Disney and luxury may not be two words you often put together, but the Waldorf Astoria Orlando combines comfort and elegance just outside the Walt Disney World gates. Situated on almost 500 acres within the Bonnet Creek nature preserve, it’s among the best family hotels near Disney World, home to a wealth of kid-friendly amenities and activities. When it’s time to leave the resort, Disney Springs and the theme parks are just a short, complimentary shuttle ride away.
Despite the temptation of the Mickey magic nearby, families should definitely save time to enjoy everything the Waldorf Astoria has to offer. It’s refreshing to find a luxurious home base that’s so close to the parks yet offers a nice retreat from the crowds and stimulation.
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As soon as you walk through the door, the elegant lobby envelops you in its cool calm. The towering clock, a hallmark of the Waldorf Astoria brand, stands sentry at the lobby’s center, and there are always plenty of staff on hand to attend to guests’ needs. Eye-catching artwork and impressive architecture is fresh and Floridian in feel while still paying tribute to the Waldorf’s grand hotel roots.
Walking through the lobby offers a glimpse of the sprawling pools. To the left sits the Peacock Alley bar, another hat tip to the brand’s classic New York property; to the right is a corridor that connects to the resort’s sister property, the Hilton Bonnet Creek. Another perk of staying at the Waldorf is that you have full access to the Hilton, including its family-friendly pool complex with water slides and a lazy river.
Of the Waldorf Astoria Orlando’s 498 deluxe guest rooms, 171 are suites with separate living rooms. These suites also connect to deluxe rooms, offering plenty of space for larger families.
All rooms feature spacious bathrooms with double vanities, walk-in showers and jetted tubs. Technical amenities include high-definition TVs, wireless Internet, Blu-Ray players with CD/DVD capabilities to allow families to bring their own entertainment, and premium cable with on-demand movies (including an extensive, yet expensive, collection of Disney films).
I loved the luxury perks as well: plush robes and slippers, complimentary water, a fridge for storing beverages and leftovers, Nespresso coffee makers and nightly turn down service.
TIP: Request a high room that offers a pool view so that you can see Hollywood Studios’ Star Wars fireworks from the window. You might even get a side-angle view of the Epcot fireworks.
You’ll want to leave a full day to enjoy the pools at the Waldorf and the Hilton. The Waldorf’s signature pool is surrounded by chic beach cabanas, and the larger pool is ringed with comfortable lounge chairs, all attended by poolside servers. If budget allows, book a cabana in advance to enjoy shade with comfy couches, a fridge stocked with cold drinks and a TV when you need a break from the sun. The pool is amazingly quiet and there are lawn games available if young ones get tired of swimming. For livelier action, follow the path next door to the Hilton pool complex.
For exercise, the resort has a jogging path, bicycle rentals and a 24-hour fitness center. There is also a championship golf course, which has received a Silver Medal in Golf Magazine’s Premier Resort Awards.
The Waldorf Astoria Orlando offers a number of dining options, in case you don’t want to hop a shuttle ride over to Disney Springs. For fine dining, the Waldorf’s signature Bull & Bear specializes in steak and lobster with tableside preparation. Casual fare, including a sumptuous breakfast buffet, is offered at Oscar’s.
Order meals poolside at Aquamarine, featuring sandwiches, salads and fish tacos. Even the quality of the in-room dining options is surprisingly high, perfect when everyone is completely worn out from the theme parks.
On summer weekends, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando hosts “Enchanted Evenings,” featuring a variety of activities for kids: scavenger hunts, RC car races, poolside activities and fun culinary experiences like Weird Science Ice Cream and fireside s’mores.
The WA Kids Club, available for children ages 5 to 12, is open daily from 10:30a to 2:30p. The club costs $75 per child and $25 per each additional child registered in the same or adjoining room; reservations are required. “Astoria After Dark” nighttime programming includes dinner in the Kids’ Club on Friday and Saturday evenings, allowing parents time for a nice dinner on their own.
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