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Apr 27, 2014
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Families can spread out at hotels in Orlando

"Hakuna Matata" at Disney's Art of Animation Resort

“Hakuna Matata” at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

A hotel room is sooo 20th Century.

These days, not only do we want more room to spread out (think two rooms, two bathrooms, two TVS) but we want the experience to be fun. And we don’t want it to cost a bundle either. Did I mention that Disney has just unrolled free Wi-Fi at all of its resorts?

Welcome to Disney’s new Art of Animation Resort with four different wings that celebrate favorite characters—Finding Nemo, Cars and Lion King.  And there’s plenty of room to spread out with 1120 family suites (there are 864 rooms too). Keven Myers, the vice president of Walt Disney World Resort Operations who oversees the 26 resort hotels, notes that this hotel was originally designed to be rooms, not suites.  But after the popularity of suites introduced at Pop Century Resort—prompted to provide rooms that slept six in the value category–they changed the concept. “My intuition is we will see more of this,” he said.

And why not? The Art of Animation Resort tells the story of the animation process—starting with sketch boards that are set up outside so kids can begin to draw as they are waiting for parents to unload the cars or get their luggage. 

Kids will love the themes.  I stayed at the “Cars’ wing where there is a road to the Cozy Cone Motel, Cozy Cone pool and cone-shaped cabanas.  Parked at the entryway, Sheriff and Doc Hudson are welcoming us. Inside my suite, there are orange cones in the carpet, the pull out bed looks like the back seat of an old car and the tool chest is a dresser. Did I mention the bathroom design is inspired by a car wash?

Stay in a Lion King Suite and Zazu is on the headboards; Kids can chill on a leaf-shaped chair.In the suites, there are jellyfish lampshades in the Finding Nemo buildings.

I loved the Landscape of Flavors food court where you could get a customized omelet, fruit plate or smoothie for breakfast—all made to order.  Original art backgrounds from films decorate the walls.

Kids will especially love the “Big Blue” pool –the largest at Walt Disney World at 11,859 square feet.  They’ll get underwater messages from film characters!

Parents will love the space, the fridge and the microwave.  Who wants to eat out every meal, even at a resort?

There are other Orlando hotels, of course where you can spread out, of course including:

 — Nickelodeon Suites Resort   with one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom KidSuites complete with extra TVs, kitchens and more. There are also themed suites such as SpongeBob Square Pants and Dora the Explorer. Kids love the waterpark, the kid’s spa, the chance to meet and great their favorite characters and the shows, including the chance to get slimed.

—  Marriott Vacation Club has seven resorts in Orlando with over 2,000 villas to choose from which can accommodate five or more. The newest resort is at the  Grande Lakes campus, adjacent to the JW Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton. All of the resorts are within a few minutes of the theme parks and not only give you plenty of space but a fully equipped kitchen, master suite, in-villa washer and drier and plenty of pool action.

Hilton Grand Vacations at SeaWorld has 135 two bedroom suites that will accommodate six people and 46 three bedroom suites that will accommodate eight people. There are fully equipped kitchens, and washer and drier, even complimentary WiFi access.  There are other Hilton Grand Vacations properties in Orlando as well  including  Hilton Grand Vacations Club on International Drive (the kids will love all the water features and you’ll love the whirlpool in the master bath)  and the newest,  Parc Soleil spread out on 52 acres complete with super pool and water slide.

Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort  has 90 suites that sleep five or more. Kids will like the bunk beds in the family Palm Suites I and the newly renovated 27 Palms Pool Club with its twin pools, 79 foot slide , regular complimentary shuttles to the nearby Disney theme parks, big game room and plenty of poolside activities led by resort ambassadors. Ready to join the balloon stomp? 

The Drury Inn & Suites Orlando touts free breakfast, free soda and popcorn in the lobby and free 5:30 p.m.  Kick back with drinks for the grownups, soft drinks for the kids and plenty to eat.  There are 23 Double Queen Suites that can sleep 5-6 people.

Disney, by the way,  has themed other hotels too with royal and pirate rooms, for example.  But it’s the suites that are the home run here, especially as multigenerational families continue to travel together.

Next time, I need a Cozy Cone cabana.  

(IF you are heading to Orlando, get your kids my new Kid’s Guide to Orlando from Globe Pequot Press.)

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