A Stay at Orange Lake Resort in Kissimmee, FL (Full Review)

Orange Lake Resort in Kissimmee, Florida, is an enormous property that’s part of the Holiday Inn Vacation Club. Resorts Gal recently spent an entire week at Orange Lake and found it to be a family friendly resort offering accommodations ranging from a single family home (or villas) to studio rooms and suites.

In this Orange Lake Resort review, we’ll look at the recreation, dining, amenities, and accommodations. There are quite a few things you’ll want to consider when planning a vacation here.

For starters, this was not my first rodeo at Orange Lake. This popular vacation destination first opened way back in 1982 and quickly became “the off-property” place to go when you went on a Walt Disney World vacation. For golfers, anyway.

Since I am the daughter of a highly-practiced amateur golfer, every family vacation growing up was centered around the sport. Therefore, my first trip to Disney was not at a tropical hotel like Disney’s Polynesian. But to a resort located in a fairly rural area (at the time) with a golf course amongst the orange groves. And an 80 acre lake.

Hence the name Orange Lake Resort. Today you’ll find the original portion of the resort to be fairly similar on the exterior. But, my how it has grown. The property is made up of four different villages spread out on over 1400 acres! Sadly, there are no more orange groves.

And while my stay at the resort was enjoyable, there are a few things that some of you might consider deal-breakers.

With that being said, you can’t beat the location of this Holiday Inn Club vacation destination. The proximity to the Disney parks is extremely convenient.

Here are the different sections of this review. During my stay at Orange Lake, I spent time at all of the villages with the exception of the East Village, which is the smallest area.

Orange Lake Resort Review

Orange Lake’s surrounding neighborhood has been on a transitional upswing over the past few years. I absolutely love this area and call it home when I’m in the Orlando area. Yes, the area is right next door to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, my neighbor.

Because I’m familiar with the area, I’ll add some pointers for groceries, shopping, and recreation toward the bottom of this review. Everything you’ll need is within a few minute’s drive.

Going into this stay, I was given a few leftover timeshare points from a family member to use at my discretion. I knew if Orange Lake were available, it would be my top choice to start this “resorts near Disney” section of the site. Thankfully, it was.

You see, I drive past Orange Lake quite often. I’m used to seeing the cars lined up down Highway 192 trying to get into the resort around check-in time on the weekends. It’s a popular place and has been for a long time.

Due to the vast size of the resort, I’ll provide an overview of three of the villages down below. For this stay, I was placed in the West Village in a studio room. That separate review goes over the studio room in detail, down to appliances, cutlery, and dinnerware.

There is one thing to note before we get into the specifics of this review. You may or may not be aware that the Holiday Inn brand has a timeshare membership. They rent their properties to owners in exchange for points. However, anyone can go online and reserve a room here. You don’t have to be a timeshare member or pay with points.

More than likely, you’ve stayed at a timeshare vacation rental in the past. If not, you will get the whole spiel at check-in, where they offer you some incentive for a few hours of your time during the week to participate in a timeshare tour.

Those are the ones where they pump you full of all the amenities you can have for a meager price if you buy that day. And trust me, these people are trained in the art of making hard to turn down offers.

From my experience, there are two types of timeshare owners. The ones that are pleased with their membership, use it, and even sell points to others. And there are those that have no idea what they are getting into and never learn to use it to their advantage.

Before arrival, be prepared to graciously accept their incentive or firmly turn it down. My response is, “I understand, but my family vacation time is extremely valuable to me, and I do not have time for anything else.” Any other pushes, “No, thank you.”

It is annoying, but at the same time, I get that these people are just doing their job. And some highly praise their vacation club memberships and use them to vacation more.

I always try to mention these things, so you are aware of what you are getting into. Then you know how to handle it. Whatever you do, don’t let a pushy salesperson start your vacation off on the wrong foot. It is so frustrating to get bombarded with these things when you are tired, and YOU JUST WANT TO GO TO YOUR ROOM!

Maybe I should take my own advice?

While we are on the subject of the check-in process, it’s probably a good time to mention that this is the main issue I had at Orange Lake. When I arrived at the resort, many people were parked outside the main lobby waiting to check in. Right now, you text the resort upon arrival, and they will text you when they have availability.

I understand that we have been going through uncertain times, and precautions should be in place to protect everyone. However, if I pay to access a room starting at 4 p.m., it’s really difficult for me to wait 45 minutes to access that room when I arrived at 7 p.m.

Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Disney’s text to room options over the years. It seems like an established resort like Orange Lake could come up with a more accommodating way to get guests settled in their rooms.

I was past the point of frustration when I received my check-in text. All I could think was that surely all the people sitting outside in the heat, in their cars, must feel similar to me.

It was so aggravating that I made a mental note to pay attention and see if it was like this every evening during my stay. Thankfully, Friday and Saturday evenings appeared to be the only times these occurrences happened. I’m sure that has to do with the bulk amount of guests coming and going on time-share schedules.

Other than that, I only had one other issue with the resort. I think you’ll begin to pick up on it pretty quickly as we look closer at the villages. We do have several positives to cover as well.

West Village

When you turn off HWY 192 onto Orange Lake Blvd, you’ll be greeted by a guard at the security gate. After the initial check-in, you’ll have a card to use to get in and out of the guest gate. If you end up on the backside of the resort, there’s another entrance/exit that practically adjoins a Publix parking lot.

All guests will visit the West Village’s main lobby to check-in. You will be assigned a room, condo, or single-family home, depending on what you reserved.

After being at the resort a few days, it became clear that the sought after village is River Island. A stay at River Island is considered an upgrade among many timeshare guests.

As for West Village, they have a decent size convenience store that sits in a building to the right of the lobby. The main restaurant is Breezes Restaurant and Bar that sits out by the pool.

Breeze’s appeared to be a popular stop. However, I did not participate in any of the resort’s dining options during my stay. My idea going into this was to visit as a guest going back and forth to the theme parks and seeing how it worked.

Most mornings, I prepared breakfast in my room except for having pancakes at Riviera’s Primo Piatto one day. I ate lunch daily at Disney. Then in the evenings, I usually left the parks around 7-8:00 p.m. and either picked up local fast food or prepared a meal in my room each evening.

This worked really well for my budget, and I can see how families could save a tremendous amount on dining expenses going this route. When I get my room review up, I’ll add a few tips for cooking while on vacation. I am truly a pro at these kinds of things.

As for West Village, you’ll have access to two different pools. The main pool is large with a sizable zero-entry area.

The second swimming pool sits adjacent and is considered more of a quiet pool.

There is a large fitness center on the ground level of the main West Village building.

It had plenty of aerobics machines, free weights, and anything else you could want for a workout.

Swampy’s Adventure Club was not available on my trip, but it looked to be a fun kid’s program that’s normally offered. This is not a drop your kid off service from my understanding. A sign indicated all children must be accompanied by an adult.

An arcade was available.

Putt-putt golf is a big deal at Orange Lake. There are several different courses available for an extra cost.

At check-in I received a handout with several packages I could purchase for upgraded amenities. There was a 3-day play pass that included tube rental, Island golf, putt-putt golf, a rock climbing wall, and access to The Hippo waterslide.

I don’t have any pictures of The Hippo waterslide because it was under refurbishment during my trip.

For three days, it was $42.95, which sounded outrageous to me. That was per person. Oh, and the Island golf mentioned above is a 36 hole mini-golf course.

As a person who usually wins at putt-putt golf, I did check out the courses. They seemed very dated. Especially considering there’s a Bonanza putt-putt golf course right up the street. You can get 36 holes with a trip to the buffet at Cici’s Pizza for like $17.95 per person if you go there. You can read more about that here.

Anyway, this area of Orange Lake was beautiful. The large lake has a white sand beach for guests to use at their leisure.

Beach volleyball is available. While I didn’t get a picture there was a tennis court and several basketball courts toward the front right side of this village.

Watersport rentals were available. Those swan boats were reminiscent of the nearby Swan and Dolphin Hotel.

A cute sundries shop out by the pool had plenty of swimwear and whatnots you might have forgotten to bring.

Cabanas are available to rent. There is no shortage of add-ons at Orange Lake.

Shuffleboard court. This is something I see at nearly every Orlando area resort.

There are four golf courses at Orange Lake Resort. Two of them are located in the West Village including The Reserve, an 18 hole course. Here is a look at one of the fairways for Crane’s Bend, a 9 hole course.

This wraps up the main items available at the West Village. Now is the part where my second issue with Orange Lake comes into play. With my map in hand, I was off, ready to check out the River Island area I had heard so much about.

One of the employees at check-in a few days before had told me that I would need to drive down to the other end of the resort. She said that I wouldn’t want to try and walk that far. Thankfully, I took her advice because I soon learned that Orange Lake is not really walkable.

North Village

On my way to River Island, I ended up at North Village. When I got to North Village, I assumed it was River Island. There was a sign out front, but I had driven a good ways and didn’t notice it when I pulled in.

When I got to North Village I began to photograph the area.

There was a fun arcade available.

And another sundries shop.

This is where Paisan Pizzeria is located. From what I was told, this is supposed to be decent pizza, and they will deliver it to your room.

Anyway, here I was thinking I was at River Island. And as you can tell it does look like an island in the middle with a bit of a river around it.

The area was beautiful and it was an extremely nice pool area.

And because I had driven so far down to get here, I couldn’t imagine the resort being any larger.

There was a pleasant cascading waterfall and two slides on the end. A hot tub sits on the opposite side.

A few kids had a pretty intense game of water volleyball going.

More cabana rentals.

There was even a kiddie pool with this fun water feature.

And a splash pad.

While there are absolutely no complaints about the North Village, I couldn’t help but think it didn’t live up to everything I had heard about River Island. It’s supposed to be similar to a water park.

When I went back out to the car, I got out my map and realized that I hadn’t went nearly as far as I thought.

River Island

To give you an idea of how widespread Orange Lake really is, when I left the North Village, I drove under the HWY 429 overpass. You might notice there is a sidewalk in this area. If there were a consistent sidewalk across the resort, it would be so much nicer.

The few people I did see walking were on the side of the road. If you visit Orange Lake, you need a car. There are no ifs, and, or buts about it. If I hadn’t had my car with me, I would not have been able to access any of the other villages.

It was probably once the norm that guests didn’t show up at an off-property resort without a vehicle. But that has become less common with the variety of car services these days. My family recently visited Orlando, stayed off-property, and used a car service daily to access the theme parks and the airport.

Now, Orange Lake does have an internal bus shuttle. But it’s not running right now. And even if it were, I would not want to rely on it to get to the other recreation areas.

Think about it. You have all your swimming items, towels, sunscreen, books, etc., in tow. You do not want to get ready for the pool, drag your items to the bus stop, and then wait in the heat for a shuttle.

Thankfully, each village does have a great recreation area. But if you’re not staying at River Island, you or your children are going to want to spend at least one day there.

So, I get through this little traffic jam in the picture above, and the road curves back before entering a turnaround. That’s where I encountered this signage and what looked like a completely new resort.

To the far right there was a fairly busy parking lot and ta da, River Island.

I was a little relieved that I had found it. Going into this stay, I hadn’t anticipated ending up with so much content for this review. And I’m sure it seems somewhat monotonous, bear with me.

Right inside the gate there was another shop with convenience items.

As I moved forward I began to see a large pool area with a water slide.

There were fun pool activities set up.

And then I ran into the lazy river!

The River Island lazy river is 1200 feet long!

And the landscaping surrounding it is scenic and lush.

You can’t really tell how large the area is, but I can assure you it’s extensive.

I walked the entirety of the lazy river and kept running into these private green lawns. It’s hard to imagine a nicer place to spend a resort day.

In the center of the lazy river, there’s a large waterfall area. On both sides, there were ledges where guests could sit and take it in their surroundings.

Several hot tubs were nestled in along the river.

That main building in the background is where you’ll find a restaurant, cafe, burger joint, fitness center, and another arcade. No matter which village you stay in, you’ll have plenty of amenities.

However, you can probably tell that River Island has all the bells and whistles.

Here is the Tradewinds Bar and Grill.

When I finally reached the other end there was a wading pool.

And a whole other recreation area awaits in the background.

This large sand area with playground looked like a fun place for children.

A soccer ball field was right behind it. (If you want to get up a game while you are in town, my son usually goes up the street to Northeast Regional Park here.)

This area is where that 36 hole Island mini golf course is located.

Several pool bars are available.

I noticed when I walked back up the opposite side of the lazy river that a few areas were fenced off and said reserved seating. I assume these areas were for the guests actually staying in these condos.

Several bridges cross over the lazy river making both sides accessible.

One of my other complaints was that the inner tubes cost $9 per day. If you are going to offer a lazy river, you might as well provide the tubes. The rides at Blizzard Beach (including the lazy river tubes) don’t cost anything extra.

A few more pictures of the area before we wrap things up.

Final Thoughts on Orange Lake Resort

Orange Lake is an appealing resort, and while it isn’t all-inclusive, it does have that feel. When it comes to amenities, they will be hard to beat. This is the kind of hotel you could visit for an entire week and enjoy without going elsewhere. That is if your family is into spending time at the pool or golfing.

And while there are quite a few upgrade options, you don’t necessarily have to purchase any of them to have a fun time. With that being said, your kids will probably see other children enjoying a few of these items and ask to participate as well.

I feel a resort like Orange Lake needs (and was baffled they didn’t have) bicycle rentals. A bike would have been ideal for getting around the large property.

There is a bicycle rental company over in Celebration. They will deliver and pick up bicycles if you order them. If you opt to drive over to Celebration (about 15 minutes away), you might enjoy their self-guided bike tour of the town. It’s one of my favorite things in the area, outside of Disney. You can read more about it here.

As far as the surrounding area, there’s a super Target within less than a mile from Orange Lake’s main entrance. It’s located in the Rolling Oaks shopping center.

A Flipper’s Pizza is in that same shopping center. This is my preferred pizzeria in the area. Make sure to call the right one if you order to pick it up. There are quite a few in the Orlando area.

Publix is located across the highway from Target. This is the one I call the tourist grocery store. However, I do shop there from time to time. If you take a right on 192 out of Orange Lake, there is another one within a mile. And several more nearby, always.

There is a Tijuana Flats (Orange Lake here) that I often call to place an order when I’m leaving the Magic Kingdom parking lot. Then I pick it up on the way back to wherever I’m staying in the area.

Which leaves us with the proximity of the theme parks. Animal Kingdom is the closest. You will definitely want to take Sherberth Road (shortcut road) off 192 over to Osceola Parkway. From there, all of the Disney theme parks are within 5-10 minutes.

From Orange Lake Resort to Animal Kingdom’s entrance, it is about an 8-minute drive. However, the traffic lights in Florida are long, so if you were to get stopped a few times, it will add a few more minutes to your commute.

Once you get on Disney property, it’s pretty smooth sailing. Remember to drive the speed limit, it is heavily patrolled. And with so many unfamiliar tourists driving in the area, it can get a little crazy.

If you ever accidentally drive up to a theme park, don’t worry about turning around. You can tell the cast member at the parking gate, and they will give you a pass and directions to get out.

As for Orange Lake, below is a look at the villas. These range from 2-3 bedroom units. The nicest thing about these are you can pull straight up to the entrance. This is ideal for bringing in luggage, groceries, and your worn out kids at the end of a long theme park day.

Here is a street view of the main road that runs through the resort.

I stayed in a studio room. These types of rooms are located in a building set up similar to a hotel.

It could easily sleep up to 6 guests with the pull-out sofa bed. And the kitchenette was perfect for preparing small meals.

The guest bath was spacious with a standard tub and shower combination.

As far as extra cost goes, Orange Lake does charge a resort fee and there might be an additional cleaning fee. These should be stated up front when you reserve your room. My resort fee was around $100 for the week and cleaning fees were suspended at the time of my trip.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed my time at Orange Lake Resort. Even though there were a few negatives, I would happily stay here in the future. If and when I do, I’ll probably look into specifically reserving a room at River Island.

If you are interested in comparing Orange Lake to a Disney Resort, you might consider my Disney’s Beach Club Review. It’s comparable in the mini water park department. Or you might also love the uniqueness of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (review here).

We have also enjoyed our recent stay at Disney’s Riviera Resort (review). That newer hotel has some of the best dining options around. Wherever you end up staying, I recommend planning a few good dining experiences at Disney. To date, the best character meal I’ve had at Disney has been at the Riviera’s Topolino Terrace character breakfast.

Try here for all of our Disney World Hotel Reviews. You might also enjoy our article, The Best Marriott Hotels Near Disney World, if you are looking for more budget-friendly options.

I hope this review was able to provide you with the information needed to plan a stay at Orange Lake Resort. I’d love to know your thoughts. Leave them down in the comments below. If you have a question, I would be happy to answer it based on my experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *