Few hotels have made a bigger splash in the luxury family travel world than The Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World in 2014.
Luxury brands have slowly been encroaching upon the borders of Lake Buena Vista, the area around the Walt Disney World parks, but the Four Seasons Orlando came to town determined to be one of the only five-star Mobil properties in Florida and to raise the stakes.
The Four Seasons feels intimate by comparison to other Orlando resorts targeted to hold thousands of park-goers or convention attendees. It is meant to lure luxury travelers into a secret, magical enclave from maddening crowds.
The design of the resort is exceptional and every bit as magical as the castle seen from its balconies. The lobby chandeliers, intended to evoke park fireworks greet you flanked on either side by the meticulous, multi-hurricane vase floral centerpieces for which the Four Seasons is known.
Family Fun at the Four Seasons
The showcase of the resort is a 5-acre pool area called Explorers’ Island that rivals any luxury resort pool complex I’ve ever seen, not in an obvious and over-stimulating way like an Atlantis resort, but a well designed escape to offer a family with children of every age a fun and relaxing day poolside.
Explorer’s Island is divided into for main areas. The initial pool offers poolside cabanas, a zero entry, and a tiny waterslide appropriate for preschoolers.
The next section offers the Kids For All Seasons kids’ club, which is complimentary for hotel guests and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Outside the kids’ club is the entrance to two water slides, fuse ball, pool tables, and other outdoor games families can enjoy together.
The next pool area is the Splash Zone, offering children’s cabanas in the form of white canvas teepees and a water park of various squirting fountains. The area lights up at night in various colors to give it a different feel.
The final pool area was deigned for older children and teenagers. The Hideaway Club adjacent offers its own ice cream parlor (but stick with the gelato off the lobby at Lickety Split) and arcade and video games. The lazy river ends here.
The adult-only pool is a tranquil haven for those traveling without children or those whose children are enjoying the free kids’ club. Pool attendants will provide colorful mini alarm clocks to place on your longer to tell everyone to leave you alone in complete quiet. Otherwise, expect the attendants to offer to clean your sunglasses or bring you a cocktail.
Disney benefits for guests of the Four Seasons
Although it is a full service resort with tennis courts, golf, fitness facilities, yoga classes most people will have questions about the Disney parks as that’s really the most common form of exercise for grown-ups while visiting Orlando.
To clarify a few things, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World is within the grounds of the Disney World Resort and is as close to the parks as many official Disney resorts are. Four Seasons guests, however, do not qualify for Disney resort benefits: mainly access to extra hours at the parks (early openings and late closings for guests of the Disney World resort) or an extra 60 days to book ride reservations using the Fast Pass Plus system.
Acquainting one’s self with this system is a process. Opposite the concierge station at the Four Seasons is a desk, staffed by incredibly seasoned Disney vacation planners who can assist with all park-related questions. They have the ability to book your fast passes and load your stored reservations on Magic Bands that you can purchase at the resort to wear into the park in place of a ticket. I have never been able to stump them with my questions.
Open a My Disney Experience account as soon as you choose your travel dates. The best dining reservations inside the Disney parks book months in advance. Call the Four Seasons Disney desk as soon as you book your room to get suggestions for dining reservations and booking your fast passes based on your family’s interests and the ages of your children.
The guests of the Four Seasons access the park by taking Four Seasons motor coaches to the four different parks, and they are quite comfortable and run on a set schedule. Other options include taxis, Uber, and private car companies the concierge can arrange. Guests transferring to the Magic Kingdom arrive at the Transportation Center and must take either the monorail or a boat to reach the park entrance.
Rooms at the Fours Seasons Orlando
Even the most standard rooms are very generous in size and make it very easy for a family destination. Most rooms include a king bed as well as a queen-sized sleeper sofa. The innovative open format of a walk-in closet that also serves as a hallway bathroom proves to be very functional for closet storage and there’s built-in storage in the main room along with a Nespresso machine and mini fridge for waters and drinks.
I encourage you to pay for a park view room, as the balcony views are an incredible way to enjoy the sunset over the grounds below and the Disney parks in the horizon. Guests with this view can also see fireworks from their balconies.
The Spa at the Four Seasons Orlando
As a family, we find the mellow vibe of the resort pools as relaxing as a family could need, but the spa is definitely worth some time alone. If parents want to experience a treatment together while their children are at the kids’ club, there is no common wet area for both sexes, only a large lounge with an ample display of chocolates and brownies to share in front of fireplaces.
The women’s spa is beautifully designed around the motif of purple flowers—seen everywhere from glittering tile mosaic walls to candles lit around the bathroom vanities.
There are innovative extras in the spa’s wet areas including an electronic, customized shower experience that has varying lights, sounds, water temperatures, and pressures. I was too scared to hit a button that had the word Arctic on it. The Rejuvenating Oxygen Facials are designed before a night out, but the Fire and Ice Facial is a popular choice, too.
The combined hair and nail salon is adjacent to the spa and also offers hair and nail treatments for children, like knight and princess packages complete with wands and swords.
Dining at the Four Seasons Orlando
Orlando is filled with vacationing families, and so many restaurants near the Walt Disney World resort feel like every one of those families is dining with you at the same time. The Four Seasons excels at catering to its guests without losing any of the standards set by their properties in their other resort locations. All of its restaurants’ environments are equally strong for adult-only or family meals, which is something most other Disney resorts can’t boast.
Capa is a Spanish influenced steakhouse and tapas bar on the penthouse level of the building, offering excellent, though distant, views of the fireworks at Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom, the closest park. Coordinate your dinner reservations so that you can step onto the Capa balconies and enjoy the views between courses.
Capa, only open for dinner, manages to be a cosmopolitan oasis within the Disney World resort. Even though it feels very adult with its stunning red and black design to mimic the ruffle the flamenco dancer’s skirt, Capa can still cater to its younger guests. The tapas choices, in particular, are innovative and fit for foodies.
Ravello offers breakfast and dinner, as well as the most pleasant character meal at the Disney resort: The Good Morning Breakfast With Goofy and His Pals. The breakfast is every Thursday and Saturday morning and occasional Tuesdays during high season. Goofy, Mickey, and Minnie Mouse greet guests while enjoying an expansive breakfast buffet.
PB & G is a Southern inspired restaurant situated between the adult and family pools offering innovative twists on American comfort food. Plancha offers Cuban inspired food inside the clubhouse at the Four Seasons golf course, Tranquilo, designed by Tom Fazio that is an Audubon nature area.
To experience Walt Disney World based at the Four Seasons is to set a precedent you must meet every future visit to the Orlando theme parks. We can’t get enough. Fortunately, the resort’s departure lounge and adjacent locker rooms allows guests a convenient way to enjoy every last minute using the resort’s pools.
The Four Seasons managed to raise the stakes of the guest experience, amenities, and hotel design and earned every bit of the first (and only) Mobil five-star award in Central Florida.
Where : Four Seasons Resort Orlando
10100 Dream Tree Blvd, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32836, United States
Phone : +1 407-313-7777
Robin Hutson is the Editor of Luxe Recess: For Parents Who Like Really Nice Hotels, covering the family experience at the world’s best properties.