks compete against each other in this category as their offerings are often so different. This category is supposed to focus on variety, value and quality. In my opinion EPCOT excels in variety and quality and its value propositions typically are above industry averages. It’s hard to compete with the food festival king. From a traditional fair food perspective, Knoebels is the champ. I am completely aware of how hard Kings Island is trying to get itself into the conversation (and it is beginning to work). The Universal parks also offer consistently strong offerings, but their value is slightly lower.
Best Dark Ride of 2022
Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Out of the dark rides I have been on, Rise of the Resistance is not only the most technically impressive, but also the stand-out best that we have today. I picked the DHS version as it technically opened first. This is going to be a hard one to top.
Best Water Ride of 2022
Chiapas at Phantasialand
Chiapas has been my favorite water ride since the first time I rode it. This is the best log flume on layout alone. Adding in immersive theming and a banging soundtrack places this water ride on another level.
Best Water Park Ride of 2022
Mammoth at Holiday World
Interestingly, I think my two favorite water park rides are at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. It was very hard for me to pick between Wildebeest and Mammoth. I ended up going with Mammoth due to the ride’s uniqueness factor as well as its huge size. Not many waterparks have the room to put in a ride that could compete!
Best Halloween Event of 2021
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando
Halloween Horror Nights reached pre-pandemic levels in 2021 with a full sized halloween event that as always is created from scratch and is almost 100% every year making people come back for more. The haunted mazes all contain designs and details worthy that were built like movie sets.
Best Christmas Event of 2021
Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood
While the Cedar Fair Winterfest events are a lot of fun, Silver Dollar City and Dollywood compete neck and neck to put together the highest quality Christmas events. You can’t go wrong at either park.
Best New Water Park Attraction in 2022
The Edge at Soaky Mountain Waterpark
Under most people’s radars, Soaky Mountain waterpark added dueling water coasters that contain a unique “Boomerango” curve element.
Best New Coaster of 2022
Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
We waited two extra years for the rebirth of Gwazi, but it was completely worth it. Quite possibly Alan Schilke’s masterpiece, this coaster hardly resembles it’s predecessor one-upping the crazy elements found on Steel Vengeance with the highlights being the ‘death roll’ as well as the wave turn over the station. The ride doesn’t let up with the only negative that it ends to soon.
Best New Family Attraction of 2022
Chasseurs de Tornades at Futuroscope
Dynamic Attractions finally sold and installed a unique 360 degree spinning theater attraction paired with a high quality video, theatrical presentation and live actors to create a truly unique multimedia experience.
Wooden Coaster Rankings
1. Voyage at Holiday World
2. Wildfire at Kolmården
3. Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City
4. El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure
5. Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce
6. Ravine Flyer II at Waldameer Park
7. Raven at Holiday World
8. GhostRider at Knott’s Berry Farm
9. Colossos at Heide Park
10. Mystic Timbers at Kings Island
The list is the list. Each will have their own opinion I am sure. I did not get a chance to ride El Toro since it had its accidents the past two years. This list interestingly contains entries from most major manufacturers. In my opinion, the PTC + Gravity Group combo is still viable and provides the classic feel that can’t be matched my newer trains and technologies. RMC’s ground-up wooden coasters can be elite. Intamin Prefab woodies are incredible, but have in recent years seen a lot of maintenance issues. GCI’s latest wooden coasters and reprofile efforts are tracking better than ever before. Is it that Ipe wood?
Steel Coaster Rankings
1. Helix at Liseberg
2. Fury 325 at Carowinds
3. Velocicoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
4. Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point
5. Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
6. Taron at Phantasialand
7. Time Traveler at Silver Dollar City
8. Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland
9. Millennium Force at Cedar Point
10. Schwur des Kårnan at Hansa Park
Since I created this ballot, I was able to experience Ride to Happiness at Plopsaland de Panne. I think that ride might have made it all the way to 6. Looking at the list, there are a couple industry takeaways that might be able to be made. B&M Hypers / Gigas continue to be crowd pleasers. There is not a bad one in the bunch. RMC has entered the conversation, and their largest I-BOX coasters are up there with the world’s best. Intamin’s new Blitz coasters are insane featuring super comfortable trains and fast launches. Mack Ride’s Extreme Spinning Coasters have a chance to change up the game. They provide unique ride experiences that are a combination of intense, unpredictable and super fun.
The official winners of the Golden Ticket Awards will be announced on September 10th in Six Flags Fiesta Texas. I wish everyone good luck and I’ll see you after then to discuss the results!