World's Best Theme Park Rides
Theme park industry has grown and developed substantially in the last 50 years. The growth in creative industry and the rapid development in technology have made it possible for theme parks around the world to build attractions that were once deemed "impossible," are able to incorporate storytelling into the rides, and create experience so immersive that the riders are left in awe and say, "That was awesome! Let's get back in line!"
|The concept art for Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye, which is one of the world's best theme park rides.|
Source: Theme Park Tourist
A couple of weeks ago, I published my review of Shanghai Disneyland and was immediately got into contact with this awesome theme park blogger called Le Parcorama. He's a super cool theme park enthusiast who asks many interesting questions within the industry. Seriously, go check out his blog!
One of his posts that immediately caught my attention is the list of "My Top 20 Best Dark Rides in the World." This got me thinking... what are my favorite theme park rides around the world?
NOTE: Click on the headings to view the POV videos of the rides.
|Mystic Manor's exterior resembles that of Bradbury Mansion.|
Source: Inside the Magic
Inspired by the original Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland, Mystic Manor takes the riders on a tour of Lord Henry Mystic's mansion and his collection of antiques from around the world. However, his mischievous monkey, Albert, opened a recently-acquired enchanted music box, which spread magic around the mansion and brought all of the antiques to life. Albert must now return everything back to normal before it's too late.
|The beginning of the ride takes the guests into the Cataloguing Room. Notice the trackless system of the ride.|
Source: Inside the Magic
Mystic Manor is a favourite of the park for its enchanting story told with lighthearted plot, cute characters, amazing special effects, and hypnotic soundtrack (composed by the one and only Danny Elfman). Most importantly, Mystic Manor utilizes a trackless ride system that allows the cars to spin, move forward and backward, turn, and swerve by following random paths, making each ride a different experience for the riders.
|Arthur: The Ride's cars have on-board audio system and are able to spin around at will.|
Source: Europa Park
Mixing both dark ride and roller coaster elements of a theme park attraction, Arthur: The Ride is without doubt Europa Park's best ride. The ride itself is actually a new roller coaster model that was built by Mack Rides, inverted powered coaster, and based on Arthur et les Minimoys, a hugely popular series in Europe. The ride provides enough charm for adults and, surprisingly, enough thrill for even the dare devils.
|Europa Park utilises an effective ride system to take the guests through the world of Arthur.|
Source: Europa Park
The powered coaster system allows the ride to slow and accelerate the trains at will, making it possible for the ride to synchronise its movement with the dark ride elements. Each car is fitted with on-board audio system and free-spinning mechanism, making the ride a rather immersive ride with forward-backward motion and sensory experience.
|Phantom Manor's exterior is significantly different to that of Haunted Mansion in Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, and Tokyo Disneyland.|
Source: ToonStudiosProd (YouTube)
Disneyland's Haunted Mansion is a timeless attraction. Opened in 1969, it incorporates the latest technology and takes the bar of a haunted house attraction to a new high. To this day, people are still lining up for that exact same attraction. In 1992, Disneyland Paris opened its own version of this attraction called Phantom Manor, and thus was born the best Haunted-Mansion-type attraction in any Disney parks around the world.
|The ballroom scene of Phantom Manor is arguably the most talked-about scene of the ride.|
Source: Charles Cadalgues (YouTube)
Unlike its predecessors, which have more humorous tone in it, Phantom Manor uses darker mood with spookier story. The special effects are simply amazing, no matter how many times you've seen it. The true highlight, however, is the soundtrack, which is enchanting, yet mysterious at the same time. If you can only go to one haunted house attraction in the world, this is the one you should go to.
|Unlike its sister rides in other Disney parks, Pooh's Hunny Hunt utilizes trackless system similar to that of Mystic Manor.|
Beloved by many, Winnie the Pooh has its own character-based rides in all Disney parks around the world. However, only one of them deserves the real attention: Pooh's Hunny Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland. It's so amazing and applause-worthy that the queue time for this ride is rarely less than an hour during normal days and two hours during peak time.
|The climax of the ride, where up to nine hunny pots "dance" together in complex and random manoeuvres in a dream-like ballroom madness.|
Source: Jon Fiedler
Pooh's Hunny Hunt utilizes a trackless ride system, which allows each hunny pot to move at free-will: forward or backward, left or right, spin around in place, and more. The hunny pots self-select their own paths each ride cycle, so each ride is an entirely different experience for guests. Last but not least, these hunny pots seem to have their own mind: in one scene, they even hop around with Tigger.
|The actual ride of Indiana Jones in Disneyland. Here you can see riders on the ride vehicle while Mara was attempting to destroy the bridge.|
Source: Disney and More
Indiana Jones: Temple of the Forbidden Eye opened its doors to the public in 1995 and was immediately met with critical acclaim from theme park enthusiasts. Using a patented system called Enhanced Motion Vehicle (EMV), guests are taken into a turbulent journey through the world of Indiana Jones as he searches for a particular treasure. Throughout the ride, guests encounter with the typical sights they'd expect from an Indiana Jones film: skulls, snakes, boulder, etc.
|Indiana Jones' queue line at Tokyo Disneysea is as immersive as the ride itself.|
Source: Disney Tourist Blog
Tokyo Disneysea also has a copy of the ride albeit with different theme, Temple of the Crystal Skull. Both versions are as immersive as a theme park ride can be without the aid of 3-D screens. To this day, Indiana Jones still amaze guests with its incredibly realistic and detailed physical set design, blaring and exciting soundtrack, out-of-this-world special effects, and of course the turbulent movement of the vehicles.
|The train that guests board on the Escape from Gringotts attraction.|
Source: Theme Park Tourist
If you like the Harry Potter series, then you must've imagined at least once what it feels like to take that awesome train ride at the Wizard Bank of Gringotts. It looks like Universal's Creative Team understood the fans' wishes really well, because they then announced the exact ride that the fans have been waiting for: Escape from Gringotts. Living up to its title, riders board one of Gringott's mine carts to go on a mission with Harry Potter and the squad. Turns out the mission becomes more of an escape mission...
|A combination of roller coaster and cinematic experience, Escape from Gringotts is a revolutionary concept.|
Half roller coaster and half cinematic experience, first-time riders often don't know what to make of this ride. Is it a roller coaster? Is it a 3-D ride (you're required to wear 3-D goggles)? One can endlessly argue what kind of ride it is. But one thing for sure is that Escape from Gringotts is a revolutionary theme park attraction concept that puts Universal in the same league as Disney.
|The main building of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror amazes, even for the frequent visitors.|
Source: Undercover Tourist
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is arguably the best ride in the entire Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. The main highlight of this ride is, of course, the 13-floor elevator drop at a speed faster than gravity. But the ride is much more than that: at one point, the elevator even manages to get out of its shaft, making it a one-of-a-kind attraction not just at any Disney parks, but also the entire world.
|Riders get their photos taken right before the elevator drops for the first time.|
Source: I Heart Disney
Tower of Terror proves to be so popular that Disney decided to bring the ride to Disney's California Adventure, Tokyo Disneysea, and Walt Disney Studios, albeit using more affordable ride system. Still, Orlando's version trumps all with its one-of-a-kind system. Combined with an incredible attention to detail, eerie setting, and effective acting of its cast members, Tower of Terror isn't just your typical elevator ride: it's one that you'll drop in again and again.
|Mount Prometheus erupts at Tokyo Disneysea. The volcano also houses Journey to the Center of the Earth ride.|
Source: Curtis Lannom
If you want to be awe-d by a ride just from its exterior, then look no further. Housed within a man-made volcano that is capable of erupting, Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of the best rides Disney has ever built. When it opened in 2001, those who were lucky enough to ride it agreed that it is the most immersive theme park attraction ever built. From the elevator ride to the queue, everything in this attraction just feels fitted perfectly to the premise.
|The lava monster in Journey to the Center of the Earth is the most dynamic animatronic ever built in theme park history.|
Source: Theme Park Review
The ride takes the guests through many sceneries based on the book of the same title by Jules Verne. Of course, as always like other Disney rides, things go awfully wrong and the ride takes a turn for the worse. The ride climaxes when riders encounter a lava monster, which I can say is the most dynamic animatronic ever built in the history of theme park. The car then accelerates to escape the monster, before ending the journey with a 40-foot drop at the end.
|Highlights of the ride include an encounter with the villain Captain Davey Jones.|
Source: Coaster 101
The opening of Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's theme parks seems to have ended Disney's lead in theme park innovation. Following Universal's success, Disney seems to be rather quiet about it. Then, Shanghai Disneyland opened its doors, and all hells break loose, particularly on Disney's brand new, innovative take on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which is exclusively built for the park.
|The climax of the ride brings guests into the middle of the battle between Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Davey Jones.|
Source: The Orange County Register
If there can only be one thing that Disney did during those "quiet years," it would be to observe the hell out of the technology Universal uses in its Harry Potter rides, build a much bigger model of it, and put it in a ride with an immersive storytelling. The fact that the boats on this ride can move in any directions (forward, backward, sideways) and at controlled speed adds even more depth to the entire ride experience.
1. HARRY POTTER AND THE FORBIDDEN JOURNEY at Universal's Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal Studios Japan
|The world-renowned Hogwarts Castle houses the Forbidden Journey attraction|
Source: Inside Universal
Prior to its opening, nobody knew exactly what would the outcome of The Forbidden Journey be. A roller coaster? A walk-through attraction? Following months of hype, The Forbidden Journey turns out to best all expectation: not only is it the most immersive theme park attraction ever created, but also the most innovative theme park ride ever imagined. If I can describe The Forbidden Journey in one sentence, it would be this: Harry Potter fans' wet dream.
|Guests board the "enchanted benches" at the loading station, which is filled with floating candles on the ceiling.|
Source: Journal Sentinel Online
The experience starts the moment guests get into the queue. From Dumbledore's office to the live portrait galleries, the queue itself is the attraction itself, bringing the magic in the book to life, right in front of the eyes of the guests. The ride itself brings riders on a journey through Forbidden Forest, Quidditch Field, and the Chamber of Secrets, brought to life with technology that I can describe as hyper-realistic screen-motion system, as well as the revolutionary KUKA Coaster system.
So there you go, folks! Those are my TOP 10 THEME PARK RIDES from the theme parks that I've visited around the world. With the seemingly unstoppable innovation within the theme park industry, I'm confident that my list is going to be ever-changing. I'll revisit this list again next year for sure, and let you know if anything changes.
How about you guys?
What are your favourite theme park rides?
What do you think makes a memorable and re-ride-able theme park ride?