Over the years, I’ve enjoyed a wide array of Orlando accommodations: Disney hotels, family condos on the beach, private vacation homes and standard hotels/motels.  The JW Marriott Grande Lakes Orlando is the perfect amalgamation of all expectations and experiences.  If you’re planning a family trip to Orlando that combines both the wild excitement of the amusement parks and the peace/quiet of a spacious room and lounge pool, this is your place.


LOCATION: JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes, 4040 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando, Florida 32837

DURATION: three nights, four days

DATES: Sept 24, 2015 – Sept 27, 2015

WHO: Rick, Angie, 1.5 year old (boy), 10 year old (boy)


Our family outside the front of the JW Marriott Grande Lakes Orlando hotel.

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View of pool area from our room on the 8th floor

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Quiet kids area attached to “Ritz Kids.” The JW Marriott and The Ritz share a 580 acre property as well as facilities.

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Enjoying some pool side activities as a family



Staying off resort (meaning not at Disney World) can be a tough decision for families vacationing in Orlando, Florida.  Will your kids still get to experience all that Orlando offers?  Can you really enjoy the large amusement parks (Walt Disney World, Universal, Legoland etc) when you’re staying elsewhere?  Will you inevitably feel a case of FMS (Feel like you’re Missing Something)? The answer to all of the aforementioned statements is no.

A stay at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes proves that even more than the childhood ‘Disney’ dream exists within Orlando. Not only can you reap the benefits and enjoyment of visiting all of the landmark parks, but also retreat to a quieter, luxurious paradise.

It’s the perfect balance between the large, landmark attractions and the serenity of a relaxing vacation.



I’m not going to list all of the different room types, nor will I get into pricing.  That’s all available on their website (click here).

Instead, I will highlight room attributes that specifically benefit families:

  • Well equipped kitchenettes for those needing/wanting to prepare food.  I’m still in the bottle phase and was thrilled to have a sink (other than a hotel washroom) to clean our items; full size fridges and freezers mean it’s easy to buy, prepare and store food to take on day trips

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    Our own kitchen in our room, which we quickly stocked with snacks

  • Exceptional staff. I’m not kidding — from the concierge and bell hop to food servers and the hospitality crew, I’ve never met such pleasant, gracious, accommodating employees.
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    A welcome note from the kind staff

    Clearly, they’re treated well and in turn do an incredible job assisting families.  Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance.

  • Spacious rooms are available so families can spread outIMG_0496


    I rented toys from to give the boys something to do in between outdoor activities

  • Option to connect rooms providing additional space and privacy (great if traveling with other families or an extended family)
  • Baths available in most rooms, which is great for kids (many hotels today only offer showers)
  • Pack n’ Plays provided upon request


  1. Eco Tour: this is a perfect activity for early risers (which we are).  For an additional fee, you can book kayaks and a tour guide and spend 1.5-2 hours paddling down Single Creek, which is the headwaters to the Everglades (book through concierge).  In a nut shell, you travel up a narrow, winding creek enjoying the serene sights and sounds of the Florida Everglades.  From gigantic snails to alligators, the guides know how to point out and attract some of Florida’s most famous wildlife.  2015-09-25 07.14.45
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    Water looks like glass

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    We selected the 7 am start time (other option is 9:30 am)

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  2. Ritz Kids: from 11 am-12 pm, daily, families can visit the attached Ritz Carlton hotel’s Kids room for free.  There’s a ton of toys, video games, crafts and more.  If your children like it there, you can then use it as a potential care-giving option at any point throughout your stay.

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    The Ritz Kids room

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3.  The hotels offer a variety of restaurants that provide a break away from fast food, amusement park treats and other typical vacation foods.  From a farm (on property) to an organic garden (which families can peruse), you can get fresh items straight from the fields/pastures in the @JWMOrlando restaurants.  The breakfast buffets are another popular choice for vacationers.

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Fruit/vegetable garden that supplies the hotel restaurants. Vacationers can wander through it as well.

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4. Pool/Lazy River.  Not much explanation needed here.  All I can say was this was our favorite activity.  We spent hours using the pool.  From an edge-less pool (great for babies and toddlers) to the long, winding lazy river, there’s something for everyone and it’s all connected. The hotel offers complimentary swim diapers and sunscreen and tubes from the lazy river can be taken home when your stay comes to an end.

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Lazy river

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Complimentary swim diapers and sunscreen

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Pool side shop offers various floaties, water games, goggles, sunscreen and more

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Noah stayed in the pool for five hours straight.

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Small park for toddlers tucked near the pool in the shade.

5.  Activities for mom and dad.

From the serenity of the spa to the greens of the golf course, there’s opportunity for parents to sneak away and indulge themselves while the kids play in the Ritz Kids program.  Or, you can source a baby sitter (which the hotel will help you arrange and can be done in advance for those who want to screen people etc).

Rick loved the golf and played his first solo game here.


A family photo op before Rick’s morning tee-time

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Daddy’s little caddy. The kids and I left once putting practice was over.

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Overall, a mere five-minute drive from International Drive (home to souvenir shops, restaurants, the I-Drive and more) you can escape the concrete jungle and loud amusement parks into this stunning, luxurious setting.  It’s the perfect balance between the large, landmark attractions and the serenity of a relaxing vacation.

Other related articles:

Review: Orlando’s Crayola Experience, Orlando, Florida

Review: Walk Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida

Review: Nickolodeon Suites Hotel, Orlando, Florida

Review: I-Drive’s The Eye, Orlando

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