Forget roller coasters. Lake Nona Wave Hotel in Orlando – the ‘Theme Park Capital Of The World’ – is thrilling in its own right.
My husband, five-year-old daughter and I have a room with two queen beds and views across Florida that are dramatic – but trumped by those of the vast (and very expensive) penthouse, which sits 200ft up.
We’re given a peek inside – it’s definitely where the other half lives. There are two king bedrooms, a private kitchen and luxurious bathrooms. And stepping onto the balcony is an adrenaline rush in itself. Especially for someone who doesn’t like heights.
Carol Driver and her family check in to Orlando’s Lake Nona Wave Hotel – a hotel that’s ideal for ‘those with theme-park fatigue who want a few days away from the squeals and queues’
One of two king bedrooms in the hotel’s penthouse suite, which also features a private kitchen and luxurious bathrooms
Lake Nona Wave Hotel opened its doors in December 2021, offering 234 rooms, decor that’s modern and incredibly stylish – and unrivalled tech.
There are smart toilets, voice-activated room controls and windows that predictively tint in response to outdoor conditions – eliminating the need for blinds (it’s the largest hotel in the world to have these).
There are also AI-optimised beds that adjust to meet the sleeper’s needs, from controlling the temperature to rebalancing to eliminate pressure points and reduce the number of wake-ups during the night.
It’s very clever stuff.
Lake Nona Wave Hotel opened its doors in December 2021, ‘offering 234 rooms, decor that’s modern and incredibly stylish – and unrivalled tech’
On the hotel’s grounds, guests can wander the sculpture garden with eight world-renowned sculptures and a collection of vibrant art
Despite its size, it’s like a boutique hotel when it comes to attention to detail, with two very popular and chic bars, and two brilliant restaurants.
Outside on its grounds, guests can wander the sculpture garden with eight world-renowned sculptures and a collection of vibrant art, or chill out on the colourful pool deck.
It’s a very grown-up affair, and it’s also the perfect base to explore what else this well-loved U.S state has to offer – even with a little one in tow.
The ‘living room’ area of the hotel. ‘Despite its size, it’s like a boutique hotel when it comes to attention to detail,’ Carol says of the property
For those with theme-park fatigue who want a few days away from the squeals and queues, this is the way to do it.
The hotel is also handily located on the outskirts of Orlando, so we make the most of it and head to some of the out-of-town attractions.
We spend a day at the Kennedy Space Center – just a 30-minute drive away – where Amelia delights in discovering all about one of her favourite topics.
Lake Nona Wave Hotel is handily located on the outskirts of Orlando, pictured, so Carol makes the most of it and heads to some of the out-of-town attractions
We strap ourselves in for the shuttle launch experience, with the sights, sounds and sensations of blasting into space – and hold on tight.
Space Shuttle Atlantis is our next stop, for a close-up view of the only space shuttle that’s displayed in flight.
There are also more than 60 interactive exhibits, showcasing the history, technology and the impact of Nasa’s Space Shuttle Program.
Next is Planet Play, a huge, three-story play centre for children, with interactive gaming, constellation maps and the chance to climb a wormhole.
Carol and her family spend a day at the Kennedy Space Center, pictured, which is just a 30-minute drive away from Lake Nona Wave Hotel
At the Kennedy Space Center, Carol stops by Space Shuttle Atlantis (pictured) for a close-up view of the only space shuttle that’s displayed in flight
Exhausted, we head back to our hotel for dinner at luxurious Bacan – an elegant and suave eatery that doesn’t have fries or nuggets on the menu.
Instead, we tuck into grilled baby eggplant, Wagyu beef burger, and tomato pasta, with delicious chocolate fondant cake to follow – all washed down with a glass or two of wine.
By the morning, we’re ready for our next adventure.
We make the hour-long drive (which, in the U.S, is a short hop) to Wild Florida for an airboat tour across the Everglades – taking in some of the 1.5million acres of the pristine wetlands preserve.
Carol enjoys dinner at Lake Nona Wave Hotel’s luxurious Bacan – ‘an elegant and suave eatery that doesn’t have fries or nuggets on the menu’
At Bacan (above), Carol tucks into grilled baby eggplant, Wagyu beef burger, and tomato pasta, with ‘delicious’ chocolate fondant cake to follow
Pictured is the hotel’s ‘chic and colourful’ Haven Kitchen, where Carol and her family enjoy breakfast
It’s a thrilling ride, stopping at key points to take in wildlife in its natural habitat and venturing into swamps and marshes.
Amelia is excited, and also slightly nervous, to see alligators (one measuring up to 13ft) slyly snoozing just feet away from us.
There are plenty of other things to spy too – including eagles, egrets, green tree frogs, raccoons and bobcats.
Then it’s back to the hotel for a quick dip in the pool, followed by dinner, and an early night.
In the morning, we head to the hotel’s chic and colourful Haven Kitchen for breakfast.
Amelia opts for the homemade granola with a side of waffles, it’s poached eggs and toast for me, while my husband, Rich, tucks into a Croque Madame.
Wild Florida runs an airboat tour (stock image) across the Everglades, taking in some of the 1.5million acres of the pristine wetlands preserve. ‘It’s a thrilling ride,’ says Carol, ‘whizzing along and stopping at key points to take in wildlife in its natural habitat and venturing into swamps and marshes’
Above is the Museum Of Illusions, home to ‘mind-bending exhibits’. Carol (not pictured) says: ‘There’s an upside-down living room, a swirling vortex tunnel and an insider’s look into how holograms work’
Refuelled, we head to the nearby Icon Park for a more chilled-out day. Here, you can head into Madame Tussauds, ride the 400ft-high observation wheel, or see a movie in the 7D Motion Theater.
We pop into the Museum Of Illusions, strolling around its mind-bending exhibits. There’s an upside-down living room, a swirling vortex tunnel and an insider’s look into how holograms work.
It’s perfect for a curious five-year-old.
For lunch, we can’t resist heading to Gordon Ramsay’s recently opened Fish And Chips eatery.
We sit outside, tucking into crispy cod and chicken, and a choice of ‘dirty’ chips – from jalapeno and chorizo, to truffle and parmesan cheese.
The portions (as we have learned) are huge. But there’s just enough room to sample the too-good milkshakes, which come in biscoff (Gordon’s favourite, apparently) and sticky toffee. I don’t even want to know how many calories are in them.
It’s back to the hotel, and we stroll out to Lake Nona’s nearby town centre to Boxi Park, where you can choose from street food, restaurants and bars, as well as beach volleyball and open-air entertainment.
It’s a light dinner for us, before heading to our hotel room. With its views across Orlando, we can see fireworks exploding in the night sky.
We’re heading to Disney World tomorrow and Amelia is beside herself with excitement.
After all, this is the Theme Park Capital Of The World – and you won’t want to stay away from them for too long!