Before parenthood, my husband and I were never much for vacations. We’re home bodies, creatures of habit, and, frankly, busy. But – much like many things – children change that, and so through the journey of parenting, we’ve found ourselves looking outside our norm for adventures fit for the whole family. The one thing I have learned is that, if you want to see a child’s eyes wide with wonder, take them on vacation.
If you want to achieve this without the hustle of airports, long car rides, and the feeling of being trapped in the middle of the ocean – take them to the Orlando Marriott World Center.
It’s not news that just two hours south of St. Augustine is where the rest of the world vacations. Orlando is the epi-center of childhood dreams coming true, but if I’m being completely honest here – we’re not “attractions” type of people. The Vreelands like to chill poolside, eat good food, and enjoy great company while vacationing. Could we possibly find that needle among the haystack of the busiest place on earth?
The Orlando Marriott World Center is a destination in and of itself. Its four restaurants, two pools, two jacuzzis, a resort-style spa, on-site hydroponic garden, 2,009 rooms, a golf course, waterslides, activity yard, and nightly laser show make it the largest Marriott in the entire world. The amenities, combined with the overall vastness of the property, give you a real sense that checking in and not getting back into your car (or worse, one of those jam-packed tourist shuttles) until check-out may not be such a crazy idea.
So, that’s exactly what we did. Walking into the atrium lobby, Asher’s eyes immediately locked into the glass elevators rising up to the 28th floor, and I knew we were in for four days of fun.
Our days went a little like this…breakfast, pool-time, lunch, rest during the summer thunderstorms, dinner, pool and jacuzzi, laser light show, and bedtime. But it wasn’t monotonous. Instead, every day was a new, different adventure because of the variety of food this place has to offer.
Yes, I said food.
I’d say that within 300 steps from one another, there is an Italian restaurant, American grill, sports bar, sushi bar, and poolside cantina serving every flavor you could possibly crave. Not to mention the always-open Pantry where you can grab quick snacks and soft-serve ice cream any time of the day. It’s a foodie’s paradise, so we set out to taste our way through the entire property.
On the first night, we dined at the on-site Italian restaurant, Siro Urban Italian Kitchen. It’s a hip mix of pizza and Italian favorites set in a rustic, industrious corner of the hotel lobby. Not long after it opened, it was named “Diner’s Choice Winner” by OpenTable, so our expectations were set pretty high when we were seated. I had the Lamb Bolognese, Andrew chose the grilled pork chop, and of course (in true kid-menu style) Asher had chicken tenders. We did share mussels as an appetizer, which Asher proudly proclaimed were the “best mussels he’s ever had.”
The food was really good – I mean really good – and the inevitable “food baby” it left me with made the idea of putting on a bathing suit for a night swim completely illogical…but I went for it anyway. This is vacation after all, and I simply cannot turn down a hot tub soak.
The next morning we woke early to try the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at Latitude and Longitude. Not like I was hungry yet, but I was curious what a menu with over 80 items could possibly entail. And it didn’t disappoint.
The buffet wraps around almost the entire dining area when you walk in. There are chef-appointed stations where can put in a special request, or you can choose from the waffle and pancake station, fruit bar, cereal dispensaries, or even something more adventurous. Lox and bagels? Sure. Mediteranean salad? You got it. Because they have so many international guests, the variety available here is remarkable as they try to cater to everyone’s personal breakfast preference.
Latitude and Longitude is actually open all day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner serving up American classics with a creative culinary spin, and it’s big enough to seat 500 guests!
We spent the remainder of the day pool-side making new friends and working off calories with competitive games of ping-pong and soccer and exploring the activity yard/field.
That night, not yet fully digested from the day, we opted to dine lightly with appetizers at High Velocity – a name which doesn’t sound like a place where one might find light food. But its bar food curbs appetites of any size while the entertainment fulfills the “high velocity” expectation. There are TVs on every single wall and at almost every single table. If the creators were going for the sentiment of “let no sports game go unwatched on our watch,” they succeeded.
On day three, my love of pool-side snacking and fruity drinks was fulfilled. While you sun yourself nearby, the Falls Poolside Grill & Bar caters to your every craving with a menu that is a little bit Caribbean, a little bit Tex-Mex, a little bit all-American, and a whole lot of good.
On our last night, we went all out at the hibachi-style Japanese restaurant, Mikado. Talk about a surprise to see a hotel with its very own hibachi grill. Their menu has everything that you love and expect to see here, but the ambiance really takes you by surprise. It’s a beautifully-designed setting far more theatrical than something you’d find in your local strip mall, and it immediately transports you from Orlando to Japan.
All of these restaurants source their greens from Hycube – an on-site pesticide free, non-gmo hydroponic vertical garden – giving you the peace of mind that, while you are over-indulging, at least it’s on the good stuff.
The convenience of all of these restaurants made our trip feel like we were a world away from traffic, crowded theme parks, and complicated schedules you might find during a typical vacation. The scope of the property, stylish redesigned rooms, pools, water slides, golf and games made the hotel feel just our style. So, as it turns out, we did actually find that “needle” by simply checking-in and letting our preconceived ideas of what an Orlando vacation is really like completely check-out.
Learn more about the Orlando Marriott World Center by visiting www.marriott.com.