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Shane

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Amusement Today said:
Amusement Today’s annual Golden Ticket Awards presented
at 2018 host park, Silver Dollar City

2018-GTA.png
BRANSON, MO., Sept.8, 2018 – The spotlight was shining bright on the amusement industry this evening in an awards show hosted by Silver Dollar City, where the winners of Amusement Today’s 2018 Golden Ticket Awards were announced.

The Golden Ticket Awards are presented annually to honor the “Best of the Best” in the amusement industry and are calculated from an international poll conducted by Amusement Today. The prestigious survey asks experienced amusement park voters around the country and world to rate the “bests” in 23 categories.

While the poll reveals continual fan favorites, each year there are surprises. The “Best New Ride of 2018” for amusement parks and water parks are always interesting categories to keep an eye on with Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, and Aquatica in Orlando, Fla., taking top honors for their news rides this year. There is an annual good-natured back and forth in the category of “Best Food” between Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pa., and Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., with Knoebels re-gaining the title for 2018. In the category of “Best Wooden Roller Coaster,” several popular coasters have been at the top of the list, and this year the designation goes to Knoebels Amusement Resort for its wooden wonder, the Phoenix.

For the 14th consecutive year, Amusement Today recognized college students who plan to pursue a career in the amusement industry and are employed by the host park of Silver Dollar City. These individuals exemplify the spirit and integrity of the amusement industry by promoting the cornerstones of safety, service, courtesy and cleanliness at the highest level, while consistently exceeding job expectations. This is an annual designation by Amusement Today to promote education in the field of hospitality and amusement.

Amusement Today newspaper was founded in 1997 and covers international amusement and water park news and trends. In its 21-year history, it is a five-time winner of various awards from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. For a detailed outline of the 2018 winners and survey results, please log on to www.goldenticketawards.com.
Source

The list of 2018 winners are …
  • Best Amusement Park - Europa-Park, Rust, Germany
  • Best Water Park - Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort, New Braunfels, Texas
  • Best Children’s Park - Idlewild & SoakZone, Ligonier, Pa.
  • Best Marine Life Park - SeaWorld Orlando, Orlando, Fla.
  • Best Seaside Park - Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, Calif.
  • Best Wooden Coaster - Phoenix at Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pa.
  • Best Steel Coaster - Fury 325, Carowinds, Charlotte, N.C.
  • Best Kids’ Area - Kings Island, Kings Mills, Ohio
  • Friendliest Park - Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
  • Cleanest Park - Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, Ind.
  • Best Halloween Event - Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando, Orlando, Fla.
  • Best Landscaping Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Va.
  • Best Christmas Event - Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
  • Best Food - Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pa.
  • Best Shows - Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
  • Best Water Ride - Valhalla at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Blackpool, Lancashire, England
  • Best Water Park Ride - Wildebeest at Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, Ind.
  • Best Dark Ride - Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Orlando, Fla.
  • Best New Ride of 2018; Amusement Park - Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
  • Best New Ride of 2018; Water Park - Ray Rush at Aquatica in Orlando, Fla.
  • Best Carousel - Grand Carousel at Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pa.
  • Best Indoor Roller Coaster - Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Orlando, Orlando, Fla.
  • Best Funhouse/Walk-Through Attraction - Noah’s Ark at Kennywood, West Mifflin, Pa.
Personally chosen by Gary Slade, publisher and editor-in-chief of Amusement Today, this year’s Publisher’s Pick Awards were presented in the following categories:
  • Innovation of the Year – Chance Rides, Wichita, Kan., for its green initiatives specifically involving the all-electric C.P. Huntington train. This attraction has changed the way the industry is evolving in terms of environment reliability, operator satisfaction and guest experience.
  • Turnstile Award – Silver Dollar City, Branson, Mo., for its commitment to excellence, willingness to push themselves and take risks. These characteristics are proof in the park’s Time Traveler attraction introduced this year, which has helped create jobs, increase attendance and define a new area of the park.
 

SLC Headache

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Nice to see Twisted Timbers make third on best new ride. Of course it'd have no chance against Steel Vengeance (wood structure clearing 200 feet for the first time since Son of Beast) and Time Traveler (90-degree dropping, launching, inverting, spinning - on paper this has it all). Funny that Icon didn't make the top five for best new ride.

Not nice to see Twisted Timbers come in behind the likes of Verbolten on the overall top steel list.
 

Zachary

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It looks great for the industry to pick a Schlitterbahn park as the best water park in the year 2018. Good goin' guys. ?

Really though, the Golden Ticket Awards are like a dinosaur. They lumber around slowly and sloppily, never adjusting to any change in the industry. So many of these awards are so deeply entrenched at this point that they might as well not even hold votes anymore.

The ones I have the biggest issue with: Best Children's Park, Best Wooden Coaster, Best Landscaping, and Best Food. Not only do I think these awards are clearly undeserved by the parks which won them, but, more importantly, I think the vast majority of enthusiasts hold the same opinion.
 
Aug 21, 2016
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It looks great for the industry to pick a Schlitterbahn park as the best water park in the year 2018. Good goin' guys. ?

I mean this is a completely different park that has been praised long before Verrküt was even an idea.
 
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I agree wholeheartedly about their choice for Tower of Terror as best dark ride.

However, I'm very surprised Europa-Park won "Best Amusement Park." I went there in the late 90's and while it was nice enough, it felt like a typical Six Flags type place to me. Maybe it's changed significantly since then, but there was nothing about it that stood out to me as "best."

But, like @Zachary mentioned, a Schlitterbahn park is also on this list, so...
 

Zachary

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I mean this is a completely different park that has been praised long before Verrküt was even an idea.

Schlitterbahn's issue isn't one slide or one incident. It is years of systemic, institutionalized avoidance of safety rules and regulations company-wide in favor of profits and, frankly, laziness.

The industry as a whole should be denouncing and blacklisting these parks until there is an abundance of public, documented proof that things have changed.
 

b.mac

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I've changed my opinion on the GTAs a ton since I first started getting involved as an enthusiast in 2009. I used to respect it, began to outright hate it, and now I really only look forward to a select few awards each year and really do not care about the rest. Those categories FYI, are best food, best wooden coaster, and best new attraction.

Amusement Today is by no meams a biased publication for the GTAs, its just that their voters are predominantly US based and that's where the bias comes from.

As much as I love ACE, it's not surprising at all to see how their major regional events have an effect on the results of the GTAs. 2013, Dollywood hosted and won Best New Ride for Wild Eagle, 2015 Morey's hosted Coaster Con and dethroned stalwart Santa Cruz for best seaside amusement park, 2018 multiple BGW coasters jumped spots in the polls and Verbolten finally got polled at 36 this year after BGW hosted part of Con.

As much as I care about the amusement industry it really hurts my pride seeing Schlitterbahn win again after their unsafe practices have come to light. It may not have been the same park but it's apart of the same company with the same goals and objectives in mind.

The GTAs really need to look into a way to spice up the categories so that the long standing winners have more competition. It's kind of hard to believe Idlewild is such a great children's park when Sesame Place, Storybook Land, and multiple other family parks around the US are regularly hitting the news for being autism friendly or introducing new rides that offer great new experiences for families and kids who might become apart of this industry later on.
 
Mar 16, 2016
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I think the answer for the GTA's to gain some relevance again would be a couple of solutions long:
1 - Same park/ride cannot win the same award 3 consecutive years.
2 - Vote regionally, then nationally, then globally (if it still applies)
3 - Split the awards into: Americas (NA and SA); Europe/Africa; Asia/Middle East.
4 - Make travel to these cons easier. Honestly the only time I know one is going on is when my regional twitter feed hashtag shows an influx.
5 - Get. A. Panel!
6 - As part of the polling and voting, make people say what parks they have been to. I'm sure not as many people are at Knoebles as these awards reflect, and some are voted on by reputation than actuality.
7 - Allow "lands" or "areas" to be part of "kids parks" and "water parks".
8 - Part of #3: Split out by expected yearly visitors. I think it was last year, and a few years ago, that UO's water park won and one of Disney's water parks won. How did other water parks stand a chance? Especially against a brand new park that you didn't know what there was? Does that make it the best or newest? A place like HP's Boardwalk (amazing water park) likely has little shot as it's not it's own gate.

So Imagine for Best Steel Roller Coaster you had:
America's Small Park Best Steel Coaster; Best Medium Park Steel Coaster; Best Large Park Steel Coaster
Europe's Small Park Best Steel Coaster; Best Medium Park Steel Coaster; Best Large Park Steel Coaster
Asia's Small Park Best Steel Coaster; Best Medium Park Steel Coaster; Best Large Park Steel Coaster

I think that could be huge in some 'fresh blood' in the voting. Worst case at least do idea #1 and mix up the winners.
 
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So what I'm guessing there is they send out 100 to each zone. I wonder how they picked the zones and who gets them. That's not really a good region by region representation TBH.
 
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Zachary

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Just purely out of curiosity, can anyone who has experienced one of this year's winners and believes something else they've experienced deserves the title instead post their picks?

For this to make sense, you must have experienced the winner and what you believe is better.

Here are mine...

Best Children’s Park
I assume Idlewild wins this because it's a nestalgic, historic park. As much as I love the vibe of the place, I don't think it is deserving of the title. Legoland Florida is better in quite literally every way sans, maybe, "park most lacking in Legos." Honestly, I'm pretty sure I think Dutch Wonderland is a better children's park as well, but the margin is a lot smaller than Idlewild vs. Legoland FL.

Best Marine Life Park
Assuming it qualifies (don't see why it wouldn't), Discovery Cove deserves this. It's arguably the greatest park in the world. If for some reason Discovery Cove doesn't count, the current title holder, SeaWorld Orlando, is the right pick.

Best Wooden Coaster
Foolish, even embarrassing levels of a very nestalgic bias seem glaringly obvious with Phoenix winning this award. I love Phoenix but frankly, making people believe it is one of the best (let alone the best) wooden coaster in the world is a massive disservice to the coaster. It doesn't hold a candle to the likes of El Toro, The Voyage, or Lightning Rod and, frankly, it shouldn't be expected to. It isn't in the same league. Phoenix is like a great neighborhood baseball team being ranked above the top teams in the MLB. It's just silly.

Best Steel Coaster
Fury 325 isn't my favorite steel coaster, but I do believe it's a perfectly valid choice. Won't complain about this one.

Best Kids’ Area
I prefer KD's children's area, but KI's is a perfectly valid pick.

Friendliest Park
Sorry Dollywood, it's Magic Kingdom.

Cleanest Park
Sorry Holiday World, it's Magic Kingdom.

Best Landscaping
Ok. Here is one that really fucking bothers me. 20 years ago, BGW may have deserved this award. They don't anymore and haven't for a long time. There's a case to be made for Islands of Adventure, Epcot, and Legoland FL, sure, but honestly there is one park that stands vastly above all the rest: Gilroy-motherfuckin'-Gardens.

It's an actual, honest-to-god, botanical garden with intricately-themed flat rides, transport rides, and roller coasters. Oh, and it's a great fucking botanical garden too—every inch is mind-bogglingly gorgeous. Everything is immaculately well-kept.

I honestly can't see a single possible argument that can be made claiming that Gilroy Gardens doesn't deserve this title over Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It's just, objectively, far superior in this category.

Best Christmas Event
Dollywood's event is good. I prefer Busch Gardens Williamsburg's and Carowinds', but I can accept that Dollywood's is a reasonable contender.

Best Food
This one I really don't get. Knoebels has good snacks. Cool. So does Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Neither of then are remotely deserving of this award though. Clearly this belongs to Epcot for both variety and quality.
 
Apr 29, 2011
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Cleanest Park
Sorry Holiday World, it's Magic Kingdom.

Totally disagree. The last time I was at Magic Kingdom the park was filthy. I spotted overflowing trash cans in the seating area outside the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor off Main, near The Lunching Pad in Tomorrowland, near Westward Ho in Frontierland and random ones scattered throughout Fantasyland. There was also a gigantic pile of spilled popcorn outside the Haunted Mansion gift shop that sat there all afternoon as I walked by it several times while I was riding attractions in that area. MK use to contend for this but over the last few years they've not been on top of being clean as they used to be.


Best Food
This one I really don't get. Knoebels has good snacks. Cool. So does Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Neither of then are remotely deserving of this award though. Clearly this belongs to Epcot for both variety and quality.

Knoebels food is fuckin nasty. I have no idea how that parks wins this award. Nothing comes close to touching Epcot.
 
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Between seeing how they do voting, and agreeing with much of what @Zachary said about there being some far better rides/parks for some of these categories, I feel it's safe to say that the GTA's are a little outdated.

Best Children’s Park
I assume Idlewild wins this because it's a nestalgic, historic park. As much as I love the vibe of the place, I don't think it is deserving of the title. Legoland Florida is better in quite literally every way sans, maybe, "park most lacking in Legos." Honestly, I'm pretty sure I think Dutch Wonderland is a better children's park as well, but the margin is a lot smaller than Idlewild vs. Legoland FL.

Agreed with much of this, and having to been to at least 2-3 parks I personally would go:
Dutch Wonderland
Legoland Fl
Sesame Place
Idlewild

Best Marine Life Park
Assuming it qualifies (don't see why it wouldn't), Discovery Cove deserves this. It's arguably the greatest park in the world. If for some reason Discovery Cove doesn't count, the current title holder, SeaWorld Orlando, is the right pick.

I'm going to assume that DC doesn't qualify because no rides.

Best Wooden Coaster
Foolish, even embarrassing levels of a very nestalgic bias seem glaringly obvious with Phoenix winning this award. I love Phoenix but frankly, making people believe it is one of the best (let alone the best) wooden coaster in the world is a massive disservice to the coaster. It doesn't hold a candle to the likes of El Toro, The Voyage, or Lightning Rod and, frankly, it shouldn't be expected to. It isn't in the same league. Phoenix is like a great neighborhood baseball team being ranked above the top teams in the MLB. It's just silly.

Phoenix is a joke. Heck for nostalgia factor in PA alone give me fore my money: Jack Rabbit, Racer, Thunderbolt, Comet, Leap the Dips BEFORE Phoenix.

Agreed with El Toro and The Voyage. Haven't been on Lightning Rod to talk of it specifically. I think El Toro has voters fatigue, and the problem with The Voyage, and another personal top 10 for me Hades 360, is that it's not close to anything really. I know Lightning Rod isn't one that inverts, but hybrids need their own category.

Best Steel Coaster
Fury 325 isn't my favorite steel coaster, but I do believe it's a perfectly valid choice. Won't complain about this one.

One of the ones IMO they got right.

Best Kids’ Area
I prefer KD's children's area, but KI's is a perfectly valid pick.

KD on sheer size offers more than most other parks without being separate. I don't know if you call it a 'kids area' but Dr. Suess Landing at IoA can give a great run, even at it's age.

Friendliest Park
Sorry Dollywood, it's Magic Kingdom.

Yes, yes, 1000 times, yes.

Cleanest Park
Sorry Holiday World, it's Magic Kingdom.

I'd agree with this. To counter @Unagi 's point about MK being dirty, I think those are things you can expect at all parks. In general, I think Disney as a whole just does the best job with waste management. IoA isn't that far behind IMO. Six Flags tend to be the worst.

Best Landscaping
Ok. Here is one that really fucking bothers me. 20 years ago, BGW may have deserved this award. They don't anymore and haven't for a long time. There's a case to be made for Islands of Adventure, Epcot, and Legoland FL, sure, but honestly there is one park that stands vastly above all the rest: Gilroy-motherfuckin'-Gardens.

It's an actual, honest-to-god, botanical garden with intricately-themed flat rides, transport rides, and roller coasters. Oh, and it's a great fucking botanical garden too—every inch is mind-bogglingly gorgeous. Everything is immaculately well-kept.

I honestly can't see a single possible argument that can be made claiming that Gilroy Gardens doesn't deserve this title over Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It's just, objectively, far superior in this category.

I've never seen Gilroy Gardens. I'm going to throw an underrated choice here: Lake Compounce. There's nothing elaborate about it, but when I was there last summer, everything was taken care of just right, looked great and in place.

Best Food
This one I really don't get. Knoebels has good snacks. Cool. So does Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Neither of then are remotely deserving of this award though. Clearly this belongs to Epcot for both variety and quality.

God YES!!!!

Islands of Adventure is up there too. Best in park sit down restaurant with Mythos. Has some of the best 'snack' foods with the Harry Potter land. The grab and go in Jurrasic Park and Marvel Land are always fresh and great.

I got a bone to pick with one last category:
Best Dark Ride
Now don't get me wrong, I love Tower or Terror. But man, when I ride dark rides, that's not at the top of my "must ride" list. Haunted Manshion; Escape From Gringrotts; Forbidden Journey; The Justice League clones.

I do have a theory on this one though. A bit of nostalgia is is at play. Since the Tower of Terror in DCA was converted to Mission Breakout; I think that people were voting for it out of fear that the ToT in HS's might be on the conversion chopping block. So people in droves voted for it as a 'plea' to Disney to not IP a great original IP ride. I personally think with GotG coaster going into Epcot that a Mission Breakout layover on ToT in HS's isn't going to happen. Even though I will say that whole part of Hollywood Studios is due for a complete overhaul.
 
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Shane

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I haven't been to enough parks recently to really weigh in with an opinion. My traveling has slowed down significantly in the last 2-3 years, but from the things I've heard from others and the photos I've seen of these various parks I think Zach's list is probably a much more accurate list. His Gilroy Gardens choice stands out to me the most, I have to wonder if Cedar Fair even tries to promote the park to the panel.

It's very much time for the awards to be completely revised or for another organization to put together a totally different awards system. Both Amusement Today and the ACE Awards are extremely flawed.
 
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I haven't been to enough parks recently to really weigh in with an opinion. My traveling has slowed down significantly in the last 2-3 years, but from the things I've heard from others and the photos I've seen of these various parks I think Zach's list is probably a much more accurate list. His Gilroy Gardens choice stands out to me the most, I have to wonder if Cedar Fair even tries to promote the park to the panel.

It's very much time for the awards to be completely revised or for another organization to put together a totally different awards system. Both Amusement Today and the ACE Awards are extremely flawed.

Let's start our own!!! The Parkies!
 
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To counter @Unagi 's point about MK being dirty, I think those are things you can expect at all parks. In general, I think Disney as a whole just does the best job with waste management. IoA isn't that far behind IMO. Six Flags tend to be the worst.

I have a DisneyWorld AP and frequent the parks throughout the year. That specific day I went to MK I park hopped all their theme parks. The others were well kept and clean and none had any noticeable overflowing trash cans throughout the parks or any piles of food spilled on the pathways. Now I'm not saying that MK is always like this but over recent years the care in keeping the park immaculate has gone down drastically.

Now if you want some really clean parks, you need to visit the ones in Japan. They make the cleanest parks here and in Europe look like landfills.
 
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