Disney-Area Resorts Do Well on U.S. News & Report’s Best Hotels List

Four Seasons Orlando

U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of best hotels in Florida is out and two Disney-area resorts made the top 10.

Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort came in at No. 2, while Villas of Grand Cypress, Orlando ranked ninth. Of the two, Four Seasons is located on Disney property in the Golden Oak residential community.

Four Seasons and Grand Cypress ranked first and second, respectively, in the “Best Orlando-Walt Disney World Hotels” category.

The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes ranked third in that category, followed by Waldorf Astoria Orlando. This marks the second year in a row Four Seasons took the top spot among best Orlando hotels.

Five Walt Disney World Resort hotels made the top 10 Orlando hotels — Disney’s Grand Floridian (5), Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (6), Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (7), Disney’s Beach Club Resort (9) and Disney’s BoardWalk Inn (10).

The other non-Disney property hotel in the top 10 was The Alfond Inn. The Winter Park hotel, owned by neighboring Rollins College, came in at No. 8.

In the best hotels in Florida category, Four Seasons Orlando was topped by The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort. The Breakers in Palm Beach came in at No. 3.

From the Orlando Sentinel

Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is Now Open

Four Seasons Orlando

Next to a pristine lake in the Florida woodlands, the new Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort combines signature Four Seasons service, exceptional amenities and one-of-a-kind experiences in a truly incredible resort setting.  Everything is here – luxurious guest rooms, world class dining, a sumptuous spa, extensive event space, and a multitude of options for recreation, fitness and fun – and it’s all surrounded by the magic of the Walt Disney World Resort, just minutes from Magic Kingdom ParkEpcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and close to all of Orlando’s shopping and attractions.

The ribbon cutting to officially mark the opening of Four Seasons Resort Orlando took place on August 1. Joining Regional Vice President and General Manager Thomas Steinhauer were Chris Hunsberger, President Hotel Operations, Americas, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; Tom Wolber, Senior Vice President Walt Disney World Resort Operations; and special guest Mickey Mouse.

Steinhauer, whose team will soon grow to 1,000 carefully chosen staff dedicated to creating the best possible experience for each individual guest, confesses:  “Honestly we’ve been like children looking forward to their first trip to Walt Disney World, dreaming of the possibilities and counting the days. Now at last we’re open, and we can’t wait for you to join us.”

“I won’t say it will be a once in a lifetime holiday, because we hope to welcome you back again and again at Four Seasons Resort Orlando,” he says.

Start planning: Four Seasons Resort Orlando is accepting reservations online or by calling +1 800 267 3046.  There are several packages to choose from including the introductory 2014 offer, Stay Longer – Third Night Free.

Memories to Last a Lifetime

With its ideal location within the residential community of Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort, Four Seasons Resort Orlando is just minutes from all the attractions via complimentary Four Seasons motor coaches or private luxury sedans.  The onsite Disney Planning Center located on the lobby level is the starting point as Four Seasons guests enjoy myriad benefits and connectivity thanks to the Resort’s special relationship with Disney.

“We are excited to be able to offer our guests access to unforgettable experiences to suit all types of interests, throughout the Walt Disney World Resort area and beyond,” notes Chef Concierge Sandra Ferrarese.

All the Details: Accommodations

Guests can choose from 443 modern, airy rooms, including 68 suites, with configuration options tailored for couples and individuals, and families and friends travelling together.

“For the first time, Four Seasons is presenting a nine – yes, nine! – bedroom option with our top floor Royal Suite,” says Resort Manager Ben Shank.  “And in addition, we can seamlessly expand our Presidential Suite to four bedrooms, or for those who want complete privacy and plenty of room to spread out, the entire 16th floor can be booked exclusively.”

The Resort’s rooms are the largest in Orlando, and each has a wide, furnished terrace to enjoy the Florida sunshine and views across 26.5 acres (11 hectares) of lushly landscaped grounds, including gardens, lake and golf course.  Many rooms also offer unobstructed views of the nightly fireworks at Magic Kingdom Park, a wonderful opportunity for a family picnic or romantic dinner on the private terrace.

A Destination within a Resort: Explorer Island

Five acres (two hectares) of fun are packed onto the Resort’s own Explorer Island.  There’s something for everyone, starting with the massive 7,590 square foot (705 square metre) family pool, beach volleyball, outdoor movie nights on the Starstruck screen and smokehouse barbecue at PB+G, the pool bar and grill.  There’s also a lazy river winding around a “ruined” mansion, an expansiveSplash Zone with dozens of choreographed water jets, a climbing wall and waterslides, and a video gaming centre. The fully-supervised Kids for All Seasons program is a complimentary camp for younger guests ages 4 to 12 that is a standout added value in the Orlando area.

“It’s the kind of place kids will never want to leave, and grown-ups will love for the chance to join in the excitement and indulge their inner child,” predicts Director of Public Relations Dana Berry.  “Explorer Island offers fun for all ages!”

More recreation, fitness and adults-only diversions:  Four Seasons Resort Orlando also boasts three on-site Har-Tru tennis courts in partnership with Peter Burwash International, an adults-only pool surrounded by private cabanas and reserved for guests 21 and older, and a 24-hour fitness centre.

More to come: Next month, Four Seasons will unveil the completely refurbished Tom Fazio-designed golf course, Tranquilo Golf Club.  A Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, the course’s par-71 18 holes unfold through rolling hills dotted with southern live oaks and Spanish moss.

“We look forward to welcoming Resort guests and day guests to our expansive clubhouse facilities, including the Cuban-American Plancha restaurant,” invites Director of Golf Charlie Kent.  “And if you’ve never had the luxury of playing a Four Seasons-managed golf course, you are in for a treat – as well as a great game of golf.”

Food, Glorious Food

In addition to PB+G on Explorer Island and Plancha at the golf clubhouse, Four Seasons Resort Orlando includes three additional on-site dining and drinking venues, and a few surprises too.

Ravello is both a modern Italian restaurant and a vibrant bar on the hotel’s main floor and garden level, making it a great place for Resort guests, locals and visitors to the Orlando area to gather for fine cuisine, wine and good times.  It’s here where Executive ChefFabrizio Schenardi’s love of food shines – the Italian-born and trained chef has taken full advantage of Ravello’s pizza oven andFlorida’s bounty of produce and fresh seafood to craft seasonally changing menus and bespoke events in two private dining rooms.  There’s also a show kitchen for private cooking demonstrations and special events.

Director of Food and Beverage Stephen Wancha is also excited about Lickety-Split, the Resort’s gourmet coffee shop.  “Given how much we anticipate guests wanting to get up and head into the Parks, we wanted to have a grab-and-go venue, but instead of the usual paper cup-coffee and ordinary pastries, we’re pulling out all the stops to present gourmet goodies to enjoy on the spot or on the run.”

Chef Fabrizio’s influence is evident here too as Lickety-Split offers his personal recipes for addictive sweet and savoury bombolinis, and daily flavours of housemade gelato.  “And if you have a craving but don’t want to leave the pool, our gelato cart will be making its rounds!”

More to come: Crowning the culinary choices at Four Seasons Resort Orlando will be Capa, a contemporary Spanish steakhouse set to open in September. The 17th floor restaurant and outdoor dining terrace will afford premier views of the nightly Magic Kingdom Park fireworks as a backdrop for exquisite meals in a romantic setting.

“We’re also bringing the dining experience outside the Resort as we participate in the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival this fall, and our own Four Seasons Taste Truck rolls through in late October,” notes Wancha, referring to the branded food truck’s planned east coast tour.

Time to Indulge

Fresh from his stint at the acclaimed Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, Derek Hofmann is adding glamour and star power to the sumptuous Spa at Four Seasons Resort Orlando.

“Everything has been designed for ultimate relaxation, whether attending to muscles weary from walking the Parks or playing golf and tennis, getting ready to be photographed on your wedding day, or simply indulging in a few precious hours of bliss, we’ll take care of you,” says the Spa Director, who has also put Hollywood’s best kept secret, the exclusive Fire & Ice facial, and other anti-ageing treatments on the Spa menu.

Not to be missed:  18 luxuriant treatment rooms, including the ultra private couples’ bungalows; the Experience Showers – a journey through water, scent and light effects like no other; the Aroma Design Bar for custom fragrances for treatments or to take home; and a hair, nail and beauty salon led by Master Stylist Alejandra Bell.

“And no one is left out as younger guests take part in Magical Moment makeovers and Shining Knight packages designed just for them,” says Hofmann.

A Dream Wedding, and the Best Honeymoon Ever

Four Seasons Resort Orlando has everything a couple could want in a getaway that balances an active vacation with romantic adult time – especially for those getting married or beginning their life together on honeymoon.

“There are so many special settings for the ceremony, pictures and reception here,” says Director of Catering Laurie Hitzig.  “My personal favourites are the two Lakeside pavilions: they’re perfect for parties of up to 20, with arched windows opening onto a waterside terrace with an intimate outdoor fireplace.”

Top of the to-do list for couples planning a destination wedding is contacting a Four Seasons Wedding Specialist, and the Resort is also suggesting an array of packages as starting points for creating a fully customized event, including the trendsetting intimate, opulent wedding.

The Best Meetings and Group Events Have It All

Meeting planners know that the key to success is a seamless agenda that maximizes productivity, and allows for the all-important networking and downtime.  With 37,750 square feet (3,500 square metres) of event space – much of it naturally lit – and the expert planning and attention to detail of Four Seasons event specialists, putting it all together is a snap.

“Our event facilities are truly extraordinary,” says Director of Marketing Alan Reichbart, referring to the 14,000 square foot (1,300 square metres) Grand Ballroom with natural light and two outdoor terraces. There is also the elegant Palm Ballroom, and an array of smaller spaces and outdoor lawns that can accommodate up to 1,000 guests.  “We can host everything from an intimate board of directors meeting to a memorable conference, as well as dynamic events for sales meetings and incentive-oriented groups.”

Comprehensive facility and program details are available online in and downloadable brochures.  And for a limited time only, the Great Group Values offer includes savings on golf, spa and more with a minimum of 10 rooms booked per night.

Four Seasons in the Sunshine State

Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort joins sister hotels Four Seasons Hotel Miami and Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach as the third property in the brand’s Florida collection.  A fourth project, Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, is now in development in the Atlantic Ocean community of Surfside.

Walt Disney World Expands Luxury Home Sites

Golden Oak Summerhouse

From The Hollywood Reporter

Golden Oak at Walt Disney World and Resort  — a 980-acre, VIP gated residential community located inside the iconic theme park’s massive 40-square-mile land (about the size of San Francisco) — is expanding its neighborhood. Debuting in 2010, it marked the first time Disney offered its longtime fans the opportunity to live inside the park in million-dollar homes. When fully completed in the next few years, Golden Oak will comprise of eight neighborhoods with approximately 400 home. 40 of the current 100 available home sites have already been purchased by residents that include CEOs and professional NBA athletes (Disney declined to comment on names.)

The development, sprawling with parks, gardens, priceless sculptures and nature preserves, offers homes that range from $1.8 to $6 million. All are custom built, and new residents can choose from a select group of seven homebuilders to customize their homes from existing templates (or they can hire their own architect and designers to build a home ground-up). Homes can also come fully furnished. While the first home was purchased in 2011 and only a handful were available since debuting in 2010, the resort community now offers 100 homes in four neighborhoods.

The newest area, called Marceline (named for Walt’s Missouri hometown) is coming to the market with 56 home lots that average one-quarter acre. The homes are built with stone, copper and clay (there’s no faux or veneer), and the styles range from Mediterranean to Caribbean themed. Most homes include an outdoor space with plunge pool and built-in hot tub, in addition to a separate guesthouse. There are subtle design nods to Disney characters, like a Mickey Mouse head marked into stonework, which avoids overt branding.

Golden Oak homeowners have a dedicated service team like concierge and security and access to the recently opened Summer House ($15,000 annual fee). The clubhouse is designed to feel like a Tuscan villa with clay-tile roof, fountains and plenty of low-key outdoor space. Also included is a bar, restaurant, lounge with high ceilings and 103-inch TV screen, outdoor pool courtyard with wetlands backdrop and 17,000-square-foot fitness center. Residents will also have privileges at Disney attractions, including a family pass for the first three years, door-to-park transportation services and additional guest passes.

Golden Oak residents will also have access to the new, 440-room Four Seasons Orlando, specifically the four restaurants and the Tom Fazio-designed golf course. Slated to open this summer, Four Seasons Orlando will be the resort’s most luxurious hotel option (currently it’s Grand Floridian) and, at 23 acres, it will also the be the biggest resort at Walt Disney World. The outdoor pool area will include an adults-only pool and a five-acre “island” with a lazy river, recreational facilities like a climbing wall and a 3,000-square-foot game building. The 17th floor bar and Spanish-style steakhouse will sport the best views for Walt Disney Resort’s legendary fireworks. August bookings are now available.

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