Category Archives: spas

Healthy dining and fitness options abound at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort

a0154

Photos courtesy of Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

It’s tough to eat healthily at a theme park or even at a resort connected to a theme park. Time is at a premium and even if you head to the parks with the greatest intentions, carefully planned out healthy meals soon give way to grab-and-go snacks like Mickey ice cream bars (well, they do contain calcium, right?), Dole whip floats (hey, now you’ve got both calcium and fruit juice), and popcorn–who can resist that powerful aroma floating all over the park?

Guests staying at the Walt Disney World Swan have a surplus of healthy dining options available to them throughout the resort and next-door in the Walt Disney World Dolphin (also a Starwood property).

Before you even hit the parks, start your day with a healthy breakfast at the Walt Disney World Swan’s Garden Grove. I had the pleasure of dining there on my last visit to Walt Disney World, and I think my buffet meal there ranked among the top healthiest meals I’ve ever had in my life. One of the buffet stations featured a “Superfoods Collection,” consisting of dishes made from powerhouse ingredients rich in nutrients and antioxidants so diners could feel recharged. Ingredients included blueberries, oranges, apples, tomatoes, spinach, yogurt, oats, nuts, broccoli, dark chocolate, cinnamon and honey. There are also freshly-squeezed “shots” of juice smoothies on the buffet–blended for their detox and antioxidant properties. (All I know is that they tasted amazingly delicious.)

c0436

You can also get a bowl of assorted seasonal berries, a seasonal fruit salad and several different fruit juices à la carte. (Try the fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice–it tastes as if they just picked the orange off a tree that morning in the resort’s grounds.)

Speaking of fresh, you can’t get much fresher food than the sushi at Walt Disney World Swan’s Kimonos, voted the top sushi restaurant in the area by Orlando Sentinel readers. If you’re not awestruck by the freshness of the sushi, then you’ll swoon over the presentation. Each dish resembles a work of art.

c0148

The other 15 restaurants and lounges on property offer healthy options, as well. Even The Fountain at Walt Disney World Dolphin, which specializes in burgers and sandwiches, as well as sweet treats like homemade ice cream, malts and shakes, offers a healthy option as a side dish (a fresh fruit salad) in their Kids’ menu.

If you need extra exercise after hoofing around the parks all day, the Walt Disney World Swan is a fitness fanatic’s dream, with five pools (including two lap pools), two health clubs (containing LifeFitness strength equipment, free-weights, a stairclimber, treadmills, life cycles, and elliptical crosstrainers), four lighted tennis courts and jogging trails. You’ll find that travel needn’t be broadening, after all.

e0119

And if a hectic visit to the theme parks has left you feeling stressed out, relief is just across the way in the luxurious Mandara Spa at the Walt Disney World Dolphin. Swedish Massage, Balinese Body Polish, Reflexology, Hot Stone Therapy, Deep Tissue Massage and Exotic Frangipani Body Nourish Wrap are just some of the services the Spa offers. I’ve been pampered at the Spa on two different visits, and was very pleased with the caring quality each masseuse brought to my treatment.

e0046

Traveling to Walt Disney World Resort can be more fun than you can possibly imagine, but it can be an overwhelming experience, too. Take a break from the sensory stimulation overload at the restful Spa, fitness centers, pools, and restaurants (with their healthy eating options) at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, just steps away from the magic at Walt Disney World.

© Nancy Pistorius

 

Just steps away from the magic at Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort

DolphinTwilight

Photos courtesy of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

Situated midway between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme parks and directly across from the exciting carnival entertainment, gourmet restaurants and nightclubs near Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, the Walt Disney World Dolphin (part of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel, a Starwood property) exudes “location, location, location!”

a0050

But the proximity to the Disney theme parks is not where the magic ends. If you want a truly magical Walt Disney World experience, there’s no better place to stay than the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel (and its sister property, the Walt Disney World Swan). Room amenities include Wi-Fi, make-up mirrors, two bottles of water per day (perfect for hydration when hitting the theme parks), “Shine” by Bliss bath products, and delicious Tazo tea, as well as Starbucks coffee. Special advantages include free transportation to all Disney theme parks and attractions, plus the Extra Magic Hours benefit, in which one of the four Walt Disney theme parks opens one hour early or remains open up to two hours after regular Park closing time for hotel guests. (Especially in these early days of FastPass+, where park guests are only allowed three fastpasses per day at just one theme park, those Extra Magic Hours are nearly essential to enjoying all the rides you want if you’re park-hopping during the day.)

The resort was designed by internationally acclaimed architect, Michael Graves, and is topped by five-story dolphin (the fish, not the mammal) statues. (I was thrilled when I saw them, as I’ve long been a fan of Graves, and own several of the iconic pieces that he’s designed for Target.) One of Graves’ themes is water, and this is amply demonstrated with majestic fountains in several scenic locations throughout the property. The most visible fountain, located on the Crescent Lake side of the Dolphin, cascades nine stories through five seashell-shaped troughs into a 54-foot clamshell.

The expansive grounds of the Dolphin Hotel include a man-made white sand beach (complete with oversized hammocks for lazy days) and more than three acres of water fun, including a Grotto Pool with waterfalls, a water slide, lap pools, a kiddy pool, a (luxuriously warm) spring pool, and four whirlpools. There’s no excuse for not relaxing!

e0128

If you’re into more strenuous activities, there’s also a health club that offers free weights, stationary bikes, and stair machines, plus there are miles of jogging trails surrounding the resort and the neighboring Disney properties and theme parks.

health_club1

I got one of the best Swedish massages of my life (from a masseuse called “Joy”–and she truly lived up to her name) at the Dolphin Hotel’s Mandara Spa. The atmosphere in the spa is one of complete tranquility. So, if you’re frazzled from the frenetic pace of visiting the theme parks, take a break at the Spa and say, “Ahhhhh.”

e0048

There’s no need to leave the hotel complex if you’re got a case of the munchies. Featuring 17 restaurants and lounges, the resort offers something for everyone, from the most passionate foodie to a guest seeking quick service before hitting the parks. (There’s even a 24-hour cafeteria–Picabu.)

Down on the lower level, the Fountain serves up delicious sandwiches, custom-grilled burgers, salads, and delectable ice cream (both hand-dipped and soft-serve) treats. If you want fantastic service, ask for Blanca or Kate.

Over on the Swan side, Kimonos offers authentic Japanese sushi in an intimate atmosphere. Dark teakwood, colorful kimonos hanging on the walls, and karaoke are hallmarks of this gem. The servers are friendly (especially Myong K) and treat you like family. There are a number of gluten-free items on the menu. If you’re not fond of sushi, the egg drop soup and shrimp tempura platter are both amazing.

c0149

No need to fret if you can’t get reservations at a character breakfast inside the parks–Garden Grove (Swan) offers evening dinners and weekend breakfasts featuring beloved Disney characters.

c0183

If adults in the family want to get out for a good meal without the small fry, they can drop the young ‘uns (ages 4-12) off at Camp Dolphin for fully-supervised programs, including arts and crafts, Disney movies, board and arcade games, and even dinner. (Cost is $10 per child, per hour.)

Besides restaurants inside the resort, there are also Disney shops, a candy store filled to the brim with retro sweets, and even an art gallery that features visiting artists.

A hotel is only as good as its staff–and members of the Dolphin’s staff are fantastic, from the front desk employees at check-in to the guest services workers (a shout out to Renee) who answer the phone when guests have a question. Even the hotel engineers are friendly and helpful. You will feel like an honored guest throughout your stay. And that, in itself, is indeed magical.

© Nancy Pistorius