Home to the “Happiest Place on Earth,” Orlando sees over 50 million tourists each year who want to visit Disney World. It’s no surprise then that the area hotels are packed with kid-friendly features, from huge waterparks to guest rooms designed specifically for children. So if you’re heading to Orlando, Florida for a family getaway, you’ve come to the right place. A team of Oyster reporters visited over 100 hotels in Orlando, to compare and evaluate each against the competition. Take a look at our picks for the best kid-friendly hotels in Orlando, and start planning your fun-filled vacation!
From the gazelles and giraffes freely roaming the grounds to the enormous pool with a waterslide, the safari-themed Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge was designed to amaze and delight children. Throughout the day, staff members lead (free) educational activities for children like craft-making, African drumming, or mini-lessons about the where giraffes come from. Here, even the learning is captivating.
It's not exactly luxurious -- the bedding is subpar and crowds are a constant -- but the 727-room Wilderness Lodge is still a superb family resort. It has lake access, hiking trails, a standout pool and waterslide, free daily kids' activities, a great gym, and elaborate, Western frontier decor (including an exploding geyser) to keep kids enthralled -- all just five minutes from the Magic Kingdom.
This sprawling 411-room resort located 15 minutes south of Disney is one of Orlando's priciest condo properties outside of Disney -- but you get a lot of fun for the money. It offers beautiful, kitchen-equipped, one-bedroom villas; daily kids' activities; a top-notch water park with waterslides, shallow play areas, and life guards on duty; excellent restaurants; and polished service. In short: a great place to take the kids.
The 650-room upscale Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort is a fun, funky, rock-and-roll-themed hotel that offers priority access to the Universal theme parks. Designed to give guests the "rock-star feeling," there are tons of kid-friendly activities, including a kids' club, arcade, and children's pool. For adults, there are a huge resort-style pool, extensive fitness center, and a Fender guitar lending library. Guest rooms are big, spotless, and contemporary, with lots of extras and modern bathrooms.
Since the Boardwalk Villas' 1920s Atlantic City theme is relatively void -- though not completely -- of larger-than-life Disney characters, the resort can feel are a bit more subdued than some of the other Disney resorts, like the Animal Kingdom Lodge or thePolynesian Resort. Still, the hotel does a great job catering to families, and the three-bedroom suites can sleep up to 12 people.
The four-pearl Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is a lovely destination resort near Orlando’s most popular attractions. It’s within walking distance of Epcot and a short drive or free shuttle ride to most other top parks. The massive complex has 17 restaurants, five pools, a beach, and a large convention center. It’s in the midst of a $125 million renovation that's making over all of the 2,267 rooms. The renovated rooms have a bright, sleek decor, but those awaiting an upgrade, while clean and well-maintained, are dated and tired-looking. While rates are competitive for a resort of this caliber, a daily resort fee and pricey parking add hefty surcharges.
The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is a self-contained mega-resort situated on 1,500 acres of private grounds in the heart of Orlando's bustling theme park landscape. The 815 modern rooms have balconies overlooking the resort's pool area or Lake Buena Vista -- with views of the fireworks at Epcot and the Magic Kingdom included. Though the property is adjacent toDisney, you'll still need a car to reach it, as well as the other major theme parks, which are all within close driving distance. There are numerous activities here (from boating to biking), but the extra fees can be steep.
While other Disney resorts feel either too small and crowded or too grand and difficult to navigate, Old Key West's size feels just right -- 761 studios and large, kitchen-equipped condos, a great gym, and numerous pools (including a waterslide) all set in a beautiful, riverside setting, near Epcot and Downtown Disney.
Despite a pesky resort fee, this upper-middle-range property offers a solid value, thanks in part to a long list of freebies –- including shuttle service, parking, Wi-Fi, and poolside activities. The overall vibe is tranquil, and the hotel caters to both families and business travelers with its upscale condo units (complete with fully stocked kitchens) and modern meeting spaces.
An amusement park in itself, this enormous, 1800-room upper-middle-range property is inside of Universal Orlando and within easy walking distance of Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Rooms are decked out in zany colors and there are plenty of family-friendly suites with wet bars. With an enormous pool area equipped with waterslides, plus a bowling alley, arcade, and early admission to Universal, the hotel is geared toward families, much more so than the neighboring sister property Loews Royal Pacific Resort.
With 1,014 rooms and a long list of activities -- tennis, basketball, volleyball, playground, and more -- the all-inclusive Buena Vista Palace Hotel and Spa is a massive resort. Adjacent to all of the most popular Orlando theme attractions, it is in walking distance of Downtown Disney. The resort has a relaxing side with three pools, a grotto, hot tub, and pool bar. Rooms are big and bright with a mix of chic and more basic furniture, along with flat-screen TVs and nice balconies. Some guests have complained about thin walls and a daily resort fee.
Resembling a fun park in its own right, Hilton Grand Vacations at SeaWorld has a giant pool area with three pools and whirlpools, a waterfall, tennis courts, and a lineup of activities that includes pottery painting and movie night. The hotel provides free shuttle service to SeaWorld, which is right across the street, as well as Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and Universal. Standard studio rooms aren't particularly spacious, but include perks like kitchenettes and free Wi-Fi.
Located a short drive from Orlando attractions and near Disney World, the all-villa Sheraton Vistana Resort is a family-friendly hotel set on pretty manicured grounds. The one and two-bedroom spacious villas have full kitchens, separate living rooms, and free Wi-Fi. On-site features are plentiful, including several outdoor pools and hot tubs, tennis courts, a game room for kids, and several restaurants.