by Jackie Perrin
A serene oasis from the hustle and bustle of central Florida’s theme parks, JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes, offers a luxurious and relaxing resort experience for family as well as business travelers.
Featuring 998 rooms, including 64 suites, and overlooking 500-serene acres of lakes, ponds and greens, the extensive 2003-built resort is known for its magnetic meandering lazy-river pool, lavish amenities and peaceful scenery.
Beginning with the grand lobby interior, complete with stone sculpture, stately arches and a majestic wrought iron staircase, and continuing with the lushly landscaped grounds situated at the headwaters to the Florida Everglades, the resort exudes a luxurious vibe that says, “it’s time to get down to the serious business of relaxation.” From surrey bike rentals, kayak eco-tours and guided nature hikes to a daily activities program and a fun-filled pool complex that’s rated among the best in Orlando, recreational options for families are truly impressive.
When it’s time to refuel, a number of dining venues offer kid-friendly fare along with prompt and personalized service. From Cafe Bodega — a terrific grab-and-go spot featuring organic, kid-friendly options and over 128 different beverages — to lavish fruit-filled buffets at Citron, the resort caters to young-taste buds as well as short-attention spans. Kids even receive special treatment at Primo, an upscale adult-oriented venue where they can order up pint-sized portions of pasta, pizza and all-natural chicken fingers served with freshly prepared mashed potatoes.
Throughout their stay, families also enjoy access to facilities of The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes next door, including a 40,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Spa, a par-72, Greg Norman-designed golf course and Ritz Kids, a perennially popular, supervised children’s program.
Our Editor Loves
- Top-rated lazy river pool
- Luxurious accommodations close to theme parks
- Family activities and eco tours
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
Standard and Deluxe Rooms
Renovated in 2010 and 2011, resort guestrooms feature pillow-top mattresses, luxurious linens and an updated-design scheme, highlighted by green and aqua tones with gold accents. Deluxe Rooms (420-square-feet) contain one king bed and a sleeper sofa or two double beds and accommodate up to four guests. Rooms feature a desk with a chair, a lounge chair, a mini-bar, a coffee maker and a stylish valet for storing tea and coffee supplies. In-room plasma TVs have been enhanced with jack packs which allow on-screen viewing of multiple media sources, including personal MP3 players, laptops and CD/DVD players. Some rooms feature a balcony.
Executive Suites, at 840-square-feet, are double the size of a standard room and feature a king bed in the master bedroom and a separate sitting room with a desk, a chair and a sleeper sofa. These accommodations feature two 32" flat-screen TVs and a balcony or patio with a premium lakefront view.
Deluxe Rooms and Executive Suites offer spacious marble bathrooms with lighted makeup mirrors, single vanities and Nirvae toiletries.
Grande and Presidential Suites
Luxurious Grande and Presidential Suites are also available. These accommodations may be booked directly with the property.
Pack 'n Plays (complimentary), rollaway beds (fee) and connecting rooms are available. Internet service is available for a daily fee. Each room contains two plush robes.
Nightly turndown service is offered. For those traveling with small children, high chairs and strollers (limited supply) are available upon request.
View-based booking options include "Deluxe View" and "Lakefront View." With regard to location, upper floor pool-facing accommodations with balconies offer the most scenic vistas. Families looking for some added elbowroom should consider booking an Executive Suite along with a Deluxe Room. This configuration provides a shared living space along with private areas for parents and teens to relax after smaller children are tucked in for the night.
My husband and I stayed here when we visited Disney World. I was surprised to find out that it was more like a resort. The room was large and clean. The pool was one of the largest and nicest that I have seen at a hotel. There were even big slides! There was also an arcade, tennis courts, and a running trail. There were lots of restaurants to choose from, but they were a bit pricey (as you expect at a hotel.) There was all so a shuttle to Disney World and Universal Studios. I don't remember if there was a shuttle to Sea World or not, but be took an Uber there; it was only about 10-15 minutes away.
I would stay here again even if I weren't going to Disney. I would hang out at the pool and play in the arcade.
by Nancy B
Check in was prompt, easy and social. The room was clean and nice with a view of the lazy river pool. The AC worked fine, water pressure good and wifi reasonsbly fast. The lobby bar does not open til 4pm. We were out the next morning early and returned at 4pm and disappointed to find the room had still not been serviced.
One of the best water play areas for families in Orlando, the JW Marriott pool complex includes a partially shaded, meandering 24,000-square-foot heated lazy-river with cascading waterfalls, a zero-entry area that's great for preschoolers and five connecting lagoon pools. The pool is frequently the site for games organized by Activities staff. Around the pool deck, there are five complimentary water cooler stations. Staff often surprise young guests with fun diversions like arcade tokens and water toys. Lounge chairs and pool towels are plentiful, and lifeguards are on duty. Pool hours are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
At the Caribbean Sol service counter nearby, inner tubes are available for purchase; a staff member will write your name on the tube with a permanent marker. Body-sized swim mats are also sold. Swim diapers are required for non-potty-trained children at all pools and are complimentary upon request at the Caribbean Sol counter or from a staff member. There is a family restroom nearby, along with a ping-pong table, foosball and an outdoor area for craft programs. Pool facilities are shared with guests of the adjacent Ritz-Carlton and, at certain times, Marriott's Lakeshore Reserve as well.
Surrounded by padded lounge chairs, a partially shaded, circular kiddie pool features shallow waters and an entertaining alligator mascot.
Near the pool, single- and double-bench surrey bikes are available for rental by the half-hour from 8 a.m. until dusk. Closed toed shoes are required. Ask a pool attendant or a Quench staff member for assistance.
Hair Wraps & Braids
At a poolside kiosk, get a souvenir braid or a hair-wrap. Hours are Friday to Sunday from 11 a.m., or by appointment.
J. W. Marriott Activity & Recreation Center
Sign out board games, book tennis court time and participate in planned daily activities, from coconut painting and edible magic-wand creation to movie screenings, at this family activity room located near the main pool. Toys and coloring supplies for preschoolers are available. A coordinator oversees activities, but parental supervision is requested. For supervised childcare, consider the Ritz Kids' program at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes next door. Activity Center hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Located next to the JW Marriott Activity & Recreation Center, this small game room features air hockey and a handful of arcade games.
Close to the main pool and surrounded by sand, the resort playground features equipment for preschoolers as well as elementary age children. There's limited shade, so be sure to slather on the sunscreen.
Behind Quench restaurant, teens and families can play volleyball on a sand court. Balls can be found in the vicinity.
Behind the hotel tower, three lighted tennis-courts are available for match play. Racquet rentals and balls are available for a small fee at the J.W. Marriott Activity Center or else at the Caribbean Sol service counter. One-hour tennis clinics are also available. Sign up at the Activity Center.
On the Lobby Terrace, a fire pit is a regular site for S'mores making. Check the activities schedule for details.
The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club
At the 18-hole, par-72 Greg Norman-designed Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, kids-play-free with a paying adult. In early 2011, a Golf Digest School debuted. Caddie Concierge Service is unique to the property and is required before 1:30 p.m.
Dive into the natural side of Orlando by booking an onsite eco-adventure. Options include tours of Shingle Creek by kayak or canoe, nature hikes and fly-fishing or fin-fishing excursions. Expert-guided Shingle Creek paddling tours are approximately two hours in duration and feature an overview of local eco-systems and wildlife, from alligators and barred owls to bald eagles and limpkin. On this tour, the first junior (ages 5 to 16) is free with a paying adult. Guided flat-water kayaking on Grande Lake is also available. Guided nature hikes, recommended for adults and children ages 12 to 16, begin at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Course and follow a 2.5-mile loop around protected lands. Bird watching tours are also available. Advance reservations are recommended and can be made through the Golf Club.
At Ritz Kids, The Ritz-Carlton's signature supervised program for children ages 5 to 12 next door, kids can play Wii, computer or board games and participate in planned activities from crafts and cookie design classes to fish-feeding. Regular hours are 12 to 6 p.m. daily. From 6 to 10 p.m., Ritz Kids offers a Kids Night Out program. Dinner is included in the evening program. Make advance reservations to guarantee a spot.
Activities at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
Guests of the JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes enjoy use of the facilities and activities at the adjacent Ritz-Carlton property, including a pool, a playground with a splash pad, a bocce ball court, fish-feeding and ladybug-release programs and a 40,000- square-foot Ritz-Carlton Spa, which features treatments for kids and teens and multiple spaces for relaxing, including a private adults-only pool.
The resort is two miles from SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Cove and Aquatica; seven miles from Universal Orlando Resort parks; and twelve miles from Walt Disney World Resort. Complimentary transportation to all but Walt Disney World Resort parks is provided. Contact the Concierge for reservations and a schedule. Families wishing to visit Walt Disney World Resort theme parks can contact the Concierge to arrange for Town Car service. Alternatively, a Hertz car rental desk is onsite on the JW Marriott lobby level.
At this convenient grab-and-go, pick up a breakfast sandwich or a wrap, or treat the kids to a berry-filled yogurt parfait. Over 128 different beverages are in stock, along with healthy organic snacks, all-natural cookies, homemade pizza and sandwiches, many created with seasonal local ingredients. Gluten-free, casein-free and dairy-free products are available. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. During times of lower occupancy, the shop may close earlier.
Order a la carte or enjoy the extensive breakfast-buffet at this American brasserie, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. For kids, breakfast choices include pancakes and French toast while the lunch and dinner menu include familiar fare like burgers, chicken tenders and macaroni-and-cheese. Parents will be pleased to see some healthy options on the children's menu such as yogurt with fruit and a grilled chicken breast, along with wholesome sides and desserts like salad, vegetables and fresh fruit. A choice of beverage is included and high chairs are available. Coloring books and crayons buy parents some extra time to dine. Choose indoor or outdoor seating. Parking validation is available for outside guests. Hours are 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
A favorite spot among locals to celebrate a special occasion, this intimate adult-oriented, signature restaurant is overseen by celebrity chef Melissa Kelly and features fresh locally sourced ingredients, along with herbs and greens from an onsite organic garden. For kids, choices include pint-sized portions of pasta and pizza dishes. Alternatively, the chef will whip up all-natural chicken fingers with a side of freshly made mashed potatoes. Hours are 6 to 10 p.m. daily. Parking validation is available for outside guests. Advance reservations are highly recommended.
Quench Poolside Bar and Grill
Order sandwiches, salads and snacks at this casual poolside spot. Try the Southwestern Taco Salad. Kids' meals come with a drink and dessert. Children's menu options include traditional favorites like grilled cheese, PB&J and burgers. Grilled chicken and an apple, cheese-and-crackers combo are healthy alternatives. A special "Kiddie Cocktail" menu features refreshing fruit-filled libations. Covered seating is available. Hours are 11 a.m. to dusk.
Lobby Lounge and Sushi Bar
Treat the teens to fresh sushi at this chic lobby venue with a view. Sandwich options include beef sliders with fresh-cut potato chips. Lounge hours are 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. (until 1 a.m. on Saturdays). Sushi is served from 5 to 10 p.m.
Get your daily caffeine fix at this resort-coffee outpost, located on the Lobby Level. Pastries and juice are also available. Hours vary according to season.
Order up milk-and-cookies for the kids, or else treat the crew to breakfast in bed before a busy day at area theme parks. Lunch and dinner options for kids include chicken fingers, macaroni-and-cheese, PB&J and a mini cheeseburger with house-made pickles. Delivery and service charges apply. Available 24-hours.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
From free arcade tokens, complimentary swim diapers and organized games at the pool to complimentary high chairs and strollers (limited supply) available upon request for those traveling with infants, the resort provides plenty of extras for visiting families. Kids check-in at a special desk and after completing a resort scavenger hunt, they are rewarded with complimentary ice cream from Citron Patisserie. At holiday times, the property pulls out all the stops, with lavish buffets, fireworks and family-friendly celebrations. For an upscale experience of this caliber -- including luxurious amenities and tons of activity options for kids and families -- daily rates are a bargain.
Check with the Concierge for a list of local babysitters.
Offering the latest equipment (complimentary use) along with regular classes (fee), the fitness center at The Ritz-Carlton Spa is available to JW Marriott Grande Lakes Resort guests. Hours are 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Alternatively, a mile-long path along Grande Lake offers a scenic route for walkers or runners.
On the Lobby Level, a street of shops offers resort-wear, luxury goods and vacation essentials. At Montage, over-the-counter medications and baby and toddler supplies are available.
Family Photo Sessions
For those wishing to preserve vacation memories with a commemorative portrait, onsite family portrait sittings are available by appointment. There is no sitting fee and the first 8" X 10" is complimentary. Sessions typically last around 40 minutes, but this may vary depending on group size.
Planning and Tips
Spa visits, Ritz Kids, cabana rentals, tee times, eco-tours and reservations for signature restaurants should be booked in advance for maximum success. Contact the Concierge for assistance.
The resort is 10 miles from Orlando International Airport (MCO). To reach the resort by car, take 528 West (Beachline/toll road) to exit 3 (John Young Parkway). Turn right on Whisper Lakes Boulevard. The hotel main gate will be on your left. For assistance with transportation, contact the Concierge. For overnight guests, there is a daily fee for self- and valet parking.
The Art of Smart Timing
As one of Orlando's most popular convention properties, the resort draws a regular crowd of business travelers. At times when meetings are taking place onsite, occupancy can swell. Other popular times to visit are school holidays, including the summer months. For families traveling with children, the added elbowroom and pleasant temperatures in September through November (before Thanksgiving) can be particularly appealing.
For Mom and Dad
Send the kids to Ritz Kids and enjoy a leisurely adults-only meal at Primo. Alternatively, indulge in a relaxing couples' treatment at The Ritz-Carlton Spa or book a couples' eco-tour.