Saturday, August 14, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 192 (8/14) -- Beyond Disney by Sehlinger and Rafter

Today's Book-A-Day entry, I'm afraid, is a cheat in several ways. This particular book -- a guide to attractions in central Florida that don't have the word "Disney" in their names (mostly) -- was published by my employer, so I'm not going to say negative things about it in public. (Even if I had any seriously negative comments, which I don't.) And it's a tourist guidebook, which is difficult to review in any case -- and doubly so before one has made the trip that the book helps to prepare for.

So, with that said: this is a brand extension of the popular Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (which I used for a mid-90s trip to WDW long before I had any professional connection with Wiley, so I'm a brand loyalist of long standing), and I've been using those books to prepare for my family's trips to the Orlando area for three years now. (Once is coincidence, twice is happenstance -- so this year it officially becomes a tradition.) The Unofficial books do a great job of covering Disney -- in the kind of intense detail that I prefer and love -- so I've stuck with them, and found them one of the best resources for Disney minutia (the other big one, for me, is

Beyond Disney covers the two Universal parks (my main area of interest, this year), the two Busch parks (Busch Gardens in Tampa and Sea World in Orlando), the Kennedy Space Center over on the Atlantic coast, several smaller parks (Gatorland, Cypress Gardens, the Holy Land Experience), the local water parks, other kinds of amusements (miniature golf, shopping, airboat tours and other animal-spotting possibilities, museums, and nightlife) and a couple of old-fashioned state-fair style collections of amusement rides. It has some maps and schematics of the major parks, though I have to admit that I find its graphics a little too simplified for easy use, and there's no single overall area map with all of the featured attractions placed on it. (That last is the big lack of the book; it really needs one map showing, for example, where The Holy Land Experience is in relation to Gatorland.)

Actually, the one other thing I'd like to see -- and this might have to be a separate book, since I never found the main Unofficial Guide to treat it as well as I'd like -- is a serious attempt to describe the plethora of hotels, motels, inns, resorts, rental houses, and other places to sleep in the Orlando area. All of the Unofficial books do pull out a list of recommended top resorts, and have charts of the rest -- which is very helpful for narrowing things down -- but the vast range of properties means that most of them only gets a sentence, at best. Again, that probably would have to be an entire book of its own, but it would be a useful book.

Those quibbles aside, Beyond Disney covers a wide range of central-Florida tourist traps in reasonable detail, and a short section at the end about dining at Universal will, I expect, prove to be very useful to my family this fall. I've taken various Unofficial books to Florida two years in a row, and left them behind in my hotel room, hoping that the next family will find them useful -- and I'll be doing that again this year.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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