Zagat Does Disney
Just in time for the annual Orlando invasion, Zagat has released its first Walt Disney World "Insider's Guide," a $15.95 extravaganza of maps, color photos and public opinion on 578 attractions, restaurants, shops and hotels.
My snap judgment: It rocks. There are stickers in the front cover so you can spotlight things in the book, and a Disney primer gives a nice little overview of what to expect. The front is jammed with the top this and that, many broken down by adult vs. child. Zagat surveyed 4,841 Disney guests, and I have to say, while I don't agree with all of their opinions (because, of course, mine is the only one that matters), the top choices are interesting.
According to a press release from the company, 48 percent of those surveyed picked the Magic Kingdom as their favorite park. Makes sense to me. But second favorite, with 36 percent of the vote, was Epcot. Epcot??? I've said it before during the Travel section's weekly chats and I'll say it again: Epcot is the most boring place on Earth, and far from the Happiest. I keep going back, giving it another chance, thinking it'll change, but it's just getting older and more boring. True, I haven't hit Soarin' yet, an immensely popular attraction (Zagat says so!), but as far as the rest of the place goes . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. (For my money, give me the Disney-MGM park over Epcot any ol' day.)
So what else does the survey say?
Adult and kids' faves vary wildly when it comes to the attractions: Anything fast and fun did well by adults (Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest ranked No. 1), while children, naturally, dug tamer things (favoring the Magic Kingdom's Wishes Nighttime Spectacular, which is a wonderful show). Parents will find the book's listings quite helpful if the tots are particularly fidgety, as each ride nugget includes how long it lasts and whether the line moves quickly or painfully slow. And thrill ratings indicate whether Junior would be better served by skipping such innocuous-seeming rides as Dinosaur in Animal Kingdom (one of my faves, which somehow manages to scare me senseless every time I go on it).
One of the big questions we receive frequently here in Travel is: Where can I eat in the World? Lots of good stuff in the new guide, as you'd expect, with a nice range of prices among the top-ranked joints (we always head directly to the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Disney-MGM, and I was glad to see it in the Top 20 most popular restaurants). Shopping and nightlife are also well covered.
I wish the guide had strayed outside the park gates when it came to hotels, however. Obviously, that would have been a massive undertaking, but many guests don't stay on the property when visiting, and the large number of options available can be downright confounding. The top hotel rankings go to, no surprise, the most expensive offerings in the park (the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is No. 1), while the most popular hotels include the crowded, tacky Pop Century Resort at No. 5. I can see why it would be popular (dirt cheap, at least as far as Disney goes) but not considered among the top properties in term of quality.
But still . . . Epcot?
Anyone have thoughts on the best and worst Disney World has to offer?
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