Where to Stay in Orlando: Best Areas & Hotels, 2018
Most vacationers coming to Orlando are there to visit at least one of the area's major theme parks, all of which are outside the city center. In general, most hotels that offer shuttle service provide transportation to the theme park closest to them, so if you are planning on visiting multiple parks, be sure to check on their included destinations and arrange alternative transportation if needed. Use your hotel's concierge to find alternatives and have a backup plan for getting back to the hotel if you have missed your shuttle - otherwise you will be at the mercy of exorbitant taxi fares. Buses between Disney parks are free and frequent, but if your hotel's shuttle only drops at one park, be sure to leave time for hopping to the next - this can eat up a good portion of your day. If you are planning on driving yourself, beware of resort and hotel parking fees, especially at the high-end properties. All recommended Orlando hotels below have outdoor pools, free Wi-Fi, fitness centers, and shuttle service to at least one park.
Where to Stay for Luxury
The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort has truly thought of everything, including designated kiddie-only and adult-only pools in addition to the main pool and five-acre water park with a waterfall, waterslides, and lazy river. Younger kids will love the elaborate play areas, crafts and activities, and character breakfast, while older siblings will love the teen game room. The resort offers babysitting, so parents can relax and spend time at the spa, on the golf course, or playing a game of tennis.
Also close to the Disney parks is Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, with an astounding 12 restaurants to choose from, a private golf course, and spa, as well as babysitting services. Their tropically landscaped lazy river pool has a "zero entry" area to keep little ones safe, a waterslide, and poolside family activities. In addition to providing excellent service, management ensures that this is also an eco-friendly property, with energy and water saving measures in effect.
If you are in town to visit the Universal parks in style, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando is positioned conveniently between the park's Volcano Bay and the rest of the complex. Parking is included, and there are full resort amenities, including a spa, shuttle bus services, kid's activities, and babysitting. Family suites are available, as well as self-serve laundry facilities.
Where to Stay: Mid-Range
The area near Universal Studios has some good mid-range options that are also closer to Orlando's shopping centers. The Drury Inn & Suites Orlando is conveniently located just off International Drive and offers free breakfast with make-your-own waffles and several options for those with dietary restrictions. Complimentary snacks and beverages are available in the evening plus free popcorn in the lobby 24/7. It is also known for its unique indoor/outdoor pool, which is one of the only indoor swimming options in Orlando. Amenities include microwaves and mini-fridges in all rooms, free parking, a fitness center, and a coin-operated laundry.
Each suite at The Point Hotel & Suites has a kitchenette and washer/dryer, making it a great option for larger families or longer stays. In addition to regular transportation to the Universal parks, the hotel shuttle also brings guests to nearby shopping malls, and guests may leave their own vehicle on-site free of charge.
Where to Stay on a Budget
In the Lake Buena Vista Resort Area and just one mile from Disney, the Staybridge Suites is a smaller, less hectic resort-style property that features two-bedroom/two-bathroom suites with kitchenettes. Breakfast, parking, and the shuttle to Disney parks are free, and self-serve laundry is available. If you need a break from the theme parks, there are nice courtyards and shady sitting areas, as well as an arcade for kids and a designated children's pool.
The Rosen Inn is a great budget option just across the road from Universal's Volcano Bay and is within walking distance to many other area attractions, including Wet n' Wild Orlando, Alligator Alley, mini golf, and dinner shows, as well as a supermarket and restaurants. There is a restaurant on-site as well, and a breakfast buffet is available for a reasonable price. Rooms include a microwave and mini-fridge, coffeemaker, free parking, and the shuttle to Universal.
Where to Stay for Families
Most hotels in the Orlando area focus on family accommodations, but some stand out for their commitment to making a family vacation extra special and worry-free. Marriott's Cypress Harbour Villas is a stunning property that sits on a lake, with beautifully kept grounds that include a golf course (and of course mini-golf for the little ones). Guests may use the paddle boats or kayaks to explore the lake or relax by one of the several pools, stroll the boardwalk, play a game of tennis, or participate in one of many resort activities like a poolside "drive-in" movie in the evening. There are family rooms and suites with kitchenettes available, as well as in-room laundry facilities and free parking. This property is conveniently located between the Disney Parks and Sea World, as is the Marriott's Harbour Lake, where you can also book family suites with kitchenettes or individual villas with free parking and access to self-serve laundry. The pool complex includes a water park, with fun features like a pirate ship with slides and water cannons and a private kiddie pool for the younger kids. The hotel offers full resort-style recreation, including a basketball court, volleyball court, a large coin-operated game room, and even an outdoor fire pit.
The Homewood Suites by Hilton Orlando Theme Parks, located close to SeaWorld, is a new property that features suites with a full kitchen. Rates include free parking; free shuttles to Epcot, Universal, and SeaWorld; a complimentary breakfast that includes Mickey Mouse waffles; and an evening reception with free beverages and snacks generous enough to count as dinner. Facilities include a fitness center; basketball court; fire pit; and, of course, a large heated pool.
Guests at the Hampton Inn Orlando Lake Buena Vista are less than five minutes by car from Walt Disney World or have the option to park at the hotel for free and take the complimentary shuttle to the park. Family rooms include a microwave and mini fridge, as well as breakfast, and there is a small hotel shop with snacks, candy, and supplies, including detergent for the laundry room.
Where to Stay for Romance
Couples looking for a romantic getaway will find that it can be difficult to avoid the throngs of over-excited kids and tired parents, but there are some options that provide proximity to the biggest attractions without sacrificing privacy.
The Villas of Grand Cypress is a golf resort near Disney that specializes in weddings, honeymoons, and couples' retreats. One-bedroom villas include a full kitchen with a Keurig coffee maker, a washer/dryer, private patio seating area, separate shower and soaking tub, double vanity, and dining room. There are several restaurants to choose from, or a private chef is available to prepare your custom meal with in-room dining. In-room spa services are also available. Recreation facilities include multiple golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, a rock wall, racquetball, and bicycle trails.
The five-star Waldorf Astoria Orlando also has a spa and golf club, as well as multiple restaurant options. To ensure the most relaxing experience for its adult guests, the Waldorf has arranged an agreement with the neighboring Hilton, so that families with children are encouraged to use their kid-friendly pool, leaving the property's cabana-lined pools peaceful and undisturbed. This hotel is situated on a 482-acre nature reserve, close to the Disney parks complex, and shuttle rides to the park are complimentary.