There’s no way around it: If you live in South Florida and have children, you’re going to go to Disney World. After all, what’s not to love about Mickey and Minnie, Cinderella Castle, and all of the exhilarating rides? The drawbacks, of course, are that it gets hot, the lines can seem endless, and the crowds rival those of Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Which is why you’ll need a refuge nearby — preferably one with super-comfy beds, multiple distractions for the kids, and upscale escapes for adults. The Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons are the pinnacle of luxury, and luckily both have claimed their stake in the Magic Kingdom. Our version of Who Wore It Best? will help you decide between these two top-tier retreats next time you visit Orlando:
For Location: Four Seasons
The Ritz-Carlton is nearby and provides free shuttle rides to the parks. The Four Seasons is actually within the gates of Walt Disney World Resort, and it’s the only one there to receive the coveted AAA Five Diamond Award.
For Pools: Four Seasons
Channeling the theme-park vibe, Four Seasons features a plethora of aquatic entertainment. Kids (and adults) will want to hit the lazy river first. The 11,008-square-foot winding pool is outfitted with jets, waterfalls and spraying cannons hidden throughout its lush landscaping.
The FS property also features two water slides, a kid’s pool with shooting fountain, mist maker, and water curtains set against the dramatic backdrop. There’s also movie night in the pool overlooking the lake. And let’s not forget the adults-only infinity pool that’s equipped with underwater audio.
For Families: Four Seasons
Four Seasons draws in the family with wholesome fun, something genuinely refreshing in a world where kids are addicted to text messaging before they turn 10. There are so many nooks and crannies bursting with games like pool, ping-pong and foosball, you may think you’ve stumbled upon camp (if camp came with killer cocktails and a life-changing cheeseburger at the pool).
For Food: Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton is home to Norman’s, a culinary experience so exceptional, it is worth the drive to Orlando just for a meal there. Chef Norman Van Aken’s legendary New World cuisine highlights his diverse aptitude around Latin, Caribbean and Asian flavors, all under a steadfast French technique. The My “Down Island” French Toast — curaçao-scented foie gras on griddled brioche with savory passionfruit caramel — is one of those things you never knew you needed until you’ve had it. Brazilian-style creamy conch chowder makes for an inviting Instagram post, and pan-seared yellowtail snapper is superb in its simplicity.
Four Seasons wins Disney brownie points with its rooftop Spanish restaurant, Capa, which offers unbeatable views of the resort’s nightly fireworks display. And its Ravello restaurant features the character breakfast with Goofy & His Pals, so the little ones can get autographs while you enjoy fluffy omelets and flaky croissants.
For Spa Treatments: Four Seasons
The Ritz-Carlton’s 40,000-square-foot spa comes with its own private pool. For a uniquely Florida experience, the Four Seasons offers a Healing Honey massage with locally sourced, warmed honey that serves as a natural exfoliant brimming with health benefits.
For Outdoor Activities: Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton’s kayak eco-tour is a two-hour adventure that’s informative and good exercise. Its brand-new mountain bike trail blazes a path that you can ride solo or with the hotel’s Trail Boss. Whisper Creek Farm — the hotel’s garden, apiary and chicken coop — is open to guests so they can see where the property’s food comes from.
For Fitness Facilities: Four Seasons
Four Seasons’ 6,000-square-foot fitness center is airy and bright, and it offers multiple classes, spin bikes and virtual cycling routes. Certified trainers are available as are complimentary fitness apparel and athletic shoes, just in case you forgot to pack yours.
For Resting on the Go: Ritz-Carlton
Kids may have nonstop energy. You, on the other hand, need to recharge your batteries. The Ritz-Carlton knows this, which is why you’ll find hammocks strategically placed throughout the resort’s meandering pathway.
More Information on These Top Orlando Hotels Near Disney
Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, 10100 Dream Tree Boulevard, Lake Buena Vista; 407-313-7777; fourseasons.com/orlando.
The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes; 4012 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando; 407-206-2400; ritzcarlton.com.