10 Sweet Orlando Staycations

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From culinary escapades to weekend getaways, area resorts offer specials and savings sure to lure locals.


Streamsong Resort

Why Go: Though it’s less than two hours away from downtown Orlando, Streamsong Resort, located in Polk County, feels a world away. Built on a former phosphate mine, the sandy surroundings, rolling dunes and low, scrubby hedges are more reminiscent of Arizona or Wyoming than Florida. Totally secluded, peaceful and quiet, the resort is a true staycation getaway. Golfers come from all over the world for the two gorgeous 18-hole courses set among the dunes (pictured above).

The Basics: Just 216 guestrooms comprise the whole resort, which is stunningly modern with floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows, undulating concrete columns and natural wood louvers in lieu of fabric shades. (There are even 12 rooms situated at the 18th hole, perfect for weary golfers.) Not into golf? Spend time practicing your aim with sporting clay shooting, archery or guided bass fishing. Or treat yourself to a spa service at the strikingly beautiful AcquaPietra spa, designed as a European grotto with mosaic tile, smooth stone walkways and six pools ranging from super-warm to teeth-chatteringly chilly, designed for relaxation and invigoration. Rates start at $115 a night. 1000 Streamsong Drive, Streamsong.

Recommended Eats: After a round (or just when you arrive), take the shuttle over to the clubhouse for lunch at Restaurant Fifty-Nine, which is a steakhouse at dinner, but a classic clubhouse spot during the day. The smoked fish spread, Rueben sandwich, fried grouper sandwich and French fries were standouts. For an upscale casual dinner, the Italian-focused SottoTerra has classic dishes like tomato salad with burrata, gnocchi with gorgonzola, osso bucco and angel hair pasta with seared scallops. Breakfast at P2O5 has all the classics—waffles, omelets, pancakes, French toast and steak and eggs. End the day with a cocktail under the stars at Fragmentary Blue (image above), the sixth-floor bar with floor-to-ceiling windows and a terrace designed for watching the sunset and stargazing. Because of the resort’s remote location, the night sky is bright with twinkling stars—a stunning sight not often found in Central Florida.

Sweet Deal: The Summer Experience package includes accommodations in a lakefront room, late check-out, and your choice of 18 holes of golf, a 50-minute spa treatment, two-hour guided bass fishing excursion, or an adventure in clay shooting or archery. Florida residents also receive a $25 gift card. Two night minimum; rates from $122 per person per night based on double occupancy.

Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center

Expansive glass atrium at Gaylord Palms Resort features sights and sounds of Key West, the Everglades and St. Augustine.

The sights and sounds of Key West, the Everglades and St. Augustine are all under the atrium at Gaylord Palms.

Why Go: While Orlando’s main attractions are just minutes away from the Gaylord Palms’ easily accessed Kissimmee location, guests can staycation all over Florida under the glass atriums at this sprawling resort. Kids will love traipsing along the wooden walkways in the Everglades atrium, exploring the small-scale replica of the Castillo de San Marcos in the St. Augustine atrium and checking out the juvenile alligators and 30 species of native turtles at Gator Springs.         

The Basics: The resort’s interior is just as striking when viewed from above—the 410-square-foot atrium-view rooms boast French doors that open onto a furnished balcony, the perfect place to enjoy morning coffee. Outdoors, families will flock to the Cypress Springs Family Fun Water Park with its four slides, multi-level treehouse playground and toddler-friendly zero-entry pool.  Adults will enjoy the kid-free quiet of the South Beach Pool and its adjacent restaurant and bar. Rates start at $146 a night. 6000 W. Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee.

Recommended Eats: Fresh, Florida seafood is the order of the day at MOOR, a serene spot including prime seating onboard a replica of 60-foot sailboat docked on an indoor lagoon. Chef Phillip Fisher’s regionally inspired cuisine complements the laid-back Key West vibe; the catch varies daily and is available grilled, fried or blackened. Rock shrimp and Cedar Key clams are menu regulars, and less common species like wahoo, cobia and hog fish are often available in addition to the more ubiquitous Florida snapper, grouper or mahi mahi. Snag a seat with a view of the sunset and enjoy a beer from Funky Buddha or Cigar City, or sip a refreshing mojito with mint grown in the Gaylord’s own indoor herb garden.

Sweet Deal: On July 13, MOOR and Jack Daniels will be making a splash with Jack in July – an exquisite experience featuring four courses of fresh, local food paired with Jack Daniels blended whiskies for $75 per person. On August 11, Chef George Yiu of Old Hickory Steakhouse and the winemaker from Torres Winery will present a multi-course wine dinner for $125 per person. Reservations required.

Villas of Grand Cypress

Fairways create a tranquil oasis at Villas of Grand Cypress.

Fairways create a tranquil oasis at Villas of Grand Cypress.

Why Go: While the towering Hyatt Grand Cypress is a familiar beacon in Orlando’s busy Disney environs, the serene, luxurious Villas of Grand Cypress are completely tucked away a few miles down a back stretch of State Road 535. Golfers love the 45 holes of Jack Nicklaus Signature–designed golf, but non-golfers will appreciate the gorgeous fairways that create a tranquil oasis that feels worlds away from the hustle of the theme parks.  And a sweet little walking/biking trail connects you to all the amenities of the Hyatt Grand Cypress. In the meantime, you get peace and quiet (and maybe an in-room massage).

The Basics: Thanks to a recent $17 million renovation, the 146 villas are contemporary, sleek and super high-end—from an oversized suite to one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom accommodations with full kitchens, living and dining rooms. There’s golf and the Grand Cypress Academy of Golf, tennis courts, two restaurants, free bikes, a crowd-free swimming pool with casual cocktail bar, fitness center and fishing on Lake Windsong. And you can use all the amenities at the Hyatt, including the tennis courts—shuttles run continuously between the villas and the Hyatt if you don’t want to walk. Villas of Grand Cypress is a AAA Four-Diamond winner and a Forbes Four-Star property, and was named among the Top 25  Hotels in the United States in TripAdvisor’s 2016 Travelers’ Choice awards. Rates start at $229 a night through Sept. 30. 1 N. Jacaranda St., Orlando.

Recommended Eats: Stroll over to the golf clubhouse for a standout evening at Nine18, a Forbes 4 Star–rated restaurant where Chef Lenny Huot introduced a new summer menu that includes Florida black grouper with sweet potato–chorizo hash; Florida pork tenderloin with local oyster mushrooms; grilled baby octopus with apple and papaya salad and a house-aged New York strip steak. Ask for a table by the window overlooking the beautiful fairways with a view of the nightly Epcot fireworks. For breakfast, try the house-made granola parfait or myriad egg dishes at the casual Club Restaurant (also open for lunch and dinner). You can opt instead for 24-hour room service and lounge on your patio. Still sticking close, the Hyatt has a half-dozen options, including the newly renovated LakeHouse restaurant overlooking Lake Windsong.

The Shores Resort & Spa

Bird’s eye view of the expansive deck at The Shores Resort & Spa.

Bird’s eye view of the expansive deck at The Shores Resort & Spa.

Why Go: Summertime is New Smyrna Beach time for lots of Central Floridians, but escape the neighbors with just a short jaunt up the Atlantic Ocean to Daytona Beach Shores. Yes, there’s driving on the beach, but it’s a slower pace than Daytona Beach. The Shores Resort & Spa sits directly on the ocean with an expansive deck that gives you beautiful views—but you’re elevated above the beach. So it’s your choice: a swim in the ocean or in the resort’s saltwater pool, where they even have neat little patches of sand with Adirondack chairs for guests who wants to feel the sand between their toes. Perfect for a girlfriend getaway with a boutique spa that alone is worth a stay.

The Basics: The AAA Four-Diamond resort features generous-sized rooms with 300-thread-count linens and big bathrooms (great walk-in showers), many with balconies facing the ocean. Ground-floor rooms feature shaded porches with comfy couches and chairs. Head to the deck, grab a complimentary beach towel and reserve your spot for the day. But this isn’t a quiet zone—games, weekend barbecues and a lively tiki bar create a sunny, high-energy space. Cabanas are for rent and include snacks, cocktails and lunch. After dark, the fire pits light up and the resort offers s’mores kits for enjoying the quintessential campfire treat. The Indulge Spa is small but offers a fine array of services with top-notch masseurs. There’s a kid’s club, and pets are welcome, too. Rates start at $120 a night if you book directly through the hotel. 2637 S. Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach Shores; shoresresort.com.

Recommended Eats: Start your morning with the stone-roasted eggs in Azure restaurant, a stack of roasted tomato, fresh spinach and eggs any style. Dinner includes a Fresh Catch Ceviche, Seminole Pride ribeye, cast iron–seared Florida black grouper and Atlantic Seafood Étoufée. But our favorite bite was the fried grouper sandwich served at the Tiki Bar—a perfect rendition of a soft brioche bun with a slather of tartar sauce and a side of hot fries. Add your favorite beach libation, and life is good.

Sweet Deal: Florida residents receive a 15% discount on room rates, 20% discount on spa services and a free “S’mores at The Shores” kit for fire pit fun.

Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando

The-Boheme-at-Grande-Bohemian-Orlando

The sleek and chic dining room at The Boheme.

Why Go: A sophisticated staycation in the heart of downtown Orlando, the Grand Bo is a stroll or Juice Bike ride away from downtown nightlife and culture. Catch a Saturday night performance at the Dr. Phillips Center, then spend Sunday morning strolling around Lake Eola and visiting vendors at the Orlando Farmers’ Market.

The Basics: Original artwork ensures that no two rooms are exactly the same, but all guest rooms offer 385 square feet of style. Upgrade to a suite and enjoy nearly double the space; concierge level rooms include exclusive access to a lounge with complimentary continental breakfast, midday snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. The rooftop pool is big-city chic, and the full-service Poseidon Spa offers a luxurious respite from the sun. Rates start at $196; 325 South Orange Ave., Orlando.

Recommended Eats: The Boheme Restaurant’s award-winning Jazz Brunch is on Sundays from 10am-2pm, when the includes breakfast classics like fresh waffles, made-to-order omelets and eggs benedict along with antipasti, shellfish and carving stations. Chef Laurent Hollaender’s Continental background is evident in dinner offerings such as roasted pear salad, Bohemian hunter’s board and cognac-flamed pepper steak.

Sweet Deal: The Art Immersion package includes $150 towards dinner for two at The Boheme, a $100 gift card for the Grand Bohemian Gallery, and admission and transport to the Orlando Museum of Art and the Mennello Museum starting at $449 per night.

Epicurean

The culinary theater at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa.

The culinary theater at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa.

Why Go: This boutique hotel nestled in Tampa’s charming Soho (South Howard) district is a tribute to all things epicurean. Take a cooking class or attend a guided wine tasting in the 40-seat Epicurean Theater, or rock out poolside on SPLASH Sundays from noon-5pm (through September 4) with live DJ entertainment, craft cocktails and more.

The Basics: The 137 rooms are boutique chic, and range in size from 350 square feet for a classic room and to 700 square feet for a junior or balcony suite. Amenities include a bike rentals, full-service spa and retail including Bern’s Fine Wine & Spirits and Chocolate Pi Patisserie. Florida Resident Rates begin at $139; 1207 South Howard Ave., Tampa.

Recommended Eats: The onsite restaurant Elevage serves the kind of elevated bistro fare one would expect from a food-focused hotel, but the real draw for hotel guests is the legendary Bern’s Steak House, which is right across the street. Steaks are clearly the specialty here, but we also love the Kitchen within a Kitchen menu, which features seasonal ingredients, fresh catch and even a vegetarian item or two.

Sweet Deal: The Awaken Appetites Unknown package includes overnight accommodations, a $50 gift card to Bern’s Steak House, a private tour of the Bern’s Wine Warehouse (which features over half a million bottles of wine!) and a signed copy of Bern’s Rare and Well Done. Rates vary, contact hotel for details.

The Alfond Inn

The-Alfond-Inn

The Alfond’s elegant exterior hints at the visual treats inside.

Why Go: You won’t find a more walkable or picturesque neighborhood this close to Orlando,  and the Mediterranean-inspired décor and museum-quality art at The Alfond Inn echo Winter Park’s upscale flair. Leave the car in the lot—or leave it at home and take SunRail—and enjoy all that nearby Park Avenue has to offer, from the Morse Museum to a bevy of boutiques.

The city’s Scenic Boat Tour launches every hour between  10am and 4pm, and the dock is just steps from the Inn’s central locale.

The Basics: The 112 guest rooms range from a cozy 323 square feet to a spacious 998; pets are welcome for an additional $50/night. The guest-only pool is perfect for an al fresco cocktail, and intimate indoor public spaces beckon when it’s time to beat the heat. Rates start at $179; 300 West New England Ave., Winter Park.

Recommended Eats: With new Executive Chef Jason Klingensmith running the restaurant’s inviting open kitchen, the rustic farm tables in Hamilton’s Kitchen provide a backdrop for delightful dishes such as hours-long octopus with butternut squash, chimichurri and local greens; Chilean sea bass with silky potatoes, garlic Brussels sprouts and Meyer lemon butter; sustainable Skuna Bay salmon with potato hash, cabbage slaw and bacon jam;
filet mignon with smoked mushroom duxelle, roma tomato, asparagus, horseradish aioli and red wine syrup; and chocolate-orange mascarpone cake.

Sweet Deal: The Summer Splash package includes two poolside cocktails, complimentary valet parking and two tickets for the Scenic Boat Tour with rates beginning at $233 per night.

Hyatt Regency Orlando

Urban Tide at the Hyatt Regency Orlando.

Urban Tide at the Hyatt Regency Orlando.

Why Go: There’s no shortage of massive hotels on I-Drive, but the Hyatt Regency stands apart for its spacious rooms, dining options and luxury amenities. Located just a shuttle stop away from a boatload of budget-friendly family attractions like the Orlando Eye, Wonderworks and King’s Bowl, this towering property also offers opportunities for downtime for mom and dad.

The Basics: With over 1500 guest rooms it’s easy to snag one at the last minute when it’s slow at the adjacent convention center, making this a great choice for an impromptu change of scenery. In addition to three different pools with waterfalls, slides and hot tubs, there’s also a spa on site offering a full roster of relaxation. Rates start at $139; 9801 International Dr., Orlando.

Recommended Eats: Seafood is the star of Chef Jared Gross’s menu at Urban Tide (pictured), and Florida produce plays a supporting role as well. Look for refreshing ceviche, spicy cioppino (seafood stew) and catch of the day served blackened, grilled or sautéed. Chef Will Walters at Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse presents Chef’s Table events seasonally, and it’s well worth combining these multi-course events with an overnight stay. Need a tuna melt at 2am? The 24-hour B-Line Diner has you covered.

Sweet Deal: Use the code FLWKND when booking online to receive 10% off weekend rates through December 31.

Reunion Resort

Golf-at-Reunion-Resort

Why Go: Why settle for a hotel room when you could vacation in style in your very own villa? Available with one, two or three bedrooms, villas offer an array of amenities including fully-equipped kitchens, master baths, washer/dryer, living and dining areas and more. At just a short hop from the parks, Reunion is a great place to gather with extended family.

The Basics: Float down the lazy river or slip down the slides at the Reunion Resort Water Park; play a few sets at the award-winning, six-court tennis complex; or hit the links on one of three courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. Rates start at $156; 7593 Gathering Dr., Kissimmee.

Recommended Eats: Throughout July, the resort will feature cocktail specials and prix-fixe menus at the steakhouse Eleven, winner of a 2016 Orlando Magazine Readers’ Choice Award.  The more casual Clubhouse will feature cocktail specials and prix-fixe menus throughout August.

Sweet Deal: Florida residents receive 25% off room rates Sunday through Thursday and 15% off on Fridays and Saturdays through August 31.

Grande Lakes Orlando

The-Organic-Garden-at-Primo,-JW-Marriott

The garden at Primo.

Why Go: You’ll have to choose between lodging at one of the two luxe properties on site—JW Marriott or the The Ritz-Carlton—but no matter your choice, you can take advantage of all the amenities these two luxe properties have to offer, including stunning grounds and beautiful views of the eponymous lake.

The Basics: Enjoy the lazy river at the JW pool or more serene swimming (and spa!) over at the Ritz. All kids aged 4-12 are welcome to take advantage of the activity-packed Ritz Kids program for a fee, but Ritz guests will automatically receive two hours of supervised, kids-only fun for up to two kids. Rates begin at $175 for JW Marriott and $224 for The Ritz-Carlton; 4040 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando.

Recommended Eats: The farm-to-table ethos thrives at the restaurants on property, with much of the produce coming from the resort’s own Whisper Creek Farm and the organic garden at Primo by Melissa Kelly at JW Marriott (pictured), a must-try for home-grown Italian fare. Farm-inspired fare is the order of the day at Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen in the JW lobby, which also features five seasonal beers brewed onsite by a master cicerone. At the Ritz, look for craft cocktails, Florida seafood and inspired Southern fare at Highball & Harvest, or visit NORMAN’S to experience James Beard Award-winning Chef Norman Van Aken’s fusion of Latin and Caribbean cuisines.

Sweet Deal: Pastry chefs will offer two sweet hands-on cooking classes in August. At Highball & Harvest, learn the art of making chocolate on August 6 ($92 includes lunch). On August 20, master Italian desserts at Primo ($55 includes a glass of prosecco).

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