My family received a complimentary 2-night stay in a 2-bedroom unit at Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club, courtesy of Diamond Resorts International. All opinions stated here are 100% either my own or those of my family, as always.
A few weeks ago, my family packed up and headed south for a week-long road trip and Disney World vacation, as part of my 2014 TravelingMom retreat. After the retreat itself, we headed over to Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club (owned and managed by Diamond Resorts International) for a 2-night stay in one of their condo-style villas.
Location and Layout
Mystic Dunes is located only about 15 minutes southwest from the heart of Walt Disney World – we found it to be an easy drive back and forth to both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The property is a gated community where you use your key card to gain access once you’re checked in. It’s located a mile or two from a stretch of commercial highway with tourist shops and restaurants of all sorts, so you’re set whether you prefer to eat out or buy groceries and eat in. The resort is also easily accessible to Interstate 4 as well.
The resort itself is large – encompassing over 600 acres, with most of the villas overlooking the 18-hole, 7,012 yard championship golf course. There are four pools throughout the resort, as well as an 18-hole miniature golf course, and tennis and basketball courts. They offer a complimentary golf cart shuttle service for guests to help them get from one area of the resort to another and back. They also offer complimentary shuttle service to and from the theme parks as well.
Parking is available for each building – we were able to park right outside ours almost every time, with the one exception being when we returned from the Magic Kingdom around 11pm on Saturday night. We found a parking spot a short walk from our building.
Check-In and Accommodations
We were treated to the VIP check-in experience, which was quick and easy. The check-in area offered comfortable seating and complimentary snacks and beverages, which had my kids occupied quite nicely while we were completing the check-in process. A very friendly young man checked us in and went through the Resort Guide with us to point out various features and restrictions and everything else we needed to be aware of while staying at Mystic Dunes. We also received a Diamond Resorts bag with resort information, some samples of personal care products and a coupon book full of discounts for local shopping, entertainment, dining and attractions. Afterward, he marked the route to our building off on the map and we were on our way.
Our villa was on the third floor of Building 18 (there are 32 buildings in total). The villas are condo-style, so it looks and feels like an apartment building. The buildings have both staircases and an elevator – we found it quicker and easier to use the stairs almost exclusively since our villa was at one end of the building and the elevator was in the middle. We had a 2-bedroom villa that included a master suite with a king bed, a second bedroom with 2 queen beds and a full-sized pull-out couch in the living room (they offer 1, 2 or 3-bedroom options). The villa was also furnished with a full kitchen (including dishwasher and microwave), a stacked washer and dryer, two full bathrooms, a breakfast bar, separate dining room table and chairs, and a small screened-in balcony with table and chairs outside.
We absolutely loved both the layout and the space we had in this villa. The two bedrooms were at opposite ends, which gave my husband and I some space away from the kids. We had plenty of room to spread out, unpack our luggage, and enjoy each others’ company without being right on top of everyone. The master suite was huge – I think the en suite bathroom was just about as big as the bedroom, with a huge garden tub, separate glassed-in shower, dual sinks, and plenty of counter space.
My older two girls shared the second bedroom and were thrilled to each have their own beds, plus a television in the room. My youngest asked to sleep on the pull-out bed in the living room (rather than share with a sister) and she was very comfortable there as well. Having the kitchen and laundry facilities was very helpful – we took a bag of clean laundry home with us, and were able to keep the food budget well within control by eating breakfast in the villa and packing snacks and lunches to bring with us to Epcot.
Although there was a pool outside our building, my kids wanted to swim at the ‘big’ pool – the Dunes Lagoon that has a two-story water slide, waterfall and is definitely made with kids in mind. We hung out there in the one rain-free afternoon that we had on this trip, and it was so nice to finally enjoy the Florida sunshine and get wet with something other than rain. The pool has a zero-entry area that’s perfect for smaller kids – mine preferred to just jump right in this time. My 11-year-old tried the slide twice but said that she didn’t slide very smoothly or quickly, so I think that the amount of water going through the slide probably needed to be adjusted. She had lots of fun splashing around in the pool itself though, and I joined the girls as well.
The Dunes Lagoon pool offers private cabanas for rental – I didn’t take advantage of those, but wished I had when I was searching for a bit of shade to drag a lawn chair into. The cabanas offer a full view of the pool so sitting and relaxing while still keeping an eye on the kids sounds like a perfect way to enjoy your vacation to me.
If we had more time at the resort, I would have loved to try out the miniature golf course or rented bikes for a family bike ride. We also did not participate in any of the scheduled activities, but I was very impressed with what they offered -a 7-day schedule full of everything from crafts, dive-in movies, Wii bowling, trivia, bingo, and even activities specifically for teens or adults (21+). They also offer board game and movie rentals and a book exchange for those rainy days or if you just want some quiet time to relax in your villa.
I can’t speak to the golf experience at Mystic Dunes at all as I’m not a golfer nor is anyone in my family, but I can see it being the perfect arrangement for families that love to golf. The golf course is beautiful – we passed by parts of it while driving through the resort, and with so many other amenities and activities, even the non-golfers in the family would have plenty to do.
With the full kitchen in the villa, we didn’t have to eat out or order in, but we did decide to do so on our second night because we were exhausted. There is dining available on the resort grounds – Kenzie’s At The Clubhouse is a restaurant and lounge with a full menu and live entertainment. They also offer pick up and room service. The restaurant also offers pizza delivery through Maui Pizza – this is what we tried, and we all loved it. It’s hard to find a pizza that all 5 of us will agree on, but we all wished we could just take Maui Pizza home to Michigan with us.
Mystic Dunes also offers grocery delivery if you do choose to take advantage of the full kitchen and cook your own meals.
The bottom line
My family truly enjoyed our stay at Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club. It was a wonderful mix of being accessible to the theme parks and tourist attractions, while also being completed gated off, separate and serene for a break from the crowds and commercialized areas. There’s plenty to do on-site if you wish, but it’s also just a quick drive to be right in the heart of all things Mickey Mouse. The 2-bedroom villa was spacious and comfortable – perfect for a family of 5 (or even more if kids are ok with sharing beds).
If your vacation plans include nothing but the theme parks, then you might want to consider staying on-site at Disney (or Universal) since you’ve got the convenience factor of Disney transportation and the extra magic hours for their resort guests. But we have found on both of our Florida trips that we prefer some down time away from the parks, to recharge and relax, so an off-site resort like Mystic Dunes is a great opportunity to have a home base away from the hustle and bustle. It offers the conveniences of home, as well as the relaxation and comfort that you want while you’re on vacation.
One thing to note – as a villa-style community, there is no daily housekeeping service included with your stay. You can pay for extra housekeeping services, or just do what we did – pick up after ourselves, hang up towels for re-use, and be mindful to take care of everything and leave it as we’d found it when we checked out. We were there for only 2 nights, so that was fairly easy to accomplish – but if we had been staying longer, I would definitely consider paying for a day’s worth of housekeeping services, or even just a less-expensive ‘mid-week’ tidy cleaning.
Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club is owned by Diamond Resorts International and is a time-share community. I’m intrigued by the idea of having a dedicated place to stay every time we’d want to vacation in Orlando, but unsure about the cost and commitment of owning a time-share. This was our first experience with Diamond Resorts and it was a very positive one, so I’m happy to consider their properties for any of our future vacations. Diamond Resorts has a network of more than 300 vacation destinations located in 33 countries, so there’s most likely going to be one nearby almost anywhere we decide to travel in the future.
All photos taken by myself with the Panasonic Lumix ZS40 camera.