S'mores to Splash Parks: Family-Friendly Hotel Options for Every Budget in Orlando
By A.D. Thompson
Orlando Local Expert
Spend just 10 minutes at the Happiest Place on Earth and you're likely to see at least one large group, aged infant to elder, wearing matching t-shirts proclaiming this their (insert number here) Family Reunion. Why? Orlando was made for family travel! Of course, this means its family-friendly lodging options abound. Whether you're traveling with a few dozen cousins or a more manageable menagerie, this list of 10 features properties both posh and affordable, places where children and parents can delight in both on-site amenities and park-centric convenience. Those with ample budgets couldn't ask for more than what's on tap at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World, where character dining, a resplendent zero-entry pool and a rambling water park (cannons and inner-tubes and Spanish theming, oh my!) await. Its Kids' Camp, too, offers games, crafts and entertainment so that adults in the party can party a little on their own. Over at Disney's Beach Resort, the spectacular pool complex of Stormalong Bay is so cool, most parents are delighted to opt in on the fun. Over at Universal Orlando Resort, the kitschy charms of Cabana Bay Beach Resort include bowling and classic cars, not to mention a massive pool and refreshing lazy river, all of it within a few minutes' stroll of Universal CityWalk.
10 Coco Key Hotel and Water Park Resort
Kids adore this colorful property where water park meets hotel, which means their parents can relax a little in between park visits. The slides and splash zones are the stars at Coco Key, of course, and its reasonable rates allow travelers to stretch their vacation budgets farther at Orlando's many attractions, where admission costs add up fast. Its pool is parent-friendly and as CoCo Key is an I-Ride Trolley location, transport to the many spoils of I-Drive is quick, safe and convenient. Several dining options on site mean you need not stray for a bite or a refreshing poolside cocktail.
9 Holiday Inn Orlando - Lake Buena Vista
Families looking for a reasonable rate and a super convenient location will enjoy the Holiday Inn Orlando - Lake Buena Vista, where the ever-growing dining, shopping and entertainment options of Downtown Disney (soon to be re-christened Disney Springs) are a quick stroll from your door. Complimentary transport to all Disney parks (including water parks) means you may not even want to rent a car. Guests also enjoy discounts at Disney's golf courses, an on-site Disney store and a heated, zero-entry pool for the days you just want to kick back and enjoy the Orlando weather. Kids 12 and under eat free with adult purchase.
8 Marriott's Harbour Lake
Ahoy, mateys! Time to raise the Jolly Roger for Orlando fun at this family-oriented property. Large villa accommodations make for a very comfortable stay and a pirate-themed pool, complete with water slides and water cannons make for a fun-filled adventure daily. On-site miniature golf makes a fine respite from the splash zone, as do the city's innumerable nearby attractions and restaurants; an on-site gym helps work off a few of those vacation-based indulgences. For families looking to spread out and kick back when they're not out exploring the parks, Marriott's Harbour Lake makes a fine home away from home.
7 Marriott Orlando World Center Resort & Convention Center
This resort oasis, located in the heart of Disney territory is a business-traveler's haven, a golfer's have and, surprise surprise, a haven for those with families in tow. The property's stunning Falls Pool Oasis boasts multiple water slides and a dedicated splash park and is more than enough to keep the kids busy in the Florida sun all day long. A zero-entry pool option makes keeping an eye on the littlest ones easy and those with gamers (or a bit of sunburn) will enjoy this hotels G.R.I.D. area. That stands for Gaming Recreational Interactive Destination. Open from 3 - 9 p.m. daily, it boasts the latest in XBOX, PS4, Wii and more.
6 Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin
That "Disney" is in this two-in-one hotel's name is indeed a good sign. A few others include its five heated pools, fountains, waterfalls, on-site watercraft rentals and more. Open nightly, your kids will look forward to time spent at Camp Dolphin, where arts, crafts, movies, a video arcade and more keep them entertained while parents can get a little one-on-one time at any number of the property's on-site restaurants. In fact, reservations at some can equate to free camp time for your kids! Character dining, sports, miniature golf and more await Swan and Dolphin guests -- and of course -- the parks are just minutes away.
5 Hilton Orlando
This beautiful hotel's wonderful business-travel convenience belies its many family-centric amenities, which makes it an excellent choice for convention goers looking to extend their Orlando stay to have some fun with the family. Case in point: not only are the property's pools alluring, its amazing lazy river turns the place into a veritable water park. Weekend children's activities, s'more-making at the outdoor fire pits and early park admission to Universal Orlando Resort's Wizarding World of Harry Potter are just a handful of delights families will find in store. Also notable: the property's dining options include one of the best steakhouses in town.
4 Cabana Bay Beach Resort
This colorful, cheery on-site Universal property boasts funky '50s-'60s kitsch. Its expansive pool and fabulous lazy river are alluring -- especially for families -- and its sleek, mod suites are convenient and stylish. And perhaps most importantly, its moderate price point allows so many more people to experience the joys of staying close by. In addition to all the water-based fun, Cabana Bay guests enjoy an on-site bowling alley and a Jack LaLanne fitness center. Offering early park admission, a walking-distance location to CityWalk and more, Cabana Bay is an ideal option for families seeking "Universal" entertainment in Orlando.
3 Nickelodeon Suites Resort
One-, two- and three-bedroom suites await families at this Nickelodeon property, where your kids will cavort with the likes of Spongebob Squarepants and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and spend hours enjoying its massive on-site water park. Minutes from Walt Disney World and other area attractions, other amenities include a 4D theater, laser maze and something that no other hotel in the world will put in its brochures: a mass sliming. Yes, fans of Double Dare young and old may brave the daily dump of a 400-gallon load of green goodness. Daily character interactions and a Nick After Dark program, which allows the parents to get a little alone time if they wish, are among its other lures.
2 Disney's Beach Club Resort
What do you get when you combine resplendent theming, on-site Walt Disney World convenience and one of the most spectacular pools your kids will ever lay their eyes on? It's Disney's Beach Club Resort, a whimsical New England-style property where the pool complex -- and really, that's the only word suitable -- has its own name: Stormalong Bay. It's a three-acre paradise wherein kids (and most adults willing to admit it) may forget the Magic Kingdom is only a stone's throw away. A 230-foot waterslide, sand-bottom pool, pirate ship replica and more await those needing a break from Orlando's formidable heat. Fear not, however, for there are adult pools at which to cool your heels, as well. Babysitting services, shuttles to all the Walt Disney World parks and attractions and other amenities abound.
1 Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World
The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort may be a mouthful to say, but it's a pleasure to stay -- whether you're traveling with family or not! Brand new and smack in the middle of Walt Disney World Resort's beautiful Golden Oak community, the FS Orlando's gorgeous zero-entry pool, incredible castle-themed water park and lazy river and complimentary Kids' Camp (not to mention character breakfasts with Goofy and pals!) make this a sumptuous stay with all the right Disney touches. Its adults-only oasis (21 and over, please) means those looking for a little posh peace and quiet with their Florida sun need not look elsewhere. A host of on-site eateries, from casual to elegant, tempt the palate while a 13,000-square-foot spa tempts the weary soul. Couples' suites and waterside spa bungalows up the ante for both luxury and relaxation.
About A.D. Thompson
A.D. Thompson has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and roughly 15 as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum. A roller coaster enthusiast, A.D. readily admits there is fun to be had amid the madness of the theme parks, but has found there is magic, as well, in the outer-lying reaches of Mickey’s long shadow. She is delighted to share with you the spoils of her adopted city. Visit her colorful compendium at www.amydrewthompson.com.
Read more about A.D. Thompson here.