Written by Robert Niles
Published: August 1, 2005 at 1:24 PM
A week at Orlando's new Nickelodeon Hotel is like Spring Break at Padre Island for nine-year-olds.
Okay, these kids are loading up on sugar instead of beer. And they wake up a lot earlier. But these girls.. and boys.. are going just as wild. Imagine booking a hotel room in the middle of a water park, and you've got a rough mental picture of what one finds upon checking in.
The old Holiday Inn Family Suites off Florida 536, across from the Marriott World Center, rethemed itself this spring, licensing the Nickelodeon brand for a complete make-over of the hotel. The suites remain, this time with Nick character murals adorning the kids room walls. Massive Nick toon cutouts keep watch over the arrays of water slides, pools and playgrounds that fill the hotel's two courtyards. A central food court building links the two room complexes, also offering a buffet, a sit-down restaurant, arcade, sundry shops and a karaoke studio to keep the kids fueled up and constantly entertained.
In a solitary act of parental defiance, the central building also offers a Nick at Nite bar for the grown-ups, something more than a few might find tempting after a day or two at this joint.
No, this is not a place for a relaxing break from a parent's hectic lifestyle. It is, instead, a celebration for restless kids bored by theirs. Theme park fans might consider an Orlando vacation without a Disney, Universal or SeaWorld visit heresy, but a family could get away with that here, and never suffer a moment's boredom.
That is, if your kids are into splashing around the pool and water slides all day and immersing themselves in Nickelodeon characters all evening. In addition to the full slate of crafts, movies, games and contests, each room in the hotel's three-room suites includes a television with more than 60 cable channels. The kids' rooms even come with extra TV speakers mounted in the walls next to the kids' beds.
The ghost of Roald Dahl shudders.
Kids' prime opportunity to meet their favorite Nick characters comes at each morning's Character Breakfast – available at an additional fee, though included in some room packages. Kids eat free at the (characterless) buffet, but parents have to shell out $12.95 for a rather ordinary steam-table spread.
The hotel serves a specific niche – families with kids old enough to handle themselves in the pool and on the water slides, but not yet too old that Nick characters have lost their appeal. If your kids are on the younger side of that group, try to opt for the larger Lagoon side, with its walk-in pool where young guests can wade in as far as they are comfortable. But be prepared to don a suit and get wet yourself. The Nick Hotel insists on parents' supervision of kids in the pool areas. (Just, please, for the love of all that is decent, buy a suit that fits before you go.)
Many parents will appreciate the three-room suite layout, which puts the grown-ups behind their own door in their own bedroom. Up to five kids could stay in each suite, with two beds plus a rollaway in the kids' room and a fold-out couch in the living area.
The hotel still needs to work out a few bugs. The free high-speed Internet access gives this hotel a huge plus, but making that access available only via a cable on a sofa end table negates it somewhat. How about a desk? Or wireless access, so a guest can log online from the makeup desk in the parents' bedroom?
Is the Nick Hotel a good choice for your Orlando vacation? Only if your kids love water parks and Nick. If not, why pay a premium when all you are using is the room? You can find nearby plenty of other reasonable places to lay your head.
But young Nick fans will find plenty to satisfy them here. Enough, perhaps, to allow their parents to save a few bucks on their vacation's overall cost by skipping a couple days at the parks. Families looking for an immersive themed vacation don't need to stay on theme park property anymore.
Room information and rates: For more information on the Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn, or to check room rates or book a visit, please visit our Nickelodeon Family Suites webpage.