10 Orlando Resorts That Could Make You Forget the Theme Parks . . . Almost
By A.D. Thompson
Orlando Local Expert
Headed to Orlando? Let's examine the difference between "hotel" and "resort." While it may seem as though they're one in the same, resorts are more immersive. Guests at resorts often enjoy the amenities in multiple form: several pools and dining options, a spa, perhaps golf, sporting activities and more. The 10 listed here offer guests a multiple-choice test they can't wait to take. In fact, some are in close proximity to neighboring luxury properties -- the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes, for example. shares amenities with the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. In these cases, guests can enjoy the spoils of both, an undeniable bonus. Over at the Most Magical Place on Earth, Disney's Polynesian Village Resort offers incredible benefits, not the least of which include over-water bungalows, spectacular pools and a nightly beach-side seat for the Electrical Water Pageant. Its location on the Monorail line makes the parks convenient, but other Disney properties, as well. No need to take the car or a bus to enjoy a character breakfast at the Contemporary or world-class dining at the Grand Floridian. Similarly, Loews Royal Pacific at Universal Orlando Resort holds its own in South Seas charm while offering easy access to the other on-site properties, the parks and the dining, shopping and entertainment spoils of CityWalk. Pencils down.
10 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. Todd English's sleek seafood haven, Blue Zoo, is just one of a roster of great eateries that mean guests often stay put, though the easy boat access to Epcot gives them plenty of reason to explore the culinary spoils of the World Showcase.
9 Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
Take advantage of the endless selection of on-site activities including 45 holes of Jack Nicklaus Signature Design golf, tennis, a 21 acre lake with water sports, a 1/2-acre lagoon swimming pool with 12 waterfalls, water slides -- and even a rope bridge! -- during your stay at the popular Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. It's not at all uncommon for guests to hunker down here for a day or two and forget all about the rest of Orlando's amazing attractions. If you're one of them, be sure to check out the new Marilyn Monroe Spa . Dining options are a'plenty and include Hemingway's, a lovely Florida-centric venue that's wonderful for special-occasion dinners.
8 Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando
Want fabulous fine dining? BAM! The Loews Royal Pacific Resort offers up the glamorous digs of Emeril's Tchoup Chop along with its South Seas charm. But sophistication easily gives way to family fun at the property's character breakfast. In addition to a gorgeous lagoon-front beach and splendid pool, regular free water taxi service can shuttle your party to any of the other on-sites for dinner and exploration, or right over to CityWalk and the fun of Universal's theme parks. What's more? Guests here enjoy free front-of-the-line access to all the rides (an up-to-$89 upgrade!)and early admission to both Harry Potter attractions.
7 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.
6 Disney's Polynesian Resort
With its new over-water bungalows in place, Trader Sam's Grog Grotto serving up the tiki drinks and a gorgeous volcano pool nearly completed, the upgrades at this classic Disney deluxe resort are everywhere -- inside and out. Why this one? Multiple on-site dining options, a musical, fire-infused, island-themed dinner show, a front-row seat to the Electrical Water Parade are just a few reasons. It's also a stop on the monorail, which makes several other hotels, not to mention two parks, almost an extension of staying at the Poly. Fans of the Disney experience say there's no substitute for staying on-site. This property is an excellent way to test that theory.
5 Marriott Orlando World Center Resort & Convention Center
This resort oasis, located in the heart of Disney territory, isn't just convenient to the most magical place on earth, it exudes a magic all its own. Those with families in tow won't worry about what they're up to, the property's stunning Falls Pool Oasis (with multiple water slides and a dedicated splash park) is enough to keep them busy in the Florida sun all day long. In fact, 10Best recently recognized the World Center's pool in its "Best Hotel Pool" poll! Add to this the spectacular Hawk's Landing Golf Club, multiple dining options and a signature spa in which to luxuriate and you may find yourself exploring less and staying put more.
4 Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek
The Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek is a true escape set amid 500 woodland acres and an expansive, glittering lake. Friendly and family-oriented, this property sits roughly five miles from the colorful fun of Walt Disney World, but when your family is relaxing (or playing) by the pool, unwinding in the spa or recounting the day's adventure at the outdoor fire pit, you'll feel immersed in your vacation. Even locals are known to pop in for fresh seafood at the loved and lauded deep blu seafood grill, where chefs prepare specialties in an open kitchen that's a treat for the eyes, as well as the palate.
3 Hilton Orlando
It may be convention convenient, but its draws hardly end there. Families and couples enjoy luxuriating in this resort's beautiful lazy river and pools -- and its on-site restaurants include one of the most exemplary steakhouses in the Orlando metro. Throw in the spa, fitness center, private cabanas and guests feel worlds away from the carnival atmosphere of the theme parks. Of course, if you're looking for precisely that, the Hilton Orlando's location is 100 percent parks-convenient. You may be coming to town for business; reasonable rates make this an excellent option to invite the family down to meet you for an extended, all-leisure stay.
2 Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
Families rejoice in the Orlando heat! You can take in the sun or join your kids in the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek's magnificent zero-entry lagoon-style pool. In fact, we'll bet you'll opt for the latter. Fear not, though. The property's cheery Recreational Staff offers other poolside activities to keep them happy and busy when you're ready to head back to your chair. This stylish property shares many amenities with the adjacent Waldorf Astoria Orlando. Let that connection be a window into your stay. Complimentary transport to the nearby Walt Disney World parks is virtually as easy as stepping out beneath the porte-cochere.
1 JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes
Beautiful Spanish colonial architecture and a lovely lazy river are two features that will lower your blood pressure upon check-in at the J.W. Marriott Grande Lakes where myriad dining options and access to the Ritz Carlton's spa and golf club make for a particularly sumptuous stay. In fact, said proximity affords guests a double-dip of delightful resort amenities and restaurants. Disney is nearby, but if you're more in the mood to relax poolside, you'd never know; palms sway, water sparkles, romance beckons, as does family fun. Head to the driving range, take a fitness class, explore the parks and the city but come "home" to luxury -- and perhaps drinks and dinner at Primo -- before retiring to your comfortable, cozy room.
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.