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Best Theme Park Destinations

Amusement Business Magazine has revealed the top ten theme parks in North America for 2004 based on attendance figures. As expected, six of those ten are owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company. Although no numbers were released for theme park visitor count elsewhere, it's safe to assume that the brand also dominates internationally, as its newest theme park HongKong Disneyland just opened. Here is how the list looked with a short overview of its attractions.

1. The Magic Kingdom at Disney World (FL) Theme Park

Disney World's Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 and is located 30 minutes south of Orlando. Cinderella Castle, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space Mountain are just some of its popular attractions. Kids will be thrilled getting autographs from Disney characters at Mickey's Toontown Fair.

2. Disneyland (CA) Theme Park

The world's most famous theme park recently celebrated its 50th anniversary called the "Happiest Homecoming on Earth" which was attended by, among others, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Indiana Jones Adventure and Haunted Mansion have been hailed by critics to be the parks best rides.

3. Epcot at Walt Disney World (FL) Theme Park

Originally called EPCOT Center (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) when it opened in October 1982, the park was envisioned to be a futuristic city with controlled environs. Now, it is known to be a "learning-oriented" attraction in where science and international culture blend.

4. Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World (FL) Theme Park

The park functions both as a full-service production lot and theme park. Five major sections make-up the park: Hollywood Blvd., New York St., Mickey Ave., Animation Courtyard, and Sunset Blvd. Of all the rides here, Tower of Terror has been said to be the best of the modern-day attractions. The freefalling thrill ride is based on the classic television show The Twilight Zone.

5. Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World (FL) Theme Park

This 500-acre theme park focuses on animals and dinosaurs. The people behind it are quick to point out, though, that it is not a zoo since there certainly is a lot more to see and do here than animals on display. It's Tough To Be A Bug and Tree Of Life are the top picks among the attractions.

6. Universal Studios at Universal Orlando (FL) Theme Park

Universal's Revenge of the Mummy ride is widely proclaimed to be among the best rides ever with coasters reaching top speeds and gut-displacing drops. It also gets props for effectively incorporating story into an action-filled ride with stunning special effects. Another reason for its success is the family-oriented approach Universal chose which means it's relatively docile compared to its predecessors.

7. Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando (FL) Theme Park

Undoubtedly, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is the number one reason visitors keep coming back to this theme park. Merging 3D graphics with the most advanced motion base simulation technology, this ride takes visitors on a whole new level of fun and excitement that even the most jaded ride enthusiast will come out totally blown away.

8. Disney's California Adventures (CA) Theme Park

Soarin' Over California is the perfect attraction for anyone who has always dreamed of flying. This attraction simulates a hang glider "soaring" over California's best known locations such as the Golden Gate Bridge, San Diego, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles, and even Disneyland itself. It has become one of the most visited attractions in the two Disney parks it is featured in. Scents corresponding to the places shown on screen are incorporated into the wind effects for added realism.

9. SeaWorld Florida (FL) Theme Park

Aside from the usual marine shows, SeaWorld also boasts its own roller coaster and making it floorless gives the ride an added thrill factor. It's also the tallest of its kind in Central Florida. There are motion simulator rides, a marine life exhibit, and, at Discovery Cove, visitors can swim with dolphins. Truly, a far cry from the whale-splashing attraction it used to be.

10. Universal Studios Hollywood (CA) Theme Park

The rides and attractions at Universal Studios are all tied with Universal's movies. There is also the famous backlot tour on a tram that visits famous film sets and complete special effects. The most recent addition to line-up is Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds set. Guests can also be part of the studio audience at television show tapings. About 35,000 visitors come to Universal Studios daily, majority of them also from Southern California. It is also the largest film studio-theme park in the world.