The first non-childrens book I remember reading as a kid was “Birnbaum’s Official Guide To Walt Disney World.” Back before there was internet, there were very few ways to figure out to do a vacation in the most magical place on earth. Plus, there weren’t a lot of books out there on theme parks and it was a logical choice. It was easy to read and a great way to find out what attractions I may have missed on my last visit.
Since then, I’ve accumulated easily over 20 guidebooks to various theme parks around the world. They’re easy reading and fun to thumb through. For the most part, the internet has squashed needing a physical guidebook for theme parks since most of the information you need can be found in bite-size chunks scattered across the web. Most of the info you’ll find shows the rose-colored glasses version of visiting a Disney or Universal Park.
You know, how you’ll always cherish those memories together. The money is always worth it and you can’t live without a vacation like one to Orlando. Friends, I have found a guidebook that tells it to you straight. “The Cynic’s Guide To A Reasonable Theme Park Vacation” gives you the unfiltered dish on what attractions to hit, which ones to avoid and asks the tough questions.
Questions like, “why do you want to go in the first place?” and “will my child like the theme park or the pool better?” The harsh reality is, a theme park vacation is an expensive endeavor for nearly anyone these days. If you’re reading a theme park guidebook that has the line “Walt Disney World/ Universal Orlando has something for everyone!”… throw it in the trash. No vacation is for everyone. Especially one that requires half the trip being herded like cattle through the sweltering heat.
Drudging through the sauna that is a theme park vacation can leave you chafing for days. Is it worth it? To some sure, but to many, it’s pure hell. Don’t get me wrong, “The Cynic’s Guide” is not about hating on the theme park experience. To the contrary, it’s told from a realistic point of view. Most likely if you’re reading this, you eat, sleep and breathe theme parks. However, picking who you visit with can make or break your entire trip. Yet another topic covered in the book.
I got a chance to speak with author Kyle Tague about the inspiration for writing the book. “First and foremost, I thought it would be fun to write and fun to read, regardless of whether you were a theme park aficionado. We were very much a Disney family – my mom grew up going to Disneyland with her family and conducted annual pilgrimages to Florida once my sister and I became semi-conscious toddlers. I wouldn’t say she was a drill sergeant – the sort I describe at length in the book – but she was ruthlessly efficient and she did her research.
“I’m glad she did, because I have great memories of those trips, and I’m sure she lost sleep over making sure they were perfect for us. But still, they were only trips – I didn’t really think about them much when I was young after they were over. I actually first really got into theme parks as an enthusiast because of a worn copy of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. I was at my sister’s swim meet – I was probably 10 or so – and if you’ve ever been to one of those, they’re very long and sweaty and involve a lot of waiting.”
“That was the reading material on-hand and I scoured every page and detail. I’d never really thought about all the work that goes into successfully planning a theme park vacation, yet here was a 600 page tome (I’m sure it’s longer now) that felt like it only began to scratch the surface of what these places had to offer and what you had to do to navigate them. Back then, there were many pages devoted to the black magic you had to engage in to secure a priority seating at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and even as a 10 year-old, I thought it was preposterously silly. (We definitely dined there once. I have no idea how my mother got the reservation.) That Unofficial Guide also expanded the scope of my interest – before then, I hadn’t even heard of Universal Orlando, and I hadn’t thought much about Disneyland. Soon I took over vacation planning duties and actually wrote little amateur guidebooks for friends and family. I got hooked on theme park forums and fan sites… and the enthusiasm never really abated. I moved out to California after finishing college and ended up working my way up at a themed entertainment design firm, where I got an inside look at how attractions are taken from blue sky to completion. This is a very long-winded way of saying this is the book I wish I had when I was planning vacations. It’s the summation of years of fandom and now professional experience.”
The guide covers not only Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, but Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood as well. Naturally, every attraction at every one of those properties is also reviewed in true cynic style. Here’s one of my favorite from “Fast and the Furious: Supercharged” at Universal Studios Florida.
“I’ve seen Playstation 2 video game animations more impressive than the visuals Supercharged assembles, with characters resembling rag dolls being thrown around a polygonal environment. The entire cast, including Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez, we almost assuredly embarrassed to reprise their roles and deliver this dreck of a script.”
Who do I think “The Cynic’s Guide” is best for? Any theme park aficionado looking for a few good laughs and some clever insight into our favorite theme parks. Also, I believe the book can and should be handed to someone about to go on their first Orlando or Southern California vacation for the first time. It’s a straight shooter and doesn’t sugarcoat the experience. To pick up a copy of “The Cynic’s Guide To A Reasonable Theme Park Vacation” you can do it by visiting Amazon or use the link below!