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
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