Coaster Kings is proud to introduce a new annual special event: The Crystal Crown Awards. – Within the coaster and theme park enthusiasts communities there are many different annual awards, polls, etc. We wanted to take a different approach and present a unique lineup of categories that highlight specific characteristics of theme parks, rides, rollercoasters, and the industry as a whole. To listen to the awards in detail, check out our Coaster Kings Radio episode, you’ll also find the 16 carefully chosen categories and their winners here:
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Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Japan, Universal Studios Hollywood.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey first opened at Universal Orlando Resort in 2010 as part of the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Not only is this dark ride a revolutionary masterpiece, it also marked a new age in theme park design that would incorporate the queue as part of the overall attraction. 10 years later, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey‘s queue is still the best in the world. Guests venture through Hogwarts castle in a series of events that can only be experienced in the queue; a detailed story that continues on the ride itself. The popular attraction will see a fourth installation at the brand new Universal Studios Beijing in 2021.
Whale Shark Aquarium
Chimelong Ocean Kingdom (Hengqin, Guangdong, China)
The World’s largest aquarium can be found at the highly-attended Chimelong Ocean Kingdom theme park in South China. This aquarium is included with park admission but could easily have been a separate ticketed attraction at the resort. Chimelong Ocean Kingdom’s Whale Shark Aquarium is home to 5 whale sharks and thousands of other sea creatures – the Guinness World Record-holding tank holds 22.7 million liters of water (6 million US gallons) – more than twice that of the previous record holder, Altanta’s Georgia Aquarium. Ocean Kingdom’s Whale Shark Exhibit was also ranked the world’s best aquarium by a landslide (despite being just one of the park’s numerous attractions and exhibits) on World Cities Ranking’s “Largest and Best Aquariums in the World 2020” list.
Six Flags Magic Mountain (Valencia, California, USA)
Opening this coaster was a challenge, but the result was absolutely breathtaking. Nearly 20 years after its debut as X, X2 is still Six Flags Magic Mountain’s (and the United States’ – not to mention Alan Schilke’s) most audacious coaster. Without the limit pushing aerobatics of Arrow Dynamics’ X2, we would not have seen the 4D Coasters and Wing Coasters we know today.
Spinning Porcelain/Porcelain Puree
Nanchang Sunac Land (Xinjian, Nanchang, Jiangxi, China)
There are some seriously strange roller coaster names out there, most of which can be found in Asia (words just don’t always seem to translate to English smoothly). We decided to make this a category because these names are a frequent conversation piece among our team members and definitely haven’t been part of an awards series before. Though there were many great options, the strange-yet-intricate theme of Spinning Porcelain a.k.a Porcelain Puree was the clear winner.
Bosque Mágico (Guadalupe, Nuevo León, Mexico)
There are so many incredible looking roller coasters out there, some with stunning and intriguing color schemes. Though it wasn’t an easy choice to make, Zombie Ride takes the award for its electrifying green and purple color combination that we haven’t seen anywhere else. Despite being intense and bright, Zombie Ride‘s color scheme is clean and modern.
Intamin Next Generation Sit-Down Train
Found on Taron at Phantasialand, Steel Dolphin at Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park, Dueling Dragons at Guangzhou Sunac Land, Taiga at Linnanmäki. – 2021 Coasters with these trains: Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, VelociCoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Mega Coaster at Walibi Belgium, All Speeds at Chengdu Sunac Land.
There is nothing worse than poor legroom or painful restraints on what could be some of the best coasters in the world. We’re starting to finally experience comfort on the new rolling stock of major manufacturers, but which one is the most comfortable? We’re going to have to say Intamin’s Next Generation Sit-Down trains. Guests have leg room, an over-the-shoulder lap bar, stadium-seating (slight), and a place to hold on. These trains bring comfort to airtime machines and can be applied to almost any kind of coaster Intamin’s clients look for.
Star Wars: Hyperspace Mountain
Parc Disneyland at Disneyland Paris Resort (Chessy, France)
Though we’re definitely fans of Shanghai Disneyland’s TRON Lightcycle Power Run, we’re going to award the Best Looking Rolling Stock Award to the Star Wars: Hyperspace Mountain in Paris. The coaster’s bright blue vehicles work well with the current storyline and pay respect to the ride’s overall aesthetic and original theme. Shades of gold and mimic-leather seating accompany detailed space and steampunk touches on these gorgeous Vekoma MK-1212 trains.
Efteling (Kaatsheuvel, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands)
We often talk about the best rides in the world having the ‘complete package’. Scenery, queue, and audio can really enhance a coaster’s ride experience. Vliegende Hollander scores high in all categories, but is especially loved for its musical score. The ride’s classic, and immediately iconic, soundtrack ties every aspect of this Dutch Golden Age -themed roller coaster together.
Shanghai Disneyland (Pudong, Shanghai, China)
Atmospheric music is one of the key components to a great themed area. Some parks don’t even attempt, some parks do a pretty good job, and very few parks truly stand out. We selected Shanghai Disneyland’s Tomorrowland as the winner of this award for its ambient futuristic score that synchronizes with the lights found in the area. To step into Shanghai Disneyland’s Tomorrowland is to truly step into a different world. The aesthetic of the area carries on in the music that so perfectly captures exactly what a Tomorrowland of today should feel like. They finally got it right.
Chorzów, Śląskie, Poland
This fan favorite Polish park is not often on the radar for anything besides their stellar dark ride and world class Vekoma looping coaster. We wanted to highlight Legendia’s gorgeous center lagoon, which is surrounded by a enchanting winding midway that helps make every inch of the park feel special.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Walt Disney World (Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA)
Another category you may have never expected to see: the Park with the Best Pavement Award goes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Pathways tell a story and are the fine line between a great themed area and one that truly transports you elsewhere. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of the world’s best theme parks when it comes to creating real life environments that truly take guests into their respective worlds. This wouldn’t be possible without the intense detail poured into the pathways of each themed area of this park, whether you’re exploring Asia, Africa, or the mythical world of Pandora.
Brühl, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Though it’s easy to stack rides in Roller Coaster Tycoon, doing it in real life is a different story. There is a good selection of parks out there with tiny footprints but impressive lineups, few look as good as Phantasialand however. Phantasialand is home to arguably the best Mine Train Coaster, Inverted Coaster, Spinning Coaster, Launch Coaster, Flying Coaster, AND Log Flume while the park is the size of a few football fields. Phantasialand’s attention to detail and multi-level integration of park infrastructure with roller coasters is nothing short of flabbergasting and deserves recognition.
Disneyland Resort (Anaheim, California, USA)
The original Disneyland has so much to be proud of. Immaculate detail, amazing character, and heartfelt passion from cast member and guests alike are what makes this park so special. We also wanted to recognize Disneyland in the Best Dark Ride Lineup category for its astonishing collection of dark rides. The park is home to an array of classic Fantasyland dark rides, as well as major E-ticket attractions that are known around the world such as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Roger Rabbit’s CarToon Spin, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye, it’s a small world, and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. It’s even crazier to think that the world’s largest and best dark ride collection is also adding the trackless Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway dark ride in a few years!
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Blackpool, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom
Several parks around the world host enviable collections of vintage rides, but no collection compares quite to the historical value of Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s roster of classic coasters and attractions. Four (!) pre-WWII wood coasters is just the tip of the iceberg at Blackpool – Sir Hiram Maxum’s Flying Machines and the Lot Morgan-built River Caves are the 1st and 2nd oldest theme park rides in Europe (at 115 years and 114 years old, respectively). Pleasure Beach also boasts two of Arrow Dynamic’s oldest tracked rides (the 1960-built Grand Prix and the Alice in Wonderland ride, circa 1962) as well as some of their most unique coasters: the custom-built Revolution shuttle loop and the one-of-a-kind, triple-racing Steeplechase. Eager for more classics? Blackpool’s Ghost Train and Pleasure Beach Express date back to the early 1930s, while the Derby Racer carousel and vintage carousel date back to the 1950s and 1910s, respectively. Modern crowd-pleasers like Icon and Sky Force aside, Blackpool Pleasure Beach is almost exclusively a major-ride museum that represents over a century of amusement innovation.
Changzhou, Jiangsu, China
Often referred to as the Jurassic Park of the East, China Dinosaurland is home to the Eastern world’s largest collection of dinosaur fossils. The park is entirely dedicated to the theme of dinosaurs, and we mean in every single way possible. Our award for Most Unique Overall Theme goes to this park for their dedication to bringing a story of dinosaurs to live in every possible landscape. From the park’s signature Dinoconda 4D coaster (themed to terrifying dinosaur snakes) to the park’s urban graffiti filled streets with dinosaur DJs and shipping containers, this park has it all. Would you rather go to Skull Island or visit a colorful town home to baby-dinosaurs, you got it! If exploring a Mediterranean harbor (home to… Dinosaurs) or traveling deep into the caves of Dinosaur Mountain is more your gig, China Dinosaursland has you covered there as well. We were incredibly entertained by the park’s various ways of immersing us into the themes and their wide variety of dinosaur themes snacks can’t be missed.
Kaatsheuvel, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands
One of the oldest theme parks on Earth also happens to have the best park atmosphere: to travel to Efteling, a Dutch institution, is to transport oneself to a world of wonders. Efteling’s sprawling layout allows for natural beauty to blend with its mystical and rustic themes – the mood interweaving comfort and curiosity with a bold air of adventure. Home to the famous fairytale forest, the storytelling begins here and echoes into each of their attractions, many of which are considered best-in-class. No theme park, fantasy themed or otherwise, can claim to have committed to their central aesthetic as unwaveringly and beautifully as Efteling, which is why it remains an internationally impactful player industry-wide despite its humble background.
Thank you for joining us for the first ever Crystal Crown Awards. The goal is to make it larger every year, introduce new categories annually, and show sides of the industry that don’t always get recognized! Any suggestions are welcome! Comment below or comment on our social media!