Why Disney World Wasn’t Voted Best Theme Park

Disney World is a top destination for families, but you might be surprised to learn that the parks were NOT voted as the most popular in the U.S.

Cinderella Castle

It’s true! USA Today recently completed their Top 10 Best Amusement Park survey and out of 400+ amusement parks and attractions in North America only Magic Kingdom managed to make the list (and at #9). So, what factors led the “most magical place on earth” to be voted in at the bottom of the list? Well, let’s take a look!

Before we dive into the details, let’s first do a quick refresher on the parks that were voted into the top 10 list!

SeaWorld

To come up with the nominees, a panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors at USA Today to compile an initial list of amusement parks (from over 400!), and then the vote was turned over to the general public. And, based on popular vote, the winners include:

  • 1) SeaWorld Orlando – Orlando, FL
  • 2) Silver Dollar City – Branson, Mo
  • 3) Kings Island – Mason, OH
  • 4) Busch Gardens Williamsburg – Williamsburg, VA
  • 5) Dollywood – Pigeon Forge, TN
  • 6) Busch Gardens Tampa – Tampa, FL
  • 7) Cedar Point – Sandusky, OH
  • 8) Hersheypark – Hershey, PA
  • 9) Magic Kingdom – Orlando, FL
  • 10) Knott’s Berry Farm – Buena Park, CA

So, let’s cover what could have led some park-goers to choose SeaWorld Orlando and other amusement parks over Disney World.

Pricing

Yes, Disney World is full of highly-themed lands, immersive attractions, and some of your favorite Disney characters, but it’s no secret that you’ll have to pay a pretty penny to experience it all. And, many other parks aren’t charging the same premium.

Main Street, U.S.A. in the morning

For example, a Single-Day Ticket to SeaWorld Orlando currently costs $113.99 per person. And, though this is pretty comparable to the cheapest tickets you can find in Disney World (starting at $109), SeaWorld Orlando does not have seasonal pricing and offers more discounts.

©SeaWorld Orlando

In fact, right now tickets are 20% off, bringing the cost of admission down to $89.99 per person, and you can even add on an All-Day Dining option which enables you to get a meal and drink every hour.

©SeaWorld Orlando

Plus, other parks on the list can cost even less, with tickets to Hersheypark currently priced at only $59.95 per person for a one-day ticket or $44.50 per day for two days.

©Hersheypark

And, it’s the price difference that makes an impact for some of our AllEars readers, with one commenter who visited Hersheypark noting that “we were able to visit for 4 days (1 at their zoo, 2 in Hersheypark, 1 at Chocolate World) for less than the cost of 1 day at Disney.” And, when thinking about what could have made SeaWorld Orlando stand out over Disney World, another reader said, “Well, it is affordable. That’s something Disney really isn’t.”

Thrill Rides

Another factor that may have influenced voters is roller coasters because USA Today was looking for the best “amusement” park, not “theme park” which may have lent itself to more thrill seeker votes. And, while Disney does have roller coasters, it’s home to many more family-friendly attractions.

Roller Coaster at Dollywood ©Smokymountains.com

SeaWorld Orlando has 5 high-thrill attractions (with three roller coasters and two water rides) and you can find even more big roller coasters at parks like Kings Island, Busch Gardens, Cedar Point, and Hersheypark. In fact, one AllEars reader even noted that “The one thing [Hersheypark] does have over a Disney park is big coasters.”

Journey to Atlantis at SeaWorld

So, the lack of big roller coasters at Disney World could have influenced voters’ opinions.

Reopen Entertainment

And, the last thing to consider about the rankings is that there are some pretty big differences in how theme parks around the U.S. have chosen to reopen their parks and operations — especially when it comes to entertainment.

Character Cruise at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

At Disney World, most entertainment options still remain closed or modified with parades and most live stage shows remain closed. Disney has reopened the Festival of the Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and brought back fireworks to two parks just this week, but the voting for USA Today took place prior.

Festival of the Lion King

Over at other parks, more entertainment has already returned including the Sesame Street Party Parade at SeaWorld Orlando and many live musical shows and fireworks at Dollywood. And, it’s all that entertainment that has some of our readers thinking those parks could outrank Disney World, with one commenting that “SeaWorld is so much excitement with the entertainment and sesame street and the holiday shows.”

©SeaWorld

So, there are certainly quite a few things that could have led voters to favor other amusement parks over Disney World, but it’s important to keep in mind that the USA Today poll is fan-led. And, maybe next year more Disney parks will be back in the rankings as more and more reopens! In the meantime, we’ll be bringing you all the latest theme park coverage, so stay tuned!

Busch Gardens, Universal, SeaWorld — Which is Best for a Non-Disney Day? Learn More HERE!

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29 Replies to “Why Disney World Wasn’t Voted Best Theme Park”

  1. I’m honestly disgusted that anybody would support Sea World in any manner while they continue to abuse orcas by keeping them in a hot environment that is bad for their health.

  2. I have been a season pass holder to Hershey for over 20 years. Like Disney, they are clean, family friendly, provide great theming, and have an amazing staff. The difference is that Hershey is way cheaper and has much more thrilling rides. Disney kills it with theming, but Hershey is more balanced and won’t rob you blind. I spend about $150 a pass, get 15% off everything, free parking, free zoo, waterpark included, and all kinds of special deals. Disney is out of this world, but so is the pricing.

  3. I have always loved the Disney parks but this past year with not being able to get an annual pass I opted for Sea World and had the best time ever. Even Universal Studios annual pass kept me coming back. Being on a fixed income, I couldn’t justify the $25 a visit parking. I’m sure I’m not alone.

  4. These others places even if cheaper offer way less in terms of things to do…plus I’m not a fan of roller coasters so that’s a negative for me.

  5. Because they are not and with all their continued money grabbing and perk reductions, they’ll continue to slide down the list!!

  6. With all the space that Disney have, why have they moved all the smoking areas outside of their parks, so that you have to queue to get back in? There is loads of walking & queues without having to keep queuing to get in again. They have loads of room to put them out of the way. I was going every year, but that has really put me off now. The last time we went even though I had paid for a two week stay at a Disney hotel & park entrance & hardly went in the parks. It has really put me off going again.

  7. I have been to 8 of ten parks. Some multiple times. I grew up in sandusky so cedar point many times. I worked at Disney World for 9 years. My daughter got married at silver dollar city. They are all great parks.

  8. I’ve been to them all except Hershey park I’ve been to Disney World also and if you have been to Universal Studios an Cedar point I’m sure you will agree 100% they beat them ALL!!
    DIsney world/land imo is for the younger crowd that’s just my opinion.. as fast as Orlando’s parks I’d go to universal an mgm bk to bk before Disney world.. And kings island an cedar point r by far the best for roller coasters!! And I’ve been to many many amusement parks . Disney needs to stop being so greedy!! No reason for your crazy prices!! Maybe alot more little kids dreams of visiting Disney would come true if y’all didn’t charge so much

  9. You can get a season pass at Kings Island and Cedar Point both, for the cost of 2 days at Disney World. That’s Huge!

  10. Disney is just too expensive for the majority of people and they keep raising the prices to cut down on overcrowding. That puts Disney in a bad light.

  11. HUGE Disney fan here so this may sound jaded, But being a Tennessean who has seen DollyWood, I can’t believe it made top 10!. Sorry Dolly, I love you and your work, but with the exception of a couple of your newer coasters, the rest of your park is basically traveling fair rides permanently installed on a mountainside.

  12. I love Disney and am a DVC Member for 22 yrs. BUT……Park pass prices are outta control. Spending more time exploring Florida and at pools than entering parks.

  13. Enough with all the disrespect and hate towards Disney World!!! If you don’t like it then don’t go but don’t act uncool towards people who do love Disney World like me!!!!!😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎

  14. Really seems like people just chose their regional park. Lots of people have never been to DW because of the cost…not a surprise they wouldn’t vote for somewhere they haven’t been to. Also, if you like coasters Cedar Point or King’s Island win hands down.

    Disney has few thrill rides. It does have astonishing atmosphere…if they actually reopen instead of Chapek cheaping out and taking away the special touches that made the parks wonderful. Really, assuming he’s making the decisions, he’s making terrible ones. Lots of the cutbacks had nothing to do with COVID restrictions. The shows need to open back up in full. Disney needs to find someone else.

  15. That’s why that mouse is Always smiling and dancing. He can’t wait to get to the money room at the end of the day! The place is way out of hand with pricing over $500 for a family of four just to walk in the gate to spend more money what a concept

  16. This list is really wonky. The fact that Universal IOA didn’t even make the list is also really telling. Many of these parks aren’t really “theme parks” and are more like regional amusement parks. I’d like to know more about who voted, but then again I guess I don’t really care. Just a very odd list.

  17. While everything in the article may be true, it isn’t why SeaWorld won. These 10best contests are easy to game. SeaWorld emailed their mailing list multiple times over the last few weeks with pleas to vote as many times as possible. They also posted requests to vote on social media and their website. Disney and Universal didn’t do any of this.

  18. This list is completely wrong!!!! Disney World should be number one hands down!!!!😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎

    1. Maybe it is gamed and maybe it is wonky, but if will be a long time before I’ll be returning to the Magic Kingdom. Bob Paycheck needs to sort out his priorities and stop ostracisme Disney’s most loyal fans… as though Star Wars Land and Marvel Land hadn’t already done that.

    2. I actually pretty much agree with the list, except I would put Knott’s solidly at the top (and it was for quite some time during the poll). And for me, it all comes down to Entertainment and I don’t care about parade or fireworks, I want shows back

    3. I can see why Disney’s pricing and it being slow to bring back entertainment making it not rank so high, as I just now wound up my Disney Vacay for this summer. And there are so many other issues that hurt Disney right now. International Cast members cannot get back due to closed borders and such because 9f Covid. So many entertainment employees are waiting tables and working in shops instead of doing what they do best. We hunger for more value, while Disney is charging more for less. Less Dining options, no character interactions, measely cavelcades instead of full blown parades. Disney has gone back to packing people into ride ques like sardines, with or without masks, while requiring masks on Disney transportation. It makes no sense.