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September 16, 2015

Maingate Resort and Spa - More Than Meets the Eye

Welcome to Maingate Resort and Spa! I have a confession to make before we begin our tour. To say I was apprehensive about my stay would be quite an understatement. This was not the first time we checked into Maingate... but it is the first time we stayed. A few years ago, we thought this seemed like an ideal resort - conveniently located just off Walt Disney World property (as the name suggests), but without the Disney resort price tag. We barely set foot in our room before we turned right around and asked for a refund. It was that bad. This time around, I had to tackle my stay in a critical way, and I truly hate being in the position to write a negative review, but I feel this nagging obligation to be honest when sharing my opinions on this site. Suffice it to say, I was conflicted before I even arrived. 


At check-in, I immediately took notice of the changes to the lobby. It was well decorated, modern, and immaculately clean. This took my concern down a notch right from the start. Maingate has undergone a few changes since my previous visit, starting with a change of ownership. Carter Hospitality Group acquired Maingate, imposing a multi-million dollar renovation. Carter Hospitality is a relatively new company that oversees five resort hotels (four in Florida), with more properties currently in development. They specialize in finding properties with great potential and bringing that potential to reality. Maingate is a perfect example of a property that simply needed a little TLC. The buildings are impressive - concrete and very well-constructed. I have to add that this was the quietest hotel I have stayed in in years, and that wasn't due to a lack of guests! This was a property worth salvaging, and I give Carter all the respect they are due for having the vision to do so. But, I had to wonder skeptically... did their effort extend past the lobby?
Short answer - YES! As we made our way to our room, I took note of the fact that housekeepers were very present throughout the property. There was no shortage of friendly staff hard at work, and this helped me to believe we wouldn't be walking into a neglected room. The only negative I could note upon entry was that the door was extremely heavy and took a good deal of "oomph" to open. I do realize that I'm a weak-ish little person, but my husband is packing a bit more strength, and even he had to put some weight into our entry. I'm pleased to report that the effort was worth it. The room was not only visually clean, but it smelled wonderful. Two very comfy beds, a cozy soft chair, desk, and dresser - all in great condition. There were even unnecessary, but very appreciated special touches, including a Keurig machine... fancy!!
LG flat-screen with a better channel selection that many area hotels, and the dresser housed a safe and dorm fridge. I liked that these items were tucked away rather than out and taking up space in the room. Although this room was standard in size, it felt bigger without the usual clutter you'd experience in many hotels. 
The bathroom was beautifully done. The smart use of colored tiling will easily prevent the dingy, aged appearance that often goes along with the traditionally bland white bathroom. The shower curtains are cloth, rather than vinyl, and there was an ample stash of towels. Did I mention that they supply Neutrogena brand products? Nice touch! Thorough room analysis complete - I approve! Insert dramatic sigh of relief here!
I always encourage Orlando visitors to make time to enjoy their resorts. I know this is a destination that offers so much amusement, and many of our tourist guests feel the need to maximize their theme park time. I do understand this, but I also understand that we have some worthy amenities to explore at our hotels! We stayed on the second floor, around the corner from the lobby building, and we had a gorgeous view. The landscaping was simply perfect - not overdone and clustered, and far from poorly-considered. There were simple colorful plants hidden amongst the greenery, and subdued touches thoughtfully added in. 
Behind the lobby, a long hallway winds around to reveal two restaurants, a gift shop, and meeting spaces. I'm the type to sincerely appreciate decorative details, and Maingate has plenty of these! Sitting areas are strategically located all over, and the decor is tasteful and pleasant. 
As for those meeting spaces - there are three! Two of which I had to personally squeal over. After all, I am a die-hard fan of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe (the rooms' namesakes). Well played, indeed! These rooms are spacious, open, and customizable for any type of event. Maingate has hosted pet adoption events, safety fairs, and parties! The meeting rooms have exits directly onto an outdoor patio common area, as well as interior doors to the aforementioned long hallway. 
The outdoor patio beside the building is covered, with wood-plank flooring and plush, comfortable seating - just steps away from one of the three on-site pools. 
This pool area is massive, with plentiful seating. The main pool is gated, and separate from a small kiddie pool. Beside this area, there is a lovely, open courtyard and playground. 
The playground is only one of the areas reserved for recreation. You'll also find a volleyball court, game room, and basketball courts. 
The three pools at Maingate are spaced out, assuring that each cluster of buildings is conveniently located near one. Which leads me to another surprising discovery - this property is sprawling! We walked the entire resort, and it was more expansive than it originally appeared to be. So much of the resort is rather hidden, with a somewhat deceptive layout. There are over 500 rooms at Maingate!
Each of the pools has a unique shape. Take a close look at this one! Does it remind you of anything? Perhaps a famous Maingate neighbor? That's right - those are Mickey ears! Who said that your Disney magic has to end at the Walt Disney World gates?
Let's revisit the main building for just a moment. I did mention a few more notable areas in there, including a gift shop with just about every common necessity, and a decent assortment of appealing souvenirs!
It's always nice to have on-site dining options as well. After a long day of theme parking (or before it), it's good to know that you can relax and dine close to "home". And who doesn't appreciate knowing that you're not limited to spending a small fortune on high-priced theme park food? There are two restaurants at Maingate, and both are affordable, with varied menu options. They're also above the level of typical hotel-neighboring eateries such as Denny's or Waffle House. Choose from a diverse buffet...
...or a well-themed, charming diner!

So, here's the summary opinion of Maingate Resort and Spa. It's much improved since Carter Hospitality's "magic wand" cast its spell. Is it worthy of royalty? Not necessarily. Maingate is not a lavish, extravagant resort on par with Trump Tower, but it also doesn't claim to be. However, it is better than you may expect at first glance - and better than some higher-priced hotels and resorts in the area. Here's a point that I never expected to make, and this says it best... A week before our Maingate stay, we stayed at the Walt Disney World Swan. I was MORE impressed with Maingate! My Swan review is coming soon, and you'll quickly notice the glaring differences that made that stay equally as surprising as my Maingate stay, but in the opposite direction. I would pay more for Maingate, but I wouldn't even return to the Swan for free. It's ironic, considering that the Swan is more than double the price of Maingate. I often urge family and friends to consider off-site hotels during their Disney visits because you really can get an equivalent (or better) room for a much more reasonable cost. Maingate provides free transportation to the parks, and you can still enjoy all of the benefits of a Disney vacation while being just around the corner. It simply makes better sense. Sometimes the best option is the one you may overlook. One question that you probably have by now is - where is the spa? I was curious about this one myself. Well, it's in the works! Carter Hospitality is still in the process of bringing Maingate to its full glory, and this is part of their ongoing efforts to revitalize the property. Stay tuned for more great things to come from Maingate Resort and Carter Hospitality Group. I know that I am looking forward to returning for another staycation in the future once the entire project is completed!

For more information on Maingate Resort and Spa, as well as their rates, visit their website or check them out on Facebook and Twitter