Luxury Orlando Vacation
Today Orlando is no longer just a haven for young children who want to experience the magic of the Disney theme park; it has turned into an ultra-luxury retreat destination for grown-ups and children alike. So, whether you are a theme park buff who wants to enjoy a vacation in style, or you are a parent who wants to take their kids to the theme parks but still enjoy a relaxing vacation, Orlando has plenty of options for you.
Let’s face it – the theme parks are the crowning jewel of Orlando, Florida. Welcoming more than 51 million people per year, Orlando’s parks are the number one most-visited tourist attraction in all of America. And today, the Orlando theme parks are no longer just for children. The two most popular of all of Orlando’s Theme Park Complexes – Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando – both offer attractions and tours that can make for a perfect visit for the luxury-loving grown-up.
Walt Disney World, opened in 1971, is comprised of four theme parks (in addition to a myriad of hotels, restaurants, and attractions.) The four theme parks – The Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Hollywood Studios, and The Animal Kingdom – offer attractions for the thrill-seeker and culture-lover alike. Ticket prices range from $89 for a one day pass to $400.00 for a 10 day ticket (Annual passes cost $744.44). And if you want to experience the magic of the Disney parks without the associated hassle, Disney offers options for special VIP tours that allow you to skip the line and see the inner workings of the parks’ operations. VIP Tours pair you with a guide and allow you to visit multiple theme parks, ride the rides multiple times without waiting, watch parades and shows from VIP seats, and completely customize your theme park visit. Tours of Walt Disney World cost about $300 per hour.
Universal Orlando -is more suited for the adventure seeker, featuring two thrilled-packed theme parks. Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are movie-based, and Islands of Adventure features the new wildly popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Tickets to the Universal theme parks range from $88 for one park to $160.00 for four days at the parks. Universal also gives you the opportunity to enjoy customized VIP visits to their parks. VIP tours of Universal provide you with a guided walking tour of the theme parks, priority entrance to most major rides and attractions, and the ability to tailor the tour to your party’s specific wants and needs. A VIP tour at Universal costs about $2,000 per group of 12, not including park admission.
If you want to bring your kids to the park, but have your own grown-up experience while you’re there, there are several babysitting services in Orlando that will watch your kids in the park and take them on the rides they’ll enjoy, while you can enjoy your own visit. Supper Sitters, Inc. is one of the most well-known and reliable babysitting companies in Orlando. Sitters are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they will watch your kids in your hotel or the theme park, so you have can have a break to enjoy some time to yourself. Super Sitters, inc. charges $14 per hour per child, and there is a 4 hour minimum per booking.
Orlando, America’s vacation Mecca, is home to some of the country’s nicest luxury hotels. If you want to stay on Walt Disney World property, the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, just steps away from the Magic Kingdom, offers unrivaled opulence and luxury. The Grand Floridian was built in 1988 as Disney’s nicest hotel. It is an elegant Victorian-themed resort with a beautiful man-made white sand beach and enormous pool with a 181-foot waterslide. The hotel also features a world-class spa with all of the traditional ultra-luxury amenities of a day spa, plus a 24-hour fitness center. One of the greatest perks of the resort, however, is its proximity to the Magic Kingdom – Walt Disney World’s first and most beloved theme park; the park is just one stop away on a complimentary monorail offered by the resort. Guests of the Grand Floridian are also offered the perk of Extra Magic Hours – which allow hotel guests to arrive at the theme parks earlier or stay at the theme parks later than non-resort guests, allowing for an opportunity to ride the rides without waiting in line. Rooms at the Grand Floridian resort can be booked starting at $540 per night.
If you are a thrill-seeker or movie-lover and more interested in staying on Universal property, the Loews Portofino Bay offers unrivaled luxury. The Portofino Bay Hotel is nestled along a picturesque bay near the Universal theme parks. It is designed to resemble a waterside resort in Portofino Italy, with cobblestone streets and outdoor cafes. The Portofino Bay hotel features the lavish Mandara Spa, plus free transportation to the Universal theme parks via boat. Guests of the Portofino Bay Hotel also receive a free Universal Express Pass, which allows guests to enter a shorter, faster-moving line at popular attractions, and they are granted access to the highly acclaimed Wizarding World of Harry Potter an hour earlier than non-resort guests. Rooms at the Portofino Bay Hotel can be booked starting at around $400 per night.
If you are interested in staying somewhere that allows for a respite from the theming of the amusement park areas, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is the perfect place for you. The newest of the Waldorf Astoria hotels, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is set alongside Bonnet Creek near the Walt Disney World area of Orlando, making it a picturesque retreat from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the theme park haven. The Waldorf Astoria Orlando features luxurious rooms typical of the hotel chain, as well as a 24,000 square foot spa, golf course, and the renowned Bull and Bear steakhouse. The resort also features free motorcoach transportation to Walt Disney World. Rooms at the Waldorf Astoria can be booked from around $200 for a standard king bed room to $1200 for a 2 bedroom suite.
The same companies that offer babysitting at the theme parks also offer in-room babysitting at the city’s hotels. So, if you want to have a late night and take in the restaurants, nightclubs, bars and everything else the resorts have to offer, you can arrange a sitter!
The dining scene in Orlando actually rivals the theme park scene – with countless award-winning restaurants offering unforgettable dining experiences. While your kids enjoy their chicken nuggets and churros, you and the other grown-ups can enjoy world-renowned dining at several restaurants across the city.
For an ultra-romantic dinner, try the chef’s table at Victoria and Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. Victoria and Albert’s is the pinnacle of upscale restaurant dining, featuring haute American cuisine in an elegant Victorian atmosphere. The restaurant touts its dinner as “an event,” and the main dining room and Queen Victoria’s Room offer unrivaled meals. However—the chef’s table at Victoria and Albert’s is what makes this place really special. The chef’s table is located in a cozy alcove in the restaurant’s kitchen. Diners at the Chef’s Table are offered a personalized menu of about 10 courses. A meal at the chef’s table begins with a champagne toast led by the chef himself, followed by dinner courses paired with wines and spirits. The evening lasts approximately three hours and can accommodate up 10 guests. The chef’s table costs $295 per person including wine.
To sample the cuisine of a world-renowned and respected chef, try Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort. Tchoup Chop was opened by the legendary Emeril Lagasse, and it is his second restaurant in the Orlando area. Set in the backdrop of the beautiful Pacific themed Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando, Tchoup Chop offers diners a “journey through the pacific,” and it features an Asian and Polynesian inspired menu. Tchoup Chop has been called the hottest table in town, and reservations are highly recommended in order to dine. The prices at Tchoup Chop average about $30 per entrée.
For a night away from the theme parks, try Norman’s at the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes. Recently named one of the 10 best restaurants in the Orlando area by Zagat’s, Norman’s has been awarded the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, and it features the cooking of celebrity chef Norman Van Aken. Van Aken’s menu is a fusion of Latin, Carribean and Asian-inspired recipes – cuisines which give Florida its unique culture and flavor. Guests can dine in the main dining room or the Wine Table surrounded by the restaurants “majestic” wine cabinets. The restaurant’s atmosphere breathtaking, with nearly floor-to-ceiling windows and a dining terrace, featuring views of the resort’s lake, golf course, and gardens. Reservations are required to dine, and entrees range from $30 to $50.