Before you ask, yes. This is a real thing.
Every year Amusement Today hosts their annual Golden Ticket Awards, recognizing amusement parks, rides, and leaders in the amusement industry for their outstanding achievements. The majority of winners are selected by coaster enthusiasts around the world, who each fill out a ballot, marking which they personally feel should be considered the best of the best. September 10th marked the announcement of this years awards, which were held at the Roller Coaster Capital of the World, Cedar Point.
Cedar Point has always been considered one of the best amusement parks in the world, and also brought in a new coaster for this year, so it was very fitting that they hosted this years ceremony.
Lets take a look at this years winners, starting with the most anticipated award- The Best New Ride for 2016. Now this year was an exceptional year for new thrill rides, which likely made 2016 particularly difficult for voters. Lets look at our top candidates:
Valravn: Located at the host park for this years awards, Valravn is the worlds tallest, fastest, and longest dive coaster. It is Cedar Points 18th roller coaster, and for sure is a hit with the public. Riders descend down a 214 foot 90 degree drop, and are then thrown through a total of 3 inversions.
Storm Chaser: Located in Louisville, Kentucky, at a park called Kentucky Kingdom, is a revamp of the parks old Twisted Twins dueling wooden coasters. Together the two rides were combined to make the extreme thrill ride, which features the only barrel roll drop in the United States. Together it packs in numerous airtime moments, a couple of inversions, and lis guaranteed to leave a smile on your face!
Lightning Rod: One of the most anticipated rides of the year can be found in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, at Dollywood. Even though it had a bit of a rough start, this coaster holds the record for the fastest wood coaster, as well as the first & only launched wooden roller coaster. Those who have experienced it have called it an incredible experience, and one of the best rides in the world.
Mako: The only Hyper coaster to be built this year by B&M was Mako, at SeaWorld Orlando. Sitting at a height of 200 feet, this is now the tallest and fastest coaster in Orlando. Themed to the speed of the Mako shark, rides travel out and back up against a water bed through a series of huge camelback hills. Many who have experienced it claim it to be one of the best of its kind.
Switchback: Though it technically opened last year, it had a bit of a late start, which qualified it for this years awards. You can find this ride in Seguin, Texas, about an hour east of San Antonio. Though it may be small, boy does this ride pack a punch! It remains the only wooden shuttle coaster to go forwards and backwards, as well as technically holds the record for steepest drop on a wood coaster.
Interestingly, Switchback was featured as one of the top finalists over some coasters that actually opened this year, such as The Joker at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom or Monster at Adventureland. Something also to consider was that none of the new coasters overseas made it into the top five. This may be due to the amount of voters that actually managed to get on these new attractions, which likely was minimal.
So now that you know the candidates, which ride took the award? Lightning Rod at Dollywood! Among the coaster community, this seemed to be by far the most anticipated ride of the year. Though I have yet to experience it for myself, I cannot wait to one day get on it! Congratulations to everyone at Dollywood and Rocky Mountain Construction for putting together a great ride!
So now that we know the best ride of the year, lets run through some of the other awards given out:
Best Dark Ride- Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Friendliest Park, as well as Best Shows- Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Best Carousel, as well as Best Food- Knoebels in Elysburg, Pennsylvania
Best Funhouse- Noah's Ark at Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania
Best Marine Park- SeaWorld Orlando, in Florida
Best Childrens Park- Idlewild & SoakZone, in Ligonier, Pennsylvania
Best Boardwalk Park- Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, in California
Best Water Ride- Valhalla at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, in England
Best Water Park Ride- Wildebeest at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, in Santa Claus, Indiana. Holiday World also won the award for Cleanest Park.
Best Kids Area- Planet Snoopy at Kings Island, in Mason, Ohio
Best Indoor Roller Coaster- Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Florida, in Orlando
Best Landscaping- Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Best Christmas Event- Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood
Best Halloween Event- Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort, in Florida
So that leaves only four awards left. Best Wood/Steel Coaster, and Best Water/Amusement Park. Though there weren't too many surprises here, one ride certainly surprised many of us and that was the award for best steel coaster. Ever since it opened, Millennium Force at Cedar Point has been voted the best, if not one of the best coasters in the world. Very few rides have ever overthrown its title.
Until now. Ladies and Gentlemen, the new Best Steel Coaster in the world is...
Fury 325 at Carowinds is my personal favorite roller coaster of all time, and I know many others share the same #1. You can imagine my excitement when it too 1st place! At a height of 325 feet, reaching speeds of 90 mph, not only does it feature airtime, but great forces and a long ride time. Few can argue against it being, simply put, one of the greatest rides ever created. But for those still Millennium Force fans, fear not. It now has a ranking of #2.
As for the other final awards, few were surprised. Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce once again has taken the title for best wooden roller coaster. Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels took Best Water Park, and Europa Park in Germany won Best Amusement Park for the 3rd year in a row.
Congratulations to all the winners, and everyone who made this years awards possible. Next years awards will be held at Quassy Amusement Park and Lake Compounce.
It's always an exciting time of the year for enthusiasts, and overall I myself was pleased with the turnouts. Though we all have our different opinions, the polls really do reflect the thought of the mass community of coaster enthusiasts.
On a slight side note, if you're looking for a bit of fun, a bit of a spoof was posted to the Coaster Studios YouTube channel, in a way poking fun of the awards. I've attached it below:
Of course if you haven't already, make sure to go ahead and subscribe for daily videos about amusement parks and rolller coasters, as well as follow me on Instagram(@coaster_studios) and on the Coaster Studios Facebook page