“Beyond This Threshold, I Leave the World Behind”


Living in Orlando for nearly two years now, I have metamorphosed from a foreigner to a local, experiencing many of the must-do’s and world-renowned attractions and enjoying the one-of-a-kind sites and diverse cuisines — I know this city like the back of my hand. However, what I had yet to discover until recently was another gem right in my backyard — Grande Lakes Orlando.

Grande Lakes Orlando is a gorgeous, 500-acre property that is home to two well-known resorts: The JW Marriott, Orlando, and The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando. World-class leaders in the hospitality industry, these resorts are both brimming with high-class and luxurious accommodations, as well as ample opportunities of fun and pleasure for both the young and old.

It’s in the details…

Accented with touches of Florida-native furnishings throughout the property, Grande Lakes Orlando introduces locals and travelers to another side of Orlando — that’s what makes this place special. Here, I discovered, is somewhere people can escape the pungent, tourism-thirsty billboards lining every major road and the never-ending hustle & bustle of cars that keep Orlando’s night sky illuminated overnight. Whether you’re feeling adventurous enough to be on the lookout for a Florida alligator on a guided eco-tour, or you just want to sit on your balcony with a glass of Champagne and watch Walt Disney World’s nightly fireworks, you can do it all, right on property.

For the adventurous…

Grande Lakes Orlando has three exclusive adventure experiences including fishing excursions, eco-tours and birdwatching, and they’re all as relaxing as they are fun. Certified Florida Master Naturalists lead guided eco-tours among the land, as well as the protected natural habitats behind property. These experts introduce guests to the great outdoors by showcasing the nature while educating everyone with a plethora of knowledge covering the local wildlife, ecosystems and environmental conservancy. Eco-tours include memorable kayaking experiences that start at the head of the Florida Everglades and take you through beautifully aged Spanish moss trees… it’s breathtaking and, surprisingly, quite serene. It is a step off the beaten path doubtlessly worth taking.

The birdwatching experience is unique as well, giving guests a chance to learn about and observe dozens of Central Florida’s native avian species across some 300 acres of land. Not only will guests likely spot uncommon and endangered birds, they will have the opportunity to paint their very own bird houses that will be installed at Shingle Creek! It’s a neat, group-oriented activity that is both memorable and practical. And whether you’re interested in catching your first fish or your fiftieth, guests can fish from the shore or on Hyde Drift boats on Grande Lakes Orlando 40-acre Shingle Pond. There is something for everyone.

Continuing on the property, it’s hard to miss the expansive 18-hole golf range. Built to serve golfers of all skill sets, several holes are routed through the preserved wetlands and natural woodlands, with the finishing holes concluding alongside both hotel buildings. It’s not just business partners who play on this green range. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club is the first golf club in Orlando to offer foot golf, a fun activity that’s great for families and large groups of friends. So golf-enthusiasts, if you’ve got a few hours to spare, enjoy the range! For those not so golf-savvy, well… it sure gives you one heck of a view.

Take a breather…

But not everything fun and adventurous takes place outside. If you’re one who enjoys a more tranquil, private setting, be adventurous on the inside and choose from a soothing spa treatment at the Ritz-Carlton Spa. The spa has an excess amount of calming spa treatments ranging from rejuvenating skin therapy enhancements, hair and nail treatments, massages, and their exclusive Grande Escapes. I had decided to experience the Grande Citrus Escape, which included an orange exfoliant that smelled and felt wonderful on my skin, a hydrating mask, a scalp massage and a stone massage. Every minute that passed made me wish time could stop so it could only last longer. Never have I felt more pampered or relaxed — these treatments are truly an escape.

Aside from spa treatments, an impressive, newly renovated fitness center is located on the first floor of the spa. Though Grande Lakes Orlando opened July 1, 2003, the resort has freshened and updated much on property including the fitness center’s new, state-of-the-art gym equipment this November. The gym houses brand new equipment called Technogym, featuring digital platforms on each machine that do more than monitor calories burned and navigate pace; it acts as a personalized tablet, allowing you to access social networks, virtually jog in other cities, practice languages with Rosetta Stone, and more. The center has 6,000 sq. ft. of workout space, and if you need a push, sign up for a workout program and join a group!

And then take another bite…

But if you’re like me and you’d rather indulge in delicious foods on your vacation than burn it off, I advise you try one of property’s ten full service dining options, in addition to the Fairways Pub at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. Grande Lakes Orlando savory choices are not only eclectic, they offer you a taste of Florida’s backyard — literally. Located on property, Whisper Creek Farm is a 7,000-square-foot fruit and vegetable garden adjoined to an 11,000-square-foot outdoor event space, barn, apiary and chicken coop. Products produced on the farm are prepped and used across property in restaurant dishes, beverages and spa treatments. And take my word for it — the food is delectable. Because the various dining locations receive a lot of their food supplies from the farm, some menu items change based upon the season, leaving guests with satisfied bellies and giving them an incentive to come back.

And one great thing is, you don’t have to be a resort guest to enjoy these restaurants. If you’re just stopping by for a meal, Grande Lakes Orlando will reimburse your parking fee. For the next date night, perhaps have dinner at Primo by Chef Melissa Kelly, an appetizing choice for the Italian cuisine lovers out there. Or grab lunch at Highball & Harvest, with their mouthwatering, Southern-inspired cuisine.

The undeniable fact is, Grande Lakes Orlando is a beautiful property that has so much to offer. Above an entryway at The Ritz-Carlton Spa I recall reading the latin phrase, “in hoc limine relinque mundum.” It means, “beyond this threshold, I leave the world behind.” When my weekend stay was over, I left Grande Lakes Orlando with the impression that that’s exactly what I did. The eloquence from the spa’s motto not only carries into their spa treatments, it is carried through the staff’s kind mannerism and the property’s grand scheme. Grande Lakes Orlando is a destination within a destination, and well-worth a visit.