For the average Orlando tourist, a trip here is hardly complete without stops at Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando. And while we're always up for things like Disney retail therapy and living out our Wizarding World dreams, it's nice to take a step back to venture beyond the theme park gates, which is exactly what we did during our stay at the Orlando World Center Marriott. From a diverse dining scene and activity lineup to the expansive pool complex and golf course, the resort has no shortage of things to keep you busy during a theme park respite. Let's take a look.
1. Eat up
Suffice to say, you won't go hungry at this Marriott outpost, which is home to Mikado Japanese Steakhouse and Siro Urban Italian Kitchen, which are both helmed by a talented culinary staff. At Mikado, hibachi is the main focus, but the chefs provide all the entertainment; our favorite selection is the filet of salmon served with salad, rice, and vegetables (hibachi dinner from $30). On the main level, tuck into Siro for artfully crafted mains ranging from spicy lobster carbonara to pork chops, to pizza (dinner entrées from $11). For something more casual, head to High Velocity -- the onsite sports bar -- for beer and small plates (think nachos, flatbreads, and chili), or, fuel up at the food court and Falls Pool Bar and Grill, where you'll find everything from poke to chicken fingers (and much more).
2. Make it a pool day
Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon who? Disney's two popular water parks may be minutes away, but there's even more fun to be had at Orlando World Center Marriott's sweeping pool complex. Touting a huge outdoor pool called the Falls Pool Oasis -- complete with waterfalls -- there's also a trio of super-fun water slides, kids' zone, and a whirlpool. That's not all: guests can take a dip in an indoor pool or find serenity at the much-quieter spa pool when the temperature of Central Florida really starts to crank up.
3. Let the kids have time to themselves
Children certainly won't be bored at the resort, but we must warn parents that they may get jealous once they see what kind of activities that are in store for little ones. Scavenger hunts, hula hoop competitions, bingo, ping-pong tournaments, trivia, arts and crafts, limbo, fish feeding, Legoland play area, and a Gatorland meet-and-greet are just a few of the activities that'll keep kids entertained.
4. Get pampered at the spa
In a secluded area on the west side of the resort sits the spa. Depending on the location of your room, it may be a bit of a hike, but it's worth the walk. Indulge in a 50-minute personalized pressure massage ($140), settle in for a Sedona clay mud wrap (50 minutes, $125), or treat yourself and book deep cleansing facial (50 minutes, $130). For the ultimate experience, try the Around the World in Eighty Minutes massage, which includes techniques used in all corners of the globe, like hot stones and aromatherapy ($190).
5. Tee off
How about some time out on the green? The resort's 18-hole golf course, Hawk's Landing Golf Club, is spread across 220 acres and has a driving range, putting green, and the Bill Madonna Golf Academy, led by a fantastic (and patient!) set of instructors. When your eye's not on the ball, take in stellar views of the sprawling property. If you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the Characters in Flight balloon at Disney Springs.
6. Watch the "Light Up the Night" laser show
One of our favorite things to do on property is watch the nightly "Light Up the Night" laser show at the Falls Pool Oasis. Grab a lounge chair -- or stake out a spot in the pool -- and watch as colorful lights and pop songs synchronize for a show akin to an EDM concert. Even cooler? There are four shows that rotate each night, so depending on how long you stay, you might get to see all of them.
7. Catch some Pokémon
It's no secret that Pokémon GO has been sweeping the nation -- and the world, really -- so fortunately for fans of the phenomenon, Orlando World Center Marriott has nearly 10 PokéStops teeming with eggs, Poké Balls, and Pokémon. In fact, the lobby is even a Poké gym, so find a fellow player and battle it out; other PokéStops include the entrance's grand water fountain, the pool area, and the dragonfly sculpture. For reservations through December 25, the hotel is offering the Catch 'Em All Escape package: priced from $214 per night, it includes a room with a view of the pool and laser show, two Pikachu-inspired cocktails, complimentary parking, and a daily $25 resort credit. Use promo code HO9.
This speaks for itself -- you're on vacation, after all. Carve out some time to kick back and chill out in your room -- the smallest of which measures in at 425 square feet -- or make use of the balcony or patio to enjoy the Florida air. Nightly rates are from $159 this fall.