Sunday, September 02, 2012

Fodor's Disneyland & Southern California With Kids by Michael and Trisa Knight

Words can have very specific meanings within particular contexts -- for example, in the title Fodor's Disneyland & Southern California with Kids, the word "kids" means particularly small children: definitely those under the age of ten, and mostly those up to the age of six or seven.

Now, I have two children myself, but those sons are now fourteen and eleven, which means I have one "teen," one "tween" and no so-called "kids." So this book is not as closely tailored to my interests as it might have seemed. Luckily, I knew that going in, so I was able to triangulate as I went.

(And authors Michael and Trisa Knight do talk about the interests of older children along the way, somewhat -- but little kids are tyrants that can ruin an entire vacation without trying, so they need to be catered to, and their needs much more carefully scrutinized, than my older and more self-sufficient guys.)

If you're going to be visiting the Anaheim branch of Disney Uber Alles, and doing so with some rug-rats in tow, this is probably the most targeted, specific book you can get for that trip: it covers not just the two Disney parks and their ancillary leisure opportunities, but several other tourist traps in the close vicinity: Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Sea World San Diego, LEGOland, and even some quick tips about zoos and other "educational" stuff. The Knights cover all of the rides and shows, plus restaurants, lodging choices (in much less detail) and general tips.

This book is much less designed than you'd expect from such a big name as Fodor's: the "maps" of the parks are very rudimentary and practically useless, there are no photos, and the text just flows in big sections broken up by call-outs for "Insider's Secrets," "Fun Facts," and "The Scare Factor." Also, Michael and Trista Knight may have gone to these parks many times with their many children, but Fodor's Disneyland is purely based on their own experiences and preferences: there's no larger survey or data-collection effort behind this book. (Unlike, for example, the Unofficial guides.)

The Knights are good guides, if limited in their expertise: their recommendations are solid and defensible, but reading Fodor's Disneyland is more like having a long conversation with a family that really likes Disneyland than like getting tips from an expert. If you prepare for vacations through overwhelming preparation, as I do, this may be substantially less than you want and need -- but, if you're less obsessive, it'll probably be just right.

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