I came to Orlando with every intention of doing a story about how to have the most ultimate, high-end experience with your kids, visiting the plethora of the region’s theme parks while staying at the Four Seasons. Disney World is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year—all year—and it seemed like the right time to finally make the trek east to see it.
In the weeks leading up to my trip, I casually mention to a friend who works for the hotel brand that I’m headed to their Orlando resort, and she tells me it’s one of their top properties. “Everyone LOVES that one. It always gets super high rankings within the brand. It’s ridiculous. I’m so jealous,” she tells me. The Four Seasons Florence is within a former Medici home, housing one of the city’s largest gardens. The Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in northern Thailand allows you to interact with rescued elephants and explore bamboo jungles. But apparently Orlando is where it’s at?
“It’s always been on our bucket list to go there,” says another friend in the luxury hospitality business who is based in Miami and spends summers in the Mediterranean.
Obviously, this is a family-oriented destination, so I’ve asked my best friend and her three kids (my godchildren) to join me. At ages 9, 7, and 5, they’re primed for Disney (their dad, on the other hand, is happy to stay at home and go mountain biking). Like their mother and me, they’ve grown up in Southern California, making annual pilgrimages to Disneyland during the ages that it truly does feel like the happiest place on Earth.
As the days approach, everyone is excited. There are so many parks to explore, so much to do—not to mention the shopping. I even get the kids hyped up that we can stay at the parks until they close at 10 p.m. and can then continue to hang out and shop and have late-night snacks at the themed restaurants around the parks, which are open until midnight (hours vary depending on the time of year).
Our Delta flight arrives at MCO at 6:30 p.m., and we’re at the hotel, checked into our rooms, by 7:15. We waste no time and immediately head to the 17th-floor rooftop for our 7:30 reservation at Capa, the hotel’s contemporary Spanish-style steakhouse. Sitting on the balcony, we look west at 8 p.m. to see the firework show at the Magic Kingdom Park. During dessert, at 9 p.m., we look south for the fireworks at Epcot. Cocktails in hand, stomachs full of oysters, fried cauliflower, and foie-gras-topped filet, it’s the perfect way to enjoy a Disney fireworks show and a fantastic first night.
In the morning, we head to the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland’s East Coast twin. There’s a shuttle service from the hotel that leaves every hour, but we’ve missed it. Within seconds, there’s an SUV available to take us there instead. Everything here is just so easy. We arrive at the park and head straight to Splash Mountain. An hour later, smiling and slightly soaked, we’re all remembering how much pure, innocent fun Disney can be.
While I take a work call, my friend and the kids discuss the plan for the rest of the day. By the time I hang up, it’s settled. “Sammy, we all want to go back to the hotel,” she says. “What? Are you sure? We just got here,” I say. My friend laughs and says, “I know, I can’t believe it either. We have all missed Disney so much in the last couple of years with COVID, but the kids think the hotel looks like even more fun.”
I get it. As an adult, I too would rather be at a Four Seasons than a theme park—however, I can’t believe the kids are willing to forgo acres of roller coasters, churros, and Disney princesses. But when it comes to creating an experience where everyone in the family is happy and taken care of, this hotel has absolutely thought of everything.
Parents, have you ever gotten back from a “family vacation” and rolled your eyes when you told your friends where you went because your kids had a blast, but you didn’t? Or maybe you’ve taken them to a resort that was more geared toward adults and appreciated the luxury setting, but cringed every time your kids made a splash in the pool?
The Four Seasons has found a way to make everyone happy. Your kids will want to spend hours—days even—at the kids’ pool. A sprawling 5-acre oasis featuring a lazy river with waterfalls, three water slides, a splash pond, and multiple levels of swimming areas, it’s so clean, so well serviced, that if it were the hotel’s only amenity, children and adults alike would be won over. But there’s so much more.
There’s tennis, Tom Fazio golf, a 13,000-square-foot spa overlooking the lake, a spacious fitness center with daily classes and personal training, and miles of walking trails along the lake and through woodlands. When it comes to dining, there’s six restaurants, including an adults-only lobby bar, and you can even have breakfast with Goofy and friends. Send your older children to the parks solo (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, plus two water parks), put the younger ones in the hotel’s kids club for the day camp of their dreams, and take some time to enjoy the tranquility of the adult pool. Together, take tennis lessons with a pro, golf on the resort’s course—a Certified Audubon Sanctuary—or attend a cooking demonstration to learn how to make authentic Italian pasta at home.
In the end, the greatest family vacations aren’t usually about the destination itself—they’re about spending quality time together, and no place makes that easier or more enjoyable for families of all ages than here. Take it from me—I just won godmother of the year. From $429 (the resort’s Fourth Night Free package runs May 1–September 30).