Birnbaum's 2006 Walt Disney WorldBirnbaum's 2006 Walt Disney World
This book is glossy, bright, and full of colorful images. It really gives the sense of the Disney experience, and is updated yearly. At 263 pages of actual content, it's a good size, and has a nice color map in the back.
Like all guidebooks, the book begins with all the basic info - crowded times, seasonal events, temperature averages, airport ideas - can be found on thousands of websites. I almost wish they didn't bother to include this generic stuff, but I understand why they have to.
I do like their short sections on each special type of visitor - with kids, without kids, with infants, with disabilities, international, weddings, groups, etc. It gives valuable information on how to make that type of trip work.
Birnbaum's offers good details on all of the hotels in the park - both Disney and non-Disney. There are a lot of details, photos and tips. I found this area quite useful, and also appreciated their easy to use grid comparison.
Next there are color-coded sections on each park area. I liked the descriptions and photos of the parks. They were generally useful for planning a day. However, I didn't like how they took restaurant descriptions out and put them into a generic eating section. If you have tickets for a park, you'll want to eat there. You won't buy tickets to go to a park just to eat there! It would have been more sensical to include restaurants that required park admission in that actual park section of the book.
Then, for the food section, descriptions are very short - in some cases terse. I realize that you don't go to a park to eat - but if you're going to "waste" 1-2 hours in a location, you want to know it'll be worth it. Especially if you paid $80+ to get into that area in the first place. I had to go online to find out many of the dining details that I needed to know.
I did enjoy the "best" area near the end where they list the best vegetarian meals, best kid's birthday location, best dinner show and so on. On one hand it makes you worry that these things will be completely packed because they have been pegged as being the best. On the other hand, if you're wise and plan ahead, it's not like these places can get worse than full. If you get your reservation in, it means you will be enjoying the best that matches your personal wishes, while other people have to make do with what they could get in to. That being said, some of the entries were hokey, like "best crab cakes" or "best bloody mary". There were many other categories that I could have found far more useful.
There are a set of coupons in the back. For the 2006 book these are: 15% off lunch/dinner at House of Blues, 20% off Vero Beach Resort, 15% off DiveQuest admission, 15% off Behind the Seeds / Epcot, 15% off behind the scenes / Animal Kingdom, 15% off Dolphin in Depth, 20% off Hilton Head Resort, 10% off All Star Cafe, 10% off Segway Experience, 10% off Mini Golf, $10 off at Lego store, and free $50 gift certificate with Disney's Visa card.
I did find this useful enough for the general day-at-park planning that I'd recommend it for anyone going to Disney. Just be sure to have an internet connection too to fill in the details not provided.
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