Best Amusement Park Entertainment (2015)


The best theme parks offer way more than just rides. Whether a mid-afternoon escape from roller coasters, heat and walking or an end-of-the-night celebration, sometimes the entertainment offerings also qualify as must-sees at their respective parks.

  • Celtic Fyre

    Celtic Fyre
    Busch Gardens Williamsburg - Williamsburg, Va.

    Celebrate the Celtic tradition of storytelling through dance at this incredibly popular, high-energy show at Busch Gardens Williamsburg that will have you laughing and clapping to the beat of festive music. Animals native to Ireland make appearances and audience participation provides another fun angle. Guests leave the show with a new found or rekindled love for all things Irish.
    Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens Williamsburg

  • Disney's Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular

    Disney's Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular
    Disney California Adventure - Anaheim, Calif.

    Disney’s Aladdin, A Musical Spectacular is a Broadway-style musical at Disney California Adventure that features songs and recreations of popular scenes from the movie Aladdin over the course of 40 minutes. The jokester genie is a hit with all ages because his antics are updated to reflect current events while special effects, like the flying magic carpet, dazzle.
    Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort

  • Festival of the Lion King

    Festival of the Lion King
    Disney's Animal Kingdom - Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

    Celebrate the lion cub, Simba, who would be king at with songs from The Lion King. In addition to acrobatics, stilt walkers, singing and dancing by the performers, guest participation involves making various animal sounds on cue and the possibility of joining the stage. The enclosed theater inside Disney's Animal Kingdom is air-conditioned and multiple shows run throughout the day.
    Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Finding Nemo - The Musical

    Finding Nemo - The Musical
    Disney's Animal Kingdom - Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

    Hear your favorite songs from the hit movie Finding Nemo during this musical production which follows the tale and friendship of Marlin, his son Nemo, and friend Dory through the Great Barrier reef and beyond. Underwater effects are created through innovative lighting and projections as well as spectacular props in this must-”sea” show at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
    Photo courtesy of Gene Duncan, photographer

  • Iceploration

    Busch Gardens Tampa - Tampa

    This show on ice at Busch Gardens Tampa is based on a grandfather’s wish for his pre-teen grandchild to step away from technology to explore faraway places such as the African Serengeti, Great Barrier Reef, Arctic and the Amazon rainforest. Twenty-one live animals – some exotic – delight guests throughout. Cast members are also available for meet-and-greets after the show ends.
    Photo courtesy of 2015© SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

  • Fantasmic!

    Disneyland Park & Disney's Hollywood Studios

    Watch Mickey conduct scenes from Fantasia over the Sunset Boulevard or Rivers of America, depending on the park. As his imagination starts to grow, the show focuses on a battle between good and evil as characters appear as visions on the water and in real life. This nighttime show features special effects such as music, lasers, high resolution digital film sequences and pyrotechnics.
    Photo courtesy of David Roark, photographer

  • WaterWorld

    Universal Studios Hollywood - Los Angeles

    WaterWorld is a high-octane adventure show, staged at Universal Studios Hollywood, that packs a lot into just 16 minutes. In addition to jet ski jumping, perilous plunges and massive explosions, the explosive sea plane crash is not-to-be-missed. Sit in the Soak Zone if you’re game to get wet. The show is adapted from the Kevin Costner movie, Waterworld.
    Photo courtesy of William Warby / Flickr

  • Horror Make-Up Show

    Horror Make-Up Show
    Universal Studios Florida - Orlando

    Horror movie buffs will love this educational and interactive show featuring fake blood, severed limbs and clips from famous movies that highlight how Hollywood makeup artists create gory special effects on screen. Universal Studios Florida show’s storyline is more funny than gross, as the hosts poke fun at horror movie flops and insert the occasional joke here and there.
    Photo courtesy of Snowman Guy / Wikimedia Commons

  • Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage

    Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage
    Disney's Hollywood Studios - Lake Buena Vista, Fla

    Experience the magic of Belle and the Beast during this romantic musical at Disney's Hollywood Studios, which features some of the same vocal talent as the film Beauty and the Beast, including vocal performances by Robby Benson as the Beast, Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts and Jerry Orbach as Lumiere. All ages will also love the colorful costumes and set design.
    Photo courtesy of Gene Duncan, photographer

  • Paint the Night

    Paint the Night
    Disneyland - Anaheim, Calif.

    Watch as Mickey Mouse and Tinkerbell’s pixie dust light up more than 1.5 million LED lights during this state-of-the-art parade that travels down Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland to the sounds of high-energy music. A variety of costumed performers and characters appear on the illuminated floats such as Peter Pan, Lightning McQueen, Ariel, Anna and Elsa, and more.
    Photo courtesy of Paul HIffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

For the past four weeks USA TODAY 10Best readers have been voting on their favorite amusement park entertainment options from a pool of 20 nominees. The results are in!

Taking home the title of Best Amusement Park Entertainment is Celtic Fyre at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This celebration of Celtic culture and tradition features audience participation and even appearances by animals native to Ireland.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Amusement Park Entertainment are as follows:

  1. Celtic Fyre - Busch Gardens Williamsburg
  2. Disney's Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular - Disney California Adventure
  3. Festival of the Lion King - Disney's Animal Kingdom
  4. Finding Nemo - The Musical - Disney's Animal Kingdom
  5. Iceploration - Busch Gardens Tampa
  6. Fantasmic! - Disneyland Park & Disney's Hollywood Studios
  7. WaterWorld - Universal Studios Hollywood
  8. Horror Make-Up Show - Universal Studios Florida
  9. Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage - Disney's Hollywood Studios
  10. Paint the Night - Disneyland

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Lance Hart (Screamscape), Steve Kalkofen (RollerCoasterPro), Arthur Levine ( Theme Park Expert) and Robert Niles (Theme Park Insider) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of American amusement parks.

Other nominees for Best Amusement Park Entertainment included Disneyland Forever at Disneyland, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot, Lone Star Nights at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Main Street Electrical Parade at Magic Kingdom, Mickey's PhilharMagic at Magic Kingdom, Muppet*Vision 3D at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Mystery Lodge at Knott's Berry Farm, Special Effects Stage at Universal Studios Hollywood, Wishes Nighttime Spectacular at Magic Kingdom and World of Color at Disney California Adventure.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners. The contest was promoted on 10Best and USA TODAY.

License the 10Best Readers' Choice Award Logo



AlertThe Experts

Lance Hart

Lance Hart

Lance Hart

Steve Kalkofen

Steve Kalkofen

Steve Kalkofen

Arthur Levine

Arthur Levine

Arthur Levine

Robert Niles

Robert Niles

Robert Niles