Photo: The Grove Resort and Water Park Orlando

This Family-Friendly Resort Near Orlando Offers the Perfect Blend of Luxury and Fun in the Sun

Orlando Epic Stays
by Linnea Bailey Jul 26, 2023

Sometimes, the perfect trip comes along that offers everything you want and need. The kind of vacation where there’s no need to drive anywhere at all, because everything is right there at your fingertips: world-class dining options, a sun-soaked water park, palatial swimming pools, fishing and boating and a packed schedule of kids’ activities. Well-equipped suites (each with a fully stocked kitchen, washer and dryer) add unparalleled convenience to days of breezy family fun.

Our family of five recently checked in to The Grove Resort and Water Park Orlando for a much-needed getaway and found exactly that.

The Property

Originally developed in 2008 but never occupied, the resort was purchased in 2014 by new owners who completed $200 million in renovations before opening the property in phases from 2017 to 2022. The resort feels lively, fresh, and new, and is buzzing with vacationing families. Nestled on 106 acres along beautiful Lake Austin, The Grove offers 878 spacious suites and an array of walkable onsite amenities. A significant draw is the resort’s $20 million Surfari Water Park (which features a FlowRider double surf simulator, dual water slides, a 700-foot lazy river and a unique splash pool for young children), as well as multiple bars and restaurants, the serene Escape Spa, an arcade with glow-in-the-dark mini golf, and a 24-hour fitness center.

Located just six miles from Walt Disney World (here’s how to make a family trip worth the cost if you’re planning to go) and 14 miles southwest of downtown Orlando, the property offers daily transportation to the region’s theme parks, including the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, Universal Orlando, and Sea World. The resort is also located near Winter Garden, a lovely city with a charming historic downtown and a legendary open-air farmers market each Saturday.


accommodation rooms at the grove resort and water park orlando

Photo: The Grove Resort and Water Park Orlando

The Grove has two-bedroom and three-bedroom suites, all of which offer a screened-in balcony with expansive views. We opted for a three-bedroom, three-bath superior suite, and found ourselves in a stunning fifth-floor unit overlooking the Surfari Water Park. At 1,544 square feet, our suite featured a spacious living room with a foldout couch, a large dining area, full kitchen, washer and dryer, large windows and three magnificently clean, comfortable bedrooms and bathrooms. The master bedroom held a king-sized bed and a cozy separate seating area surrounded by windows (perfect for curling up with a book), as well as a huge bathroom with two sinks, a soaking tub, glass-enclosed shower, a safe for valuables, and a sizable closet.

When we first opened the door to our suite, my kids ran in and found three large stuffed animals (two Minnie Mouse dolls and a Mickey Mouse doll) waiting for them on the couch, alongside a generous selection of much-appreciated complimentary snacks. The washer and dryer were invaluable; I was able to pack light and wash clothes as we went, including our wet bathing suits each day. And another perk that made our vacation fabulous: the discreet pull-down blackout shades on every window that allowed our family to sleep in much later than we’re used to.

The location of our corner unit was fantastic, and I highly recommend requesting a suite near the water park. It allowed us to effortlessly take the elevator directly down to the water park and back to our suite in minutes. We were able to throw on our flip-flops and bathing suits and walk down to the park at a moment’s notice. Complimentary towels are available at the pools and water park, too. As someone used to packing a bag filled with kids’ stuff everywhere we go, it was a relief to walk out of our suite empty-handed and focus instead on enjoying the resort.

Water Activities at the Resort

The water activities at The Grove are excellent. We spent every day at Surfari Water Park, splashing in the water in the kids’ area with two water slides, floating in the vast pools, relaxing on the lazy river (where we watched delighted swimmers descending down two giant water slides) and watching surfers on the FlowRider double surf simulator. DJ Rey Rico kept the party going each afternoon at the water park with a fun-filled set.

One of our best decisions was opting for a VIP poolside cabana, which came complete with a table and chairs, reserved lounge chairs, a cooler with ice, bottles of water, and a large flat-screen TV. This provided us with welcome shade, privacy, poolside food and beverage service, and a solar-powered safe for valuables attached to the cooler with an internal USB hookup for charging our phones. This was a considerable asset, as it gave us a cool, safe place to stash our phones each time we went in the water.

Separate from the water park, The Springs Pools are also lovely. With three sizable, heated swimming pools and a hot tub, a bonus was a kids’ pool with splash features that became shaded from the sun each afternoon, creating a pool option for kids to play freely out of direct sunlight.

Then there’s the phenomenal Lake Austin Pier, with water activities that include guided pontoon tours, swan paddle boats, kayaks, fishing charters, and catch-and-release fishing off the dock. We loved strolling on the dock and watching wildlife just steps away from our resort. We saw a four-foot alligator, turtles, catfish and bass.

Onsite Amenities

Our days were filled with stopping by the fabulous Kids Activity Center for one of the many daily scheduled activities or just to color and socialize with other children. My kids had a blast creating their own stuffed animals (a dinosaur, racoon, and sloth) in the Build-A-Buddy Workshop, and they also loved creating colorful artwork and hanging it on the walls. At the arcade – dubbed Flip Flop’s Family Fun Center – we played several rounds of glow-in-the-dark mini golf and arcade games. We won prizes and walked out satisfied.

The Grove offers a one-mile jogging path around the perimeter of the resort (which my husband loved) and a 24-hour fitness center. The onsite Escape Spa offers a retreat for adults: a private sauna, lounges and a full menu of spa treatments ranging from a signature Himalayan Salt Stones Massage to a Vitamin C Infusion Facial. The gift shop located adjacent to Alfresco Market offers some alluring shopping filled with Lilly Pulitzer prints and fashions (including some adorable beach coverups). I had to remind myself not to spend all our money in the shop.

Rather than sticking to a tight schedule, I grew to love waking up in the morning and just walking out the door with the kids. That’s the beauty of a walkable resort – there was always something exciting to be found. One morning, we walked to the dock and watched a fishing tournament; on another morning, we caught a special poolside wildlife presentation from Gatorland. We would stop to play in white sand dotted with palm trees, then continue walking to breakfast or the water park.

Dining at the Resort

There are multiple easy, fun dining options at The Grove. The property has three restaurants, plus a market with a bakery and coffee bar, grocery items, and fast to-go items. Valencia Restaurant offers an upscale dining experience, while The Springs Bar and Grill brings a casual outdoor option to those enjoying the water. Longboard Bar and Grill serves guests at Surfari Water Park, while Alfresco Market is a satisfying stop for fine Italian coffee, a quick croissant, or sandwich.

Valencia Restaurant was our favorite. It’s sophisticated while importantly staying very family-friendly. On our second evening at the resort, we dined on grilled salmon served over a Kashi bowl of quinoa, brown rice, dried cranberries, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and candy cane beets that were all drizzled with a miso vinaigrette. The blackened mahi-mahi tacos are delicious and come stuffed with a generous portion of fish, mango coleslaw, and roasted garlic aioli. The calamari was also delectable, served with fried shishito peppers, marinara sauce and a creamy lemon remoulade for dipping. I also discovered my new favorite drink: Valencia’s signature pineapple mule made with Stoli vodka, ginger beer, lime juice and pineapple juice.

At Longboard Bar and Grill at the water park, we enjoyed service in our cabana and noshed on Grove-smoked pork nachos, Cuban sandwiches, and guacamole and chips. Refreshing mango and pina colada smoothies rounded out the meal. A coconut mojito served in a specialty bucket was an end-of-day treat, made with fresh muddled mint leaves, Cruzan coconut rum, lime, simple syrup, and soda.

The live acoustic music on the patio at The Springs Bar and Grill (featuring a rotating schedule of talented musicians) brought an earthy island vibe to the outdoor deck with food prepared in the adjacent Valencia kitchen. Meanwhile, at Alfresco Market, we enjoyed morning Illy espressos and stocked up on staples for our suite such as eggs, fruit, and cereal. We indulged in piping-hot margherita and bianca takeout pizzas from the market in our room one evening after a long day. Another morning, we polished off a fresh cinnamon roll from the market’s bakery.

Getting to The Grove Resort and Water Park Orlando

Located on the southwestern edge of greater Orlando, The Grove is just minutes from Orlando’s theme parks, Interstate 4, State Road 192, and State Road 429. The resort is about 35 minutes by car or bus from Orlando International Airport, with covered garage parking available for all guests. For Floridians, the resort is an easy drive from Miami, Tampa, or Florida’s Space Coast. For passengers traveling from South Florida on the new Brightline passenger train to Orlando, the resort is about 35 minutes by car or bus from the Orlando Brightline station.

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