What makes you the happiest? Is it spending quality time with friends or watching TV on the couch? In a recent survey HomeAway asked more than 4,000 people in the US and Europe that exact question. The majority of participants said a vacation makes them happier than a successful day at work or a romantic night with their partner.
In honor of this recent finding and International Day of Happiness March 20, HomeAway searched for the “happiest” vacation rental listing on the site. When it came to picking just one, I think we can all agree that nothing tops an ice cream shaped pool!
Enter the Sweet Escape, an 8,000-square-foot, 5-acre, 10-bedroom mansion and estate, which is part vacation rental and part theme park. That’s right, not only can you spend the night at a theme park, but you can also have it all to yourself. It’s the best of all worlds!
Located just west of Orlando in Clermont, the Sweet Escape is an out-of-the-box theme park vacation. When I chatted with the owner and property manager, Andrew Greenstein, he stated that the inspiration for it was really just an extension of his own life. As he put it, “I always dreamed of playing non-stop, so I wanted to create homes that reflect what I dreamed to be the ultimate place to live, laugh, and love.”
What’s resulted is a dream home that can then be shared with others. And it’s not just one home, as Greenstein has a couple of other homes, including the Ever After Estate, which was featured on HGTV’s “Most Outrageous Homes in America,” and the Great Escape Lakeside, another themed property that recently made Guinness World Records for the world’s largest word search.
For both kids and adults alike, Greenstein’s properties bring childhood dreams, games, and theme parks to life in a way that you can experience them first-hand. One guest said, “Just incredible fun! I don’t normally do these kinds of things but my wife and daughter talked me into it and I couldn’t be happier.”
Some of the highlights of the Great Escape include the 30,000-gallon pool, which is in the shape of a giant ice cream cone, and features a slide, squirting Hershey’s chocolate bottle (except squirting water, rather than chocolate), and a hot tub that is the cherry on top. Other amenities include a splash park, arcade, miniature golf, carnival games, a 1,400-square-foot karaoke club, and life-sized board games, such as Candy Land. Naturally, all of the rooms are themed, too, such as the PEPSI bedroom with its own pinball machine, and the carnival games bedroom with its own carnival game booth.
When I asked Andrew what some of the crowd favorites were, it really varied. For kids, it’s often things like the ball pit and laser tag, while adults gravitate toward the indoor sauna and massage room, naturally. Whether day or night, children or adults, the ice cream cone pool seems to be one of the most popular attractions. However, Greenstein mentioned that he’s constantly modifying the property and has plans of adding new attractions in the future.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of the Sweet Escape is an experience you can have at no other theme park. You have a theme park all to yourself, but without any crowds, bathroom lines, or the need for a Fastpass. And it never closes. It’s your own personal theme park, open all day, every day of your vacation. As Greenstein puts it, “There’s something about being in an environment where the parents aren’t stressed over cash and lines.” Furthermore Greenstein goes onto say that many families end up spending less time at the major theme parks nearby after they arrive at the Sweet Escape.
However, if you do want that Walt Disney World Resort experience, it’s only 30 minutes away. And then you can come back to your own theme park. Late-night game of Marco Polo or hot tub soak anyone?
With 10 bedrooms and enough room to sleep up to 52, the Sweet Escape is great for a group of families, or even family reunions, which Greenstein says is one of the most popular uses of the Sweet Escape. However, it’s also been popular for weddings, corporate retreats, and milestone birthday celebrations.
Greenstein’s parting words to me, playing off the George Bernard Shaw quote (which is displayed on the living room wall): “Don’t stop playing because you get old, you’ll get old because you stop playing.” Perhaps there hasn’t been a sweeter escape, to let your kids run free and wild, while also allowing your inner kid to let loose. And all without restraint, lines, or waits for the bathroom.
Whether your happiest self can be found at a beach house in the Caribbean, in a cabin in Aspen or playing at a private theme park in Orlando - anyone can find their happy place HomeAway.com.
What do you think is the happiest rental on HomeAway? Leave a link in the comments below!