Tackling the four theme parks at Walt Disney World requires a strategic plan designed with military precision and discipline. Routes must be mapped. Sites targeted. Missions coordinated. Resupply operations planned. The weak of heart and flat of foot need not apply.
The Magic Kingdom, the oldest of the four Florida theme parks, is the bigger though not necessarily better version of the original Disneyland. Both parks feature similar lineups with slight variations.
The Magic Kingdom's Hall of Presidents is better than Disneyland's Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. Our Space Mountain remains superior to Orlando's version of the coaster. The Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise rides are about the same.
Between now and 2013, the Magic Kingdom will update Fantasyland in an attempt to counter the wildly popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter, also in Orlando. The Fantasyland makeover additions already in place are a Little Mermaid dark ride, dueling Dumbo rides, a Beauty and the Beast restaurant and a slew of princess meet-and-greet areas. Among my Magic Kingdom favorites: "Mickey's PhilharMagic" 3-D film and the SpectroMagic parade.
The Animal Kingdom is the newest of the Florida parks and my favorite of the four. There aren't many rides, but the lush jungle invites visitors to get lost in the surroundings.
My favorite Animal Kingdom attractions include the Kilimanjaro Safaris across a 100-acre savanna, the in-the-round "Festival of the Lion King" show and Expedition Everest, the best Disney coaster I've ridden.
Similarly light on rides, Epcot's around-the-world-in-a-day experience serves as a giant international food court and booze crawl for in-the-know locals.
I'd skip Epcot's attractions and dive into the gastro-imbibo adventure, taking in the bombastic nighttime "IllumiNations" fireworks, laser and water show at the end of the day.
Be forewarned — Epcot's Mission: Space rocket simulator will make you lose your lunch, dinner and cocktails should you choose the pub-and-grub route.
Last, and deservingly so, is Disney's Hollywood Studios, by far the worst of the four Florida parks. Californians can skip it, as most of the best attractions can be found in Anaheim.
Toy Story Mania opened on both coasts in 2008, a rebooted Star Tours will do the same in 2011, and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror can be found in four Disney parks around the world (including California).
The latest addition to Disney's Hollywood Studios, "The American Idol Experience," is useful only as a respite from the Florida heat, humidity and downpours.
The best bet at Disney Hollywood Studios: Don't go. Seriously. You'll thank me.
—Brady MacDonaldCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times