Disney has made an art out of keeping its visitors (and their dollars) “on campus” during visits to the various sites. The other big attractions have followed suit, but Tampa Bay families that have “been there and done that” with the big attractions may like the idea of spending a long weekend in Orlando that doesn’t include a visit to Mickey and/or Shamu. We’ve come up with a list of the area’s most family-friendly resorts that have plenty to offer at prices that may surprise you. Please note that the prices are a simple random check of prices for two adults and two children over a Friday to Sunday stay. Prices fluctuate, especially during holidays, and better prices and/or package deals may be available with a little scouring of the Internet or with the help of a travel agent.
5925 Avenida Vista
Orlando, FL 32821
www.marriott.com/mcogv-marriotts-grande-vistaMarriott’s Grande Vista offers so much fun and value for its price that it might be possible to spend an entire weekend on the grounds. With three golf courses for the adults, campfires on the beach and a club just for kids, Marriott has taken a page out of the Disney book when it comes to keeping guests happy without making them leave the main campus. The villas have full kitchens along with washers and dryers. Guest rooms come with mini-fridges and microwave ovens. Whatever food you crave should be available from a poolside grill to the in-house deli and a fine dining restaurant. The base rate for a weekend stay for a family of four is $259.
8686 Palm Parkway
Orlando, FL 32836
www.hiexlakebuenavista.comHoliday Inn Express has found a winning formula that can appeal to the kids and parents who may need a long weekend away from home to cure a case of summertime cabin fever. This particular Holiday Inn Express is within a few miles of the big resorts and offers free shuttle service to the Disney Resorts. However, if Disney isn’t on the agenda this time around, adults may want to spend an evening of soul food and music at the nearby House of Blues. On-campus entertainment includes a swimming pool, waterfall and jacuzzi. Plus, an on-site breakfast bar that will start your day with a full stomach. If work catches up with you, there’s a business center where you can take care of unexpected issues. The base rate for a family of four is $89 per night.
Hyatt Place Orlando Convention Center
8741 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819
Located in the heart of Orlando and only three blocks from the massive Orange County Convention Center, the Hyatt Place Orlando Convention is close to the big resorts. But there are plenty of other places to entertain a family within a short distance, including the wacky, hands-on Wonderworks that makes science fun for geeks and non-geeks alike. For those whose tastes run to the more bizarre, Ripley’s Believe it or Not/Orlando is less than a mile away. Of course, the sweltering summer heat can send even the hardiest Floridians looking for a daytime escape and Hyatt delivers with a full-size pool. For those looking to work off the tensions of everyday life, there’s a 24-hour fitness center available to help you work up a sweat and burn the calories from the complimentary breakfast bar. A quick price search for two adults and two children during a June weekend returned a nightly price of $83.
2941 Lucayan Harbour Circle
Kissimmee, FL 34746
www.ebookers.com/CND_Holiday_HomesCND Holiday Homes offers a different experience than the typical hotel stay. As hinted at in the name, the accommodations are condominium-style housing in residential-style communities. There are several complexes available under the CND banner. This one on Lucayan Harbour Circle offers three- and four-bedroom townhomes with swimming pool, free wi-fi and free parking. A business center is also available. While slightly off the beaten path in Kissimmee, this location is only 10 minutes away from the Disney complex and almost as close to the rest of the big attractions. It is interesting to note that this location caters to U.K. travelers and returned a price quote of just over £ 74 which converted to about $112 per night, plus a cleaning fee. Who knows? You might make friends with someone from across “The Pond” if you stay there.
4787 W. Irlo Bronson Highway
Kissimmee, FL 34746
www.bestwesternflorida.com/best-western-premier-saratoga-resort-villasThis Best Western is far more than just a motel. It bills itself as a complete resort with villas spread over 18 acres. Each villa includes a 42-inch TV in the living room and 37-inch TV in the bedroom with free cable TV, free wi-fi and a full kitchen. Of course, the idea is not necessarily to stay cooped up in a room during a “getaway.” There’s plenty of fun and relaxation to be had on campus with a boardwalk that borders a stream filled with tropical fish as well as a playground for children and an outside exercise area for adults. You can even call ahead and have the staff make a grocery run for you so that the fridge is well-stocked when you get there. If your definition of “family” includes a four-legged friend, Fluffy or Fido are welcome too. Naturally, the big attractions are an easy drive away, but the Medieval Times attraction offers dinner and shows for an evening of fun and adventure. Our price check for a weekend stay came in at $135 per night.
Related: Best Travel Agencies in Tampa Bay