According to the Themed Entertainment Association ( also known as TEA), 2012 was a good year to operate a theme park.

While attendance numbers are not generally provided by the theme park operates themselves but instead by TEA estimates, things looked pretty good. Overall attendance was up 6.7% worldwide, with a 3% increase in North America. Asia did especially well, with Hong Kong Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan showing attendance increases of 14%.

When looking at theme park companies which operate multiple parks, Disney was the runaway winner in 2012, with attendance up 4.7% overall to more than 126 million guests – more than double the next company, which is Merlin Entertainment Group (which operates a number of different theme attractions, including LegoLand, Madame Tussauds, and the London Eye. ). Merlin had 54 million guests in 2012, which represented an increase of more than 16%. Universal was number three, with 34 million guests.

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With all the talk about the theme park race between Disney and Universal, it is interesting to note that – at least worldwide – Disney is nearly four times bigger than Universal when it comes to attendance numbers.

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Top 11 Theme Parks Worldwide

Here is a list of the top 11 parks worldwide. It’s interesting to note that the only park that saw an attendance decrease in 2012 was the original Disneyland park. Perhaps that was due to its sister park, Disney’s California Adventure, which saw a huge 22% increase in attendance – probably due to the new Cars Land.

1 – Magic Kingdom: 17,536,000 (+2.3% change)

2 – Disneyland Park: 15,963,000 (-1.1% change)

3 – Tokyo Disneyland: 14,847,000 (+8.5%)

4 – Tokyo Disney Sea: 12,656,000 (+8.5%)

5 – Disneyland Park, Disneyland Paris: 11,200,000 (+1.9%)

6 – Epcot: 11,063,000 (+2.2%)

7 – Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 9,998,000 (+2.2%)

8 – Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 9,912,000 (+2.2%)

9 – Universal Studios Japan: 9,700,000 (+14.1%)

10 – Islands of Adventure: 7,981,000 (+4%)

11 – Disney California Adventure: 7,775,000 (+22.6%)

Disney World's Magic Kingdom alone hosted more than 17 million guests.

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom alone hosted more than 17 million guests.

Two of the top three water parks were Disney parks in Orlando – Typhoon Lagoon with 2.1 million visitors, and Blizzard Beach with 1.9 million visitors. The second most popular water park in the world? That would be Chimelong Waterpark in Guangzhou, China.

Aquatica at Sea World in Orlando came in at 5th place with 1.5 million visitors.

 What do you think about these theme park rankings?