Travel Weekly Readers Choice 2017


Theme parks

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens' Adventure Parks comprise two family-vacation destinations with widely divergent themes. The Williamsburg, Va., park has an Old World theme, and the Tampa park has an African wildlife theme. Adventure Island Tampa Bay, Busch Gardens' water park, is scheduled to debut its Vanish Point attraction in March, featuring a collapsing-floor drop slide and a 455-foot-long horizontal slide.

Disneyland

The 85-acre Disneyland Park is Walt Disney's original theme park, welcoming more than 700 million guests since 1955. It has since expanded into a 500-acre destination with two Disney theme parks (the original Disneyland park and Disney California Adventure park), three hotels and Downtown Disney, a shopping, dining and entertainment district. This year Disney began work on a series of parkwide improvements.

SeaWorld

Whether riding a manta ray, counting the teeth on a shark or feeding seals and sea lions, visitors have thrilled to SeaWorld's offerings since the opening of its first park in San Diego in 1964. Following the discontinuation of its orca-breeding program, SeaWorld this year debuted its new Orca Encounter attraction in San Diego, designed to provide a more natural setting for guests to interact with the creatures; its San Antonio and Orlando parks will follow suit by 2019.

Six Flags

Six Flags is the world's largest regional theme park company, with 18 parks across the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Beginning in 1961, Six Flags has entertained millions of families with world-class coasters, themed rides, thrilling water parks and unique attractions including up-close animal encounters and its seasonal Fright Fest and Holiday in the Park. In March, San Antonio's Six Flags Fiesta Texas is scheduled to debut the Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster, featuring a single I-beam rail with riders seated single file.

Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Studios markets itself as the No. 1 movie-and-TV-based theme park operator in the world. Universal Orlando offers three parks in one venue: Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure and, new this year, the Volcano Bay water park. Volcano Bay offers guests a high-tech bracelet, called a TapuTapu, that enables them to avoid long lines. This spring, Universal Orlando is scheduled to open the Fast & Furious: Supercharged ride.  

Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World is a nearly 40-square-mile entertainment and recreation destination with four theme parks (the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom); two water adventure parks; more than 30 resorts, including eight Disney Vacation Club resort properties; four golf courses; Disney's Wedding Pavilion; ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex; and Disney Springs, an entertainment/shopping/dining complex.

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