Opulent Orlando: Deluxe Digs for Families in the Theme-Park Capital



Orlando is a Mecca of sorts for family travel. Its unparalleled, world-famous theme parks – Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and more – make it a must-do for people around the world. Some of them, of course, have the big budget to go top-of-the-line and the region's many fine resorts make their choice a tough one. Walt Disney World Resort has many beautiful and posh properties from which to choose, whether their own deluxe resorts, like the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa or the Animal Kingdom Lodge, to others that share Disney space, including the breathtaking Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort or opulent Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. Others lie outside the immediate realm of the Most Magical Place on Earth, but offer much in the way of expansive, lush greenery and enviable championship golf courses. Cases in point: the Villas at Grand Cypress or Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate. Fans of big-name entertainment clamor to see Universal's stunning recreation of the Harry Potter universe at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, along with its many thrill rides. Those who want to do it like a rock star stay at the Loews Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orland, where lush foliage and museum-like memorabilia belie a location that couldn't be more convenient for thrill rides and all the entertainment that Universal CityWalk has to offer. 



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Thirty-six holes of championship golf mean fans of the fairway will have little reason to venture from the Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate, but in the event that they do, there's much to choose from. Minutes from Disney and other exciting Orlando-area attractions, this AAA Four-Diamond property offers well appointed guest rooms and expansive villas, along with 15 acres of pools, an on-site spa and amenities that will delight the young and the young-at-heart (its 850-foot lazy river, for example)! This property is also the world headquarters of the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, so those looking to up their game will have come to the right place.


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Party like a rock star at this prime example of Universal Orlando Resort opulence, where the pool stretches out before you like a shimmering oasis in the Hollywood Hills. With a facade inspired by the Eagles' most famous album cover, this impressive property is a rock-and-roll museum in and of itself. Guests enjoy bits of music history as they peruse the memorabilia amid their vacations, meandering between the spoils of the spectacular pool and the temptations of the nearby parks and Universal City Walk. It's just a quick walk or posh boat ride away, though you may find yourself wanting to camp out with your entourage more often than not.


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This Disney property oozes nostalgia befitting of it's 1970's born-on date but recent upgrades and the addition of its luxurious over-water bungalows have brought a beautiful classic into the 21st century without leaving any of what made folks fall in love with it behind. A colorful new pool and the rum-infused cocktails of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto also add to its tiki mystique. Another special distinction: the Poly is one of the very few places in the world where guests can enjoy the luxury of a rare foodie find: Dole Whip! This property is Disney magic end to end, with a generous helping of aloha.


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Grand Bohemian Orlando, Autograph Collection
Photo courtesy of The Kessler Collection


 

A landmark in downtown Orlando, the Grand Bohemian claims the role as one of the city's most eclectic and memorable hotels, immersing its guests in an array of exceptional artwork, elegant decor and modern flair amid cosmopolitan, AAA Four-Diamond extravagance. With easy access to the interstate, it delivers a trendy alternative to the usual resort-style hotels for which Orlando is known. The Grand Bo's location is beyond convenient: adjacent to the city's brand-new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and walking distance from multiple restaurants, bars, nightclubs and the Amway Center. Of course, its in-house piano bar and top-rated restaurant may even prevent you from wanting to leave. A swanky pool high atop the hotel provides a gorgeous view of the city.


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Even the most casual Disney visitor knows this dazzling Victorian-style crowd-pleaser by name (and on sight; just watch them point it out from the monorail on the way into the Magic Kingdom!). A five-story Grand Lobby is among the first clues that this resort, while most certainly a Disney property, isn't what most think of when it comes to an Orlando vacation. Two beautiful pools and six restaurants ––" including the lauded and lovely Narcoossee's and scrumptious, elegant and one-of-a-kind dining experience that is the world-famous Victoria & Albert's (leave the kids home for this posh, multi-course culinary experience) ––" are just a few of the facets that make this property a top option for Disney aficionados who don't want to leave stars behind for a theme park vacation.


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Enjoy the comforts of a posh, Kenyan luxury safari in the shadow of Cinderella's Castle at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, where guests can spy giraffe and zebra over their morning coffee or evening cocktails. The soaring lobby charms with its African theming, the on-site restaurants beckon with regional cuisine and South African wines, the nearby parks are a delight for all ages. More than 200 animals and birds call this property home; in-room field guides allow guests to become familiar with their temporary neighbors and animal programs allow for close-up learning. Or you could simply relax by the oasis-like pool. Your choice.


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The Forbes Four-Star rated Villas at Grand Cypress is home to 45 holes of Jack Nicklaus-designed golf, top instruction at the Grand Cypress Academy of Golf and myriad dining options and recreation opportunities. With complimentary shuttle service to Walt Disney World Resort, SeaWorld and Universal Orlando Resort, you and your family won't miss anything at the parks, unless you find the Villas at Grand Cypress too alluring to leave. Beautiful lakes and shady trees make for resplendent walks, runs and bicycle jaunts, a 24-foot rock wall allows active guests a fun challenge and a nine-hole Pitch 'n' Putt course gives golfers a way to introduce their favorite game to the little ones.


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Travelers who are lucky enough to have stayed at a Waldorf Astoria property know it's safe to expect the very best. The brand's Orlando outpost is, of course, no exception, but it's the only Waldorf to bring its special elegance to such close proximity of Cinderella's famed castle. Championship golf, an unbelievably sumptuous spa and its top-of-the-line and top-rated Bull & Bear steakhouse are among its lures (don't miss the dazzling pool and luxurious private cabanas, either!) and the whimsical delights of Disney's many parks are just minutes away. Feel free to leave the car and enjoy the property's shuttle service instead.


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Prepare for full immersion in tranquility at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, where proximity to the city's world-class excitement is paired with the signature opulence this brand's many proponents have come to expect. Enjoy Southern-inspired cuisine at the comfortable-chic Highball & Harvest, brilliant views and mouthwatering meals at chef Norman Van Aken's namesake dining experience or slip into the Florida sun and all its serenity with a frozen poolside drink from Bleu. When you're through nourishing your belly, nourish the rest of your body at the property's posh, relaxing spa. Mickey and pals are nearby, but worlds away, making the Ritz-Carlton the very best of both worlds.


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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! Sparkling, sexy and smack in the middle of Walt Disney World Resort's beautiful Golden Oak community, the FS Orlando's luxurious 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.


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Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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