If you have driven down I-4 alongside the Walt Disney World Resort, I am sure you have noticed a large hotel on the opposite side of the highway. It is the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando Florida. We spend 2 nights there with the kids and can’t wait to give you our top 10 tips for a fun family stay!
1 – Check For Special Events At The Gaylord Palms
The Gaylord Palms in Orlando FL runs amazing family events all year long. It is worth checking ahead of time and purchasing tickets for the different celebrations, or even plan your stay around them.
If you are visiting in the winter, make sure you get tickets to visit ICE! At Gaylord Palms. It is an incredible event with ice sculptors from China who sculpt giant ice cubes after a yearly theme. It was canceled in 2020 due to COVID, but will hopefully return in 2021. It is a must that us, locals, enjoy visiting every year!
We visited the Gaylord Palms in mid-January, as the first weekend of the Pirate & Princess Weekends rolled out. I can’t tell you how much fun we all had.
The Gaylord Palms Pirate & Princess Package includes an evening of fun at the Pirate Outpost Invasion. Be ready for awesome voices and a delicious pirate brew. The theme of the Outpost is beautiful and it was a really nice way to kick in the weekend!
The Pirate & Princess weekend continued with pool-side pirates, a super fun scavenger hunt through the resort, pirate-themed lights in the atrium at night, and a cute Princess Academy show!
2 – Pack Several Swimsuits For The Gaylord Palms Pools
The Gaylord Palms pools are incredible. More of a water park than just pools to be honest!
You will definitely want several pieces of swimwear per person to truly enjoy them. We could not dry ours fast enough to wear on our next pool visit!
There are 4 pool areas at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando Florida:
An incredibly cute ship area with bucket showers for the younger ones. It is currently closed for COVID but must be a super fun area for kids.
The slides for children 48 inches and up are thrilling. In case of strong winds, the taller slide will shut down for safety purposes. But those are awesome to wear the kids down and give them a fair amount of thrill.
The main pool, with zero-entry on one end, and basketball hoops in the deep end. Plan a few balls to keep the kids happy and entertained!
The South Beach Pool was my favorite. So beautiful and upscale looking, with two hot tubs at the very end.
This is also where the cabanas are located. On a busy and sunny resort day, those would be amazing to stay in the shade and have a whole area to call yours. You can also reserve premium seating at the pools. When you get there, you will given a seat number, which will be yours and in the first row by the pools. That is a very nice upgrade, especially if you travel with young children who will need lots of attention in the pool.
Note that during COVID, the Gaylord Palms pools work on a limited access and you will be given a specific pool chair when you get to the pool, to allow for safe social-distancing.
3 – Don’t Miss The 6:30PM Alligator Feeding
We could have spent all night watching as the alligator carer fed them. Every night at 6:30PM, you will not want to miss this show.
We thought the care taker was so very gentle and in synch with the juvenile alligators. There was so much respect and his work with the animals was very humbling.
He feeds them every day in the evening, and it is a real treat. If the bridge gets crowded, walk around the Alligator Springs and place yourself on the other side of the pond, where much fewer people will be standing.
4 – Play The Augmented Reality Game Through The Atrium
Definitely make the time (about 45 minutes) to play the augmented reality game through the atrium while you are staying at the Gaylord Palms.
Download the free Wildlife Rescue app and walk through the resort to bring animals to life. Hand the phone to your kids and let them interact and take pictures with the animals. I’m sure the result is a lot cooler during the day, with light!
It is a really fun way to see more of the atrium and let the kids spend a little energy walking and chasing after animals!
5 – Book A Connecting Room
If you are traveling with more than 2 children, ask for a connecting room when you book your stay at the Gaylord Palms.
We loved ours. My husband and I had a king-size bed and walk-in shower, while the kids’ room connected to ours with 2 queen-size beds and a bath tub.
Since we visited the resort on one of the coldest weekends of the year, the tub was very welcome to jump in after walking back from the pool.
6 – Try To Stay In The Saint Augustine Neighborhood
The Gaylord Palms Orlando is divided into four neighborhoods. The atrium is so large and there are over 1,400 rooms, so where you stay in the resort can make a world of a difference!
We loved staying in Saint Augustine, as it gives right onto the Atrium and we were near all of the restaurants, facing the alligators, and less than 5 minutes from the Gaylord Palms pools. Saint Augustine and Emerald Bay are definitely the most central areas of the resort. Emerald Bay has some luxury suites on offer, that the other neighborhoods don’t have.
You could also be staying in Key West or Everglades (closest to the pools).
7 – Upgrade To Atrium View
Guys, the upgrade to atrium view is absolutely worth it! The glass-covered atrium is 4.6 acres large and a spectacular view to have from your room.
This is the view we had from our 9th floor room in Saint Augustine (this is from room 9083 / 9085). The higher you can stay, the better. We could see the light show from our room, hear the water from the spring, and watch the alligators right from the balcony!
8 – Come With A Hungry Stomach
You will not go hungry at the Gaylord Palms. With 6 dining and drinking options, 3 eateries, and a large room service selection, there is something for all occasions and budgets.
Some of the offerings are closed due to COVID, but under normal circumstances, you could probably eat every meal at a different restaurant!
We tried the relaxed Wreckers Sports Bar and thought the food was really good and well priced. The atmosphere and decor were awesome. Christian and the kids got their football craving satisfied, and that burger was delicious!!
9- Visit The Baby Gators And Snakes
On your way to the pool, on the right-handside of the boardwalk going through Everglades, and at ground level, spot the little wooden hut.
Take the stairs down and enjoy some Florida wildlife. The baby gators are tiny and fascinating to look at.
Inside the hut, you will find four different Florida snakes and learn really cool facts about them. I love anytime the kids can use travel to learn and this was a great opportunity to world-school them!
10 – Fancy Koi Fish?
Tell me my kids aren’t the only ones obsessed with koi fish! We visited them nearly a dozen times at all times of day and night.
They swim around a large pond underneath the Castillo San Marco and while you can’t feed them, they’re just amazing to watch swim.
They always seemed to sense us and came right up to us anytime we kneeled down to look at them!
Enjoy Your Trip To The Gaylord Palms Orlando Florida
I know you will have a fabulous time at the Gaylord Palms.
Situated less than 10 minutes from Disney, it is perfectly located and a nice way to spend some luxury time outside of the parks. Definitely plan a day of no-park to truly enjoy everything that the resort has to offer!
If you have any questions, never hesitate to ask. We loved our stay at the Gaylord Palms and I’m sure your family would too!