The world’s 25 most popular amusement parks

If 2017 felt a bit like being stuck on a never ending roller coaster of news, it’s no surprise we sought out real roller coasters to escape and unwind.

A new report indicates that the previous 12 months were a great year for the theme park industry, with overall attendance at top attractions up 4.7% from 2016.

The report also spotlights the top 25 best-attended theme parks — revealing the world’s most popular as the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

An incredible 20,450,000 visitors headed through its doors, according to numbers compiled by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and the Economics practice at AECOM. The top 25 together brought in nearly 244 million visitors.

Happy places

More than 50 years after Walt Disney created his original Disneyland as a “happy place” to escape the toils of normal life, Disney Parks continue to dominate the theme park world.

A picture of Disney’s Magic Kingdom at Disnelyand.
Credit: Gene Duncan/Disney Parks via Getty Images

The Disney brand grew 3.0% in 2017 and dominates the top five, with the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California taking the second spot and Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disneysea coming in at three and five respectively.

The TEA and AECOM report says Disney’s dominance is in part due to new, exciting additions, such as the Pandora — the World of Avatar land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World, Florida.

Also in the top five is Universal Studios Japan, home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The same franchise also claimed multiple success with Universal Studios at Universal Orlando taking number 10 and Universal Studios Hollywood at 15.

A picture of immersive worlds such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter remain favorites at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Immersive experiences continue to be popular and the trend seems set to run and run with exciting future plans including Disney’s in-development Star-Wars themed lands.

Growing market

The report also points to growth in China as a major contributor to this successful theme park year, with AECOM officials hailing “high-quality theme park offerings,” where people may, or may not, be enjoying themselves.

Shanghai Disneyland was number eight on the list and Chimelong Ocean Kingdom came in at number 11.

In Europe, Disneyland Paris still leads the pack — but other iconic parks still performed strongly. The fairy-tale-themed Efteling, in the Netherlands, was at 23, and Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, which dates back to 1843, was at 24.

“Throughout Europe, we see an active and growing industry with ongoing investment and merger and acquisition activity,” says Margreet Papamichael, a director at AECOM.

The report also highlights the world’s most popular water parks, with China’s Chimelong Water Park nabbing the number one spot with 2,690,000 visitors.

“On the whole, 2017 reflected a return to healthy growth with significant capital expenditures in the industry, both in traditional attractions, attraction-adjacent hotels, and new, [intellectual property]-branded indoor attractions,” says John Robinett, AECOM’s senior vice president, Americas.

“With stabilized global economies, and significant planning occurring now for future investment, prospects look good for the industry in the short- to mid-term.”

World’s most popular amusement and theme parks

1. Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, US

2. Disneyland, Anaheim, California, US

3. Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo, Japan

4. Universal Studios Japan, Osaka, Japan

5. Tokyo Disney Sea, Tokyo, Japan

6. Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

7. Epcot at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, US

8. Shanghai Disneyland, Shanghai, China

9. Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, US

10. Universal Studios at Universal Orlando, Florida, US

11. Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, Hengqin, China

12. Disneyland Park at Disneyland Paris, Marne-la-Vallee, France

13. Disney California Adventure, Anaheim, California, US

14. Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando, Florida, US

15. Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City, California, US

16. Lotte World, Seoul, South Korea

17. Everland, Gyeonggi-Do, South Korea

18. Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong

19. Nagashima Spa Land, Kuwana, Japan

20. Ocean Park, Hong Kong

21. Europa-Park, Rust, Germany

22. Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris, France

23. Efteling, Kaatsheuvel, The Netherlands

24. Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark

25. Universal Studios Singapore, Singapore