BY ANGELA GARY

When planning a family vacation, we usually plan the trip around one big attraction. We want a hotel that is as close to the attraction as possible.

We also want a hotel that offers plenty of things to do on the property so that we don’t even have to move our car if we don’t want to.

We were able to check everything off of our list on a recent trip to Orlando, Fla., to visit SeaWorld. We stayed at Doubletree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld.

The hotel offers a free shuttle to the park, which is definitely a plus. It’s also an easy walk from the hotel to SeaWorld.

The hotel also offered lots of outdoor fun and dining, which meant we didn’t have to leave in search of things to do.

At SeaWorld, you can check out some of the favorites of visitors, such as the Dolphin Show and the Shamu Show, as well as some new attractions, including the Sesame Street area which is being installed now.

The first thing we did at SeaWorld was stop for a photo with the Shamu character, who gave us a hug. We then headed over to the Dolphin Theater, which was a lot of fun, with visitors on the first few rows getting splashed by the dolphins. We also enjoyed the Arctic Area and the thrilling rides located throughout the park. It really does offer something for everyone.

We spent one day at SeaWorld and the rest of our long weekend trip at the hotel, where we found two large pools, outdoor games (shuffle board and a life-size checker board), mini golf, a fitness center and three outdoor fire pits that are a fun gathering spot in the evenings.

The hotel is a relaxing oasis, located on 28 acres of lush native palm trees and tropical fountains. You will feel that you are away from the hustle and bustle of Orlando, but you are actually just minutes away from some of the main attractions.

Special events, including outdoor movies at the pool, smores at the fire pit and arts and crafts for the youngsters are also offered. It’s such a beautiful property with lush landscaping and festive lights at night that we enjoyed spending as much time outside as possible.

Be sure to get an activity guide at the front desk. Some of the activities planned throughout the year are: Pool Party, Family Field Day, Selfie Scavenger Hunt, S’mores Night, double feature movies at the pool and crafts in Hideaway Cove.

Upcoming spring break activities, for March 13-25, include waterball, teen movie night, pool party (featuring hair-wraps, braids and airbrush tattoos).

We really enjoyed dining on the property. During our stay, we had several meals at Laguna, where you can sit indoors or outdoors, overlooking the pool area. Laguna is a full-service restaurant that offers a breakfast buffet, with omelets made to order, and lunch and dinner with salads, sandwiches, steaks and seafood on the menu.

I highly recommend the sweet citrus glaze salmon, served with orange-pineapple-ginger and honey-glaze, roasted sweet potato wedges, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, asparagus and tropical salsa.

The Market, located next to Laguna, was our stop for a quick breakfast. Starbucks products are offered, as well as pastries, sandwiches, salads and pizza.

Barefoot Bar is located pool-side and is a great place to get lunch while you are enjoying the sunshine.

I can’t forget to mention one of my favorite parts of a DoubleTree stay— those amazing chocolate chip cookies. We had a warm cookie on our arrival and another “for the road” when we headed home.

The hotel is located at 10100 International Drive in Orlando. For more information, call 407-352-1100 or check out the website, www.dtresortorlando.com.

To get the 10 percent “Experience Orlando” discount on your stay, book online and use the promotional code, “EXO.”

Angela Gary is an editor with MainStreet Newspapers Inc. She can be reached at Angieeditor@aol.com.

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