When I informally polled my Instagram audience on my stories, 64% stated that they travel for kids’ sports or other activities. Youth sports can be a big commitment for the whole family, and that commitment can include traveling out of town.
If you are traveling with your kids for sports, Orlando, Florida is a popular sports destination. Whether it’s an event at the Walt Disney World Resort or something elsewhere in the city, you may find yourself visiting the Orlando area for youth sports or other kids’ activities.
When traveling for youth sports, you’ll probably be looking for fun kids’ activities as well as lots of hotel space for the kids and the equipment. Orlando has endless activities and attractions as well as hotel suites with plenty of room.
Disclosure: I attended a sports-themed press trip to Orlando at no cost for purposes of review. All opinions are my own.
Youth Sports Travel and Hotel Suites in Orlando
Sports Activities in Orlando
While Orlando is known as the “theme park capital of the world”, there’s so much to do in Orlando beyond the rides at the theme parks. For sports fans, there are a number of fun activities both at the theme parks and outside of them.
Orlando Magic Game
Basketball fans visiting Orlando during the basketball season should consider taking in an Orlando Magic home game. During my visit, we were lucky to be able to catch a preseason game at the Amway Center, located in downtown Orlando.
The Amway Center is very family-friendly, and the Magic welcome out of town guests who want to catch a game. It’s a good idea to purchase your tickets in advance and group packages are available – so you can make it an event for the whole sports team! While you are there, you can also visit the team shop for Magic merchandise, as well as multiple bars and restaurants.
If you are visiting with younger kids (over 2 years old and under 48 inches tall), you can visit STUFF’s Magic Castle. This indoor kids’ area features climbing areas and basketball activities and can be a great way to entertain younger siblings who are attending the game with you.
Learn more about the Orlando Magic games here.
ESPN Wide World of Sports
One of the most popular venues for youth sports is the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, which is located on property at Walt Disney World. With 10 venues on-site for sporting events, over 200 sporting events take place there during the year.
In addition to the actual fields and facilities, the ESPN Wide World of Sports offers amenities beyond what other youth sports complexes have. These include equipment drop off, so you won’t have to carry everything everywhere. There’s also the option to purchase box lunches, or you can eat at the on-site grill.
Gameday photographers are available and can capture the action while the kids complete. There is also a full onsite studio that can record the events, and highlights play on the various monitors located throughout the complex. On occasion, spectacular plays from these games can (and have!) even made national game highlights.
Parking is available at the complex. Those attending with the event participant will have to pay an admission fee to get into the complex.
Learn more about the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex here.
NBA Experience at Disney Springs
When Disney announced that Disney Quest would be replaced by the NBA Experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was thrilled to have the chance to check it out during our afternoon on Disney property.
The NBA Experience is located at the Disney Springs West Side, across from the House of Blues. A separate admission fee is charged (currently $34 for those 10 and over, and $29 for those 3-9 year old).
As you enter the facility, you’ll be guided to check-in and set up a profile. Scan your ticket or MagicBand, and you’ll be asked a series of questions including your age, favorite NBA/WNBA team, and basketball experience level.
Photos from your experience will be loaded on your account and can be viewed/purchased later. If you have MemoryMaker, pictures taken at the NBA Experience are included and can be added to your account. Just make sure you add your NBA Experience ticket to the My Disney Experience app.
Once you finish setting up your profile on a kiosk, you’ll enter the two-story NBA Experience. The first floor includes a photo area where you can pose with a league MVP trophy. You can also compare your wingspan, hands, and feet with NBA stars.
My favorite part of the experience was the various basketball activities located across the two floors. These included a Draft Combine area where you can measure your wingspan and jump, as well as try to get some baskets. It was definitely more difficult than it looks!
There are also areas for 2 and 3 point basketball shooting practice (similar to the arcade game), a slingshot basketball competition, a trivia competition, a dunk experience, and a dribbling tutorial.
I especially liked the dribbling tutorial, where cast members helped you work on your dribbling while you follow an on-screen tutorial. Again, these various dribbling styles are harder than they look.
During my visit, I found that the cast members throughout the facility were extremely friendly and helpful. If you didn’t know exactly how to do something, there is always someone nearby to help.
Overall, while we spent just a short time at the NBA Experience (about 90 minutes), I could see spending more time there with kids. Also, you are able to leave and return in the same day, so if you have lunch or dinner plans in Disney Springs, you could always leave and come back for more fun.
The NBA Experience also has a store, located at the entrance. You don’t need a ticket to go to the store. It offers lots of fun basketball-themed merchandise, including basketball Mickey ears and a basketball backpack. You can learn more about it here.
Hotel Suites in Orlando
Whether you are traveling to the Orlando area for youth sports, or are visiting the many other attractions in the area, you may be looking for a room with a little more space than a standard hotel room. Luckily, there are suite hotels in Orlando that offer great family-friendly amenities in addition to rooms with extra space.
During my visit to Orlando for this trip, I stayed three nights at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando International Drive Convention Center. This hotel has a great location right on International Drive and offers lots of fun family amenities.
Kids will especially love the indoor and outdoor pools. It’s unusual to see an indoor pool in Orlando, but during a rainy day, I saw so many families enjoying it.
Every morning, the hotel offers a full breakfast buffet including scrambled eggs, cooked to order eggs and omelets, bacon, pancakes, cereal, fruit, and yogurt. There are lots of options, and eating the complimentary breakfast is a great way to save money on your vacation. It’s especially great for fueling your youth athletes before their busy day.
Before dinner, there’s an evening reception with complimentary and discounted beverages and snacks.
My room included a living room area (with a pullout couch), a wet bar with coffee maker, refrigerator and microwave, a table, lots of outlets, and a separate bedroom with a comfortable king bed. I loved the space and comfort of the room – it felt like home.
The lobby of the hotel is a huge, beautiful atrium, and the outside of the rooms make you feel like you are outdoors. There’s also a workout room and a full-service restaurant located right off the lobby. A small business center is located in the atrium.
This hotel is a Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotel, and tickets to the parks can be purchased onsite. There’s also a scheduled shuttle that can take you to Walt Disney World.
The Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando – International Drive/Convention Center is located right on International Drive, within walking distance of the ICON Park and dozens of restaurants. There’s also the I-Drive trolley that travels to the various attractions in the area. It’s a fun area to stay in, with tons of things to do.
On my first full day in Orlando, we toured and ate breakfast at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Orlando Theme Parks. This modern hotel offers a fun lobby and lots of great amenities for families. It’s also a Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotel, and there’s a ticket desk by the front desk. A scheduled shuttle can take you to the Disney parks.
The Homewood Suites by Hilton Orlando Theme Parks offers an outdoor pool, fitness center, and outdoor basketball court. There’s a small business center in the lobby if you need to print anything like tickets or boarding passes. A small sundries shop is located off the lobby, and purchases can be made at the front desk.
Each morning, the hotel offers a complimentary breakfast. It contains hot items like potatoes and eggs, as well as cold items. There’s also a self-service waffle station, where you can make your own Mickey waffles.
Rooms at the Homewood Suites are huge. They offer a full kitchen, including refrigerators, cooktops, and pots/plates/utensils. The suites have a nice sized living room with a pullout couch, as well as a large bedroom with two queen beds.
Other room configurations are also available, including rooms with one king bed. Grocery delivery is offered if you’d like to have food in your room.
On Monday-Thursday evenings, a complimentary reception is offered at the hotel. Complimentary items include wine, beer, and various menu items like soup, salad, and sliders. A schedule and menu can be found in each suite so that you can see the offerings while you are there. If you are looking to save money, you could easily make a dinner out of this reception.
Before this trip, I was unfamiliar with Hilton’s Home2 Suites brand. After touring this Orlando location near Universal, I can’t wait to stay in one.
The Home2 Suites by Hilton Orlando Near Universal is an official Universal Partner hotel. Guests can purchase tickets to the parks at a desk in the lobby. There’s also a free shuttle to the Universal parks.
The “Inspired Table” in the lobby offers a complimentary breakfast including cereals and make-your-own waffles. The inviting lobby also has televisions and seating featuring lots of outlets so you can stay connected.
Rooms at the Home2 Suites are gorgeous. They are large, with a pullout sofa, two queen beds, high ceilings, and modular furniture. A mini kitchenette is located in every room. While there isn’t a cooktop as part of the kitchenette, hot pots can be borrowed from the front desk.
Some adjoining rooms are available, if you have a larger group. Rooms with one king bed are also offered.
The hotel offers an outdoor saline pool with a BBQ area if you’d like to prepare a cookout outside. There’s also a unique fitness center/laundry combination room. Wash your clothes and workout while you wait.
Free WiFi and free parking is available for guests at the hotel. It’s a pet-friendly hotel if you travel with your pet.
These three Orlando suite hotels are great options for families and traveling youth athletes who would like to have plenty of space. If you are traveling to a different city, you are likely to find a location of one of these three hotels.
Do you travel for your kids’ sports? What tips can you share?