SOUTHERN CHARMED

By Jonathan Spindel    Photography courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes

WARM RECEPTION

The moment you approach the rolling emerald lawns and palms that soar upward into a clear blue sky, you’ll know you can unwind and enjoy relaxation in this gorgeous environment just a few hours away on a quick hop from Texas. Tropical flowers burst exuberantly year round, and the lush green paradise beckons you to explore its beauty and relax in its splendor. Whether you’re travelling with family to visit the theme parks, organizing an important business summit, or simply seeking a relaxing retreat, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes has impressive facilities, impeccable service, and all the luxury amenities you can imagine. Situated among the headwaters of the Florida Everglades, the 500-acre estate gives visitors a unique opportunity to enjoy the gold standard of luxury and comfort, while enjoying an eco-conscious environment where nature is not just incorporated, but embraced.

Minutes away from all the major Orlando attractions, Grande Lakes is an elegant oasis that offers a serene, sophisticated alternative to the bustling activity of the theme park resorts. Of course, if you wish to enjoy the thrills and special events at the theme parks, you can simply hop on a hotel shuttle and arrive in minutes. But you’ll soon discover that The Ritz-Carlton Orlando has myriad attractions of its own. In addition to the palatial 40,000 square foot spa, 18-hole golf course designed by the legendary Greg Norman, and extensive fine dining selections, the Grande Lakes estate’s Adventure Experiences program includes kayak and canoe eco-tours and a fishing school, reflecting the resort’s natural surroundings with experiences you simply can’t find anywhere else at this level.

The Ritz-Carlton is one of two hotels in the Grande Lakes estate, along with the adjacent J.W. Marriot. Guests of the Ritz-Carlton can enjoy all the amenities of the J.W. Marriot: float on the relaxing lazy river pool, take a rejuvenating soak in the hydrotherapy facility, or play a rousing game of tennis on three spacious courts. Additionally, Ritz-Carlton guests enjoy exclusive opportunities of their own, most notably the Ritz-Carlton Club Level. For guests seeking a heightened level of luxury and privacy, the Club Level features personalized service and 24-hour access to the Club Lounge, where an attentive staff provides five daily meal presentations. “As Orlando’s luxury leader, Grande Lakes delivers an unparalleled level of service to our guests,” says Jim Burns, the Vice President and Managing Director at Grande Lakes Orlando. “Service is at the core of what makes the Grande Lakes experience so special.” The Club Lounge is a perfect time to recharge at any time of day, from the generous breakfast buffet and refreshing lunch options to the evening cocktail bar and sumptuous hors d’oeuvres, such as lobster crostini and bite size tiramisu.

ADVENTUROUS AMENITIES

The Grande Lakes estate is so seamlessly integrated with its natural setting that simply walking along the outdoor paths feels like an adventure. Birds-of-paradise and palmettos burst open everywhere, and birds of every color dot the landscape. For a taste of the outdoors, take an eco-tour of Shingle Creek by kayak, where you can paddle in the shade of the towering Ball Cypress trees growing on the shore. The creek shelters birds such as belted kingfishers, ibis, snowy egrets, and yes, alligators – 120 species in all. Guide Carlos Maldonado shares his vast knowledge of ecology, and his contagious excitement for nature. “You would never guess we were seven miles from downtown Orlando,’’ he says. Maldonado leads the engaging eco-tours, pointing out rare and beautiful flora and fauna along the way.

If you’re up for a round of golf, the 18-hole golf course, which was recently renovated, has pristine fairways, manicured greens and gleaming white bunkers. You can take a lesson with a pro instructor, or enjoy the sport as a spectator while enjoying lunch in the Club House, if that’s more your style.

After you’ve experienced your outdoor adventures, ensconce yourself in pure indulgence at the Ritz-Carlton Spa, where you’ll be secluded by lush gardens, a peaceful lake and Spanish-Moorish architecture. Featuring a philosophy of sanitas per agua, “health through water,” guests are transported back in time through treatments honoring water therapies famous throughout the world since ancient times. Reflecting its Florida location, the Spa highlights citrus-inspired health and beauty treatments as well as spa rituals from the most exotic Ritz-Carlton locations. Full salon hair, nail, and beauty treatments, as well as a fitness center and lap pool, are also available.

After the spa, you may want to venture into the sunshine, where you can lounge poolside in a private cabana, where the poolside restaurant Bleu offers fresh seafood, healthy salads, and refreshing beverages.

DINE, THEN UNWIND

Whether you want to dine in a fine establishment, or something more rustic or cozy, Grande Lakes has a range of excellent options, each restaurant its own unique charm. For robust flavors of classical dishes from Italy, France and Spain, visit Primo at the J.W. Marriot, where Chef Melissa Kelly’s farm-to-table concept comes to life for a dazzling fine dining experience. The Highball and Harvest offers elevated takes on southern cuisine, as well as an innovative cocktail bar and live music. Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen serves rustic style dishes inspired by the onsite Whisper Creek Farms, and fruit and vegetable garden with an adjoining event space, barn, apiary and chicken coop. The farm supplies ingredients to several restaurants within Grande Lakes, and also offers its own farm-to-fork experience, where guests can experience an intimate Chef’s Table under the shade of a great oak tree. No matter where you choose to dine, you’ll be surprised and entertained by the delectable cuisine.

A vacation at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes leaves a lasting impression, and your adventure experiences will give you memories for a lifetime. If you’re looking for a destination where you can leave your worries behind and enjoy the finest luxury service, with amenities the whole family can enjoy, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando is a perfect destination. To learn more, visit Grandelakes.com.

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