Disney World
To survive it, spring for the first-class pampering

From the March 26, 2001 Issue of New York

There are few things I'd rather do less than go to Disney World, and I'm speaking as someone who's had a colonoscopy and been audited by the IRS. But something weird happened in Orlando last month: I was seduced by the folks at the Magic Kingdom. We stayed at one of the newer "deluxe resorts," the Victorian-style Grand Floridian, which has first-class service and a top restaurant, Citricos, that offers kids' menus together with gourmet cuisine and top-notch service. (Think Le Bernardin, with hot dogs.) Across the lagoon, the California Grill also pulls off the same extraordinary feat. You pay extra for the "deluxe" service, but it makes the whole experience bearable. The four theme parks are still scary propositions for any parent -- long lines, too many gift shops -- but here are some survival tips: (1) Use the "Fast Pass" system to cut down on line time; (2) make advance lunch reservations for each day at in-park restaurants with table service; and (3) drink alcohol at every meal.

Walt Disney World, www.disneyworld.com; all hotels and passes can be booked at 407-W-DISNEY, and for all restaurant reservations call 407-WDW-DISNEY. Rooms at the Grand Floridian start at $414 in peak season. You can book your plane tickets to Orlando through Disney. They don't book JetBlue (800-538-2583), though, which is often cheaper and more reliable than some of the major carriers.