Orlando Florida is known as the “theme park capital of the world” due to its numerous theme parks, anchored by Walt Disney World, Epcot Center, and Universal Studios. With so many attractions, so many places to stay that cater to your imagination, and beautiful beaches just a short drive away; Orlando has something for everyone.
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Westgate Resorts in Orlando
On our most recent trip to Orlando, we stayed at Westgate Lake Resort & Spa. Their property in New York is one of the more affordable hotels in New York City. I’ve known Westgate for their Las Vegas hotels, and while we were at the Westgate Lakes Resort, we learned about their new Cocoa Beach resort.
Westgate operates two Orlando resorts where rooms can be booked as part of Disney vacation packages. The Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa is a situated between Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, and is on the same side of the highway so getting there is quick. There is a spa, two restaurants, a general store, an arcade and lake activities available. There are resort shuttles you can take to the parks each day, but I just took an Uber to make life easier, which cost around $8 to Universal and $15 to Disney World each way.
What really stood out to me at the Westgate was the service. The staff was very friendly, especially Brian who took us to our room on a golf cart. The rooms were huge. We stayed in a one bedroom and had a full kitchen, screened-in balcony with a beautiful view and a jacuzzi tub in the bedroom. We thought it was funny there was a jacuzzi tub surrounded by mirrors in the bedroom (instead of in, say, the bathroom), but this is the 2nd place I’ve stayed in Orlando that had that. We laughed about it, but when we came back to our room after a long day walking in the parks, the jacuzzi was exactly what we wanted and needed!
If you are only going to Disney World, Westgate Vacation Villas Resort is south of Disney (not in-between the parks like Westgate Lakes Resort). This one is a little more affordable than the other Orlando Westgate property, and you can enjoy a day away from the theme park crowds at Westgate’s Ship Wreck Island Water Park. This is one of the largest Orlando waterparks you will find at a resort that is included in your stay.
Things to do in Orlando
A completely unique day resort in Orlando, Discovery Cove is an oasis away from the hurried atmosphere you find in the amusement parks. We enjoyed our time relaxing our feet while laying in a hammock. The all-inclusive resort makes the day easy since you don’t have to worry about what food to buy. Instead, you can have as many drinks, snacks, and food you can eat while you are there. We loved the frozen drinks, hot pretzels, and fresh fruit.
The best part of the resort is the unique experiences. While you are there you can snorkel through a saltwater bay with stingrays and fish. You can swim with dolphins, dive with sharks or just enjoy the beach or lazy river. Read more about our time at Discovery cove here.
If you are a fan of Harry Potter or thrill rides, going to the Universal Orlando Resort is essential. The resort includes 3 parks: Universal Studios, Universal’s Island of Adventure and Volcano Bay. Our absolute highlight is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but there are tons of attractions, restaurants and things to do in the Universal Orlando Resort area.
Within Walt Disney World, you will find 4 parks with dozens of amazing rides likewith\ thrilling roller coasters such as Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, Expedition Everest in the Animal Kingdom and Aerosmith’s Rockin Roller Coaster in Disney Hollywood Studios. Additionally, there are calmer rides like the Splash Mountain, Test Track and Soarin and plenty of family friendly rides at Disney World that are entertaining as well.
Beyond the parks, there are dozens of resorts ranging from simple to luxury where you can relax for a couple’s massage or take a boat ride from the resorts to the park. To make your trip extra special, reserve a table for two at one of the many restaurants before catching an evening performance of Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba. Whatever your mood and couple style, Walt Disney World fits like a glass slipper.
Go for a Flight on the Orlando ICON
The largest obeservation wheel on the east coast, the ICON provides a great view of Orlando. Check the sunset time to see it from the ICON and enjoy your ride.
At Gatorland, you can of view alligators large, small and even albino. You can soar above them on a zip line or get up close and personal on the Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure ride. Each day there are wrestling shows, feeding times and up-close encounters.
Go to a Nearby Beach
Orlando is fairly close to several beaches. About an hour east, you can make it to Cocoa Beach, or you can head a bit further north for the New Smyrna Beach. To the West, you’ll find powdery white sand and dazzling sunsets at Clearwater Beach, which will take you a bit under two hours to get there. Enjoy the sunsets and if you have time, consider taking the ferry ride to Caladesi Island, one of the prettiest beaches in the country.
We have loved our trips to Orlando. Is there anything you would add?
He is an expert travel advisor and enthusiast. He has traveled extensively in the USA, Central American, South America and Europe. He has visited every Sandals Resort and is one of a select few Diamond Elite members of the Sandals Chairman’s Royal Club.
Dan graduated from Johnson & Wales University with an associate degree in Culinary Arts. Later he graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a focus on people and culture.