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High Country Club – Orlando Villas at ChampionsGate Review

travelguy

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The High Country Club Orlando Villas at ChampionsGate provides a private vacation retreat within a sprawling luxury resort. Experience the best of golf, sun and spa without ever leaving the resort. And when it comes to the Orlando Disney experience, High Country Club has built a better mousetrap.

SYNOPSIS:

How many decisions can YOU make on vacation? Do you choose to experience the energy of an active resort or the peacefulness of a private residence? Play golf or visit the Spa? Swim at the quiet pool, formal pool, active pool or lazy river? Room service or home cooking? Disney World or Sea World? Sushi or Steak? Greg Norman designed Scottish links style golf course or Carolina pines style course? Instruction by the world’s best golf instructor or hack away on your own? Fortunately for High Country Club members, you CAN have it all when you stay at the High Country Club Orlando Villas at ChampionsGate.

The High Country Club unit is located in “The Villas” section of the four diamond Omni resort at ChampionsGate. The Villas building is removed from the Omni hotel and has its own concierge but also has access to all the amenities of the Omni. This 1,850 square foot third floor end condo features three bedrooms, three full baths, living room, large dining room, full kitchen, den/game room and balcony. The layout provides privacy for guests by separating the bedroom suites on each side of the unit with the eating and entertainment areas in the middle.

LOCATION:

As you drive under the grand arches of ChampionsGate, you begin to realize the essence of the luxurious resort which house the High Country Club Orlando property. Located within the master-planned community of ChampionsGate, just south of the Disney mega parks, this resort is surrounded by world-class golf, 1,200 acres of natural wetlands and the excitement of the dazzling sites and attractions of central Florida. As you approach the entrance to the Villas lobby, you might be greeted by a trio of great gray heron that hang out in that vicinity and have been affectionately named Ned, Ted and Fred by the staff.

DECOR:

The High Country Club Orlando Villas at ChampionsGate is decorated with an understated elegance that makes for a luxurious feel and a soothing and serene stay. The surroundings consist of sunshine yellows, tans, browns, mauve, and cremes with accents of bronze, oak and walnut wood grains, granite, and leather. The unit’s interior architecture features grand columns, archways and a splash of Monet inspired artwork. Small squares and large floral prints in the carpet contrast beautifully with large and small natural colored tile throughout the unit. Muted mustard color, multi-color pinstripes and silver blue corduroy upholstering liven up the room’s energy. All of this combines to create a relaxing environment in which to recuperate from a bad day on the links, a frantic day at the theme park or a lazy day on the lazy river.

RESIDENCE:

The unit’s doorway opens into a small foyer area with tiled floor, recessed artwork highlighted by overhead spotlight and a coat closet to the left.

The focal point of the LIVING ROOM is a grand window, lined with sweeping, floral drapes, that overlooks the Omni hotel grounds, the driving range of the golf academy, the chip and putt course and the ChampionsGate International golf course. A queen sleeper sofa, bronze and granite coffee table and two walnut end tables with table lamps sit in front of the grand window. Two oversize leather chairs with a leather ottoman face the sofa from the other side of the Living Room. A ceiling fan keeps the room cool and a floor lamp and recessed spot lights supplement the sunshine from the grand window. A 42” plasma TV and DVD player (to watch Pirates of the Caribbean for the umpteenth time) sit on top of a large oak entertainment cabinet.

A full glass door on the left side of the Living Room opens to the balcony. A wrought iron table with four chairs provide comfort when watching the golf activities from the third floor balcony.

Two large columns and an arch separate the Living Room from the DINING ROOM. A large walnut circular dining table with six upholstered chairs sits in the middle of the dining Room. The table is large enough for a 19th hole buffet, laying out theme park maps for creating family plans of attack, or just putting together a large jigsaw puzzle. A massive and artistically questionable chandelier shines above the table. A large sideboard table with a huge granite top sits by the side wall. Two large water lilly prints adorn the wall above the table and a vertical loading CD player/stereo sits between two brass table lamps on top of sofa table.

There is a wetbar built-into a wall off the Dining Room. Plenty of glassware and cabinets are available for après golf or theme park recovery.

For those days when you don’t do the Disney Character Breakfast with Tigger, Pluto or some other second-tier cartoon character, the unit’s KITCHEN is compact but sufficient enough to feed the frenzy. Whether creating sausage links for the golf links or carbohydrates for the kiddies, the full size stainless steel appliances come in handy. The counter tops are granite and a convenient breakfast bar sits between the kitchen and Dining Room with two high stools. A large pantry closet helps to keep the clutter in the Kitchen to a minimum.

Immediately to the right of the foyer is the DEN. This is a small room with a full-size sleeper sofa, small coffee table and end table, and high credenza with two large drawers. A 27” TV and Xbox (with new games) are stationed on the credenza. This room might be more appropriately named the “Game Room” as it tends to draw the little Mouseketeers for entertainment after that chaotic day at Disney’s new “theme-park-of-the-moment”. The Den is light and airy with a floor lamp and recessed ceiling with recessed light fixture and spot lights highlighting water lilly and palm tree artwork.

One the left side of the unit is the MASTER BEDROOM SUITE. The Bedroom is furnished with a king size bed, large oak dresser and walnut night stands with large black lamps. A ceiling fan is placed above the bed, prints of colorful flora line the walls and a 27” TV sits on top of the dresser. A large closet connects the Bedroom to the Bathroom.

The MASTER BATHROOM has a long granite counter with dual sinks, a Jacuzzi tub set in a granite deck and a glass enclosed shower with granite bench seat. There is a large shelving area for towels and a separate toilet area. The entire Bathroom area is well lit with mirror light fixtures and recessed focused spotlights.

A second BEDROOM SUITE is located on the right side of the unit. The Bedroom has a queen size bed, night table with large black table lamp, and dresser with 27” TV sitting on top. This bedroom also has a ceiling fan and large closet.

The BATHROOM of this Bedroom suite has a shower/tub combination and a pedestal sink with a glass shelf.

The High Country Club Villa has yet a third BEDROOM to house everyone in your golf foursome or kiddie twelvesome. The Bedroom has a queen size bed, large dresser with 27” TV on top, night table with table lamp, ceiling fan and large closet;

The third full BATHROOM has a marble tiled shower with granite bench and a pedestal sink with a glass shelf.

A hall LAUNDRY closet houses a GE Spacemaker washer and dryer.

(continued ... )
 

travelguy

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Part 2

AMENETIES:

The main amenity of the High Country Club Orlando Villas at ChampionsGate unit is that it is located in, and managed by, the Omni Resort. This allows High Country Club members access to the full amenities of the Omni Resort. These include five on-site restaurants, a European style spa and fitness center, four pool complexes, 36 holes of championship golf , shuttle transportation provided to Disney theme parks, and the Camp Omni Kids programs (available hourly or daily)

Dining options at the Omni are:
Zen – Upscale Pan-Asian and Sushi
Trevi’s - Mediterranean-style dishes in an Italian garden atmosphere
David’s Club – Upscale sports bar
Clubhouse grill – Golf meets grill.
There is also a small deli with select groceries and prepared foods, a lobby bar and poolside café and bar.

The Omni European-style spa offers many treatments including full body massages designed to relieve muscle pain from golf and theme park activities. This spa is endorsed by the highly acclaimed CARMASA (Cartoon Mascots of America) representing workers laboring under heavy, furry costumes at theme parks worldwide. The spa also offers massages in the poolside cabanas.

The Villas has it’s own private pool and hot tub that should more than accommodate most guests. For those who are aquatically intrigued, The Omni has many options for water fun in a 15-acre recreational area including a heated “formal” pool with private poolside cabanas, heated “activity” (a.k.a. “kids”) zero entry pool, an 850-foot lazy river and waterslides. A large playground is adjacent to the pool area for land based kiddie kraziness.

Exclusive formal poolside cabanas are available for those addicted to extreme pampering. While soaking up the sun, pool attendants spritz sunbathers too tired to take a dip, as well as offer cool towels and cold fruit. The cabanas have televisions, a fully stocked mini-fridge, and complimentary smoothies and fruit.

The Villas at ChampionsGate offer 24 hour room service, USA Today delivery to the door each morning, an in-room safe and wireless internet throughout the unit. Security is great but unobtrusive throughout the resort.

The ChampionsGate resort must be heaven for the birdies and bogeys bunch. The resort has two Greg Norman designed eighteen hole courses that are uniquely themed from the elements of different continents. The first is a links-style International course hauntingly reminiscent of the British Isles with bagpipers playing on the 10th tee during sunset. The second, The National, a challenging American Carolina-style course, is a scenic showcase. And for the truly golf addicted, after a day on the greens, the lighted Champions 9 par-three course is ideal to work on the short game in the evening.

The High Country Club Villas at ChampionsGate unit is literally adjacent to the World Headquarters of arguably the best golf school in the world, The David Leadbetter Golf Academy. Even if you don’t know who Leadbetter is, you’ve probably seen him on TV or heard one of the PGA pros talk about him.

The week that we were at the High Country Club unit, the "Father/Son Challenge at ChampionsGate" was being played. This is a major golf tournament with a purse of $1Mil and broadcast by NBC. The field included father and son/daughter pairing including Nicholas, Palmer, Norman, Stadler, Trevino, Singh, Duvall, Love and others. The High Country Club unit is the closest property to the ChampionsGate Clubhouse and 18th hole grandstands. Many of the PGA pros stayed in the Villas at ChampionsGate property.


I inquired about a good restaurant for sushi from the High Country Club Concierge prior to our arrival and was given a list of suggested restaurants. To our surprise when we arrived at the High Country Club Orlando unit, the Villas concierge had left a menu and hand drawn map to the suggested sushi restaurant! The Concierge also provided free tickets to the major golf tournament that was happening at the ChampionsGate Golf Course during our stay.

The staff at the Villas and the rest of the Omni resort was extremely friendly and accommodating, similar to the legendary friendliness of the “castmates” at that other big Orlando area resort.

Disability Access – Entry into the Villas at ChampionsGate building, elevators and entry into the High Country Club unit are all at grade. Once inside, all floor areas are level but doors are standard residential width.

INSIDER TIPS:

Maybe the best amenity for the Four Diamond Omni resort is Morsels, a great coffee bar that features STARBUCKS cappuccino and espresso!! Starbucks coffee is featured throughout the resort. A Starbucks fix without leaving the resort! That rates another Diamond in my book. Bravo!

Should you feel the need to feed the rodent, ah, go see Mickey, the Villas offer free shuttles to all Disney theme areas at various times during the day and evening. And if you want the challenge of driving yourself into the mega-mess, the Villas location south of Disney avoids the traffic from the northern mega-hotel and timeshare areas.

Orlando has ALL the usual chain restaurants and much more. One of our favorite dining areas is the Mall at Millennia. The PF Changs is typical PF quality Asian cuisine. Cheesecake Factory and McCormick & Schmicks are also located there as well as the Blue Martini dance club for post-feeding fun.

Our global search for great sushi netted three entries in the Orlando area. Zen, at the Omni Resort, is a sophisticated pan-Asian restaurant with good food and, well, Zen-like ambiance. Ran-Getsu of Tokyo, on the touristy International Drive, has great sushi and real Kobe beef at high prices. Kumo’s Japanese Restaurant, located in a non-tourist area near the Omni resort, was a recommendation from the Villas concierge that proved to be a great little sushi and hibachi restaurant!

The Gym rat part of me liked the fitness amenities at the Omni so much that I never left the resort to wage my daily fight against aging. The Omni fitness center is sufficient with plenty of cardio equipment, Cybex machines and dumbbells although the gym is light on the weight and they could use some larger bars. The resort also has a half-mile jogging track around the pitch and putt course. We also did plenty of walking through the scenic golf courses. The Omni also has several tennis courts, a sand beach volleyball court and basketball courts

A Publix grocery store, Walgreens drug store, and several convenience stores along with other specialty stores are just outside the ChampionsGate resort. All the great Orlando mall and outlet shopping are a quick jaunt on I-4 north of ChampionsGate.

RATING:

The High Country Club Orlando Villas at ChampionsGate could have different ratings depending on your vacation activities. This is easily a 10 if your vacation focus is golf. The rating is 9.5 if your focus is a family vacation with kids as the property loses a half point for not being on Disney grounds but almost makes up for that with shuttles to the theme parks and the huge pool complex. As I do neither of those activities, I am still impressed with the quality of furnishings, location and amenities. Rating = 9.5.

:)
 
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