For the average Orlando tourist, a trip to the City Beautiful 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.
Suffice to say, you won't go hungry at this Marriott outpost, which is home to Mikado Japanese Steakhouse, Siro Urban Italian Kitchen, and Hawk's Landing Steakhouse and Grille -- all 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 ($29.95), served with salad, rice, and vegetables. On the main level, tuck into Siro for artfully crafted dishes like charred octopus ($12), roasted golden beets ($9), and smoked pork cannelloni ($14). Overlooking the golf course is Hawk's Landing Steakhouse, which is open only for dinner. A meal here may be a splurge, but the grouper ($38) is among the best we've ever tasted. For something more casual, grab a seat for breakfast and lunch at Solaris, serving sustainably sourced items; order a round at High Velocity; or fuel up at the food court and Falls Pool Bar and Grill. There's even a Starbucks in the lobby.
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.
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 even a Gatorland meet and greet are among the things that'll keep kids busy.
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 to a 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.
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 hotel and even the Characters in Flight balloon at Disney Springs if you're lucky. Rates are from $59.
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.
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.