Some of our good friends went to Orlando awhile ago and came back raving endlessly about the hotel. “Our room was as big as a house!” they exclaimed. “There was a pirate ship in the pool!”
I'll admit I cocked my head to the side a bit and laughed. Of ALL the things to do in Orlando, it seemed strange that these guys were writing home about a resort. I love a nice plush mattress and hot tub, sure, but can that really top theme park rides and fireworks?
Then, coincidentally, an invite from that very same place – Lake Buena Vista Resort – landed in my inbox. I had to investigate.
There was, indeed, a pirate ship in the pool.
I get what all the fuss is about now!
Guests aren't allowed on top of the pirate ship, but it has a tunnel slide going through it that big kids simply can't get enough of.
For our crew with four boys age 6 and under, it served as a convenient divider between the deeper swimming area and the zero-entry space with splash spouts and fountains! There was tons of seating, so us parents could kick back and comfortably watch under the shade of a big cabana umbrella while the kids did their thing.
Other poolside sights include a bar with breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings as well as drinks, smoothies and ice cream. If you time your visit right, you can even learn some things from an alligator handler and hold a baby alligator!
Every single room in the resort is a condo-style suite with between one and four bathrooms as well as one to four bedrooms. Our 1,080 square-foot room had two separate sleeping areas in addition to a full living room, kitchen, dining area and a massive balcony. We even had a jacuzzi tub, which I took full advantage of.
Nate and I love to edit shots at night while the boys sleep, so we pretty much took over the table with our photo equipment and various gadgetry.
There was a washer and dryer in the suite, so I was able to do a big load before we left and arrive home with everything folded neatly into packing cubes. Post-vacation re-entry can be brutal with little kids, so I am ALL about getting stuff as organized as possible before the journey home. In-room washing machines also enable families to pack half of what they usually would, scheduling in a quick mid-trip wash.
Also on-site is Reflections Spa, which had one of the most knowledgeable aestheticians I've met. My skin's been crazy hormonal since having baby number four, but she nipped a few travel-induced flare-ups in the bud and now I'm basking in that post-facial glow.
They offered me a Chardonnay while I relaxed in their lounging area, complete with aquarium, magazines and snacks. I'm not usually a morning drinker but when you've spent four days in a row at theme parks, a little extra indulgence is in order. They actually offer mini-makeovers for the kids as well, but I left the boys in the room with Nate. This was ME time.
The lobby had shelves and shelves of books, with big comfy couches for resting as well as computers and a movie screening area for kids. I always appreciate when resorts have space for families to quietly hang out outside of their rooms. Areas like this can really come in handy if check-out and check-in times don't align well with flight arrivals and departures.
A spacious game room can help keep the older ones entertained, and there was a ton of seating for those looking to make it a family affair. Next door was an on-site Pizza Hut Express, and now I'm totally envisioning a pizza party here with a multi-generation table hockey tournament.
Frankie Farrell's, the on-site pub, offers room service but I'd definitely suggest going in to take in the ambiance. Their authentic Irish fish and chips and shepherd's pie are as good or better than some that I had on our trip across the pond last year. For any adults looking for a night out, the bar here has 32 taps and fills up with fun characters later in the evening – especially on Saint Patrick's Day!
Last but not least, there's a convenience store at the resort with food and any essentials you may have forgotten. The resort is “self-service,” meaning that daily housekeeping is not included by default, but it's available with a variety of options (from a simple towel refresh to full vacuum and dishwashing) for a nominal fee. This helps the resort keep costs low – I saw suites available during our stay for as low as $118! With the in-room kitchen helping cut meal costs AND numerous attractions available to keep kids happy on-property, that's one of the best vacation deals I've seen. They also have scheduled shuttles to the major theme parks, so you could potentially opt out of getting a rental and save a ton of money if you plan well.
Of all the things we experienced during our visit to Florida, the one place the kids kept asking to see again and again was the hotel pool at Lake Buena Vista Resort. Frankly, I was perfectly okay with that. I think we could have camped out here and not set foot off-property the entire week and still had a pretty dang phenomenal vacation!
Stay tuned to our YouTube channel for upcoming spotlights on some other fun Orlando activities including must-see Harry Potter stuff, Crayola Experience, our visit with a sloth, a chocolate factory, lots of LEGOs and more.
Have you been to Orlando? What was your favorite part?