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See the Laid-Back Gaylord Palms Resort in Florida

  by Jeff Voth

The Catfish is a plenty good enough eat for anyone - Mark Twain

Imagine yourself transported backwards in time, to a place where the living was easy and the biggest decision to make on a daily basis was whether or not to go poling for catfish down by the lazy river.

Of course that might entail having to wind your way past a few alligators and snapping turtles to get to your secret fishin’ hole, but such are the things required when trolling the shores of an Everglades swamp for those easily spooked Creole critters.

After a warm, sun drenched day down by the water, what could be better than taking in the picturesque sites and sounds of St. Augustine, America’s oldest city, or spending the evening dancing to the festive beat of Key West?

Checking in: A beautiful experience

If all of this sounds too wonderful to expect from a modern resort, consider the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, Florida. It offers this and more, while situated within a five-minute drive of the sunny south’s largest tourist destinations, Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando.

One of three Gaylord Properties located in the U.S., (the newest property, The Gaylord Texan opened April 2, 2004) the Gaylord Palms Resort was constructed to offer the finest accommodations and services available, while providing a resort experience that is second to none. In fact, the exquisite amenities located at the Gaylord Palms may have you questioning whether or not a trip to Disney World is even necessary.

From the moment you arrive under the large, four-lane stucco canopy, the number one goal of each employee, to satisfy your every need and accomplish this feat with a genuine smile, becomes evident. A minimum of two attendees greet arriving guests, one to open the driver’s side door and trunk, the other to unwrap weary passengers from their vehicle and greet them with a warm welcome.

It is rare for me to stop and stare with wonder as I enter the main foyer of any hotel or resort, but the Gaylord Palms offers such a unique and lavish take on turn of the century Floridian architecture, that I found myself doing just that.

When this feeling of shock and awe does strike, I make sure to move on as quickly as possible. There is nothing worse than meeting the hotel cleaning staff for the first time as they wipe up the puddle of drool collecting at your feet. Of course I’m fine with it, but it’s so embarrassing for everyone else.

A “backless” check-in desk looks out to the expansive main atrium, the focal point of The Gaylord Palms. The resort offers 4.5 acres of glass enclosed breathtaking scenery, divided into three distinctive Florida settings; St. Augustine, Key West and the Everglades. Each themed atrium reflects the architecture, beauty, environment and flavor of the destinations.

Located proudly at the center of the St. Augustine atrium is a reproduction of Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest Spanish fort in America. There has even been a recreated fountain of youth, where weary guests can dip their hands and take a drink from the “sacred” water.

As part of the Key West atrium, a 60-ft sailboat is berthed in a 161,000-gallon wave-filled coral reef.

In the Everglades, an eerie fog settles over those guests who pass through the various walking paths and wooden bridges, while the mysterious “river grass” comes to life all around.

There are three unique dining experiences await guests staying at the resort. The Old Hickory Steakhouse offers seating for 208, serves dinner only and is considered dressy casual. Their specialty is Certified Black Angus beef, prepared of course to your specific request. Celebrity Chef Terrance Brennan also offers an impressive cheese course of handmade artisanal cheeses.

Located near the towering 60-foot sailboat, Sunset Sam’s Fish Camp seats 230 and serves a dinner only menu in a casual Caribbean atmosphere.

For those seeking a meal anytime during the day, consider the Villa de Flora as your main stop. This open, European style restaurant offers an excellent menu with reasonable prices and is conveniently located near the many shops found in the main atrium. Call ahead as the menu and outdoor atmosphere do make it the most popular of the three.

For the business traveler, the Gaylord Palms provides over 400,000 square feet of state-of-the-art meeting and conference space including a 178,000 sq. ft exhibition hall. Each of the 1,406 rooms is wired for high-speed Internet access, while those requiring a full service business solution can make use of the Pitney Bowes Business Center also located on the premises.

When it’s time to relax, which for me that’s every chance I get, the Canyon Ranch Spa Club offers a full service, European-style spa, wellness and fitness facility, along with a full service beauty salon. The available services include massages, therapeutic bodywork, mud, aromatherapy, ayuvedic and seaweed treatments, facials and conditioning body scrubs. Then there are the certified fitness instructors that teach guests everything from tai chi to yoga.

Of course relaxing comes in many forms and for some this means honing their skills on a golf course, or reclining by the pool. Guest privileges at the Gaylord Palms include the opportunity to play a round of golf at the prestigious Falcon’s Fire Golf Club.

One of two illustrious pools at The Gaylord Palms Resort.

Two pools offer their own unique spin on easy living. The Marine Activities Pool spotlights a water slide in the shape of a gigantic octopus and a sand beach play area that features playful sea horse waterspouts. South Beach Pool features tented cabanas, poolside massages and whirlpool spas. Ahhh!

With all this going for it, how could anyone find time to sleep?

In keeping with the atmosphere of the resort, the hotel maintains its distinctive themes throughout the guest rooms.

In Key West, guests revel in a tropical theme of energetic, bold colors, crisp white walls, trim, shutters and furnishings.

St. Augustine rooms embrace old Florida; highlighting Spanish and Mission styles, warm colors, tapestry motifs and period ceramic tile patterns.

My stay included a suite in the lush Everglades quarter. The rooms were spacious and elegantly appointed. Their attention to detail was depicted throughout the wicker furnishings and palm-frond design of the carpeting, which together create the appeal of a private retreat. Some of the nicer touches included luxurious white bath sheets and an unlimited supply of complementary bottled water and juice.

A stay at the Gaylord Palms Resort is unlike any other I have experienced in the Orlando area. Its massive presence dwarfs other hotels by comparison, but somehow still manages to hold on to the quaint flavor of a traditional Florida plantation. For those looking to enjoy all the benefits of a modern, AAA 4-Diamond resort but with a southern heart, this is your place.


Gaylord Palms™ Resort & Convention Center
6000 W. Osceola Parkway
Kissimmee, Florida 34746

Telephone: (407) 586-0000;
Reservations: (407) 586-2000