- Shuttle service to Orlando theme parks runs rarely; hours are limited and vary throughout the year.
- No special privileges at Orlando's major theme parks
- Units' doors and windows all face noisy exterior corridors.
Ideal for a family vacation that won't revolve around visiting Orlando's theme parks; an affordable option with spacious accommodations, loads of on-site entertainment, and several cheap, kid-friendly dining options
This sprawling, Nickelodeon-themed property is one of the best family options outside of Disney, and ideal for families who want a sunny, activity-filled vacation but aren't determined to spend a lot of time at Orlando's theme parks.
Designed to be a kid heaven, it's full of amenities like waterslides, "4D Experience" movies, character breakfast buffets, and a 3,000-square-foot video arcade -- all coated in signature Nickelodeon orange and green and heralded by giant statues of SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, and Rugrat characters. Accommodations -- one-, two-, and three-bedroom suties -- are configured to give parents and children separate bedrooms, with plenty of shared living space and the convenience of kitchens or kitchenettes. The property's layout is confusing, but walking distances between rooms, restaurants, parking, and the lobby are manageable compared to Orlando's often massive, 2,000-plus-room resorts.
For around the same price as Disney's "Value" resorts -- Disney's All-Star Movies and Pop Century Resort, for example -- Nickelodeon Suites offers far more on-site features and dining. (The Disney Value resorts typically offer little more than a pool and a single cafeteria.) On the other hand, the Disney properties offer better transportation to the parks and special privileges like extended visiting hours and room charging throughout the World. Shuttles from Nickelodeon to Disney World, Universal, SeaWorld, and Wet 'n Wild are available, but they run infrequently and the shuttles times change depending on the time of year.
Service is very basic, with little beyond front desk staff, restaurant staff, and lifeguards to assist guests.
Service here is extremely basic: The staff efficiently moves guests through check-in, restaurant lines, and waterslides, but don't expect any markers of luxury like poolside drink service or bell service in the lobby. The staff is friendly and, on the whole, very helpful, but next to nothing is personalized.
A 10-minute drive east of Downtown Disney on World Center Drive, a divided highway dotted with large hotels and occasional chain restaurants
The hotel is located just three miles outside the entrance of Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, an area 25 minutes south of downtown Orlando. It's difficult to get around without a car -- there are no restaurants or attractions within walking distance -- and the nearest strip mall is a five-minute drive.
Spacious and functional one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites that are smartly configured for families
One-, two-, and three-bedroom suites here are spacious and ideally suited for families, with rooms that are designed to sleep parents and children separately, with shared living space and kitchenettes. Furnishings are cheap and decor is generic, with a signiature Nickelodeon green tinge, but rooms were freshly painted and the mattresses recently replaced when I visited in 2010. Details that make the biggest difference for families -- playfully decorated kids' rooms with the option of twin or bunk beds, televisions in every room, kitchenettes -- are firmly in place. The quality of rooms is roughly equivalent to those at Disney World's "Moderate" resorts, with slight layout and decor differences.
A wealth of on-site facilities are designed to keep kids busy day and night, and they do a great job of it. The water parks are the highlight (see below), but there are indoor activities and entertainment for evenings or bad weather (should you be so unlucky). Some of the activities require additional fees, but the pools and water-park facilities are all free for guests. Compared with Disney's "value" resorts (like the All-Star Movies Resort and Pop Century Resort), which tend to be in the same price range, there's far more to do on-site. The trade-off, of course, is that guests here aren't entitled to special Disney resort privileges or particularly good transportation to any of Orlando's theme parks.
Does a great job catering exclusively to families with kids
Dedicated entirely to children's comfort and entertainment, "Nick Hotel," as it slangily refers to itself, is literally made for families. Accommodations are configured to give parents and children separate bedrooms, with plenty of shared living space and the convenience of kitchenettes. The entertainment and on-site amenities are unmatched outside of Disney; they include two water parks, a mall, and, during the busiest seasons, activities like live entertainment at the pool and Studio Nick.
Well enough maintained, but furniture and carpets are starting to show wear and tear
The resort is clean and partially renovated, but the carpets and upholstery are starting to look worn out.
Several kid-friendly dining options conveniently located in a single food court, plus poolside snacks and room service
Several dining options are housed in a single food-court section of the Nickelodeon Mall, and at least two options are available at all times. The wide variety ranges from a coffee stand and Subway to conventional sit-down meals and character buffet breakfasts. All are kid-friendly, and there are plenty of relatively inexpensive options. Each water park complex has a snack bar. The suites have kitchenettes; room service is available.
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