USA Today 10 Best Theme Parks

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Yeah, popularity contest, voting methods, blah blah blah...

I just though it was interesting which parks nabbed the #1 and #2 spots in a contest that was decidedly not enthusiast based.

Both SFGAdv and SFMM tweeted that people that vote for them will receive a chance to win free tickets to the park. Cedar Point also advertised the contest via Twitter, but with no bribe for voting. Personally, I would have voted for Dollywood because it is a great theme park, not an amusement park. It probably wouldn't make a difference to the general public though.

Loving Maverick since 2007!

Jeff's avatar

This one is instead biased by population and PR campaigns.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Yep. And in the end Six Flags reached the most people the most effectively.

I believe that when they ranked zoos Toledo won. This poll is probably useful if you are looking for a PR person.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Regardless of getting hung up on the methodology, I really feel like this list is closer to representing what an 'average' person thinks more than any industry or enthusiast based poll is.

The exact order probably really doesn't matter (although I can't resist a dig at the SF haters inside the bubble). These are the parks people are most aware of and likely think represent the amusement park experience.

That was kind of my point in sharing.

I guess I forgot where I was posting this to for a minute. ;)

sirloindude's avatar

It's a great PR move, but I bet that most people haven't even been to ten parks, period, let alone enough to choose which ten are their favorites. I'm not saying that as some dig at non-enthusiasts, mind you. ;)

13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones

Jeff's avatar

Average people haven't been to anything beyond their local park, save for probably Disney or something. At the age of 25 I had been to Cedar Point, Kings Island and Geauga Lake (plus WDW). What informed opinion did I have?

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

Pagoda Gift Shop's avatar

Kings Island is just slightly better than Disney, and a whole lot better than Harry Potter who didn't even make the list. Take that Florida!

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Jeff said:

What informed opinion did I have?

A well-formed opinion of those three parks, I imagine.

Did your lack of experience make that opinion any less valid? I don't believe so.

Is Cedar Point any less the best park you'd ever been to because you'd only been to two other parks?

Jeff's avatar

Of course not, but I would hardly be in a position to say it was better than any other parks.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

Lord Gonchar's avatar

I think your opinion would be as valid as anyone's.

If not, then at what point does it become valid?

It almost feels like you're saying we should just let Richard Bannister climb to the top of a mountain, create a list, present it to us and call it the gospel because, quite frankly, none of us are ever going to touch the experience he has with parks and rides.

Regardless, why does the discussion always just fall into this same bull**** anytime a list or poll comes up? It's lists of roller coasters an amusement parks. It really doesn't need to be needlessly I've argued a million times, I still think making it so misses the point entirely.

To say this doesn't count because it's an uninformed popularity contest is entirely wrong - it's not supposed to be anything more than an uninformed popularity contest...and I don't think it really needs to be.

Which parks did the average schmoes that read USA Today vote for the most? That's the task at hand.

I read the list, I passed it along because I thoroughly enjoyed the irony of two of the most enthusiast-maligned Six Flags parks taking the top two spots. I was prepared to have a small chuckle and maybe a little fun at the expense of the haters.

Honestly, by now I should know the room and should have known better. Mea culpa.

Jeff's avatar

You should know better, dammit.

I guess my point is that it's just more ****ty link bait from USA Today. But if that's your thing, that's cool. Your tastes in content are not particularly compatible with mine. That's certainly not news. :)

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

sirloindude's avatar

My observation is simply geared toward the nature of this poll. I know it's just a PR thing and not meant to be a scientific study, but it just seems a little goofy to me.

I'm not saying that someone who has only been to Cedar Point and Kings Island is without any right to say that Cedar Point is the best park they've visited. What I am saying is that they aren't necessarily qualified to say that, having only been to those two parks, that Cedar Point is the best in the US. I've been to over forty parks in the US and theoretically, even I'm not qualified to vote. I still have no Silver Dollar City, SeaWorld San Diego, Frontier City, Great Escape, Holiday World, or Universal Studios Hollywood, to name but a few, under my belt, and at least a few of those would be good candidates for this list. Therefore, I'd be hard pressed to say that the Magic Kingdom or Dollywood is the best park in the US (those aren't even necessarily my favorites, but you get the idea).

As we all seem to agree that it's little more than "link bait," as Jeff put it, I suppose there isn't much to say, but if it makes you feel better about posting it, Gonch, I will say that it took me by surprise when a picture of Tatsu popped up to indicate SFMM as the top winner after I clicked on the link.

Last edited by sirloindude,

13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Here's something else too...and I'm not trying to be a dick personally. But rather make a point and/or ask a question.

I get that you feel proper methodology and statistical significance and all of that is important. Presumably because it's the 'right' way to do it or because it's better or whatever.

But is it? Seriously. Does it really achieve 'better' results?

Just out of curiousity, I went to the depths of hell and took a look at last year's Golden Tickets - the bastion of meaningless popularity contest dicketry and means of selling advertising.

I compared their 2013 results to the current CoasterBuzz results. They're practically the same.

For wooden coasters, both lists shared 8 coasters in common in the top ten and the two extras that make top ten here on CB were numbers 11 and 12 on the Golden Tickets. (And their two oddballs are #11 and unlisted on CB's list)

CB's top 10 is contained entirely within GT's top 12 and 9 of GT's top 10 is contained entirely within CB's top 11.

So for all the thought you've putting into creating a system where experience is weighed, a certain sample must be measured, and all of that - you still ended up with the same list of best wooden coasters that they did.

The steel list is a little more complicated in that you have Banshee because your list is weekly and theirs is yearly, but the flip side to that is that the GT's list Expedition GeForce (unquestionably one of the best rides on the planet) and CB doesn't because of lack of sampling or data.

But even if I throw out those sort of discrepancies, the lists match 5 rides in the top ten. Of the remaining 5 top ten CB steelies, 4 are in the GT top 20 and the last (Manta) is simply not on their list - the lone really outstanding difference between the polls. (Score one for being statistically significant, I guess)

Now that's not to say either poll is great or it sucks or whatnot. We all know the GT's are a joke and we all love CB.

But the bottom line is that for all the reasoning you put into it, you came up with, for all reasonable intents and purposes, essentially the same list they did.

I just don't see how doing it one way was better than the other. You ended up at the same place. You've essentially proven that the ol' "popularity contest" method was achieving results equivalent to polling with a statistically valid approach - especially in wooden coasters, slightly less so with steelies.

So even if I ignore my opinion that it's not important enough to warrant such an approach, even if you do take a more scientific approach, you end up with pretty much the same results. In this case, good enough is good enough.

Does that make sense? Or at least better explain why I so openly question the need to take coaster lists so seriously?

Tommytheduck's avatar

Wow! Amazing post, Gonch. (not sarcasm) I want to say I'm surprised by what you found, but in reality, I think it does make a lot of sense.

Lets be honest, SFMM has a great collection of coasters. No question about it. We, as coastertools, know that they run them, staff them, and maintain them like complete garbage, but when you finally get on one after waiting through an hour of single train, 8 minute dispatches, it's an awesome ride! But neither the voters nor the editors know anything about the "true" (read "enthusiast whining") SF experience, so on paper, from a statistical view, SFMM deserves the top spot.

People who've never even been to Cedar Point know that it's the best park on the planet. Why? They've been told so by rollercoaster shows on TV, and by friends who have been there. "OMG, they have so many more coasters than we do at (homepark) and they are so big!"

I'd make fun of USA Today readers, but can't, because I are one. I read it with some regularity because I get it for free at work and it has crosswords. In fact, USA Today readers are mostly pretty well traveled. No one pays for that trash, they get it free at their hotel or pick it up off of an empty airport bench.

Or follow click bait.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Tommytheduck said:

In fact, USA Today readers are mostly pretty well traveled. No one pays for that trash, they get it free at their hotel or pick it up off of an empty airport bench.

I love this because it elicted my favorite reaction.

I chuckled and then I thought, "Good point."

Last edited by Lord Gonchar,
Jeff's avatar

Lord Gonchar said:

But is it? Seriously. Does it really achieve 'better' results?

That was almost TL;DR because you asked this question but then went a bunch of places that don't really answer it. Or more specifically, they answer what better might be. I don't know what better is, or at the very least, it's as different as the opinions are. For me, yes, there's a significant difference between a well-established statistical study and a straight vote on the Internet which is influenced by geography, marketing, etc. If all you're after is entertainment, I'm sure that's fine. For wannabe statistics nerds for me, I would dismiss it as, well, entertainment.

I kn0w the limitations (or flaws, if you will) of the CB poll. I'm sure most people aren't interested in getting into the weeds around things like this, but to me the methodology is always as important as the results. I equate it to politics... I know a guy might be Republican or Democrat, but at the end of the day that doesn't matter as much as his voting record.

None of my explanation trumps your point that it's probably "good enough" for most people, and that's fine.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

rollergator's avatar

Lord Gonchar said:

Did your lack of experience make that opinion any less valid? I don't believe so.

Is Cedar Point any less the best park you'd ever been to because you'd only been to two other parks?

In terms of having a genuine basis for comparison, I'd say a more widespread experience gives you more ability to discern what park A does better, and what the park needs to do better at...when your experience is very limited, you don't necessarily know what the very best parks do - food, entertainment, cleanliness, operations, safety, landscaping (aka "charm") only know what's the best *from among the parks you've visited.*

Last edited by rollergator,

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