I don’t often travel without Chris, but when I do, I pick the hotel I stay at with great care. Each year, Chris and a group of guys he’s been friends with since high school get together for a long weekend at a cabin in Minnesota’s great Up North. When he does, I plan a girls’ getaway. This year, I chose to spend our four days apart with our eldest granddaughter (she’s 6) in Orlando. While there, I was also able to spend time with my daughter and her significant other.
My criteria for the just right Orlando Girls' Weekend Hotel:
- On (or near) the Walt Disney World Resorts property. I didn’t want to rent a car.
- Have great restaurants onsite (and a cafe that opens before the parks).
- Safe. Walt Disney World Resorts has high safety standards, and while I think I’d feel comfortable at any on-property resort, I still chose which hotel to stay at with safety in mind.
- Be able to earn hotel loyalty points. This wasn’t a deal breaker, but a nice-to-have with how much traveling we do.
- Have easy transportation or access to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, the two parks on our girls’ weekend itinerary
Why I Chose to Stay at Walt Disney World Swan Reserve:
- Walt Disney World Swan Reserve is part of the Walt Disney World Swan And Dolphin Resort and is considered a Disney Deluxe Hotel. Check.
- Its dining options include six signature restaurants, five casual restaurants, five quick service spots, and seven lounges – more places than we could grab bites at in our time together. Grounds, the place to grab a coffee and morning pastry in the Swan Reserve, opens at 6 a.m. daily, earlier than I could wake our granddaughter with the Toy Story soundtrack each morning. Check.
- The Swan Reserve is a 5-star hotel that opened in November 2021 with 349 rooms. Swan Reserve is across the street from its larger (and older) counterparts: the Swan (756 rooms) and Dolphin (1,514 rooms), both opened in 1990. For me, less foot traffic feels safer, and newer means that I’m less likely to have asthma and allergy issues. Check.
- We are Marriott Bonvoy members, and Walt Disney World Swan Reserve is a Marriott property. I earned 13,227 points. Check.
- During our stay, we were a complimentary boat ride away from Hollywood Studios and a reasonable walk from Epcot, even on a hot August day. And Check.
Was staying at Walt Disney World Swan Reserve the Right Choice?
Checking in was a breeze. I sat across from the woman at the front desk as she took my information and went over the resort’s amenities with care. Chris always handles checking us into hotels, so though it may sound silly, it’s not a process I feel at ease with. Resort maps baffle me. Plus, my ears were ringing from the flight. She patiently re-explained things to me, and when I apologized, she made it seem as if every guest walked into their hotel with ringing ears and a poor sense of direction. It was “no problem at all.” Bonus: my room was ready.
Swan Reserve is glassy and classy. Our “no-view” room had floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the swimming pool with its chic vibe. When Audi and I used the pool on a mid-August night, we were the only ones in the pool for at least thirty minutes. She couldn’t get over the pool’s prettiness. The sun set while we were out there, making the evening even more magical. After a while, another family came out, and Audi made fast friends with their children.
Before I can really say if the Swan Reserve was the right choice for us, we need to talk food.
Were the Dining Options at the Swan & Dolphin Resort Right For Us?
Each evening, we dined at a different restaurant—night one at Il Mulino New York Trattoria with my daughter, her boyfriend, and Audi. It was a short walk from our room in the Swan Reserve to be transported all the way to New York and to dine on food inspired by the mountainous Abruzzi region. We adults shared a wonderful bottle of Vermentino, a lovely Italian white. Everyone enjoyed their meals. I only took a picture of my Pollo Scarpariello (hand-cut chicken with garlic, white wine, wild mushrooms, and spicy cherry peppers). It was divine and free from all of my food allergies.* Audi was called a princess several times by staff, and the fancy dress she wore with her Minnie Mouse ears received several compliments from guests and staff alike. She was treated like royalty, which thrilled my grandma-heart (of course).
After spending a full day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I thought Audi might want to go with one of the more casual options offered, but I should have known better. After all, Fancy Nancy is the only character at Hollywood Studios that she ran full force to meet. Audi wanted a fancy meal, so I made reservations for the two of us at Amare Mediterranean Restaurant in the Swan Reserve.
We were greeted as friends the moment we entered. Service was at a nice pace and so friendly. I spotted a fun mocktail on their menu, so Audi had the perfect fancy girl start to her meal. Our dinners were delicious. I ordered the Angus Beef Grilled Souvlaki, and Audi dined on spaghetti with two meatballs added on from the kids’ menu. The struggle to eat spaghetti in a fancy way is real, especially for a 6-year-old. All-in-all she did quite well.
When I looked around the restaurant, I noticed other solo adults with children. Like Audi, all of the children were on their best behavior. I think there’s something about sharing an elevated experience with a child and really engaging in conversation with them that keeps the experience fun and classy for everyone in the room. I didn’t hear any loud electronics babysitting anyone, or any demanding tantrums being thrown.
Once our meal was done, we went to our room to get ready to spend time at the pool. Life felt fancy and fabulous, and our girls’ weekend together was turning out as I hoped it would.
On night three, it was the four of us again. Audi and I spent the day at Epcot. We all met for dinner at Rosa Mexicano. All of us love Mexican food, but I had some reservations when I made our reservations weeks ahead of the trip. Their Google Reviews were at less than 4 stars when I booked. As I write this, they have 3.7 stars but only 72 reviews. When Audi and I arrived, I was a little concerned because the hostess seemed to have forgotten about us. As soon as I went up and reminded her that we were waiting, she apologized and found a table for us.
Our server was fabulous. Attentive, informative, confident, and encouraging us to get appetizers and add-ons. My daughter and I gave their spicy cucumber margaritas a try – they were a delight. My steak tacos were delish. We were all enjoying our time together too much to take photos of our food. Everyone at our table enjoyed their meals. It was the perfect way to end our weekend together.
Would I stay at Swan Reserve again? Yes. Most definitely. It was everything I had hoped it would be, and we didn’t even get to explore or take advantage of all its amenities.
For example, as a Swan Reserve Guest, you can get Disney Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. We never could get out our hotel door early enough to make use of this benefit. Plus, it was mid-August, and we wilted too early to stay late. We could have used the pools at the Swan and Dolphin, but we were happy at Swan Reserve’s pool. Maybe next time we’ll do more exploring.
*On food allergies. Every Disney Dolphin & Swan Resort restaurant and every restaurant at the Disney Theme Parks went above and beyond to accommodate my food allergies. Even when I let them know that my food allergies aren’t severe, they insisted that those preparing the food would switch gloves, just in case.
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