World's Most-Visited Amusement Parks
Despite the economy, Amusement Today magazine reports that surprisingly — or maybe not — there was an overall increase in amusement parks attendance last summer. Chances are, many people who had planned on traveling decided it was more affordable, and maybe just as much fun, to keep things local. “It has always been the case that, even in tough times, people will still spend money to get out of the house,” says Tracy Sarris, president of the International Association for the Leisure and Entertainment Industry. “Amusement parks offer that escape at a price that many people can justify.”
In choosing the parks to tally for the list, waterparks and aquarium parks like Seaworld and Japan's huge Yokohama Hakkeijim Sea Paradise have been excluded in order to focus soley on amusement parks whose rides are the major attraction. Although Disneyworld and Disneyland comprise several parks, we used the most popular section of each — for instance the Magic Kingdom — as the watermark for overall attendance, since most visitors purchase base tickets that allow them multiple-park visits over the length of their stay. (All attendance figures are drawn from the industry-standard TEA/ERA Theme Park Attendance Report for 2008.)
In Pictures: More of the World's Most-Visited Amusement Parks
1. Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
Orlando, Fla. (17,063,000)
The Magic Kingdom is the heart of Walt Disney World, where costumed Disney characters roam the streets and Space Mountain rules the ride roost. Pirates of the Caribbean has been revamped with special effects, thanks to the success of the eponymous movies. Cinderella's Castle, based on the turreted Bavarian castle Neuschwanstein, is a classic.
Anaheim, Calif. (14,721,000)
Dear old Disneyland is the granddaddy of all modern theme parks. Watch a parade with your favorite Disney characters on Main Street USA, or check out the new Toy Story Mania, a 4-D interactive adventure. The perennially popular It’s a Small World ride is finally getting a facelift and re-opening in fall 2008. Thank goodness you can still take a spin on the teacups at the Mad Tea Party—it’s been a staple since the park opened in 1955.
3. Tokyo Disneyland
Tokyo Disneyland is part of a massive Disney complex that also includes Tokyo DisneySea and a number of branded hotels. The first Disney park to open outside the United States, Tokyo Disneyland celebrated its 25th anniversary in April 2008. Rides include Big Thunder Mountain in Westernland, a four-minute train ride through a "haunted" mine.
4. Disneyland Paris
Is it still (or was it ever) the "cultural Chernobyl" French intellectuals once slammed it as? If so, it sure has turned into a popular one, spurring economic growth too in Marne-la-Vallee along Paris's eastern fringe.
5. Universal Studios Japan
Osaka, Japan (8,300,000)
Similar to Universal Studios in Orlando, the Japan version has many of the same rides, like the popular Jaws and ET Adventure rides. Don’t miss out on Hollywood Dream-The Ride, Universal Studios Japans’ first jet-coaster, or the 3-D action ride The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman.
Seoul, South Korea (6,600,000)
Everland in South Korea holds a number of annual festivals, including the Flower Carnival, Summer Splash, and Christmas Holiday Fantasy. For a taste of the local culture, catch the Wish Celebration festival in January and February, when the park features folk performances. You can also venture next door to the Hoam Art Museum and explore a traditional Korean garden.
7. Universal Studios Florida
Orlando, Fla. (6,231,000)
At this real movie and television studio guests will get a behind-the-scenes look at their favorite shows and actually be able to get in on the movie magic. Step into Twister…Ride It Out and feel what it’s like to be in the middle of a tornado or take a thrilling trip into a catastrophic movie set on Disaster, and learn how earthquakes, floods, and fires are made on the movie sets.