When my husband suggested we take our blended family to Orlando, Florida for a multigenerational getaway, I panicked. The thought of keeping our clan busy for five days, given our various ages and interests, made me (considering the destination) a little Goofy. Visions of lampshades silkscreened with Mickey and Minnie, mouse-shaped soaps in the shower and Pluto serving me lunch added to my apprehension.
Sensing my trepidation, he suggested we take a re-con weekend trip to the Four Seasons Orlando Resort, the only AAA Five Diamond Resort in central Florida. Faster than Tinker Bell, he flashed brochures with glam photos
of the golf course and a snazzy spa (he knows how to get my attention). With oodles of activities for the little ones, as well as hard-to-please teenagers, the destination looked promising, so off we go to check it out.
Once we pass the entrance gate of this 26-acre lakeside haven, we enter an idyllic decompression chamber. There is no neon. No glitz. No costumed characters.
The hotel’s Spanish Revival architecture reflects Florida’s golden age and looks like a place we’d find in some distant paradise instead of a short two-hour flight from BWI.
Rows of contemporary vases filled with countless birds of paradise accent the classic lobby. Nearby, a fireworks- inspired chandelier embellished with 30,000 glistening crystals is suspended in a magical circular staircase. Walls of glass reveal the stunning outdoors. The overall look is a master class of style.
Anxious to explore the complex, we drop our bags and head outdoors to stroll along the palm pathway shaded by an endless collection of towering royal palms and cypress trees. We pass bungalows with outdoor fireplaces
for private retreats, water sculptures, a reflection pool and tranquil gardens that are all just a shuttle ride away from the primary lure for the little ones: the Disney parks.
The place doesn’t feel like a family resort, and yet it is. That’s because the family amenities are creatively separated from the adults-only area. Adults can enjoy a quiet getaway while the younger ones immerse themselves in a 5-acre water park with two water slides, a family pool (with the occasional “dive-in movie”) and a climbing wall. Plus, there is a lengthy lazy river that winds around a faux “ruined” mansion that houses table tennis and a video- gaming center. Everything is near enough so we can check on the tykes now and then, but far enough away so we can enjoy a book (and a margarita).
A quiet, Zen-like mood embraces the adults-only infinity-edge pool that has every bell and whistle you can think of. Underwater audio? You bet. Hourly goodies brought to your chaise? Definitely. Plenty of pristine white cabanas? Absolutely. Even though the resort has more than 400 rooms, thanks to a skillful layout, it never feels crowded.
Rooms and suites (some with two balconies) are spacious with fancy features that include an in-mirror television in the bathroom and a premium wine-by-the-glass dispenser in our living room — no need to wait for room service when we want to relax with a spontaneous glass of fine wine.
Attention to detail continues when dining. After being seated in Ravello, the resort’s authentic Italian restaurant, we are handed backlit menus so we don’t have to reach for our phone’s flashlight. A pungent herb aroma fills the air, and variety is the mantra. I order a pizza, and my husband chooses a fine veal dish.
At Capa, the dramatic roof-top Spanish-influenced steakhouse, we sip martinis on the terrace and take in Disney fireworks lighting the sky over the Magic Kingdom a few miles away. Pricey steaks are plentiful, but we opt for a casual tapas night outdoors under the stars, savoring small plates and fine wines. The restaurant was named to the Wine Enthusiast list of 100 Best Wine Restaurants in the U.S., so the sommelier knows a thing or two about vino.
Our daily options are endless. My husband makes a beeline toward the 18-hole, par-71 Tom Fazio-designed golf course that doubles as a stunning natural habitat. Not only is it certified by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary program for golf, it is home to a PGA Tour Champions event. I gravitate to the gym for fitness classes or to the spa.
(Oh, the memories of the resort’s signature sticks and hot stones massage.) We may be a short jaunt to the Disney parks, but we opt to immerse ourselves in the hotel’s amenities instead. We never see a mouse, dwarf or fairy.
En route home we review our check list of “musts” for a family getaway and this place fulfills every one of them.
Disney meets luxury.
WHERE TO EAT
Grab-and-go breakfasts, a smattering of lunch choices plus smoothies, lattes, cappuccinos, baked goods and gelato are at Lickety Split. Try the signature cold-brew iced coffee in this casual lobby meeting spot.
When poolside hunger pangs strike, stop in PB&G for creative salads, burgers and smokehouse specialties.
Ravello is best for pastas, pizzas, classic fish and meat selections.
Plenty of seating options for families as well as those seeking romantic dinners for two.
For the “wow factor” head to Capa, the dramatic Spanish- influenced steakhouse for tapas, steaks and rooftop dining and fireworks views.
WHAT TO DO
Complimentary shuttles are provided from the Four Seasons to all of the main Disney parks. Character breakfasts with Goofy and his pals are at Ravello.