Youth are served at Holiday Inn Family Suites

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ORLANDO -- The drive from the airport to Holiday Inn Family Suites Resort Lake Buena Vista is a study in new construction.

The East Track pool at the Holiday Inn Family Suites Resort Lake Buena Vista. There are new hotels, office parks and attractions everywhere, all designed to draw visitors -- especially those with children. Upon arrival at the $80 million property, which opened in stages beginning last July, it was obvious that this resort is serious about families.

Our children were barely out of the car before they had discovered and then boarded JJ's Choo Choo, a 32-foot train parked in the lobby that offers free rides to kids at scheduled times all day. The kids-only check-in desk, the 1,800-square-foot Locomotion game room and the food court served to heighten the welcome.

Although the late January weather was unseasonably brisk, staff assured us that the pool was heated.

The property, which looks more intimate than its 800 suites would suggest, offers two main areas designed to offer some separation between families and other guests.

The East Track courtyard pool itself is a miniature water park with animals that squirt water, spouts that erupt and even a few stationary cycles armed with built-in water guns.

Toddlers can check out the separate kiddie pool, covered by an umbrella, and the poolside JJ's Recreation Program gives kids ages 4 to 12 a place to check out games and books and to watch videos.

Adults and older children can migrate to the West Track Courtyard, which features a lap pool, two whirlpool baths and a fitness center.

The property has seven 485-square-foot suite designs, including our choice, the aptly named Kidsuites.

An instant hit, the Kidsuites allow kids to occupy their own colorful semiprivate room with bunk beds, pint-sized furniture, separate TV and VCR and -- best or worst of all, depending on your point of view -- Nintendo 64. Video games are available for rent at the Locomotion game room.

Kidsuites children's rooms have a built-in dresser and fold-out cot, offering a cozy haven for two children or, in our case, a tight squeeze for three.

The Kidsuites are decorated according to different themes, reflecting participating sponsors such as U.S. Space Camp, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, RCA, A&W Restaurants and Edy's Ice Cream.

Devotees of the original Kidsuites, which made their debut in 1996 at the former Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort Lake Buena Vista, will note an evolution of the concept. The new version offers a private room with a door for parents. This allows proximity to the children but also privacy.

The resort features a range of other suite concepts, including 212 Classic Two-Bedroom Suites, for families with older children or adults traveling together, and 74 one-bedroom Residential Suites, equipped with expanded kitchen facilities. A Residential Suite and an adjoining two-bedroom Kidsuite can accommodate up to 11.

Most fun are the one-bedroom novelty suites, especially the 12 CinemaSuites. These offer film buffs a separate home theater room with 60-inch TV with stereo sound; dual recliners; bean bag chairs, and movie posters.

The 18 SweetHeart Suites each sport a heart-shaped whirlpool tub and 50-inch TV.

Disney Suites require purchase of a 5-day or longer Hopper Pass to Disney World.

Serious fitness buffs can opt for one of five Fitness Suites, featuring a separate workout room with recumbent cycle, abdominal bench, free weights, floor mats, 25-inch TV and a VCR.

Five Business Suites include a separate office with fax, modem, TV and VCR.

Rates include daily hot buffet breakfasts at the Club Car Restaurant and complimentary lunches and dinners for children when accompanied by a paying adult.

Kids also can grab a snack at the Foodland Express food court. Outlets include Pizza Hut Express, A&W and Edy's Ice Cream. Microwaveable food, snacks, beverages and sundries are found at the Diesel and Steam shop next to the food court.

A lounge designed to look like a club car called the Cabooze offers adults a 5 p.m.-to-midnight respite from the kids.

The property, only a mile from Walt Disney World, provides courtesy, scheduled shuttle buses to its four major theme parks. Transportation also can be arranged to other area parks for a nominal fee.

Three-room suites are priced from $129 per night, depending on type of accommodations and season.

Holiday Inn Family Suites Lake Buena Vista
Phone: (800) HOLIDAY or (877) 387-KIDS
CRS: all systems

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