Where to Stay in Orlando: Best Areas & Hotels
Where to Stay in Orlando will likely depend on the reason for your visit. Most vacationers coming to Orlando are interested in visiting at least one of the area's major theme parks, all of which sit in the sprawling suburbs to the southwest of the city center along Interstate 4. The closest major attraction is the Universal Orlando Resort, home of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and other themed parks. Heading south, tourists will pass WonderWorks and Ripley's Believe it or Not! before finding SeaWorld Orlando and Discovery Cove in the Williamsburg area.
Beyond here, the massive Walt Disney World Resort complex in the Lake Buena Vista region dominates the landscape to the west, covering nearly 50 square miles of Orange County.
It is easy to visit Orlando without a car, and in general, most hotels and resorts that offer shuttle service provide transportation to the theme park closest to them. If you are planning on visiting multiple parks, be sure to check on their included destinations and arrange alternative transportation if needed, especially if you are planning on visiting parks at both Universal and Disney. 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.
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Where to Stay in Orlando for Luxury
Unlike many of the resorts near Disney World, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is not located right next to one of the major parks. What you might lose in proximity you gain in privacy with the resort's expansive grounds, complete with a private golf course for guests. The resort offers babysitting, so parents can relax and spend time at the spa, on the golf course, or playing a game of tennis.
For kids, the Four Seasons 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.
Also close to the Disney parks yet seemingly in its own oasis of tranquility is Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, a four-star resort hotel 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, as well as a pool just for adults.
In addition to providing excellent service, management ensures that this is also an eco-friendly property, with energy and water saving measures in effect.
The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes is in the Williamsburg area near Sea World and Discovery Cove, set back from the center of tourist activity yet centrally located to give easy access for Disney and Universal. This five-star luxury hotel occupies 500 acres, which guests are encouraged to explore and enjoy, and the resort operates its own eco-tours to help visitors unwind from the bustle of the parks and enjoy nature.
The hotel has a wide range of amenities for both adults and kids, including a golf course, tennis courts, designated pools, a full-service spa, and a kid's club, as well as an excellent in-house restaurant.
If you are in town to visit the Universal parks in style, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando is positioned conveniently between Universal'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 in Orlando: Mid-Range
In the Lake Buena Vista Resort Area and just one mile from Disney, the Staybridge Suites Lake Buena Vista 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.
Conveniently located between the Disney Parks and Sea World, Marriott's Harbour Lake has family suites with kitchenettes or individual villas with free parking and access to self-serve laundry, making this an excellent choice for those traveling with a large family.
The pool complex includes a water park, with fun features like a pirate ship with slides and water cannons and a private kiddie pool that is great for families with toddlers. 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.
Located about halfway between Disney and SeaWorld, Hilton Grand Vacations at Tuscany Village is in a convenient location for theme parks in both directions. Kids stay free at this 34-acre resort, and there is a choice between studio-style apartments or suites, all equipped with kitchenettes and private balconies, as well as in-room washers and dryers, making this a great choice for families and those enjoying longer stays.
The hotel has a full suite of amenities including multiple pools, a kid's club and organized family activities, evening entertainment, and a shuttle bus service to all of the major tourist attractions including Universal Studios.
Where to Stay in Orlando on a Budget
Tourists visiting the Orlando area can find plenty of places to stay for cheap, but some stand out above the rest. Each suite at The Point Hotel & Suites has a kitchenette and washer/dryer, making it a great option for larger families or longer stays. This is a convenient place to stay for Harry Potter's Wizarding World, with regular free transportation to the Universal Parks. As an added convenience, the hotel shuttle also brings guests to nearby shopping malls, and guests may leave their own vehicle on-site free of charge.
The area near Universal Studios has some good budget hotels 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.
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 in Orlando 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, and is within just a few minutes' drive of Universal's theme parks.
The Homewood Suites by Hilton Orlando Theme Parks, centrally 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.
Floridays Resort is a good mid-range family resort that is close to Discovery Cove and SeaWorld, convenient to both International Drive and I-4. Located in one of the busier resort areas, the resort is within walking distance of an abundance of restaurants.
This is an all-suite resort, with two- and three-bedroom suites, which feature separate full bathrooms for privacy, a full kitchen, and a private balcony. This is a pet-friendly establishment, and amenities include self-service laundry, free Wi-Fi, and in-house entertainment in the evenings.
To make getting around easier, Floridays provides shuttle service to the major theme parks, including Universal Studios, Disney's Epcot, Sea World, and Aquatica, and return service from Disney's Magic Kingdom.
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 in Orlando 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.
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Florida Highlights: Once you've explored the attractions around Orlando, you may want to consider checking out some of Florida's best beaches. Head west to St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, or Naples to find beautiful stretches of soft-sand beaches and interesting town centers. On the east coast, consider trips to places like Dayton Beach, Cocoa Beach, or Miami.