Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando was chosen by almost 20.5 million parkgoers. Picture: David Ryder/Bloomberg.

A recent survey on theme parks and museums would make the Mona Lisa smile: the Louvre was the world’s most-visited museum last year, with 8.1 million people admiring the art at the Paris institution. 

Cinderella doesn’t have to feel threatened by the woman with the enigmatic expression. Almost 20.5 million park-goers chose Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida as their happy place.

For the 12th consecutive year, the Themed Entertainment Association and Aecom, a development services firm, have released their Theme Index and Museum Index. The report ranks the top museums, water parks and theme parks in the world based on attendance.

The major theme park operators had an outstanding year with 8.6% overall growth led largely by properties in China, where attendance swelled by 20%.

The Mouse dominated as Disney welcomed 150 million guests to its venues worldwide, taking first place in the Top 10 Theme Park Groups. In North America, its parks swept the first five of 20 spots.

Overall, 244 million visitors headed to the world’s top 25 theme parks, a nearly 5% gain over the previous year. 

30.1 Million folks soaked at the top 20 water parks and 108 million explored the top 20 museums.

While the theme park population flourished, museum visitor numbers remained stagnant - with a few exceptions. For instance, Washington’s National Gallery of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London expanded by 22 and 25%, respectively.

Museums are introducing technological advances such as augmented and virtual reality; renovations and expansions; travelling exhibits; and blockbuster shows. The V&A Museum, for one, checked off two of those boxes: the decorative arts museum unveiled major additions last summer and also curated major exhibits on Pink Floyd, plywood and the fashion designer Balenciaga.

Half of the top 20 museums charge to enter, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the most recent addition to the admission-fee club.

China demonstrated its cultural rise by nabbing three spots in top 20 museums, one more than New York City and Paris. The National Museum of China in Beijing (2nd place) drew 8.1 million visitors, a million more people than the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which tied for third place.

Several other Smithsonian museums, though, suffered a dip in attendance.

In the water parks category, 1st placed Chimelong Water Park in Guangzhou, China, gained 6% more visitors and 2nd placed Typhoon Lagoon at Walt Disney World dropped by 5%.

In head-count terms, this translates to more than a half-million people splashing at Chimelong than splishing at Typhoon Lagoon.

The Washington Post