As much as my family loves staying on Disney property, we’ve found that off property resorts may work even better for a group our size. We need our elbow room – to spread out and relax after a long day of togetherness in the park. After all, there are only so many hours of listening to, “Mom, he’s touching me!” a person can bear! These Orlando resorts offer the luxury, the at-home comforts, and the space that we need. And they’re all literally on the Mouse’s front step!
Best Off Property Orlando Resorts
When I go on vacation, I need my space. Seriously. After all, as the mom of five, I rarely get any time for myself. And let’s face it, a visit to the fabulous Disney theme parks in Orlando is usually a family affair. So when our day at the park is over, I prefer to return to a rental property that allows the family to spread out and relax in comfort. I just can’t see us relaxing when we’re on top of each other – even if it is with remarkable theming.
And there’s no need! The Orlando area explodes with wonderful resorts that provide the space I crave. They are wonderfully situated right near the major attractions – one of the selling points for my husband, who insists we go from room to rope drop in 20 minutes or less. And yet the resorts are away from the theme park crowds.
While these resorts provide all the conveniences of home – from full kitchens to personal laundry facilities – they go beyond all that and into the realm of luxury. We are on vacation, after all. I can put in my load of whites at home….but here, I can do that and then visit the spa for a facial. Or head to a hot tub surrounded by sultry flowers and palm trees. It’s the respite I need before another twelve hour day chasing our favorite characters for autographs.
Want some tropical tranquility during your next visit to Orlando? Check out these resorts, some of the best in the area. Each is a wonderfully lush oasis in the midst of the ever-busy theme parks.
Talk about a tropical paradise! The Marriott’s Grande Vista resort offers an indulgent on site spa, four themed swimming pools, three tempting restaurants and a gorgeous nine-hole golf course. Sure, you may come to Orlando for the theme parks – don’t we all? – but what you want out of vacation is rest and relaxation. What the Mouse can’t offer you, you’ll find right here – and more.
I try to encourage a “down day” from the constant “rope drop to closing” schedule we tend to follow while we’re visiting Orlando theme parks. After all, everyone needs to recharge after all the hours and miles they put in at the major attractions.
Fortunately, convincing my crew to spend a day at the Grande Vista wouldn’t be a hard sell. Activities like golf and swimming keep our teens busy, while the spa offers foot baths, body scrubs and massages for the weary body after maneuvering from attraction to attraction for three days straight. (They had me at “foot bath”!) And for the younger set, time on the indoor jungle gym can work off any excess energy, while the on-site petting zoo allows kids to play with the gentle farm favorites, like baby chicks and goats.
Child care is available, so let the littles go pet the goats while supervised. Then you can unwind at the spa or soak in some Floridian sunshine by the pool of your choice. Even a nap in your room is a luxury – especially when the rooms are as spacious and well-planned as these. I would even enjoy cooking a meal in the unit’s full kitchen. After all, you can only take so much of theme park chicken nuggets and burgers.
Sure, a romantic getaway is always a treat, but as the mom of five, most of my travel involves some kids. After all I’m a TravelingMom – it’s in the name, right?
So when I look for resorts to call home when I’m in the Orlando area, I try my best to find a place that will keep my kids engaged and happy. Seriously, the last thing I want to hear when I’m on an expensive vacation is one of my brood whining, “I’m so bored!”
That will never be a problem at the Liki Tiki Village, a family-friendly residence resort in Kissimmee, just down the street from all the Disney parks. The two-bedroom townhomes are spacious and comfortable (and extremely clean!), the setting lush and green, and the service friendly and helpful.
All that is great, but what really makes Liki Tiki a winner is its family appeal. Even with the lure of Disney, kids will be tempted to stay in Liki Tiki Lagoon, the resort’s very own water park. There are plenty of shallow water activities for the little ones, but what really sets this lagoon apart are the features designed with active tweens and teens in mind. Imagine the explosion of fun created by a water volcano or the challenge of an ever-changing wave pool. The Lagoon has all this and more – including five water slides!
If your kids aren’t the water bugs mine are, you can spend the afternoon challenging them to a round of mini golf in a lush Polynesian setting. It’s a great way to spend a “down day” during your busy park-centric week.
Here’s a poorly-kept secret – my husband is the real Disney nut in the family. He loves WDW so much that, once when my tween asked him if he’d take her to Paris when she graduated high school, he responded with, “You don’t need to go to Paris. There’s France in EPCOT!”
It’s always hard to get someone so devoted to everything Mickey to agree to stay off property (even if the rest of us aren’t as into “All-Disney-All-The-Time”). But he quickly agreed to a stay at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. My selling point? A total of twelve different dining choices – six at the resort itself, and an additional six at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, adjacent to the property.
Yes, food may be the one thing that Scott likes more than his favorite theme parks!
It’s difficult to recommend just one – they’re all so different, and so good! – but I think the family favorite was the modern Italian restaurant La Luce. Scott enjoyed the angel hair pasta with crab and scallions, while I shared a four cheese and rosemary pizza with the kids. We all loved our view of the lazy river pool. In fact, we skipped dessert to enjoy a slow ride in the waters of this sprawling three acre park.
As a kid, I was a swimmer. No, I never reached the level of Michael Phelps, but I swam a pretty impressive freestyle lap in the individual medley relay at our swim club’s annual Tadpole Olympics. That counts for something, right?
Because I spent my childhood covered in chlorinated water, I am always interested in checking out the swimming pool at any resort we stay in. And I totally fell in love with the gorgeous pool here at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. It was nothing at all like the stark, rectangular pools of my youth. Instead, it was fashioned like a lush lagoon, surrounded by rock formations and tropical palm trees. So relaxing and luxurious!
My kids loved the pool here too, not as much for its lushness, but for the fun pool-spanning rope bridge and two waterslides. There are also twelve beautiful waterfalls positioned throughout the half acre pool, just perfect for cooling off under before heading to the sundeck to catch some southern rays.
My kids also enjoyed the rock wall, which is a rare find at a resort. It was a challenge to the little ones, who needed help scaling it, but the older ones mastered the climb and raced each other to the top.
The fabulous Grand Cypress Gold Golf Courses, including a Jack Nicklaus-designed course, won my husband over. There was certainly something for everyone at this resort. And so close to WDW, we could see the EPCOT sphere from our window!
Just minutes from Disney’s doorsteps, the Polynesian Isles Resort gives visitors a taste of the South Pacific right in Kissimmee. The tropical theming creates a sultry setting throughout the substantial resort, even in the most unlikely places – like the shuffleboard court!
A bit of transparency here – I’ve stayed at the Polynesian first because my brother and sister shared a two bedroom villa time share here. I rented off of them one year, but we enjoyed it so much that my husband’s entire family decided to come to the resort for a family reunion, renting four two bedroom units for the entire group.
We chose this resort for several reasons. First, it’s close to everything – not only the Disney theme parks, but also Olde Town, the outlet shopping areas, Universal Studios and all the dinner shows. As much as we loved the proximity, we also enjoyed the solitude. Even though it is close to all the shopping, the resort is tucked away from the busy streets. You won’t hear the traffic – just the sound of waterfalls. Each evening, you can relax and imagine you’re oceans away from the crazy paced theme park life you’ll be leading by day.
I also enjoyed the spaciousness of the townhomes. Even though we only had two bedrooms, our brood fit in easily, as the living room sofa was also a pullout. The washer and dryer (a must have for this momma!) were in a closet right outside the townhome’s front entrance. Though we shared it with another rental unit, we never had any problems and came home with a suitcase full of clean clothes.
Villa Rentals, VRBO, Airbnb and Vacatia Resort Properties
As I’ve said, our family kept getting bigger. The two of us, five kids, two sets of grandparents, tons of aunts, uncles and cousins….and we all like to vacation together, particularly in Florida! So on many recent trips, our “go to” resorts weren’t resorts at all, but vacation homes and villas rented from sites like VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) or Airbnb.
I like the space we get while renting a vacation villa, but I did miss the amenities that come with renting a hotel room. After all, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry doesn’t make for much of a vacation. Recently I’ve learned of Vacatia, a rental agent which can offer villa-sized accommodations with the amenities of a resort hotel. Seriously, some of the rentals offered three bedrooms, three baths and 1600 square feet of living space – all with the amenities you expect at a resort. I haven’t used this type of Orlando rental yet, but it’s definitely something I am interested in checking out on an upcoming visit.