The oldest-operating amusement park, to date, is 436 years old. In Klampenborg, Denmark, Bakken boasts six roller coasters—one of which is a wooden ride that has been operating since 1932. So while the idea of an amusement park seems inherently American and is a nostalgic memory for many, their relatively inexpensive and accessible nature has been taken advantage of everywhere. The first characteristic amusement park in America didn’t appear until the 19th century. Since the opening and success of Bakken, gathering at fairgrounds and indulging in thrills and food has become a universal idea of fun.
Amusement parks originated from pleasure gardens in Europe, which were public lands for recreational activities and entertainment. They differed from public gardens in that they hosted events, offered food, and drew crowds for entertainment purposes rather than just leisure.
The first modern amusement park—one that is singly owned, permanent, and enclosed—is credited to Sea Lion Park at Coney Island in Brooklyn. Opened in 1895, this park was one of the first places to sell tickets to individual rides. And the innovation has not stopped; we’ve seen new rides, technology, locations, attractions, and more.
Today, even though Disney can seem to monopolize the theme park territory, many amusement parks around the world offer different attractions on the same basic principle of community recreation. And, even after geopolitical conflicts, wars, recessions, and dynamic real estate values, amusement parks have survived.
Stacker compiled the most popular amusement parks worldwide using data from Themed Entertainment Association. The parks are ranked by the number of visitors in 2018. Read on to transport yourself to 25 of the most popular amusement parks in the world.
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- Visitors in 2018: 4.68 million (11.9% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 4.18 million
Chimelong Paradise is the largest amusement park in China and the flagship of Guangzhou Chimelong Tourist Resort. The resort comprises neighboring attractions included Chimelong Paradise, and visitors can travel between the parks. In Guangzhou, China, this park is home to attractions like the 10-inversion roller coaster—one of only two in the world.
- Visitors in 2018: 4.85 million (4.5% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 4.64 million
Before the creation of Disneyland, it is said that Walt Disney visited Tivoli Gardens and drew inspiration from its charm. Opened in 1843, Tivoli Gardens is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world. Here, the attractions are more akin to traditional pleasure gardens. Tivoli has become known for its performing arts, light shows, and gardens, besides the variety of rides. Part of this park’s appeal stems from Chinese-inspired aesthetic and historic aura. Even after damage from World War II and changes in ownership, Tivoli Gardens has rebuilt, expanded, and modernized all without losing its original elegance.
- Visitors in 2018: 5.29 million (1.9% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 5.20 million
Walt Disney Studios Park makes up half of Disneyland Paris and puts a spotlight on the business of movies. Attractions include the park’s landmark icon, the Earffel Tower, Toon Studio, inspired by Disney’s animated characters, Production Courtyard, and Backlot, all of which give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the production of movies.
- Visitors in 2018: 5.40 million (4.2% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 5.18 million
Unlike the amusement parks Americans are accustomed to, De Efteling in the Netherlands isn’t based on movie characters. Instead, this park evokes nostalgia with rides and attractions based on folklore and fairytales. The park has faced recent controversy for certain rides that are designed with yellow face and black face. Specifically, the Monsieur Cannibale ride includes racist depictions of black people. De Efteling announced in January it would close for three months to update some designs and infrastructure.
- Visitors in 2018: 5.72 million (0.4% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 5.70 million
“Amusement Today,” a trade publication focused on the industry of amusement parks, named Europa Park the best amusement park in the world. It’s the largest park in Germany and includes 18 themed areas, many of which are based on different countries, and 13 roller coasters. Since 2007, Europa Park hosts the Euro Dance Festival among many other events for visitors to enjoy.
- Visitors in 2018: 5.80 million (0.0% change from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 5.80 million
After years of being unable to turn a profit, Ocean Park revitalized the amusement park scene in Hong Kong and proved itself to be a competitor to Hong Kong Disneyland when it expanded to over 80 attractions that cost $5.5 billion. Ocean Park is infamous for capturing wild orcas and dolphins to support its animal exhibits but famous for holding some of the largest Halloween celebrations in Asia.
- Visitors in 2018: 5.85 million (7.3% decrease from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 6.31 million
Global Fair, Zootopia, European Adventure, Magic Land, and American Adventure are the five themed areas in this park. While Zootopia doesn’t have any connection to the Disney film, it shares the frivolous nature of the film. Unique to this park is also Magic Land, which features some attractions based on “Aesop’s Fables.”
- Visitors in 2018: 5.92 million (0.2% decrease from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 5.93 million
Possibly the biggest attraction of Nagashima Spa Land is the Aurora Wheel, a 295-foot Ferris wheel. The park itself has 12 operating roller coasters and a hot spring and botanical garden nearby. Also, a landmark of this park is the Steel Dragon 2000, a ride that cuts through the entire length of the park.
- Visitors in 2018: 5.96 million (11.2% decrease from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 6.71 million
Lotte World is made of an indoor and outdoor park. The indoor portion of the park has received the accolade of the biggest indoor theme park in the world.
- Visitors in 2018: 6.70 million (8.1% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 6.20 million
Opened in 2005, Hong Kong Disneyland has risen to not only the biggest theme park in Hong Kong, but the 16th-most popular park in the world. The park is the smallest of all the Disney parks worldwide and has a daily capacity of 34,000 people. The park has faced criticism for overcrowding and has since started plans to expand the park and increase the number of visitors it can support.
- Visitors in 2018: 9.15 million (1% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 9.06 million
Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Studios, started the attraction as a way for movie studios to make extra money. Opened in 1915 as Universal City Ranch, the lot offered a behind-the-scenes look at the production of then-silent films. Today, the park offers rides such as Transformers, Revenge of the Mummy, and Jurassic World.
- Visitors in 2018: 9.79 million (2.5% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 9.55 million
The opening of Islands of Adventure in 1999 transformed Universal Studios Florida into the Universal Orlando Resort. Like the name implies, this park offers anything and everything related to adventure, travel and fantasy. The park is organized by themed islands like Toon Lagoon, Skull Island, and a newly implemented The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
- Visitors in 2018: 9.84 million (1.9% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 9.66 million
Not only is Disneyland Paris the most visited theme park in Europe, but it’s also the biggest Disney park outside of the United States. French labor unions and critics contested the initial opening in 1992 because they thought the park symbolized cultural imperialism and the invasion of American consumerism. Yet, millions of people across Europe flocked to attend. Now, the park is undergoing an expansion plan to prepare for the 2024 Olympics set to be in Paris.
- Visitors in 2018: 9.86 million (3% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 9.57 million
Next to Disneyland California, this park opened in 2001. It includes the iconic Pixar Pal-A-Round, which is a Ferris wheel adorned with a Mickey Mouse face, as well as many themed areas dedicated to Pixar, Marvel, and a few Disney characters.
- Visitors in 2018: 10.71 million (5% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 10.20 million
Although Universal Studios in Orlando had a rocky start—and could not attract the number of visitors it needed to be profitable—the park now sees millions of visitors a year. Perhaps the most well-known part of Universal Studios is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Only added to the park in 2010, the massive success of this attraction led to expansion projects to include more Harry Potter attractions like Diagon Alley and Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
- Visitors in 2018: 10.83 million (10.6% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 9.79 million
Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, a sister park of Chimelong Paradise, opened to the public in 2014 and has since racked up five Guinness World Records. The two most notable records: the world’s largest aquarium, that holds 12.87 million gallons of water, and the largest aquarium window. But despite the accolades, this park also faces quite a bit of criticism for its orca breeding and whale trade with Russia.
- Visitors in 2018: 11.26 million (5% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 10.72 million
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is based on the Golden Age of Hollywood. It opened 30 years ago and includes attractions like Hollywood Boulevard, Toy Story Land, Animation Courtyard, and Sunset Boulevard. Visitors enter the park and can immediately walk down Hollywood Boulevard, which is mirrored off the actual street. The picturesque nature of this park is much of the appeal.
- Visitors in 2018: 11.80 million (7.3% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 11 million
Shanghai Disneyland was the sixth Disney resort to open worldwide. With Shanghai’s massive metro system leading right up to the park, millions of visitors can attend the park by public transportation. The park is not a carbon copy of Disney parks in the U.S., as many of the variations stem from the acknowledgement of and respect for Chinese culture. For example, there is no haunted house, otherwise a staple for many other parks, because spirits are held with the utmost respect. But there is no shortage of attractions such as the Alice in Wonderland Maze and Roaring Mountain.
- Visitors in 2018: 12.44 million (2% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 12.2 million
The most iconic element of Epcot is Spaceship Earth—a massive silver globe that houses a ride but also serves as the flagship of the park. The park’s ethos is centered on cultural celebration and human advancement. The two most notable parts are Future World and a permanent World Fair that features stations representing many countries.
- Visitors in 2018: 13.75 million (10% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 12.5 million
This park opened on Earth Day 1998 and celebrates animals—a central theme of many Disney films. The Tree of Life is the most iconic element at the hub of the park, featuring an artificial tree with hundreds of animals carved into it. Visitors can walk through the different areas and get to know their favorite animated and real animals.
- Visitors in 2018: 14.3 million (4.3% decrease from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 14.94 million
Universal Studios Japan has 10 themed areas, including its Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Japan location offers two different parts of the Harry Potter universe that aren’t in the U.S. parks, such as Black Lake and a Hogwarts Express Photo Op. In 2001, Guinness World Records named Universal Studios Japan’s Christmas tree as the most lit Christmas tree in the world with 260,498 lights.
- Visitors in 2018: 14.65 million (8.5% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 13.50 million
Tokyo DisneySea is completely unique to Japan, as nothing else like it exists anywhere in the world. With seven “ports of call,” this park has all things nautical. The ports include Mediterranean Harbor, Mermaid Lagoon, Lost River Delta, and more. The man-made volcano, Mount Prometheus, sits at the center of the park and is known as the icon of Tokyo DisneySea.
- Visitors in 2018: 17.91 million (7.9% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 16.60 million
Tokyo Disneyland was the first Disney park built outside the United States. With immense success, Disneyland Paris soon followed. Very similar to the U.S. parks, this one includes Adventureland, Westernland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. Tokyo Disney Resort (which includes both Disneyland and DisneySea) continued to be one of the most profitable Disney parks, racking up about $878.5 million in 2017.
- Visitors in 2018: 18.67 million (2% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 18.3 million
Disneyland Anaheim is the only Disney park to have been completed while Walt Disney was still alive. On that same token, it’s also the oldest Disney park. The first opening of the park was invite-only, but the anticipation was so high that counterfeit tickets began to circulate. The park was unprepared for the unexpected influx of people. But as soon as the park was open to the public, its success was unparalleled and has since led to the creation of many other Disney attractions around the world.
- Visitors in 2018: 20.86 million (2% increase from 2017)
- Visitors in 2017: 20.45 million
Magic Kingdom in Orlando is the world’s most popular amusement park, and they based its creation on the sister park in Anaheim. Cinderella Castle is perhaps the most notable feature of this part and has become central to the nightly fireworks show. Construction for this park began after Walt Disney’s death, though he was heavily involved in the planning. The parks tagline is “The most magical place on earth,” which differs from the other parks’ tagline: “The happiest place on earth.”
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