This all-suites, lakefront resort offers all the comforts of home, particularly if you are traveling with a large family group. Just a few minutes from Disney's back door, and surrounded by beautiful Florida wilderness, the lodging is also convenient to shopping. Best of all, there are activities galore that will keep the family entertained on non-theme-park days. Slated to open in early 2018, the huge Surfari Waterpark will feature a dual Flowrider surf simulator, a lazy river, several water slides and a large pool. But the aquatic fun doesn't stop there. Lake Austin, an 18-acre body of water in a conservation area, directly adjacent to the resort, offers the chance to rent pontoon boats, paddle boats, kayaks and delightfully cute little electric runabouts. Fishing is available from the pier or on the lake-shore or from a boat.
Getting from the front desk to your room in this large, spread out resort, can be a bit of an adventure. Staff are eager to help with luggage and to show you how to get there, but it can be a puzzle getting back to the restaurant and main lobby. Eventually you'll figure it out. Also, there is a $22.50/night resort fee, and a $250 fee if you bring a pet.
The spacious suites (even the one-bedroom suites offer nearly 1,000 square feet of living space) are all decorated in the same very modern furnishings, with queen or king-sized beds with white, duvet-style bedding in the bedrooms. Each suite has a full living room and kitchen with full-sized stainless appliances, coffee maker, washer and dryer in a separate utility room, and two bathrooms. The living room and bedrooms are equipped with large, flat-screen TVs, and a desk area. A dining room just off the kitchen offers plenty of space for eating. Wi-fi is included in the resort fee, and there are plenty of plugs for charging devices. Best of all is a screened in, furnished balcony, perfect for sitting and watching the Disney fireworks on the horizon.
The roomy bathrooms contain generous, granite-topped vanities with two sinks and loads of room for toiletries, whether your own or those supplied by the resort. The vanity is separated from the WC and shower/tub by a door.
The marble tiled entry welcomes guests to the very modern lobby, which contains the front desk, a well-stocked bar, a shop with sundries, souvenirs and casual food, and the entrance to the main restaurant. Because the suites have all the room you'll need for socializing, there is not much social space in the lobby except for the bar.
The Springs consists of three large pools, a hot tub, children's splash area, private cabanas overlooking the lake, and ample lounge chairs. An automated towel dispenser by the pool offers guests access to towels using their keycards. Slated to open in early 2018, the huge Surfari Waterpark will feature two Flowrider surf simulators, a lazy river, several water slides and a large pool.
The Escape Spa offers a full menu of massages, facials and body treatments using organic, citrus based ingredients, manicures, and even waxing. Luxury robes and slippers are provided in the separate locker rooms.
YOU SHOULD KNOW No cell phones or other electronic devices are allowed in the spa.
The 2,000-square foot fitness center offers cardio and strength training equipment in a bright room with floor to ceiling windows.
Valencia Restaurant is a charming, sit-down restaurant with views over the pool and lake, which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The menu includes dishes influenced by Mediterranean traditions, in addition to pizzas and flatbreads from a wood fired oven, and a kids menu. The restaurant also makes the food offered at the Springs Bar & Grill by the pool. Quick snacks such as hot paninis and sandwiches are available at Alfresco Market, in addition to coffee, espresso and cappuccinos using Illy coffee. Scheduled to open early in 2018, Longboard Bar & Grill at the waterpark offers beer, barbecue and burgers, in addition to a full menu, served in open-air seating either in the building or outside under umbrellas.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Since you do have the benefit of a fully equipped kitchen in the suite, you can take advantage of grocery delivery and do some cooking at "home." Instacart.com partners with Publix, an excellent Florida grocery chain, to offer online ordering from a wide range of products, which are then delivered to the resort. The bell staff will deliver the groceries to your room, but you must be there to accept them.
The lobby bar, Zest, serves sophisticated cocktails and a waterfront view. The Springs Bar & Grill offers tropical and frozen cocktails, beers and appetizers. Longboard Bar & Grill at the waterpark serves beer and cocktails.
Besides the pools and the water park, the resort offers fishing and boating on their pristine lake, where kayaks, electric go-boats, paddle boats or pontoon boats may be rented. The recreation team organizes loads of activities, including dance parties by the pool for all ages, and scavenger hunts, crafts and contests. If golf is your desire, the resort has partnered with nearby Orange County National, which features two 18-hole championship courses, and a 9-hole course, each of which features rolling fairways, significant elevation changes and manicured greens. In addition, guests have privileges at Grand Cypress Golf Club.
The resort offers complimentary transportation to Disney, but the best option is a car or ride-share service. The resort is fairly remote, and there is nothing within walking distance, nor is there any public transportation.
The closest restaurants are on the endless strip-mall that is Irlo Bronson Highway (U.S. 192), where a plethora of chain restaurants offer up pizza, burgers or Chinese food. But if you are looking for a more pleasant dining experience, the best solution is to head to Disney Springs (20-minute drive) where you'll find everything from T-Rex, where you can eat among dinosaurs, to PaddleFish, a seafood restaurant whose outdoor rooftop terrace offers striking views of the lagoon and the entertainment at the Springs. Raglan Road, an authentic Irish Pub features refined Irish fare and lots of music and dancing; Morimoto’s Asia, an Asian Fusion eatery owned by, and often visited by, famed Japanese chef, Morimoto; and Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ restaurant, which showcases local, Southern food. The Polite Pig, a popular eatery run by two James Beard-nominated chefs, serves up modern barbecue and Florida inspired cuisine.
Disney Springs (20-minute drive) offers dozens of places to lift a glass. The rooftop bar at Morimoto's Asia offers high-end sake; Raglan Road's Irish pub pours a mean Guinness; wine connoisseurs can head to Wine Bar George, where a master sommelier dispenses a wide range of domestic and imported wines; and House of Blues is the spot for beer.
WHY WE LIKE IT
These roomy suites are a delight for an extended family or group of friends, offering plenty of room to spread out, and plenty of space for privacy. The kitchen allows you to cook a few meals on your own, but you are on vacation, so eating out should be part of the fun. Disney is 20 minutes away (not five minutes) but close enough to come back to the resort to spend the hottest part of the day in the pool or in the suite. Plus, come spring 2018, the on-site waterpark will provide as much fun as you need.