The Hilton & Waldorf Bonnet Creek complex is the un-Disney experience. While there is a small Disney store inside, you will not see Mickey Mouse anywhere else. If you are an adult looking for a bit of peace away from Disney for some time, this complex will give it to you. Though do note that it is a huge complex with either lots of families during the holidays or huge convention groups many other times.
The Hilton has approximately 1,000 rooms and the Waldorf has around 500. The 1,500 room complex would rank among the largest 100 in the world. It would be a bit bigger than the Grand Hyatt in New York City to put it in perspective. The conference center that joins the Hilton to the Waldorf is about 250,000 square feet. Note that the 70-acre Bonnet Creek Resort area also includes a 1,100-room Wyndham timeshare resort and a ~500-room Wyndham Hotel, but I don’t know if there is any connection between the Wyndhams and the Hilton/Waldorf.
Hilton vs. Waldorf
If you are a HHonors Diamond member and staying during a non-busy week, the Waldorf may be worth it (especially if you are comparing them on points since then the WA is only 25% more) since there would be a reasonable chance to get upgraded to a 1 bedroom suite. Otherwise, most people would be better off saving their money/points and booking in the Hilton. Of course the WA is more elegant and refined, but they are both brand new and Hilton guests have substantial access to the WA amenities. Note that the hotels are connected indoors via the conference center. From pretty much the most extreme points in the two hotels (a room on a high floor in bthe Hilton to the Gym in the Waldorf, it was about a 9 minute walk for me. I am somewhat fit, but was carrying a baby, so I would give a reasonably conservative estimate of 10 minutes for the average stroll between the properties. I certainly ran it a few times (those long straight corridors in the conference center scream out for racing) as well. You can also walk between them outdoors and the hotel says that a circular sidewalk encompassing both properties is about 1 mile to give you some perspective.
- Pools: The best pool for familes is located at the Hilton. It has a lazy river and water slide and is large. The WA has a smaller pool area that may be quieter. The Hilton pool specifically says it is for both Hilton and Waldorf guests. The Waldorf pool does say something about Waldorf guests and doesn’t mention Hilton guests either way. It is not clear what the actual rule is, but the WA doesn’t seem to complain about a Hilton guest using their pool
- Fitness Centers: Each hotel has its own fitness center. The WA fitness center is significantly nicer. It is about twice the size (with the WA halving half as many rooms). The Hilton center is a 24-hour key access facility. It is basically at the highest end of 24-hour hotel fitness centers. The WA fitness center is maybe the nicest free hotel gym I have seen. They also have some extra amenities such as cucumber water (often empty), towels at each machine (some days), bottle of water at each machine (some days), bottles of water in the fridge (usually empty) and apples. The WA fitness center is accessed via the Spa with a sign in. It is not clear if Hilton guests are allowed though I interpreted the resort amenities card I got when I checked in at the Hilton to include it. I never had any issues signing into the WA fitness center with my Hilton room number (there may be a WA room wit the same number, I am not sure).
- Golf: Golf is located at the Waldorf but it doesn’t seem to matter where you stay. Hilton guests are clearly given access to the driving range and putting green for free as well.
- Rooms: See below for pictures, but a regular King room is pretty similar between the hotels. The WA may be a bit fancier, but in no way that matters. The size felt very similar. Of course, if you get the suite at the Waldorf, that is a whole different story.
- Restaurants: you can access restaurants at both hotels easily from either so it shouldn’t affect where you stay.
In net, if you are the typical family and won’t be getting a suite upgrade, stay at the Hilton. If money is no object, are not bringing kids and like things quieter and more refined, stay at the Waldorf.
Hilton charges $22/night as a resort fee on top of your room rate. Currently, the resort fee is included when you pay with points, however that wasn’t the case in the past and they mentioned this was a bit of an emerging thing so re-check for yourself. Note that the Hilton accidentally added the resort charge to my bill, but removed it without question — as always, check you bill!
The Hilton gives you a card that says you get the following:
- Unlimited access to in-room local and 1-800 calls
- Unlimited internet access throughout the resort (excluding meeting space)
- Kids under 12 eat free in Harvest Bistro from the kid’s menu for breakfast and dinner with a paying adult (this seems to include the buffet, a decent benefit)
- Access to the Waldorf Astoria Golf club practice facility (driving and putting range) and complimentary equipmentrentals (they even let some little kids visiting us play on the putting green for a bit.)
- Acesss to fitness amenities
- 20% off the pro shop and 10% off the spa
The Waldorf Astoria Orlando has a $25/night resort fee on top of the room rate, but also waives it for people paying with points. I believe the WA inclusions are similar, but I didn’t look at their card.
- Diamond comes with 2 free continental breakfast coupons per night
- Kids get a free breakfast with a paying or coupon adult, so you only need to worry about only having 2 if you have a 3rd adult in the room or want to invite friends over
- Note that if you say “pretty please” at the front desk during the middle of your stay, they may give you a few extra coupons
- The coupons only cover the cold items such as bagels, scones, bananas, oranges, apples, cut pineapple, cut other fruit, mini pickles, sliced tomatoes, onions, hard boiled eggs, some type of good olive & garlic dish, various cold cereals and some things I am forgetting
- If you want hot items, it is a $6 up-charge on the Diamond certificates (the difference between the $16 continental and $22 full breakfast). Hot items include made-to-order omelets (note that there can be a line), pancakes, sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, potatoes, waffles, and another thing or two I am forgetting. Other than the made-to-order omelets, the hot items aren’t very good. Think the free bulk hot buffet items you get at a Hampton.
- You can also use the coupons at the coffee shop. The coffee shop says “2 items” but the certificate says you should get the menu price of the continental breakfast ($16) toward other breakfast items, so YMMV. The coffee shop is mostly pastries with one breakfast sandwich option.
- Personally, I think they are being a little stingy not just giving the full breakfast to Diamonds, especially given that the hotel seems to never give suite upgrades and there is no executive club, but no big deal.
The Hilton Bonnet Creek / Waldorf Astoria Orlando hotels will nickle and dime you on certain things. These aren’t really enough to avoid the hotels since they can usually be handled, but management should really reconsider some of these.
- if you get a package delivered to the hotel over 1.1 lbs, they will charge you a handling fee based on its weight. They will charge even more if it is delivered to the room. They claim this is due to the complex primarily being a conference center and having two FedEx stores onsite. That is fine, but if you have a room and aren’t hosting a conference, why should you have to deal with this when most every hotel I have ever stayed at accept packages. I am constantly leveraging my Amazon Prime membership to have things I need shipped right to the hotel (sunscreen, a hat I forgot to buy for my daughter, etc.).
- Diamond status at the Hilton only gives you the cold items from the buffet. $6 extra for hot items (including made to order omelets).
- The hotel is in the middle of nowhere yet charges $16 a day for self-park (more for Valet).
- A bike rental is $15/hour. That is right “per hour”, not per day. Yes, a bike, not a car (no motor at all). And these are nondescript beach cruisers we are talking about. I would guess we are talking $300 retail at the local bike shop. Oh, the fond memories of SPG’s Phoenician that includes free use of bicycles. If you are going to use the bike for more than a few hours, give your money to the airline instead and BYOB or check out Craigslist Orlando to buy a used cruiser for a few hours of rental. You can donate it to your favorite hotel staffer on your way out and still be ahead. Oh wait, there is no where to go on the bike anyone, so scratch all that. The roads around Disney are very pedestrian and bicycle unfriendly.
- Self-park at the Hilton is $16 for 24 hours. You can walk from the Waldorf inside to the Hilton Garage. Less than an 8 minute walk for a fit person. Valet is a bit more
- For the day, you can park for free at Downtown Disney and take the Hilton/Waldorf Shuttle back to the hotel (see shuttles below), but I assume you can’t park there overnight (feel free to check for yourself though).
Rental Car vs. Shuttles
It depends. We arrived and did Disney without one.
- Airport: From the airport, we used the Mears Shuttle which is about $22 per person (50% discount available to travel agents), free for infants. Cab estimates ranged from $50-75, so the shuttle makes sense for 2 people but by 3, I would go for a cab. The local bus route appeared to be difficult to get to the Disney area from the airport (seemed like multiple connections), but if any reader had sucess using the Lynx busses, please comment below.
- Parks: For the parks, the Hilton/Waldorf run a substantial shuttle bus system (see below). If you are looking to go to non-Disney parks, or anywhere else, you will pretty much need to have a rental car or take a cab. Disney is very anti-walking outside its pre-determined areas. To get from the road that services the Hilton/Waldorf (and Wyndham) you have to get on Lake Buena Vista Drive which has no sidewalk anywhere near the hotel. We did walk one-way from the hotel to Downtown Disney. It took less than an hour, but involved some time hugging a tight shoulder over a bridge, jumping over a sewer ditch and other fun stuff. Certainly don’t expect crosswalks or anything else pedestrian friendly. Personally, I would probably choose to walk it if I didn’t have children with me and it was the middle of the day. Way too dangerous to do in the dark or to subject kids to. Also, various people around have said that Disney security will collect you from the roadside. Upside: you can get a free ride. Downside: private police forces are always a downside.
- There is a Hertz Local Edition at the Hilton Bonnet Creek. Note that is a one man shop, but has wonderful service. I arrived by shuttle and used the free shuttles to get around, but needed a car at check out to drive to my mother in law’s house near West Palm Beach after our Orlando trip. There were two of us plus an infant, so the rental ended up being cheaper than the bus services that do that route, but consider looking at both options. Since there was Hertz in the hotel, that meant that I didn’t need to cab to the car rental location making any additional cost for Hertz irrelevant. I also have access to a corporate rate at Hertz which made it a no brainier. Hertz seems to keep a separate set of cars for one-way rentals and the car they had set aside for us just came in from Ohio. I believe the last renter returned it late, so they didn’t have time to clean it and fill up the tank before my rental time. I believe they would have found another car, but I told them not to worry about it. It was clean enough and I just needed to return it with the same amount of gas that it left with so it doesn’t matter. The significant further discount they gave me was well worth the 2 specks of dirt. If you are in Orlando and want to rent from Hertz, call 407-239-4239 and ask for Charles
- Magic Kingdom Transportation Center – every 30 minutes from park open to close
- Epcot – Every hour from 8:30am-10:30pm; this brings you to the main epcot gate and monorail terminal, NOT the “International Gateway”
- Hollywood Studios (DHS) – Every hour from 8:30am-close
- Animal Kingdom – Most hours from 8am-close
- Downtown Disney – 6 per day from 12:30pm(going) till 11:40pm(return); DTD has free parking
- Dinsey Boardwalk – take shuttle to DHS and then walk or take ferry (note that the ferry may close before the last shuttle back, so leave enough time to walk back to DHS from a late dinner
- Other Hotels – there are shuttles to many area hotels and most Disney owned hotels from Downtown Disney
- Malls, Non-Disney Stuff – there are many routes on the Lynx system buses from Downtown Disney
- Lynx Buses from Hotel – there are two connections per day by Lynx busses to the hotel. Ask the hotel about the “bus the housekeepers take” or they will be confused about the concept of local buses.
We stayed in a Hilton King Room with a “Disney View” on a upper floor This was the upgrade they gave as a Diamond from the lower floor we booked. The Hilton is known to be stingy in giving Diamonds an upgrade beyond a view/floor.
Hilton King Room:
We also took a look (and some pictures) of two Waldorf rooms, a 1 bedroom suite and a king room.
The grounds are very pretty. The “aerial views” are from a high floor “Disney View” room.
The lobby bar at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is called “Peacock Alley”. Peacock Alley has some pretty good food options and is a nice place to sit around and have a beer as well. Better beers are about $7 and 22oz specialty craft beers are $16. They accepted the free drink coupon that Diamond members get at check-in to the Waldorf Astoria for the 22oz craft beers. The coupon says “draft or domestic”. The $16 beer was a Sam Adams specialty red which is made in the USA. We also had sandwiches there that were very good. On the couches, the service was very good one night and not the next. As a lobby bar, it is probably hard for them to guess how much staff they will need. They also have good free beer nuts (3 types) that they deliver to those ordering drinks at the bar or upon special request.
The Hilton/Waldorf complex is a great place to bring kids. The Disney owned properties may have more “Mickey Mouse” type features, but the Hilton has a lazy river, large pool, water slides, kids eat free at breakfast and dinner, etc.
Waldorf Astoria Kids Club:
The Waldorf also has a kids club that watches children ages 5-12 for $75/day ($25 each additional kid) daily from 10:30am-2:30pm and on Friday and Saturday nights (including dinner) from 6pm-10pm. Call 407-597-5388 for info and reservations.