2013 Golden Ticket Awards

Amusement Today released the winners of the 2013 Golden Ticket Awards and there really aren't any great shockers here. If anything, the Golden Ticket Awards are one of the most predictable and unchanging yearly awards I have ever seen.  I think this is probably a reflection of the amusement park business itself though, as parks don't change overnight or even in one year, but grow better (or worse) year by year as they wisely maintain and upgrade their parks. STILL, what's not to like about the combination of two of my favorite things, awards and theme parks?

The Golden Ticket Awards are the most prestigious amusement park awards in the industry, though as with any awards, they should always be taken with a grain of salt since. That being said, they do provide a good barometer from year to year of the rising and falling esteem of theme parks and their rides by the public. The categories of the awards range from as big as "Best Park" to as small as "Cleanest Park" and "Best Dark Ride". If you want to read the full awards release, you can do so by following this link HERE OR you could just keep on reading and I will tell you the more interesting major winners and top coasters with a bit of my own commentary on them. Feel free to share you own thoughts on the awards.

Click Here for a Full Chart of the Major Park and Ride Winners

Best Park: Cedar Point
A view of both Millennium Force and Mantis from a 2005 trip I took

Commentary: Cedar Point has never lost this since category since the awards began in 1998. It is the yearly favorite, but this year it came within 1% of losing out to Europa Park (an incredible park in Germany). Cedar Point's dominance in this category should tell you that it's dominated by amusement park aficionado's and not theme park aficionado's. The Universal and Disney parks are in a whole different class than parks like Cedar Point, but it's clear that the voting base of these awards clearly favor the amusement style parks. Personally, I'm in near agreement since I consider Cedar Point my #3 favorite park. There is simply no better place to go for roller coasters.

Best Waterpark: Schlitterbahn
Commentary: Like Cedar Point, Schlitterbahn has won this award every year since its inception. I can't really comment since I've never been. One of the more interesting trends though in waterparks is the coming together of amusement parks and waterparks to create a kind of superpark entrance. Rather than having two seperate gates (entrance fees), many Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks are making water parks part of their total parks. This trend has made it difficult to single out a "waterpark" and compare them to other parks that are devoted to solely being a waterpark.

Best Marine Life Park: SeaWorld Orlando
Commentary: No surprise here.

Cleanest Park: Holiday World (Santa Claus, IN)
Friendliest Park: Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, TN)
Enjoying the cleanness of Holiday World

Commentary: These two categories are more prestigious than you might think. Holiday World has taken the "Cleanest Park" title every year since 2000, when it took it away from Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I visited Holiday World this summer and it was one clean park! There were multiple trash cans within every viewpoint and I always saw employees sweeping or cleaning up areas. Friendliest Park used to be a title that Holiday World took every year, but Dollywood has won it the last two years now. The only other park to win this award is Silver Dollar City.

I'm going to list several winners now and just comment on them in general afterwards

Best New Attraction for 2013: Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City (Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas in second)
Best Shows: Dollywood

Best Landscaping: Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Best Food: Dollywood
Best Carousel: Knoebels
Best Water Ride: Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls (Islands of Adventure)
Best Waterpark Ride: Wildebeest (Holiday World & Splashin' Safari)
Best Dark Ride: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Islands of Adventure) (Amazing Spider-Man is in second)
Best Indoor Roller Coaster: Revenge of the Mummy (Universal Studios Orlando)
Best Halloween Event: Universal Studios Orlando
Best Christmas Event: Dollywood

Commentary: 15 years ago it would have been easy to write off parks like Holiday World, Dollywood, and Silver Dollar City as just small little parks trying to lure away country bumpkins from the bigger and better parks. However, their continued focus on quality upgrades to their parks has made them rising stars in the theme park world. These three parks (especially Dollywood) must be taken seriously and contain within them world class rides and other world-class intangibles, like great food and shows. Where Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks have focused on building the most coasters, these parks have upgraded the entire experience and are now to be taken seriously as quality visits. 

The Golden Ticket Awards also put out a listing of the top 10 steel and wooden coasters for the year. I will list them here and then provide some commentary
Top 10 Steel Coasters
10. Intimidator 305 at King's Dominion
9. Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point
8. Intimidator at Carowinds
7. Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia
6. New Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas
5. Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
4. Nitro at Six Flags Great Adventure
3. Expedition GeForce at Holiday Park (Germany)
2. Bizarro at Six Flags New England
1. Millennium Force at Cedar Point

My friends and I all enjoyed Millennium Force

Commentary: The last few years have seen Bizarro and Millennium Force trading the top spot, but Millennium Force has been the consistent winner since it's debut at Cedar Point. What this list tells you is that hyper coasters (coasters over 200ft that primarily feature hills and drops) are the most dominant coaster on people's favorite lists. My personal favorite, Apollo's Chaiot, sits at number 5 on the list and several of my other favorites are also on the list. As compared to other lists (like this other popular favorite coaster poll HERE) this one reflects a bias toward more B&M coasters. 

Top 10 Wooden Coasters
10. Shivering Timbers at Michigans Adventure
9. Lightning Racer at Hersheypark
8. The Beast at King's Island
7. Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City
6. Ravine Flyer II at Waldemeer
5. Thunderhead at Dollywood
4. The Voyage at Holiday World
3. Phoenix at Knoebels Amusement Resort
2. El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure
1. Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce
My friend Peter and I on El Toro

Commentary: Boulder Dash winning this is a bit of a surprise since it has typically been a fight between El Toro and The Voyage. I've never ridden Boulder Dash, but it's been on my list for quite some time. It pains me that Voyage slipped down to #4 because it's one of the greatest coaster experiences I have ever had. However, some complain that it's too intense and rough and I can understand why other coasters might win points for being less intense. El Toro at #2 is right where I have it on my list as well. Many of the coasters on this list have been built within the last 10-15 years and reveals that even though wooden coasters are considered "old-school", there has really been a recent resurgence in building quality modern wooden coasters.

What are your thoughts on the Golden Ticket Awards and there roller coaster rankings? Did you favorite ride or park miss out?