The world’s most popular theme parks

Theme parks have been a definitive element of popular culture for over half a century. With titans like Walt Disney World and Universal Studios drawing enormous crowds, the U.S. has a lot to offer, in terms of attendance and variety.

However, other major theme parks, particularly in Asia, have emerged to rival the American mainstays.

That got us thinking about which parks attract the most visitors. Here are the some of the top theme parks which draw the biggest crowds in the world.

Walt Disney World Resort - Florida, USA

In 1971, Disney built what is arguably the quintessential theme park. Indeed, for many of us, the mere mention of the phrase conjures up images of the iconic Cinderella's Castle overlooking the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort, Fla.

Over four decades after its initial construction, Walt Disney World Resort is still the world's most popular theme park, claiming an annual attendance of almost 17 million to the Magic Kingdom alone, according to a report from the Themed Entertainment Association.

Some of the resort's most famous attractions, like Space Mountain and the Tower of Terror have become industry icons, while the sprawling Animal Kingdom and state-of-the-art Epcot theme park offer some truly unique experiences. Add to the mix the luxurious Disney resort hotel and two enormous water parks, and it's easy to see why Disney World remains number one.

Number of visitors: No overall figure for the entire resort. Magic Kingdom – 16.9 million, Epcot – 10.8 million, Animal Kingdom – 9.6 million, Disney’s Hollywood Studios – 9.6 million

Universal Studios - Osaka, Japan

Tokyo's Universal Studios theme park mixes the greatest elements of its Orlando and Hollywood counterparts to create a cohesive and endlessly fun theme park experience. Guests can experience live-action shows, amusement park rides, as well as restaurants and shops inspired by some of Universal's most famous movie franchises.

Visitors take to the high seas on a harrowing "Jaws" adventure, dodge a roaring T-Rex while careening through Jurassic Park, or soar through the air on a high flying "Spider-Man" roller-coaster.

Number of visitors: 8.1 million

Everland Resort - Yongin, South Korea

Just a few miles outside the major industrial city of Suwon sits South Korea's answer to Disneyland. Everland claims to be the world's fifth-largest theme park.

The expansive amusement park is split into distinct zones, each based on a different theme, including the European Adventure, American Adventure and Magic Land areas. Everland is also notable for its abundant natural beauty, with colorful flowerbeds and lush foliage peppered throughout the resort. Families will adore the Safari Zone featuring exotic creatures like tigers, lions, bears, giraffes and elephants, while speed demons can burn rubber on the Everland Speedway racetrack.

Number of visitors:  6.8 million

SeaWorld Orlando - Florida, USA

SeaWorld in Orlando Florida is a marine park that offers a cross between an aquarium and an amusement park. This vast 200-acre site comprises lagoons, rainforest and dozens of attractions designed to teach guests about the oceans most fascinating creatures while also providing plenty of fun. The park's star resident, Shamu, and his family of killer whales perform breathtaking shows for spectators, along with dolphins, sea lions and various other aquatic wonders. Elsewhere water rides and rollercoasters like the Journey to Atlantis and Kraken are sure to make a splash with thrill-seekers.

Number of visitors: 5.1 Million

Ocean Park Hong Kong - Hong Kong

Nestled against the rocky coastline of Hong Kong's picturesque southern shore is one of Asia's most impressive theme parks. This sprawling marine park and amusement center features dozens of thrilling roller coasters and rides as well as some exquisite natural attractions, spread across two levels connected by cable cars.

The "lowland" features a Kids' World, in addition to some of the park's most appealing attractions, including a group of elusive giant pandas. Above this area looms the "headland," which, besides offering scores of thrill rides and marine attractions, provides sumptuous views of the South China Sea.

Number of visitors: 5.1 million