In a town full of theme parks and tourist draws, it’s Florida’s history, nature and culture that are the unexpected attractions at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee. The resort’s signature 4.5-acre glass-enclosed atrium is home to thousands of tropical plants, animal displays, award-winning dining, a four-star spa and even replicas of some popular Florida destinations.
Once inside Gaylord Palms, guests will find the resort is split into three Florida-themed locations: Key West, St. Augustine and the Everglades. Each section is built around a main attraction, including Key West’s Mallory Square, the Everglades’ famous “River of Grass,” and St. Augustine’s historic Castillo de San Marcos.
Here are seven things you probably didn’t know you could do at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center.
Eat on a sailboat
Located in the Key West section of the resort is MOOR, a seafood restaurant that serves seasonal and locally-inspired dishes for lunch and dinner. The main feature at MOOR is the life-sized sailboat, which floats on a lagoon surrounded by saltwater fish native to Florida. Calypso drums, market lights and the glow of candlelight create a dreamy ambiance – almost making you feel like you really are out at sea.
Here, the focus is on local ingredients and dishes with items such as a fish dip made in-house, Cedar Key clams, a line-caught fish sandwich and even the MOOR Burger – dressed with apple slaw and spicy aioli – for landlubbers.
Plunge down a waterslide
Disney and Universal might have the headline-grabbing water parks, but Gaylord Palms has one on-site: the family-friendly Cypress Springs Water Park. Among its features: a zero-entry pool, a treehouse playground with waterslides, a double FlowRider for surf fans, and the new Big Cypress waterslide tower. Big Cypress has three waterslides, including the 48.5-foot-tall Florida Free Fall.
Catch a wave
Learn how to bodyboard or flowboard at Gaylord Palms’ double FlowRider, The Wake Zone. Surf a continuous wave that’s supported by padded walls, floor and a beach. The wave is very powerful, but don’t fear: the Wake Zone is built for wipeouts, making it a safe environment to learn the sport.
Enjoy an adult-only pool
Palm trees line this Miami-inspired South Beach pool, which is open to adults only and includes private cabana rentals. Take a break from younger guests and lounge poolside with a chilled beverage or appetizer from the nearby SandBar restaurant.
Watch an alligator feeding
Venture over to Gator Springs in the St. Augustine atrium where you can view young alligators and turtles cohabitating in an environment similar to a freshwater Florida spring. Staff from Gatorland provide feedings on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. (time may change).
See turtles, snakes, and grunts
An old Florida homestead rooted in the Everglades atrium called Sawgrass Place is home to three exhibits – a turtle hatchery, non-venomous snakes and baby “grunt” alligators. Keep an eye on the turtle eggs for signs of hatching and meet one of the baby gators on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Explore Ponce De Leon’s Fountain of Youth
Make your way to the Castillo de San Marcos fort in the St. Augustine atrium. Find treasure from one of the most famous Spanish shipwrecks, “Nuestra Señora de Atocha,” hidden in the lantern lit caves. The artifacts on display were discovered by famed treasure hunter Mel Fisher after a 16-year quest.
Travel around the fort toward the wedding gazebo and you’ll find Ponce De Leon’s Fountain of Youth located at the heart of the atrium. Though legend says that whoever drinks the water from the original fountain in St. Augustine will have eternal youth, guests here can’t imbibe from the replica inside the resort.
In addition to the list above, Gaylord Palms hosts several seasonal events throughout the year. In September and October 2017, Gaylord will feature Halloween-inspired “Goblins & Giggles” weekends. The resort’s biggest event of the year is Christmas at Gaylord Palms, ICE! featuring Christmas Around the World, which will run Nov. 21 through Jan. 7, 2018.
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