by Lissa Poirot
While the Gaylord Palms is a massive resort known for hosting conventions and convention-goers, the property is working hard to create a place families will want to visit. With its Kissimmee location, mere minutes from the gates of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the resort is the perfect place for families to stay when visiting the theme parks. Sure, there will be conventions and businesspeople roaming the property, but kids will enjoy the resort’s unique touches.
Designed to showcase the state of Florida, wings are divided into regions, including the Everglades, St. Augustine and the Florida Keys. In the Everglades, live alligators and turtles bask in the sun beneath Gaylord’s glass roof, and kids can watch feedings daily and roam through a small zoo-like environment filled with snakes and other “icky” Everglades creatures. In St. Augustine, families can explore the replica of St. Augustine’s fort, Castillo de San Marcos, which includes an exhibit of treasures found off the coast of Florida believed to be from a Spanish ship that sailed during the 1600’s. In the Keys, dine on Sunset Sam’s full-sized sailboat.
The hotel features 1,406 comfortable and roomy suites and guestrooms spread out among the renovated regions, all featuring special touches to emulate their regions — and keep guests from getting lost! The resort’s 4.5 acres include winding rivers, large ponds and lush gardens — enough to make you think you’ve stepped outside when actually you are beneath a glass ceiling. Kids will also get a kick out of the character breakfasts with Shrek characters, and during the holidays, enjoy the ICE! Celebration, which transforms the hotel into a winter wonderland complete with ice sculptures and real snow in which to play.
Our Editor Loves
- Pool & water park onsite
- Character breakfasts for kids
- Proximity to Disney theme parks
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Gaylord Palms features more than 1,400 rooms and suites in themed areas with different touches and decor. Choose from St. Augustine, Key West, the Everglades or the hotel-within-a-hotel Emerald Bay, which is a bit more private than the other guestroom areas. Select a room facing the hotel's atrium for balconies and views of the various tree-filled Florida regions. Mini-fridges are empty for storing snacks and drinks for the kids, with free bottled water provided daily. Wireless Internet is available for a daily fee. Complimentary cribs are available upon request. Rollaway beds are available for $30 per night.
Rooms feature balconies overlooking the atrium or views of central Florida's landscape. Rooms feature two queen beds or one king bed with small sitting areas. Actually, if it were not for the balcony in our room, we wouldn't have spent time in the room -- not a problem for us, as we were busy checking out the sights in the resort and the Orlando area.
Albeit expensive, suites are also available at the resort, ranging in size from 625 to 725 feet. With suites, families will receive a bedroom with a king bed, a living area with queen sofa bed, a dining table and a large bathroom.
by Nancy C
This place is wonderful if you have money. Has everything for the makings of a perfect grand vacation........So much to do there especially now with the "ICE" show and being so close to Disney World. ..When we were there all Resturants were open at given times through out the day and evenings..Holidays are the busy and fun time to go. ..but again it is a expensive experience.
I stayed here 5 nights for a convention. The hotel is staffed by kind people who really do want to help. Several times, staff volunteered to help me, before I asked. The room was in good repair and was clean when I arrived. The conference facilities were very nicely done, and the service at the conference was unobtrusive and professional. My only grip is how expensive the food was. Perhaps that is to be expected at a self-contained facility but $30 for a breakfast buffet is a bit over the top.
The main atrium is impressive! The koi pond is stocked with gorgeous, healthy fish. I enjoyed the other pond as well (in the Key West area) with Red Drum, Tarpon, and Snook. All the plants and animals were well cared for, their enclosures clean and the individuals looked and acted healthy.
The resort's 15 baby alligators and 30 turtles on loan from Gatorland are located in St. Augustine. The reptiles are often found sunning themselves on rocks, and kids can watch them being fed at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The property features 360,000 gallons of waterways filled with koi, tilapia, Gar, Pace, catfish and Oscars, as well stingrays and other saltwater fish in the saltwater lagoon. Visit the Key West atrium on Wednesdays and Fridays at 1 p.m. to watch the frenzy as the fish get fed.
Located in the Everglades, this exhibit features non-venomous Florida snakes and baby alligators.
Castillo de San Marcos
A replica of St. Augustine's 17th century fort, the oldest fort in North America, the Castillo includes Treasures of the Atocha, a ship believed to have been lost in 1622 in the Dry Tortugas off of Key West.
Open 24 hours a day, the arcade offers video games in the Emerald Plaza.
Located in the Emerald Plaza, kids can meet and take photos with their favorite characters from Shrek, including Fiona, Puss in Boots, and Donkey. Character breakfasts are offered on weekends at the resort's Villa de Flora Mediterranean restaurant.
The lagoon-style swimming pool opened in spring 2012 and features a water park with splash zone, dumping buckets, waterslides and water basketball. Dive-in movies are offered, and nearby fire pits are the perfect place to gather for S'mores.
Old Hickory Steakhouse
This American steakhouse can be found in the Everglades and serves dinner nightly from 5:30 to 10 p.m.
This sushi bar is located in the lobby of the hotel, serving dinner nightly from 5 to 10 p.m.
Villa de Flora
This buffet-style restaurant resembles a European villa and serves up Mediterranean cuisine. Located in the St. Augustine section of the hotel, the restaurant's Sunday brunch is popular, and on weekends a character breakfast is offered for kids with Shrek and Friends. Breakfast is offered 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on weekdays, and until 11 a.m. on weekends. Sunday brunch is offered noon to 3 p.m. Dinner is served nightly from 5 to 10 p.m.
Wreckers Sports Bar
This new sports bar features 50 HDTVs and a two-story video wall playing every sporting event on TV you could think of; grab one of the tables with couches facing the TVs and you'll feel like you're at home. Outdoor seating provides a view of the resort's lawn. Open 11 a.m. to midnight daily.
Located steps from the pool, SandBar serves up American fare and beverages. Kids' menus are available. It is open for lunch and dinner daily.
Enjoy fresh ingredients from local farmers at MOOR. Appetizers, sandwiches, entrees and more are on offer for lunch and dinner daily.
The Cocoa Bean
For morning snacks, afternoon bites and sandwiches for dinner, visit the Cocoa Bean in the St. Augustine Atrium. Starbucks coffee, plus beer and wine are also on offer. The Cocoa Bean is open daily, morning through evening.
Honeybells Frozen Yogurt
Families can create their own Fro-Yo sundae at the Honeybells Frozen Yogurt shop at the resort.
Kids are represented on the in-room dining menu with organic peanut butter and jelly, chicken breast, and macaroni and cheese. (Yes, you read that correctly, organic and sustainable are key words at Gaylord Palms.)
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Parking is provided for a fee. Self-parking, which is a bit of a haul from the rooms, is $18 plus tax daily, while valet is $26 plus tax daily.
Free transportation is provided to all Disney theme parks, and tickets to Disney and Orlando-area theme parks can all be purchased at Concierge, to help families avoid lines. Shuttles are available to other Orlando-area attractions for a fee and must be booked six hours in advance through Concierge.
Babysitting services can be arranged (in-room and at a fee) through Concierge in a program called Kids Nite Out.
Wi-Fi is available for $14.99 per day in guestrooms and suites. Wi-Fi is free in all public areas like the lobby.
Check-in is at 3 p.m. and check-out is at 11 a.m.
The Art of Smart Timing
Gaylord Palms is a popular convention hotel, so be sure to watch its schedule if you're looking to avoid convention crowds. Fall makes the theme parks less crowded because kids are back in school, but fall can be busy due to conventions. Most conventions and business travel are held during the week, leaving the resort open on weekends to families. Orlando, itself, is a popular year-round destination due to its sunny, warm weather and theme parks.
During the winter holiday season, Gaylord Palms in converted into a winter wonderland. Millions of twinkling lights and hundreds of feet of garland cover the resort, while the lobby is converted into a small forest filled with Christmas trees. Two tents feature ice sculptures and a snowy playground, so even kids visiting sunny Florida can build snowmen and make snow angels.
The resort is located 20 minutes from Orlando International Airport and a mere 1.5 miles from Disney's Magic Kingdom.
Utilize the shuttle service to visit local attractions. However, if your family wants to explore more freely, rent a car at the airport upon arrival.
For Mom and Dad
Relache Spa & Salon, located in the Everglades, is a four-star spa voted one of the best in Orlando. Guests can enjoy facials, body treatments, hand and foot treatments, and massages. A fitness center features treadmills, stationary bikes and free weights.