You may think of Orlando as a bustling family travel destination, filled with world-famous theme parks. While that is true, there’s also a quieter part of Orlando, where you can experience nature and explore more green spaces, and luxurious amenities. To experience the best of both worlds, consider staying at the Grande Lakes area of Orlando, home of two world-class luxury resorts.
Both the Ritz-Carlton Orlando and the JW Marriott Orlando are located in Grande Lakes. While they are two separate resorts, they are connected and walkable. So, you’ll be able to enjoy the restaurants at both resorts, as well as the spa and golf club. The JW Marriott, which is still very luxurious, is the more affordable option. Read about our experience at the JW Marriott Orlando, and use our guide to plan your own stay.
Disclosure: I did have a complimentary lunch, eco-tour, and spa treatment at the JW Marriott Orlando several years ago, but I paid for my own overnight stay. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links and a purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no cost to you.
Review of the JW Marriott Orlando Resort
Entrance to Grande Lakes and the JW Marriott
The Grande Lakes area is very impressive, and as you drive in you’ll see how large and expansive this area is. It feels very remote and isolated from the hustle and bustle of Orlando but is still close and convenient to the attractions, restaurants, theme parks, and shops.
Each resort has its own entrance and port a cochere. As we pulled up to the JW Marriott from our cruise on the Disney Wish, it was apparent that this was a beautiful and luxurious resort.
We disembarked the ship pretty early and wanted to be able to use the resort earlier than the stated check-in time. A few days before our stay, we received an email asking if we had any special requests. I asked for an early check-in, and while it wasn’t guaranteed, it was granted.
Baggage assistance is available. We didn’t need it, however. I was easily able to check in, and then we went up to our room on our own.
Dining Options at the JW Marriott Orlando and Ritz-Carlton Orlando
With the two large resorts, there are many different dining options. We were able to try out several of them during our stay.
Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen
This delicious farm-to-table restaurant is located right in the lobby of the JW Marriott. We ate there for dinner, and my entire family enjoyed the experience. The small menu includes items like flatbreads, small plates, and large plates.
I enjoyed the Cape Canaveral Shrimp, an inventive dish featuring local seafood. My kids had the mac and cheese and enjoyed it.
Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen is a casual restaurant, so you can come as you are. It offers reservations on Open Table. We didn’t have reservations but chose to dine early and there was still some availability.
Highball & Harvest
This beautiful bistro offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and is located in the adjacent Ritz-Carlton. Reservations are recommended and are available on Open Table.
We ate there for lunch on our first day and would have returned if we’d stayed at the resort for a longer trip. The food is excellent and there were lots of options on the menu that we would have enjoyed.
Other restaurants include:
Knife Burger: An outdoor venue located at the JW Marriott pool
Evrbar: offering appetizers and drinks
Starbucks: A full-service Starbucks located off of the JW Marriott lobby.
Citron an American Bistro: A breakfast restaurant located on the ground level of the JW Marriott. Reservations are available on OpenTable. We didn’t eat there, but it seemed very popular during our stay.
Knife & Spoon: A steak and seafood restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton, which was recently awarded a MICHELIN star.
Lobby Lounge: Located in the Ritz-Carlton, this beautiful lounge offers cocktails, small plates, a raw bar, and bao buns.
Bleu: A pool bar at the Ritz-Carlton
Fairways Pub: Grab a drink or breakfast/lunch at this pub located in the golf clubhouse. This is a nice spot for a casual meal.
Vitale Spa Café: Enjoy a healthy snack or light meal at the cafe located at the Ritz-Carlton spa.
First Drop: Lobby cafe at the Ritz-Carlton where you can get coffee, tea, and light bites.
Primo: Italian restaurant at the JW Marriott, which was the recipient of a MICHELIN Recommendation in 2023.
Cafe Bodega: To-go meals, salads, and sandwiches off the lobby of the JW Marriott.
In-room dining is available at both resorts.
Activities and Amenities at the JW Marriott
The JW Marriott Orlando features a new waterpark area, called the Grande Lakes Waterpark. This is, in my opinion, the highlight of the resort when traveling with kids. Although it was a little chilly (for Florida) during our visit, we made sure to spend the majority of our time at the water park.
This area features a lazy river, pools, jacuzzis, the Headwaters Slide Tower with three waterslides, and lots of space to sit. Towels are available at a hut by the entrance. Although the air temp was a little cold, the water temperature was beautiful during our visit.
A new VIP cabana area is located off the side of the pool area. These cost extra and should be reserved in advance. Some of the cabanas have their own little pool for soaking in front of them. There are also some additional cabanas scattered throughout the water park area.
Chair service is available through Knife Burger, the restaurant in the pool area. Or, you can choose to leave your seats and sit right at the restaurant.
There’s also the AquaCourse, a ropes-course style trail with water spraying. It wasn’t open during our stay but looked like a lot of fun.
The Ritz-Carlton Spa
Looking for a relaxing spa treatment during your stay at the JW Marriott Orlando? Located by the adjacent Ritz-Carlton is the Ritz-Carlton spa, offering a full service of spa treatments. Reservations can be made in advance, and you can find the details on their website.
If you want to golf on vacation, the Ritz-Carlton offers an 18-hole championship course. It’s a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary and is Greg Norman designed. Lessons for adults and kids are available.
The beautiful Grande Lakes resort area is the perfect location to explore nature right in Central Florida. Several programs are offered, including eco-tours by canoe or kayak, falconry, or fishing.