There are few places as magical and fun as Walt Disney World. Whether you are a child traveling to Disney for the very first time, or an adult taking a day off from adulting, everyone gets to be a kid at Walt Disney World.
My wife and I had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World during a recent trip to Orlando. Since this was our first time visiting Disney as two adults sans kids, we hotel-hopped during our three night trip to provide our readers with a sampling of LGBT-friendly adult travel experiences. From economical to extravagant, we’ve included a review of each.
Night 1: staySky Suites I-Drive Orlando (Affordable and Accommodating)
Conveniently located on International Drive, off of Route 4, and just minutes from Universal Studios, Sea World and Walt Disney World, the staySky Suites I-Drive Orlando offers the perfect location for the on-the-go vacation or business traveler.
With free parking, complimentary breakfast, shuttle transportation to and from Epcot, restaurant and bar, full in-room kitchen, basketball court, pool, hot tub, arcade room, and plenty of space for four-to-six people in each guest suite, this property provides a plethora of amenities at an affordable price.
When we arrived at the staySky Suites, we parked our car in the easy-to-access lot, then headed inside where we were greeted by the friendly front desk manager. As he entered our information into his computer, we noticed a sign beside him that read “Orlando United Day – A Day of Love and Kindness.” The manager explained to us that businesses throughout Orlando had been asked to display the signs to honor the 49 innocent Pulse victims lost one year ago that day. We were delighted by the skyStay Suites participation in the remembrance event.
I was also delighted to experience an easy check-in process. As a lesbian couple with a significant age difference, my wife and I are always prepared for quizzical stares during check-in. But the manager didn’t skip a beat. He requested my credit card, handed us our room keys, asked if we needed anything further, then directed us to our King suite, encouraging us to stop for a drink at the bar after settling in.
Our room was simply decorated, spacious and comfortable. We stayed in a one-bedroom suite, which had a kitchen equipped with all the necessities including a two burner stove, refrigerator, dishwasher and cookware as well as living room and separate bedroom. According to their website, the hotel also has executive suites, designed for the business traveler, which offer one bed with private bath, as well as a work desk.
As suggested, after unpacking, we opted for a nightcap at the bar. The bartender was just as pleasant as the front desk clerk. We watched the NBA finals over drinks while making small talk with the bartender and fellow guests.
On the way back to our room, we noticed an interactive directory mounted on the wall, which provided a touch screen catalog of local restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues. We were delighted to find an LGBT category with area attractions.
We enjoyed a pleasant night’s rest that evening, then woke early for our complimentary breakfast by the pool before grabbing the shuttle to Epcot.
Overall, we had an enjoyable, relaxing stay. While this property may not offer the amenities that a 4 star luxury resort will, it met all of our basic needs and then some. It’s also perfect for the long-term guest who not to dine out each evening. We would happily stay here again when traveling in and around Orlando.
Travel Tip: Pad in extra travel time for theme park shuttle transportation. Since the shuttle requires a shuttle transfer to any park outside of Epcot and makes several stops to area hotels along the way, it can take well over an hour to arrive at your final Disney destination.
LGBT Inclusion: The staySky Companies provide protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in their policies and employee handbook. According to their corporate office, the staySky Companies also train their “staff on the importance of Diversity in the workplace, honoring and respecting each other’s differences, values and traditions.”
To learn more about the skyStay Suites I-Drive Orlando, or to book your next trip, click here.
Night 2: B Resort & Spa – Lake Buena Vista (Beautiful and Bold)
It’s white clean lines, modern appeal, and whimsical style put the B Resort & Spa at the top of our list for Walt Disney World on property hotel accommodations.
With locations in Ft. Lauderdale, Savannah, and Disney and properties yet to come in New Orleans and the Florida Keys, The B Resort & Spa aims for destinations within a destination. For this reason, their Orlando property is located in the Disney Springs area and on Disney Property.
At the B Resort & Spa, attention to detail is reflected in the hotel lobby, gift shop, and Pick-Up market, as well as in the hotel’s signature “B-themed” marketing.
“The B is all about being whoever you want to be,” says Jessica Thomspon, the property’s B Experience Manager.
A visit to their website shows just how much the B Resort takes this concept to heart. The hotel boasts the following signature elements: B Adventurous, B Sensitive, B Social, B In Touch, B Humane, B Indulged, B Nourished, and B Active. And their Disney property website tagline reads “Experience all you can B.”
So, it comes as no surprise that we were excited to “B” at the resort.
We arrived in the late evening hours after an exhausting, fun-filled day at Animal Kingdom. The valet greeted us at the front door and offered to park our car. Since we had little to carry and wanted the option of easily accessing our car, we opted to self-park. For only $20, we were able to leave our car overnight and throughout the following day while in Disney.
The front desk staff was welcoming and friendly. We were directed to a top floor King-Size Room and encouraged to check out the room service menu if we needed a late night as the restaurant was closed for the evening.
As we walked into our room, our mouths simultaneously dropped. The room’s super high ceilings, sleek design, fun colors and spacious furniture provided plenty of space for us to unpack, spread out and unwind.
After a long day of walking in the heat and humidity, we just wanted to “B” clean. We were both ecstatic to find a rain shower head in the larger-than-life shower stall and a selection of aromatherapy scented shampoos, lotions, and conditioners on the sink.
An hour later, as we curled up in bed, we smiled at a friendly-looking stuffed green frog looking back at us from the bottom of the bed.
“On arrival day, a stuffed plush animal representing this protected species is placed on the bed (one per room) to welcome a newly arriving guest,” reads the B Resort & Spa’s website. “This signature item is available for purchase directly from the room or at the hotel’s retail outlet. A portion of the proceeds is donated to organizations that support the preservation of this protected species.”
The next morning, we ate breakfast at the “American Kitchen Bar & Grill, ” the hotels’s farm-to-table restaurant. When given the option of dining from the pick-up truck breakfast buffet, or ordering directly from the menu, I opted for the latter and selected the vegetable frittata with a side of bacon. When my meal arrived, I was overjoyed by its flavor and size. I had expected overpriced standard hotel food, but instead, enjoyed a palate-tantalizing experience.
The American Kitchen & Bar sources fresh ingredients from area farms. They even grow herbs right in the restaurant to use for dishes and drinks. They plan to release a new menu in the coming months.
After breakfast, we made our way to the shuttle waiting area. At the B Resort & Spa, shuttles run directly to area theme parks and arrive every 15-30 minutes. Since each B Resort shuttle travels to two area theme parks, with few stops between and doesn’t require a shuttle transfer in Epcot, our transportation was quick, easy and convenient.
Our stay at the B Resort & Spa was top notch. This property is perfect for the short term traveler, unless you have no interest in cooking. Then stay as long as you’d like! It’s a little pricier than the staySky Suites and parking and breakfast are added costs, but if you’re looking for an ideal location, modern appeal, and upscale amenities, it’s a winner!
And although while this might not be the most kid-friendly resort on Disney property, you can entertain the little ones in the kid’s play area or resort pool.
Travel Tip: The American Kitchen Bar & Grill is a must-visit restaurant. So, skip a meal in the park and enjoy a farm-to-table experience in the hotel. Also, hold onto your room key for self-parking, otherwise you won’t be able to exit the following day.
LGBT Inclusion: Not only does the B-Resort provide protections to LGBT individuals, but it has also been a host hotel for One Magical Weekend during Orlando Gay Days for the past three years. In addition, the property boasts beautiful wedding venue space and markets its wedding services to LGBT couples.
To learn more about the B Resort & Spa, or to book your next trip, click here.
Night 3: Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort (Luxurious)
There’s no denying that Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort provides an unmatched experience of luxury while visiting Walt Disney World.
Recently purchased by Marriott, and currently listed as a Starwood Hotel & Resorts Property, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort is one of the oldest and best-known properties in Walt Disney World.
With 87 acres of beautiful lake front property, easy access to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and a short walk from Disney’s Boardwalk, if you can afford the luxury price tag, this is definitely the place to stay. Though priced higher than the B Resort, the location is ideal and the views spectacular.
Similar to the B Resort & Spa, the property offers both valet and complimentary parking and convenient transportation to and from area theme parks. Prefer water travel instead? You can travel to Epcot and Hollywood Studios by boat!
The Dolphin was the perfect place to spend our final evening in Disney, as we needed a little R&R from three days in Orlando. We built in time to enjoy all of the property’s amenities, because after all, if you’re going to stay at a luxury resort, you might as well enjoy the luxurious experience.
While disappointed that the property was in the midst of renovations, creating a less-than-perfect first impression, we were delighted to find friendly check-in staff, two of whom openly shared their status as LGBTQ community members during a discussion about St. Petersburg’s upcoming Pride weekend. We also noticed that the conference room restrooms nearby were marked gender-neutral, providing a sign of comfort and inclusion to our fellow LGBT travelers.
Since the hotel was fairly empty that evening, we were upgraded to a 9th-floor corner room with dual balconies overlooking Hollywood Studios. Although the room was smaller than that of the B Resort, and not nearly as fun in decor and style, it was elegant, comfortable, and classy. The balconies, one off the front of the room and one off the side, were a bonus we never expected.
After settling into our room, and realizing that we hadn’t yet eaten, we visited the Picabu Cafe on the first floor of the hotel. The cafe offers cafeteria style options including tuna sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers, tacos, and desserts, to name a few.
I selected tacos and my wife pizza, and then we headed back to our room where we went out onto the balcony to eat dinner as we watched the fireworks over Epcot and Hollywood Studios – the perfect romantic backdrop for our final evening in Disney.
There are several other restaurants on the property, from casual to fancy. So, if you are looking for a romantic, one-of-a-kind experience, these award winning establishments are well worth the visit.
The next morning, we toured the resort. From pools to beach-side hammocks, and from spa services to boat rides, the resort offers everything and anything you can imagine for a day of relaxation. They even offer daily activities for singles, couples, and families, including beach-side bingo, kids crafts, and dance lessons.
The resort can also accommodate large conferences, weddings, and expos and included several meeting rooms throughout the property.
We had a relaxing and rejuvenating stay at Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort. While it may be cost prohibitive for some, we plan to make this a special occasion destination. For us, it’s the perfect resort for romance and relaxation. We look forward to visiting again once the renovations are complete.
To learn more about Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort, or to book your next trip, click here.
Tips: Make sure that you schedule in relaxation time! This property is worth enjoying. Also, the ferry provided to and from Epcot drops you off near Paris in the World Showcase. So, if you are headed to Future World, pad in extra time to get to the other side of the park.
LGBTQ Inclusion: Marriott and Starwood Hotels have a history of LGBT support and inclusion. Employees attend diversity training and employee handbooks and policies provide protections to all LGBT community members.
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