Disney's Grand Floridian
Like most things in Orlando, it is best to start with Disney and, in this case, with their unarguable five-star hotel experience of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Not only does this Edwardian-style edifice occupy a wonderful position on Seven Seas Lagoon in front of the Magic Kingdom, it is the epitome of Disney’s gracious service and meticulous attention to detail.
Afternoon Tea at Disney's Grand Floridian
Disney's Grand Floridian hotel offers a daily service of proper afternoon tea. Take an elegant break from Magic Kingdom at the hotel's Garden View Lounge and pick your perfect tea from a great selection of teas, from original to the ultimate teatime fancies, plus a heartier tea designed especially for men. Afternoon Tea at the Garden View Lounge is served between 2:00 till 4:00 pm.
Fine Dining at Disney's Grand Floridian
The wonderful appeal of a classically timeless grand hotel, boasting a choice of fine restaurants, makes this the hotel where Disney typically accommodates the rich, the famous and the celebrity. The hotel features a line-up of six mouth-watering restaurants, Narcoossee’s being one of the highlights with its lakeside location. However, to really push the gastronomic boat out in style, visit the top-of-the-range Victoria and Albert’s. Not only is this a rarity in requiring the formality of a jacket and tie dress code, its set multi-course menu is a gourmet’s delight. It is also one of the most expensive in Orlando, with a $125 per person price fixed menu, wine parings and speciality items extra. Even more exclusive, opt for the Chef’s Table at $200 per person. Bear in mind, guests must be age 10 or above to dine at Victoria & Albert’s.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Not surprisingly given their penchant for high style, Disney’s designers do hotels extremely well, and if the period atmosphere of the Grand Floridian is not quite your cup of holiday tea, then try the other hotel we rate extremely highly, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. With the look and feel of an African game lodge (admittedly on a much bigger scale, with some 1,293 rooms), this is the place to come if you enjoy a sense of the wild. It boasts a superb array of facilities (including a magnificent pool area, complete with an elaborate water-slide) and, if it doesn’t quite come up to the Grand Floridian’s sense of five-star style and service, it certainly delivers a bucket-load of adventure and memorable design. If the idea of opening the curtains in the morning to reveal an African savannah full of zebras, giraffes and other wildlife appeals to you, make this your Orlando base.
If you demand that extra little bit of service and exclusivity with your hotel, seek out the Concierge level of accommodation at any of Disney’s seven official ‘deluxe’ hotels. This extra level of resort amenity provides a private lounge offering breakfast and evening hors d’oevres, plus a full-time concierge service to help with all your theme park requirements, from meal bookings to transportation. Animal Kingdom Lodge also offers speciality tours for Concierge guests at an additional cost.
Grande Lakes Resort
The Ritz-Carlton hotel group are renowned worldwide for their signature luxury hotel style, when they announced the opening of their Grande Lakes Resort in 2002, a destination which included Central Florida’s first hotel of this distinguished brand, Orlando knew it had finally arrived on the international grand hotel map. This luxurious location hosts a 584-room Ritz-Carlton hotel, one of the reputably plush lifestyle property's of the JW Marriott chain, a manicured golf course (where every foursome is assigned a free caddie) and a cutting-edge Spa, Grande Lakes offers a true taste of the high life. The JW Marriott includes one of the most extensive pool amenities in Orlando, complete with a ‘lazy river’ feature and a mini water-park. The whole resort boasts no less than eleven dining choices, plus an enticing array of shops, recreational and fitness activities.
Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
Returning to one of Orlando’s originals the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is another bastion of calm elegance and high quality, yet only five minutes from the hustle-bustle of the theme parks. This hotel boasts a genuine quiet charm, with beautiful mature gardens, superbly-appointed rooms, three 9-hole and one 18-hole golf courses and marvelous dining choices, including the infamous restaurant Hemingway’s, named aptly after the hotel's most famous guest Ernest Hemmingway.
La Coquina Chef’s Table gourmet experience is offered each Saturday night at the Hyatt Grand Cypress's restaurants. This unique culinary flamboyant event has the guests dine in the chef's kitchen, where the head chef and his team prepare a set seven-course meal. Reservations are required (call 407 239 3853)
Omni Orlando Resort
Sport and fitness lovers can combine style with fitness at the Omni Orlando Resort at Champions Gate. The Omni Orlando resort is located just under fifteen minutes south of Disney and well-positioned to be out of the main tourist hubbub but easy to find. Breathtaking vistas greet guests at the main entrance into a marbled lobby which offers extensive views of one of the two championship-quality golf courses designed by Australian star Greg Norman. The 1,200 acre perfectly landscaped resort includes a health club and spa, five dining venues, including a wonderful upscale sports bar and grill, David’s Club, specialising in high-quality steaks for the heartier appetite, a huge swimming pool complex complete with a lazy river feature, the exquisite Zen pan-Asian restaurant and the only David Leadbetter Golf Academy in central Florida.
Rosen Shingle Creek Resort
Rosen Shingle Creek Resort opened in 2006 and raised the bar on luxury, ranking firmly among the grandest of Orlando resorts. Built in a 1900s Spanish Revival style, the 230 acre resort boasts 5 restaurants, 3 bars, a lounge, 3 casual dining options, 4 heated pools, tennis courts, peaceful hiking trails, a host of recreational activities, the relaxing Spa at Shingle Creek and the spectacular Cala Bella romantic Italian fine-dining restaurant. All of this is set amid the award-winning Shingle Creek Golf Club, with its acclaimed Brad Brewster Golf Academy.
Gaylord Palms Resort & Spa
Arguably the most visually impressive hotel in Orlando is the massive Gaylord Palms Resort & Spa, set just outside the gates of Disney at the junction of International Drive South and Osceola Parkway. Its unmistakable glass-domed roof covers a massive spread of indoor theming and landscaping which rivals Disney both for imagination and detail. With 4.5 acres of covered splendour in three themed areas – St Augustine, the Everglades and Key West – this is almost a mini-city in itself. The resort boasts seven bars, lounges and restaurants, two pool areas (a family variety and an adults-only choice), 8 shops, the high-class Canyon Ranch health spa, the new Coquina Dunes Recreation Park offering bocce, croquet, volleyball, adult and family pools and an executive putting course, plus some of the most spacious rooms in Orlando.
If you happen to be in Orlando during November or December, head for the Gaylord Palms to view the spectacular ICE exhibition. With around 2½ million pounds of ice sculpted into stunning features, imagine walking through a gingerbread house carved purely of ice - this marvel never fails to wow guests.
High End 4 Star Hotels
There are a number of high end four star hotels that are worth checking out should you not be able to find a deluxe hotel available to suit your needs, and these include; The Celebration Hotel is a chic little boutique hotel located just to the south of Walt Disney World in the quaint Disney-inspired town of Celebration, the Renaissance Orlando Resort is a grand resort which has grown even more stunning since a 2007 lobby refurbishment, which added the sophisticated Mist Sushi & Wine bar, the Peabody, located on International Drive, is a breathtaking edifice complete with the B-Line Diner, which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner around the clock and the daily ritual of the North American Mallard Duck March - which is always a treat to watch and finally the Orlando World Center Marriott, located right on the doorstep of Disney World.