Nickelodeon Family Suitesby Brian Bennett, contributing writer
The entrance to the Nickelodeon Resort. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The Nickelodeon Studios used to have a home at Universal Studios Forida. Several years ago, for whatever reason, the Nickelodeon Studios tours ceased to exist at the mega-movie-themed resort off Kirkman road. For quite some time after that, the only place where kids could enjoy the Nickelodeon characters and "get slimed" was on cable TV.
That changed about a year and a half ago when the Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn opened just off SR 536 If you're familiar with the area, Mariott's Orlando World Center is located on the other side of SR 536 (which becomes Epcot Center Drive just a couple miles due West once you've entered Walt Disney World property), and obviously dwarfs the Nickelodeon resort in height, if not character.
QWERTY. Photo by Brian Bennett.
A few weeks ago I drove over to the Nickelodeon resort thinking that I would just take a walk around, snap a few photographs, and put together a photo tour for those of you that might be curious about the resort. I was quite taken back when I was stopped by security and refused entrance to the resort. Instead, I was told, I had to make arrangements with the media relations staff and set up an appointment for an escorted tour. Upon being told this, my first thought was that this was all very inconvenient for me. On the other hand, I later realized, this experience proved that security at the kid-friendly resort is much more robust than at the Disney resorts just down the road.
The check-in lobby provides a colorful first impression. Photo by Brian Bennett.
I did make those further arrangements, and a few days later I was back at the resort taking pictures and walking about the resort to my heart's content.
The ceiling of the lobby honors many of Nickelodeon's most popular characters. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The outdoor courtyards located in between the guest room buildings are filled with recreational facilities.
The main courtyard area between the larger grouping of suite buildings is the home of many of the resort's fun activities. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The resort consists of two main groupings of guest suite buildings. In between, there is a "mall" that contains the resort's shops, restaurants, food court, show theater, banquet facilities, and bar (for the adults).
A basketball shooting court, designed for all ages, provides a great place to enjoy the popular pastime. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Also nestled between the two sets of suite buildings is a small lake that provides both some tranquility and another excuse to celebrate the Nickelodeon characters.
The lake provides a quiet area in between the guest suite buildings. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Dora is just one of the characters you can see surrounding the lake. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Blue, the mystery-solving canine, hides behind a spray of a cooling fountain. Photo by Brian Bennett.
More Nickelodeon characters enjoy the lake water. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Patrick can be seen here at the lake, but also makes character appearances in the mall. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Spongebob Squarepants, Nickelodeon's "Mickey," is the main draw at the resort's character breakfasts. Photo by Brian Bennett.
I finally got beyond the lake and entered the mall. The Nick-at-Nite bar was dead ahead, and the rest of the food and beverage options were just ahead and to the left.
I'm sure the Nick-at-Nite bar is more popular when it's open than in the middle of the afternoon. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The Nicktoons Cafe is the resort's main restaurant and the location of the daily character breakfasts. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The daily character breakfasts feature many of the popular Nickelodeon characters. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Besides Spongebob Squarepants (who is available everyday), other characters that appear include Patrick, Dora the Explorer, and characters from the Fairly Odd Parents and Rug Rats on a rotating basis. Dora's cousin Diego will be making appearances beginning this Fall.
The mall also features several specialty and fast food vendors. If none of these appeal to you, then you can consider eating at the buffet restaurant that operates during the busier mealtime hours.
Barnies' Coffee is a local chain that provides high-end coffee and other beverages and the like. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The mall's subway builds all of the sandwiches the chain is famous for. Photo by Brian Bennett.
If burgers or pizza are more to your liking, check out A&W and Pizza Hut. Photo by Brian Bennett.
At the far end of the mall, the Universal Ticket Center provides shopping opportunities and a place to pick up your USF tickets rather than standing in line at the park entrance. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The convenience store offers snacks and other quick-purchase items. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Plenty of seating is available for food court customers. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The mall, even more so than some areas of the resort, is designed to celebrate the Nick characters. It's also not unusual to see some of the walk-around characters here in the mall at just about any time of the day.
Spongebob and Patrick are tops in the mall lobby. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Blue greets guests in the mall. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Patrick hobnobs with the resort's guests. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Banquet facilities (3600 square feet) are available for parties and other special occasions. Photo by Brian Bennett.
I was very surprised to learn that shows featuring the Nickelodeon characters are run several times each day. Studio Nick is where these shows are held, just a short walk from the mall.
Studio Nick is home to the Dora and Nick Live show. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The Dora show is held here on the Studio Nick stage several times each day. Photo by Brian Bennett.
One lucky guest gets slimed each day in the Nick Live show. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The mall also has the Nick Cyberzone where kids can play on computers with a direct connection to the Nickelodeon Web site.
Kids enjoy some interactive games at the Nick Cyberzone. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The 3,000-square-foot arcade filled with the latest electronic games and featuring fabulous prizes for those players that become the big winners. The resort also has a Kid's Spa where hair braiding, hair wraps, and temporary tatoos are the name of the game.
Several different types of rooms are available at the 777 suite resort. In addition to the two-bedroom family suite that I saw, a three-bedroom version and a one-bedroom version are also available. The three-bedroom suite features two-adult master bedrooms, a child's room, two bathrooms, and a kitchen with stove, full-sized refrigerator, and kitchen table. Different Nickelodeon characters decorate each room All of the resort rooms include high-speed internet access and cable-TV with pay-per-view movies.
The two-bedroom suite includes a shared 20-inch TV and a kitchette. Photo by Brian Bennett.
A full bathroom is shared by the adults and kids. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Bunkbeds are the most typical kids furniture, although kid's quarters with a twin bed are available. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The master bedroom features a king- or queen-sized bed and a larger 25-inch TV. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The resort features two different pool play areas. The smaller of the two, called the Oasis, includes a pool, some small water slides, and an interactive water play area featuring water spray jets, sprinklers, and a small tot-sized water slide.
This view of the Oasis pool shows the two water slides that dump riders right into the pool. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The Oasis pool slides are great for the younger kids. Photo by Brian Bennett.
And the very youngest of guests will enjoy the tot water play area. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The tot water play area includes its own very small slide for the toddler's enjoyment. Photo by Brian Bennett.
A view of the Oasis pool area including the tot play area. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The Lagoon, though, is the water destination of this resort. Featuring a zero-depth pool, four-story water slide tower, water slides galore, water jets and climbing nets, a couple of whirlpools, a poolside grill and bar, and a completely equipped fitness center the Lagoon is reason enough to visit the Nickelodeon Family Suites resort.
The poolside grill and bar can be seen at the far end of the zero-depth pool. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The waterslide towers over the pool area, and features the popular Nickelodeon characters, of course. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Wonder what the big bucket is for at the top of the tower? Photo by Brian Bennett.
Obviously, it provides a blast of cool water every three to five minutes. Photo by Brian Bennett.
I must admit that I was very impressed with the Nickelodeon Family Suites. Frankly, I'd expected a colorfully-painted and decorated hotel with a nice pool and larger than normal rooms. I expected to find some kid-friendly features and children-oriented activities and facilities. I did, indeed, see all of those things. What I didn't expect to see -- but did discover during my short walk around the resort -- is that the Nickelodeon Family Suites provides as much of a fully-immersed themed vacation experience as a guest of any Walt Disney World resort would enjoy. Judging by the behavior of the guests that I saw as I walked around the resort, both the concept and execution of this place is excellent.
One last point... due to the children's theme that this resort is based on, the Nickelodeon Family Suites tends to be very busy during those times of the year when school is out of session. In the Fall and Winter, when schools are running all over the country, the resort is much less busy... and therefore much more likely to be offering special discounted rates. If you're fortunate enough to be able to book during those less busy times of the year, make sure to do your homework and work out the best deal you can!