The Top 50 Theme Parks in the WorldBy Nick Sim, Monday, May 16, 2016 13:43
There are hundreds of theme parks all over the world, varying massively in both quality and popularity. The USA remains the leading theme park market, and is the home turf of giants Disney and Universal. Asia, though, is emerging as a hotspot for thrill-seekers, while Europe continues to offer some outstanding attractions.
Every year, the Themed Entertainment Association releases a report on attendance figures at theme parks across the globe. In this article, we take a look at the 50 most popular theme parks in the world, based on visitor numbers in 2014.
You can find detailed guides to many of the parks below, as well as dozens of others, in our extensive theme park guide section.
50. Fantawild Adventure
Location: Wuhu, China
2013 attendance: 2.20 million
2014 attendance: 2.25 million (up 2.20%)
There are now 12 theme parks operating as part of the Fantawild chain in China, making it a huge player in one of the theme park industry's most important emerging markets. Although the parks don't quite match the popularity of their Happy Valley competitors, the most popular - Fantawild Adventure in Wuhu - comes close.
The park is divided into an ambitious fifteen zones, and its line-up of attractions includes four roller coasters. It's a less impressive selection than some other Chinese parks (all of the coasters are manufactured by local firm Golden Horse), but the colorful, Disney-lite theming makes this park worth a visit.
Don't miss: Vesuvius Volcano is Fantawild's take on Big Thunder Mountain, and while the ride hardly compares to Disney's classic, there is some fairly nice rockwork to look at on the way.
49. Happy Valley Shanghai
Location: Shanghai, China
2013 attendance: 2.27 million
2014 attendance: 2.36 million (up 4.0%)
Although it now faces many competitors, Happy Valley has established itself as a huge chain of theme parks in China. Happy Valley Shanghai was the fourth park in the chain to open, back in August 2009. It is located around 40 kilometres from downtown Shanghai, giving it a huge potential audience.
The park claims to contain more than 100 attractions, split across seven themed zones. It hosts no fewer than seven roller coasters, some of them manufactured by respected names such as Intamin and Bolliger & Mabillard.
Don't miss: Diving Coaster is a Bolliger & Mabillard Dive Machine, identical in design to SheiKra at Busch Gardens Tampa.
48. Six Flags Mexico
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
2013 attendance: 2.35 million
2014 attendance: 2.37 million (up 1.0%)
Six Flags' only amusement park in Latin America has developed into one of the largest and most successful in the region. It includes versions of popular rides from the chain's US parks, such as The Dark Knight coaster.
Don't miss: Superman el Último Escape, the tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster in Latin America.
47. Alton Towers
Location: Alton, Staffordshire, England
2013 attendance: 2.50 million
2014 attendance: 2.58 million (up 3.0%)
The UK's most popular theme park, Alton Towers is situated in the grounds of a semi-derelict gothic country house in Staffordshire. The park is huge, covering some 500 acres, although its attractions are concentrated in a few themed areas on different sides of the estate's famous gardens and woodland. As well as seven major roller coasters, the park includes several dark rides, an assortment of flat rides and an increasing number of attractions aimed at younger guests.
Although the park performed well in 2014, a serious crash on The Smiler roller coaster which led to life-changing injuries for several riders caused attendance to plummet in 2015, so don't expect Alton Towers to appear in next year's list.
Don't miss: Nemesis is a masterpiece of attraction design, with the inverted coaster racing around an enormous pit excavated in the Staffordshire countryside.
46. Happy Valley Chengdu
Location: Chengdu, China
2013 attendance: 2.56 million
2014 attendance: 2.58 million (up 0.8%)
The third park in the Happy Valley chain opened in January 2009. It features the usual array of themed areas and thrill rides, including several roller coasters from Dutch manufacturer Vekoma.
Don't miss: Fly Over Mediterranean, an Intamin mega-lite coaster that hits a top speed of 53 miles per hour.
45. Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Location: Williamsburg, Virginia, USA
2013 attendance: 2.73 million
2014 attendance: 2.70 million (down 1.0%)
Formerly known as Busch Gardens: The Old Country and Busch Gardens Europe, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is sub-divided into a number of themed lands, each of which is based on a European country (with the exception of New France, which represents French Canada). The park is renowned for two things: immersive theming, and its line-up of major roller coasters. Apollo's Chariot is frequently ranked among the best roller coasters in the world, while the Curse of DarKastle dark ride is regarded as one of the best of its type outside a Disney or Universal park.
Don't miss: The secrets of Germany's Black Forest come to life in the multi-launch family coaster Verbolten. With impressive special-effects and unimaginable scenery, a tandem ride through the woods turns sinister thanks to snarling vines and a first-in-America secret hidden in a dark showbuilding.
Location: Castelnuovo del Garda, Italy
2013 attendance: 2.7 million
2014 attendance: 2.75 million (up 1.9%)
Gardaland opened to the public in July 1975, with a gradual period of expansion taking place over the proceeding decades. Magic Mountain, the park's first major roller coaster, debuted in 1985. 1998 saw the introduction of the Space Vertigo drop tower, the Flying Island observation tower, the Blue Tornado roller coaster and the Jungle Rapids water ride. The park was acquired by Merlin Entertainments Group, which owns other European theme parks such as Alton Towers and Heide Park, in 2006.
Don't miss: Raptor, the first Bolliger & Mabillard Wing Rider roller coaster in the world. Riders are seated on either side of the track in a "winged" formation, held in place by over-the-shoulder harnesses which are designed not to be too restrictive.
43. Six Flags Great Adventure
Location: Jackson, New Jersey, USA
2013 attendance: 2.8 million
2014 attendance: 2.8 million
Opened at a cost of $10 million in 1974, the Great Adventure complex originally consisted of two separate, but related parks: the child-friendly Enchanted Forest and a drive-through safari. In 1977, it was purchased by Six Flags, which set about adding large-scale attractions such as the Rolling Thunder wooden coaster and Roaring Rapids water ride.
Throughout the 1990s, Six Flags Great Adventure remained a relatively minor park in the chain, but this changed dramatically with the construction of the record-breaking Kingda Ka roller coaster in 2005.
Don't miss: The enduringly popular El Toro opened in 2006, earning the park its current status as a magnet for coaster enthusiasts.
42. Six Flags Magic Mountain
Location: Santa Clarita, California, USA
2013 attendance: 2.91 million
2014 attendance: 2.85 million (down 2.0%)
One of the flagship parks in the Six Flags chain, Six Flags Magic Mountain has more roller coasters than any theme park on the planet (19). Located in Santa Clarita, California, it is heavily focused on thrill rides, although two children's areas (Whistlestop Park and Bugs Bunny World) do offer a handful of kids' attractions. Among the park's biggest hitters are the X2 fourth-dimension coaster, the enormous Goliath hypercoaster and the 400-foot drop tower Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom.
Don't miss: Full Throttle features record-breaking 160-foot loop. It also boasts a number of other unique elements, including a "top hat" element that spans the other side of the loop, and a total of three launch sections.
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden
2013 attendance: 2.86 million
2014 attendance: 3.1 million (up 8.1%)
Perched on the top of a hill in the middle of Gothenburg, Liseberg has a distinctive Scandinavian feel. Over the last 10 years, considerable investments have been made in the park, allowing it to complement its traditional line-up with an impressive roster of new rides. The tiny Intamin accelerator Kanonen, an S&S Screaming Swing and the new AtmosFear drop tower are just some of the selection. The park added a major new coaster, Helix, for the 2014 season, leading to a huge attendance boost.
Don't miss: Lisebergbanan, a Zierer-Schwarzkopf mine train, winds over hills and under other rides.