There is nothing quite like the feel of running across the finish line after 13.1 miles to get a sparkly royal medal.  Unless of course you count the feeling of relation that takes hold of you after fours hours of sitting by the pool, or after an afternoon spent at the spa.  Imagine being able to combine all these moments, into one experience…imagine that no one deadlines were tugging at you, and that you could immerse yourself in making every single moment matter for just a few days.

The good news is that those feelings, of health, strength, and relaxation are not a dream. They are real possibilities by combining an endurance event and a relaxing getaway.  Races are not hard to find, and with some research, you can find a property designed to pamper and soothe your every need, like I did by combining the runDisney Princess Half Marathon with a stay at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes.

Staying at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes | LiveDoGrow

Granted, it might have been a teensy bit easier for me to relax since I was there on my own- with no eight year old or husband in tow.  I am pretty sure though the Grande Lakes property, set amidst 500 acres of lush grounds, which is a shared project  between the JW Marriott Orlando and the Ritz Carlton Orlando (meaning that guests can take advantage of ALL of the amenities and experiences), has magical powers to make you forget the hustle and bustle of home, and maybe causing you to wish that you called Grande Lakes your home.

Travel, in my opinion, is about exploring, taking time for new experiences, and allowing yourself to become immersed in local culture, and a trip to Grande Lakes meets all three in spades.

New Experiences at the Ritz Carlton Orlando Spa

Making Every Moment Matter at Grande Lakes | LiveDoGrow

A long time fan of spa time and spa treatments, it does not take a lot to convince me about the benefits of healing waters and massage. Add in the fact that my aging body (and achey hips) had just run 13.1 miles and I was looking forward to trying my first Ashiatsu massage.  The word Ashiatsu combines the Japanese, “Ashi,” meaning foot and, “Atsu,” meaning pressure.  The Ritz Carlton Spa menu describes the massage as “In this ancient form of bodywork, utilizing a pleasantly hypnotic essential oil of peppermint, specially trained therapists use bars set in the ceiling to balance themselves while their feet perform broad, deep compressions to bring about structural change in chronically tight muscle tissue, while invoking a state of deep relaxation.” You might be thinking, the feet…really?  And yes, really. As in, I am not sure I could ever get another type of massage again. (also, it is a good thing I will be staying at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel for the Mom 2.o Summit in May, since they are the only other Ritz Carlton spa that offers Ashiatsu—though, shhh, don’t tell my husband!)

Exploring the natural surroundings at Grande Lakes

Making Every Moment Matter at Grande Lakes | LiveDoGrow

Although it would be easy to want to lounge around all day in one of the newly renovated rooms, in your bath robe, possibly on the balcony overlooking the pool, there is so much more to explore on property.  The 24,000 square foot relaxing lazy river beckons you to float away leaving your stress at the door, as do the hammocks that are perched lake side around the property.  Adventure seekers will want to kayak or take a private eco tour on Shingle Creek, the headwaters to the Everglades (the good news in not having tried this myself is that I can use this as  reason to convince my husband that we need to go again next year when I run another runDisney race).

Making Every Moment Matter at Grande Lakes | LiveDoGrow

Can’t wait for the next trip to Grande Lakes to go on the Eco Tour!

Immersing yourself in local tastes

Foodie tastes at JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes | LiveDoGrow

Whether you are sampling the local farm fresh produce and foods cultivated by the onsite organic garden at Primo, or sampling the sticky but sweet honey produced on site at Grande Lakes’ own  apiary, the farm to fork movement has taken hold of the cuisine. I knew the day would be off to a great start, when I noticed a made to order omelette station at Citron Brasserie, where I ordered a JW Life omelette with egg whites, piquillo peppers, asparagus, spinach, feta cheese, and caramelized onions. Then came lunch, where I could have sat at the outdoor tables at the Vitale Spa Cafe sampling every single thing on the menu all day long (deciding between a bento box option with choices like seared tuna and soba noodles or the Asian chicken salad was NOT an easy task).  Dinner (because after a half marathon, I crave protein) was a “simple” Black Angus burger with blue cheese and caramelized onions (and fries of course) at the Lobby Lounge at the Ritz Carlton.

So yes, I ran a half marathon, but more than just run 13.1 miles (and earn the title of “princess”), I made every single moment matter during my time at Grande Lakes thanks to the JW Marriott Orlando and Ritz Carlton Orlando. Because isn’t that what travel is all about?

Making Every Moment Matter at Ritz Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes | LiveDoGrow

elena sonnino



I was a guest of the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes during my stay.  No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.

Written by Elena Sonnino

Elena Sonnino

Chaser of Dreams. Life coach, wellness and travel writer, yogini, former teacher, adventure seeker, hiker, foodie …and oh right, cancer survivor. Elena writes about finding everyday wellness in far-flung lands and in her own backyard in the Washington D.C. suburbs.


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