There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a very disappointing year for theme park fans, as many attractions around the world were (or continue to be) closed due to COVID-19. Still, with the hopes of a brighter 2021, Blooloop—the world’s leading online resource for professionals working in the field of visitor attractions—has ranked this year’s top 25 theme park attractions.
From rollercoasters to dark rides to virtual 3-D experiences, here’s Blooloop’s list of the world’s top 25 theme park attractions for 2020:
25. Voletarium – Europa-Park, Germany
Voletarium is a flying theater ride (similar to Disney’s Soarin’ attraction) that opened in 2017, featuring an extensive and well-themed queue and some of the best shot scenery from across Europe.
24. Transformers: The Ride – Universal Studios, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal Studios Singapore
Using the same dark ride technology that made the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride so popular, the creative team at Universal built all three versions of this attraction from 2011 to 2013 (with a fourth version set to open in 2021 at Universal Studios Beijing). During the action-packed ride based on the blockbuster “Transformers” movie franchise, guests are enlisted by Optimus Prime to help the Autobots save the planet from Megatron and the Decepticons.
23. Star Tours – Disneyland, Walt Disney World Resort, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris
The original Star Wars-themed simulator ride that opened at Disneyland in 1987 has continued to evolve. In addition to upgraded technology across all versions, Star Tours also added randomized action sequences, so no two rides are the same. This aspect was added to the two U.S. attractions in 2011, Tokyo in 2013, and Paris in 2017. The ride has also incorporated destinations and characters from the most recent Star Wars trilogy, making it possible for park guests to become part of the modern Star Wars universe.
22. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort
This family-friendly western-themed coaster has been taking Disney guests on “the wildest ride in the wilderness” since it opened in 1980 (one year after the original version at Disneyland).
21. Men In Black: Alien Attack – Universal Studios Florida
This “interactive dark ride” incorporates a detailed queue experience that reveals guests have entered a secret MIB training center hidden in plain sight at the theme park. Once inside, riders are required to take part in a training session that, naturally, is interrupted by an “unexpected” alien invasion, forcing trainees to jump into action and help the Men In Black save the planet. The ride is enhanced by a scoring system that’s tough to master (though online tips and hacks can help).
20. Splash Mountain – Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort
As one of the popular Disney park “mountains,” the themed log ride has consistently ranked at the top for many guests. That’s likely why there was a mixed reaction to the announcement earlier this year that the Splash Mountain attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World would be re-imagined to “The Princess and The Frog.”
19. Pirates of the Caribbean – Disneyland
Blooloop’s list would not be complete without Disney’s original Pirates of the Caribbean dark ride that opened in 1967. However, the attraction has been adapted over the year to reflect the changing times and include characters and scenes from the hugely popular movie franchise that the ride inspired. Although there are versions of the Disney classic ride in Orlando, Tokyo, and Paris, the original Disneyland attraction is considered the best.
18. Symbolica – Efteling, the Netherlands
Efteling opened the trackless dark ride concept in 2017, designed as an adventure ride around a castle. Guests are guided by the jester character who has long-served as the mascot of Efteling.
17. Phantom Manor – Disneyland Paris
The Haunted Mansion attractions were so popular at Disney’s U.S. parks that a third version was created for Japan. However, when Imagineers were designing Disneyland Paris, they decided to re-imagine the “haunted house” concept by incorporating it into Frontierland and giving it a Western theme. There’s even a graveyard outside with headstones that explain how many of the mansion’s residents met their untimely end while working on the nearby Thunder Mountain Railroad.
16. Haunted Mansion – Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Tokyo Disneyland
Disney’s Haunted Mansion opened at Disneyland in 1969, Walt Disney World in 1971, and Tokyo Disneyland in 1983. Originally planned to be a walk-through attraction, the Imagineers changed to the ride-through concept after developing the continuously-moving Omnimover ride system that allowed them to swivel the “Doombuggies” 360 degrees so that riders would see what they wanted them to see.
15. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway – Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort
It’s no surprise that Walt Disney World’s latest dark ride ranks at number 15 on Blooloop’s list of top 25 theme park attractions. The innovative ride—which opened just before the pandemic shut down the parks—is not only the first ride-through attraction themed to Mickey and Minnie Mouse, but also features new trackless vehicles that transport riders into the wacky world of cartoons, where “mouse rules apply.” The second version in Disneyland’s Toontown is scheduled to open in 2023.
14. Pirates in Batavia – Europa-Park, Germany
Europa-Park’s 1987 pirate flume ride (inspired by Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean) was destroyed by fire in May 2018, but Europa-Park promised to rebuild Pirates in Batavia and make it better than ever. The new version opened in July 2020 and features the same concept, but with an all-new updated adventure-inspired theme and modern animatronics, effects, sound system, and lighting that bring the pirates adventure to life like never before.
13. Enchanted Tale of Beauty & The Beast – Tokyo Disneyland
Enchanted Tale of Beauty & the Beast just opened last month at Tokyo Disneyland and has already made it to number 13 on Blooloop’s list of the top 25 theme park attractions in the world. The immersive new dark ride takes guests into the Beast’s enchanted castle, where trackless vehicles shaped like dishware move in groups through several large rooms that recreate beloved musical scenes from the animated movie. Another unique feature of this ride is that the vehicles move around each other in coordinated patterns to make riders feel like they are part of the story as they dance along with the characters to the film’s iconic songs.
12. Journey to the Center of the Earth – Tokyo DisneySea
This unique dark ride created for Tokyo DisneySea has never been duplicated at any other Disney park. Riders journey on an amazing adventure inspired by the stories of Jules Verne to see the mysteries hidden in the center of the earth. The ride culminates with a high-speed finish that rushes them back to the surface.
11. Radiator Springs Racers – Disney California Adventure
This attraction allowed Disney Imagineers to bring Disney and Pixar’s “Cars” to life as riders board full-sized ride vehicles that look like the animated cars who inhabit the town of Radiator Springs. The experience begins with a leisurely single-track drive through picturesque Monument Valley before arriving in town, where the residents are getting ready for a big race. From there the ride takes an exciting turn, culminating in a side-by-side high-speed race to the finish line.
10. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – Universal Studios Florida
Opened in 2014, the second attraction introduced to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is half rollercoaster and half 3-D dark ride. During this adventure inside Gringotts Bank, riders accidentally get caught in the middle of the magical bank heist storyline from the film “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” complete with a dragon-assisted escape.
9. Mystic Manor – Hong Kong Disneyland
After opening Hong Kong Disneyland without a Haunted Mansion-inspired ride, Imagineers decided to add a “haunted-concept” ride in 2013, but it’s themed around the concept of magical and cursed artifacts rather than ghosts and restless spirits, because Chinese culture views the afterlife differently than the United States. The dark ride also features trackless vehicles and an original score from film composer Danny Elfman.
8. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure – Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Universal’s latest adventure ride themed to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in 2019. One of the biggest challenges the design team faced was that the coaster was replacing Dueling Dragons—later called Dragon Challenge—which was not only extremely popular among guests, but was one of the most well-known dueling coasters in the world.
Universal steered clear of a dueling coaster format for the new ride and instead designed the highly-themed “story coaster” as a high-speed motorcycle ride through the Forbidden Forest. Riders encounter several magical beasts from the Harry Potter books and movies, experience seven separate launch moments, and “fly” backward as well as forward – there is even a hidden freefall drop track.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout! – Disney California Adventure
The scaled-back version of Disney’s Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride for the California park was taken up several notches when it was re-themed to Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” in 2017.
The Marvel overlay uses the same drop tower ride system as Tower of Terror, but as the “elevator” doors open, guests see video scenes featuring the film’s original actors. The scenes’ order correspond to a random rotation of six songs from Star Lord’s Awesome Mixtape, so each tune has a different sequence of scenes – and drops. During the Halloween season, the ride transitions to a special “Monsters After Dark” version of the attraction.
7. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Japan, and Universal Studios Hollywood
The original Harry Potter-themed adventure ride opened in Orlando in 2010, Japan in 2014, and Hollywood in 2016 (a fourth version is scheduled to open at Universal Studios Beijing in 2021).
The attraction includes a highly-themed and interactive queue experience through the halls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It’s so immersive that some park guests only walk through the queue and never even ride. For those who do, the robotic-arm based vehicles travel past screen projections and through real-world sets to transport riders into the Wizarding World.
5. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World
At number 5 on the list of top 25 theme park attractions, this multi-part adventure experience takes riders deep into the Star Wars universe. After being recruited by the Resistance, they are taken on a transport ship for training, but they must execute a daring escape when the First Order captures them.
The technologically-advanced attraction uses a combination of four different ride systems—trackless dark ride, walk-through, motion simulator, and drop-ride—to puts guests in the middle of an epic battle between the Resistance and the First Order.
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure – Shanghai Disneyland
Rather than recreating the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, Disney Imagineers created an entirely new next-gen water-ride concept for Shanghai Disneyland. The attraction includes rotating boat-themed vehicles that travel through real-world scenery, projection-based scenes, and special effects.
3. Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror – Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World
Disney’s original journey into the Twilight Zone is part dark-ride and part freefall ride. It features a unique vehicle transportation system that feels like a typical elevator but then transforms into a forward motion dark ride. Plus, the drop ride system propels riders up and down faster than gravity would usually allow. In 2004, an assortment of ride motion programs was added for the drop shaft section that allowed the computer to pick the motion profile for each ride randomly.
2. Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye – Disneyland
This 1995 action ride puts riders in the middle of an Indiana Jones adventure created just for the attraction. Guests board off-road vehicles and take a wild ride through a massive ancient temple. Of course, in true Indiana Jones tradition, they also unleash the wrath of an ancient curse from the god Mara. A variation on the ride, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull, opened at Tokyo DisneySea in 2001.
1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Blooloop bestowed the number one spot on their list of top 25 theme park attractions to The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. A guest favorite attraction since it opened in 1999, the ride got a complete upgrade in 2012, which added 4K projectors and newly updated animation. A combination of screens and real-life set pieces, the attraction puts riders into the middle of a comic book adventure alongside their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Which theme park attraction would you put at the top? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!