Orlando is a place fantasised about by children around the world – and plenty of adults, too. There are 13 different theme parks in this part of Florida, including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and SeaWorld, each its own sprawling universe of fantasy, thrill and adventure. A holiday to Orlando, about an hour-long flight from Miami, has all the makings of an unforgettable family holiday but choosing the right hotel is crucial – these stays offer the best combination of location, amenities and value.
Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort
A complimentary 10-minute shuttle service to the Disney parks is just the beginning of the perks at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. The property, reasonably priced for a Hilton hotel, has its own enormous on-site water park with two huge pools, waterslides and a languid lazy river for floating in after a long day at the parks. For the adults, there’s a spa, golf course and 12 restaurants and bars to choose from. Rooms are contemporary and spacious; all have modern conveniences including a flat screen television, free wi-fi, MP3 docking station and mini-fridge. Don’t miss the views of the spectacular nightly fireworks show at the nearby Epcot theme park.
JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes
This Marriott hotel is home to a 2230-square-metre pool complex – one of the biggest in Orlando – that includes a whirlpool, paddling pool and a lazy river. If you’ve had enough of splashing, family activities that suit different ages such as a sunrise mountain bike trail, a kayak tour of nearby Shingle Creek and fishing can all be organised by the hotel. There are several on-site restaurants to choose from, including Italian eatery Citron, America brassiere Citron and farm-to-table joint Whisper Creek Farm. The rooms make for a peaceful place to recharge (especially after a day at the theme parks) and features marble bathrooms, large bathtubs and cable TV.
Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World
One of the best perks of a stay on-site at Disney? Guests at Four Seasons Resort Orlando can choose to purchase an Extra Magic Hours pass, which gives access to select Disney attractions before the parks open or after they close and that means minimal queues for you. The property itself is tucked away in palm tree-dotted grounds and rooms are dressed with high-quality bed linens and stylish furnishings and many have views of Epcot and Magic Kingdom. It also offers a water park, golf course, spa and gourmet buffet breakfast, and can organise special in-room Disney celebrations for kids’ birthdays.
Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites – Waterpark
A playground for kids and adults alike, Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites - Waterpark gives a nostalgic nod to retro Americana in the best way. Brightly painted buildings centre around a swimming pool and water park so kids can burn off residual energy and adults can relax poolside. Rooms are updated, large and equipped with kitchenettes or full kitchens (two- and three-bedroom suites are available for groups) if you prefer to DIY some of your meals. That said, children under 11 eat free for breakfast and dinner from the kids’ menu or the buffet. Complimentary shuttles run to Disney's four parks, SeaWorld and Universal.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is a five-minute drive to Universal Studios but the cobblestone streets, piazza, one-site Italian restaurants and three pools – one of which has a Roman-style fountain – transport you to a fishing village on the Italian Riviera. Rooms are in a classic European style with deluxe touches of velvet and marble. Aside from the novelty of staying in a faux-Italy in Florida, the hotel offers exclusive Universal parks perks including Early Admission to some attractions, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and complimentary water taxis or shuttle buses to Universal Studios.
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
One of the best-value options in Orlando, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort is a mid-range hotel styled to evoke Mexico City or Oaxaca. A 15-metre tall replica Mayan pyramid towers over the pool, the buildings are painted in pastels, with colonial-style architecture and terracotta roof, and rooms are decked out with Art Deco-esque furniture. A mix of Mexican, American Southwest and Spanish cuisine is served at the restaurants. Best of all, the hotel offers complimentary bus transportation to and from all Disney theme parks and water parks, just a few minutes drive from the resort.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
A magical option for Disney die-hards or families with young children, the Art of Animation Resort pays homage to Disney characters in virtually every corner. Rooms are themed by film, from Finding Nemo to Cars, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. At the Big Blue Pool, one of three on site, Disney music plays underwater. If you haven’t had quite enough Disney after a day at the parks, the studio’s films play on an outdoor projection screen each evening. Free transportation to the Disney parks is provided, including an aerial gondola system to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot beginning in late 2019.
Pop Century Resort
Prepare for nostalgia overload at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Stepping inside is a blast from the past, with each section of the resort dedicated to a different bygone decade from the 1950s to the 1990s. Highlights? A pool shaped like a bowling pin, another in the shape of a computer, a human-sized Foosball game, an arcade packed with pinball machines and a retro diner restaurant serving burgers, hot dogs and other American staples. Rooms have been recently renovated and are decorated with subtle nods to Disney in the way of pop-art prints on the walls. Complimentary shuttles take guests to and from Disney-owned theme parks.