by Wendy Irvine
If the mere thought of wrapping up a long theme park day with wired, cranky kids sounds exhausting then we have a solution for you. Soak said kids in the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek’s lazy river for several days. Add water rings. Treat with sunblock as necessary. Cranky moods brighten almost immediately and kids come out good as new.
Sitting amazingly close to the Disney World empire, a stay at this beautiful Hilton means you’re a quick shuttle ride to the pirates and princesses and a breezy 50-minute drive to LEGOLAND Florida. A stay here also means a mile-long list of extra amenities. Turns out the Hilton parent company wisely paired their kid-friendly Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek with their five-star Waldorf Astoria Orlando. (Well hello great deal!)
Upon entering the Hilton’s lobby we were suitably impressed. The welcoming public areas are spacious teetering on luxurious with a modern vibe. From the lobby my heart did flips — knowing my boys would go wild for this place — as I beheld one heck of a colorful scene: an immense, swirling water park looking like something from a movie that you’ve always wanted to visit.
Opened in 2009, the designers of the Hilton apparently decided that kids are lukewarm these days about floating along in boats watching pirates having the high time. Kids today, they decided, want to be in the lagoon having a raucous great time themselves. So into the plans went two lavish zero-entry pools, a 3-acre lazy river, a commercial-sized waterslide — all tied together with four Billy-Goat-Gruff bridges. The effect — while not exactly natural — has kid-bliss stamped all over it.
Parents, on the other hand, will find their own fun at the neighboring Waldorf Astoria. The elegant pools are quiet and flanked by deluxe cabanas. The spa is brimming with luxury treatments. The daytime Kids’ Club and nighttime sitting service await your reservation. And the stunning golf course, considered one of the finest in Orlando, will impress your golf nut.
Keep in mind that while the Hilton is very close to the action, it’s simultaneously quite isolated; leaving the resort requires a shuttle or a car. And no, you can’t stroll to a local restaurant or deli. Plan to eat out of the room’s mini-fridge or dine at one of the Hilton or Waldorf Astoria restaurants.
Discovering that a resort fee is not charged is a special moment in any traveling parent’s life. Until the nickel-and-diming becomes apparent. You won’t find a resort fee at the Hilton — instead it’s called the Wi-Fi-and-inner-tube fee. (Can you live without Wi-Fi? You’ll make it. And it is free in the lobby and pool areas. Can the kids live without inner tubes at this pool? Not in a million years. Be smart and bring your own from home.)
Extra fees aside, the Hilton Orlando is a wondrous vacation for families. Don’t make our mistake of fitting in just a slice of lazy-river time into our packed itinerary. Instead, carve out huge chunks of time to let your kids be silly and screamy and go completely wild in the pools and lazy river, while you kick back on a chair watching them be kids.
For more information, read about Hilton Hotels and Resorts.
Our Editor Loves
- Pools, 3-acre lazy river and waterslide
- Kids ages 12 and under eat free
- Full privileges at the neighboring Waldorf Astoria Orlando
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Children Programs
- Game Room
- Onsite Dining
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Don't mention to your kids that you requested a guestroom facing the Epcot fireworks. Simply pull open the curtains at the designated time and watch their little faces light up as the first fireworks soar into the sky.
The Hilton offers two different room arrangements allowing you to choose a guestroom with a king bed or two queen beds. The beautiful bathrooms have either a shower-tub combo or a walk-in shower. Of course, rooms come with the flat-screen TVs with cable and -- music to a parent's ears -- a mini-fridge.
Our family of four stayed in a parlor (or standard) suite, which came with one basic room with two queen beds, a TV, bathroom and mini-fridge. The bedroom was connected to a second immense room that had a dining table for six, a wet bar, another full bathroom, another (still larger) TV, a fold-out couch, and a generous desk.
The Hilton also offers the Executive Suite with 2,080 square feet and the Presidential Suite with a whopping 2,870 square feet. Both include a service kitchen, a dining table for eight and extra bathrooms.
This resort is right in Disney World. 2 nights weekend stay with my family of 4. We chose this hotel because of the the extra magic hours it offers even though it not technically a "Disney resort". Andrew was super nice and helpful at check in. He gave us our extra magic hours passes and we went to Disney Springs to purchase our park tickets. The concierge charges a fee to purchase from them and we were going to go down to Disney Springs anyway. The room was clean and spacious. Lots of plug in options to charge all of our phones. We swam in the pool the first day we were there. Went down at about 3PM and there were plenty of seating available. Beach towel also available. The kids love the lazy river. The convenient store was nice to have. We didn't eat at any of the restaurants there.
They also have vouchers for taxis if you are taking advantage of the early magic hours and the shuttles aren't running yet.
I have no complaints on this hotel. I would stay here again.
Caution: If your youngsters want to keep the coveted souvenirs, don't leave them on the dresser top; hide them. After five days in the same position, upon returning at the last hour of our last day, we found that the housekeeper supposedly threw the CTDs away as trash. What a cruel lesson for young ones on a fun vacation. (Having earlier witnessed Hilton employees near the bus stop "toting" black plastic bags and throwing them in the trunk of their driver's car, maybe we should have gotten suspicious.)
There was a monetary settlement with the hotel, but that doesn't satisfy.
We had a female registration clerk who, for our adjoining room reservation, put us five floors apart and on opposite sides of the building. Fortunately, because one was not our contracted fireworks view, we were able to move to another room (not adjoining), Guess where -- next to the fireworks view room.
The transportation by Mears runs a little late and then we were abandoned at Animal Kingdom one night (every hotel picked up their guests and a Disney supervisor kept on calling Mears, so we were really alone in a huge parking lot). The situation took us 45 minutes and 3 phone calls to the Hilton to get a taxi approved - then the Concierge told us that others had been stranded at other parks.that night.
You'll also have to get the resort fee sorted out on your final bill, if your contract included the fee.
The Lazy River was very nice and the Harvest Bistro restaurant was exceptionally family friendly.
Lazy River and Zero Entry Pool
The astonishingly powerful current of the lazy river takes kids around and around on tubes and delivers a million hours of fun. The commercial-sized waterslide corkscrews and drops kids off into a separate, safe pool with a lifeguard keeping watch. Two zero-entry pools are connected to the lazy river. The pool is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. with the waterslide closing at 6 p.m.
A kids' arcade is located near the Disney Store on the lobby floor, and a pool table and eight arcade games requiring coins are ready and waiting.
Kids Club at the Neighboring Waldorf Astoria
The Hilton has full privileges at the active Waldorf Astoria's Kids' Club. Kids can choose from a wide array of choices including biking, arts and crafts, movies, scavenger hunts or exploring the latest game equipment with Wii and Rock Band. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In addition to the daily Kids' Club activities, the Waldorf Astoria also offers "Astoria After Dark." The After Dark program is held nightly from 7 to 10 p.m. and includes a specially prepared dinner and activities, but doesn't come cheap. Reservations are required.
Biking at the Neighboring Waldorf Astoria
Rent a bike, or even better, a surrey and pedal next to a large pond and near the golf greens; you'll find a beautiful path that circles the resort perfect for a ride.
Golfing at the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club
The Hilton offers junior rates for kids ages 15 or under when playing with an adult on the stunning 18-hole golf course. Free family golf clinics are frequently offered throughout the year. Rental clubs for the clinics are complimentary.
Seasonal fun at the Hilton
Summerblast! at the Hilton begins in early June and wraps up after Labor Day weekend. The Hilton stages a wonderful menu of weekend fun for families including dive-in movies, pool parties featuring a pirate and princess theme, scavenger hunts, a family golf clinic, and many water games at the pool. Ask about the Summerblast! free Disney ticket offer when you reserve your guestroom.
At Christmastime, Orlando is drenched in holiday spirit and the Hilton is just as decked in holiday finery. Your kids will be thrilled to see the colossal 8-by-12-foot gingerbread house in the Hilton lobby. For extra merriment, elves can visit your room to infuse a holiday scent of your choice -- pick from sugarplum, cinnamon or gingerbread. And pre-order cookies-and-milk delivery to send your kids into gales of smiles; call in-room dining upon arrival.
Located poolside, this beautifully designed eating spot serves salads, sandwiches and fruity cocktails steps from the lazy river and pool. Dining tables and chairs are available, but you can also lounge on sofas with throw pillows and enjoy a large fire pit in the evenings. Open for food from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with drinks flowing until 10 p.m.
Located on the ground floor, Harvest Bistro is casual, friendly and serves miles of kid-food. The adult menu includes large salads, pastas and burgers for lunch and dinner. The breakfast buffet is filling and includes tasty waffles, great pancakes, an omelet bar, pastries on the dry side, a cereal bar, and hot dishes like scrambled eggs, coffee and orange juice. A singing Italian waiter livens up the place in the morning. Up to two kids ages 12 and under eat for free with just one paying adult at the breakfast buffet and at dinner. Harvest Bistro is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The chef at La Luce offers a beautiful menu brimming with lasagna, oven baked pizzas, ravioli, fettuccine, seafood, delicate salads and more. The wine list is long, too. The service is impeccable. The jazz is smooth. La Luce is open daily from 5 to 11 p.m.
Located on the lobby level, Muse is a just-right spot to step in for a few thousand calories should you need them before you don your bathing suit. Serving swirls of pastry, colorful cupcakes, fancy coffee and chocolates in a Starbucks-like environment, Muse opens at the painfully impossible hour of 5 a.m. and closes at 11 p.m.
Located on the lobby floor, Zeta Bar is an adult bar with fresh fruit cocktails and small plates. No need to dress, just arrive in comfortable attire. Open from 6 to 10 p.m.
The Myth Bar is the lobby bar with light fare and drinks on offer daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
A full menu available 24 hours a day with a kid's section.
Waldorf Astoria Orlando Dining
Located adjacent to the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando offers more dining options, including Aquamarine, Bull & Bear, Oscar's and the Clubhouse Grille.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Located in the Waldorf Astoria, sign your darlings up for Astoria After Dark From 7 to 10 p.m. Your kids will be treated to meals, movies, crafts and stories.
The Hilton caters to the business crowd meaning the business center is complete with computers, printers, copying machines and faxes.
Laundry service is available, but by request. There are no self-service facilities at the hotel.
Parking and Wi-Fi
You can self-park or valet parking is available for a fee; definitely choose self-park as a convenient parking garage is provided. The Hilton doesn't charge a resort fee, but there is a daily fee for Internet service -- ask about special deals when you request a room. Also, the lobby and pool areas provide complimentary Wi-Fi.
Art of Good Timing
The oranges and snowbirds love this state for a reason: it's hot March through August. The rain begins at the end of April and flows into September. Our favorite time of year to visit Florida is October and November when the temperatures are lovely and the crowds are back in school. December through February run from cool to really cold, so continually check the national weather forecast before you travel during these months.
The Hilton is packed in the summertime with kids out of school. Their conference market thrives all year long. For quiet and solitude, we recommend visiting in October and November if you can swing it.
From the Orlando International Airport, it's a 30-minute drive to the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek with a toll road on the way.
The Hilton offers complimentary shuttle service to Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney. Two shuttles pick up guests approximately every half hour.
For Mom and Dad
The Hilton enjoys full-spa privileges at the Waldorf Astoria Guerlain Spa. Ask staff to arrange transportation for you (i.e. a golf cart with a friendly driver) and within moments you'll find yourself on the front steps of the Waldorf Astoria. Or if it's nice weather, take a peaceful walk on the path that stretches between the Hilton and the Waldorf Astoria. The Guerlain Spa is upscale with a full-treatment menu of salon services, a steam room and whirlpool. There is also a Tea Lounge and the Cranberry Hibiscus and Tranquility White Ambrosia -- to name two -- are so flavorful that you could easily break up with coffee for good. Several small nut combinations are also offered including almonds and dried cranberries.
Parents may also enjoy the hotel's fitness center. The Hilton's fitness room is topnotch with over a dozen cardio machines hooked to televisions and iPod stations, machine and free weights, a water cooler and pyramids of those little rolled, white-fluffy towels.
Also great for parents, the stunning 18-hole, 7,108-yard championship course is set within the Bonnet Creek nature preserve and offers golfers an opportunity to play in a peaceful, natural environment. The Golf Clubhouse offers a stocked golf shop, two locker rooms with showers, and day lockers for guests at no charge. The Clubhouse Grille offers a continental breakfast and a pub lunch menu; a putting green and lessons are also available.