Inland Oasis: Beyond the Beach at the Gaylord Palms

By Scott Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, July 11, 2014, 7:54 AM EDT

There’s plenty of ways to make a splash this summer “beyond-the-beach.”  Scott Fais brings back our popular summer series “Inland Oasis,” catering to families looking for an overnight “stay-cation” close to home.

Like the anticipation of a summer vacation, so is the flood of excitement at this inland oasis.

"You can see when you ask them the best part, all they do is talk about the pools,” says June Barbarito standing in three feet of water.

“That is all they want to do, is be out here at the pools,” June says of her daughters visiting from Jacksonville.

Just off of Interstate 4 near Walt Disney World awaits a quiet staycation for the entire family.

"The less time you spend in a car getting to a place, the better… more time to enjoy the resort,” says John Barbarito.

The resort is the Gaylord Palms Resort. With several amenities for folks of all ages, there’s something to do for everyone.

"The slides, they go that way and that way and that way,” says 6-year-old Alana Barbarito, using her hand to illustrate how the slides weave back and forth.

Alana enjoyed the water slides, while her sister Alicia liked the enclosed and dark tunnel slide.

"You can't see what direction you're going in,” describes 7-year-old Alicia. “You can't see anything."

Staying put and riding slides is part of the Gaylord Palms recently rebuilt pool complex.

"You got all of the same features that you would find at some of the key water parks around the area. And kids love it,” shares Randolph Burdon, the Director of Entertainment for the resort.

Also popular at the pool: a game of hoops in the pool. Floating balls and suspended backboards allow bathers to shoot baskets in the pool.

The Cypress Springs splash fort features several different levels of water jets, rope bridges, and geysers all topped off by a giant bucket that tips over several times an hour.

A television the size of a billboard lists weather conditions, sporting events and movies. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, dive in movies are shown at the pool. Families jump in and watch movies on the big screen.

But there is more than one pool here.

"If parents want to get away from the kids for a little bit, we also have an adult pool," Randolph says.

The Gaylord Palms offers a respite from the sun and afternoon storms. Under the glass, find more than 4 acres of gardens to stroll and explore. Here, paved trails lead past Florida landmarks like The Everglades National Park, Key West and St. Augustine.

"We're use to this,” says Randolph of Florida’s afternoon showers. “This is a daily occurrence in Florida."

In the atriums, find turtles, fish and find a family of alligators who postpone their afternoon nap just long enough to post for photos.

There is also a scavenger hunt for children that may last just as long as a passing thunderstorm. Timed perfectly for getting back out to the pool.

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