What's New

With its 114,000 hotel rooms and 2.1-million-square-foot Orange County Convention Center, Orlando is constantly expanding its product to accommodate an ever-growing number of visitors. Planners will find that it's never the same city twice.

Veranda Park, a $500 million multi-use project located three miles from Universal Studios Florida that is opening in phases through 2007, will encompass specialty shops, restaurants, and a 150-room luxury hotel. There is also a high-tech, digital, 20-screen movie theater that's available for corporate events.

The area's culinary scene is expanding, with new restaurants like Captain and the Cowboy Steak & Seafood Grill in Apopka; Manny's Chophouse in Longwood, featuring aged steaks, fine wine, and seafood; and Dixie Crossroads, a Titusville landmark seafood restaurant that opened a location at Festival Bay on International Drive.

And in nearby Kissimmee, the $30.2 million “BeautiVacation” roadway improvement project — a three-mile stretch of roadway along U.S. 192 — was recently completed.

In Daytona Beach, the big news is the February opening of the $29 million News-Journal Center, a performing arts complex on the west bank of the Halifax River that contains two theaters — one seating 859 and the other 264 — along with rehearsal rooms, classrooms, a catering kitchen, a gift shop, and a coffee bar. Further propelling the diversification plan in Daytona Beach is Ocean Walk Village, which is opening in phases through 2007 and includes resorts, a convention center, and a retail complex.

The other major city in the region, Tampa, will be site of the NFL's Super Bowl in 2009. Coming online this summer will be a 360-suite Embassy Suites Hotel with 11,000 square feet of meeting space opposite the Tampa Convention Center.

Facilities Update

Orlando/Kissimmee Area

  • Orlando's 1,338-unit Caribe Royale All-Suites Resort & Convention Center, which encompasses 1,218 one-bedroom suites, 120 lakefront two-bedroom villas, and 150,000 square feet of meeting space, opened a new two-story, 3,500-square-foot fitness center in November.

  • Slated for completion in July at the 510-room Florida Mall Hotel and Conference Center, formerly known as the Adam's Mark at Florida Mall, is a $23 million enhancement program that includes the addition of 20,000 square feet of meeting space and technology upgrades to the Orlando property.

  • Orlando-based real estate trust CNL Hotels & Resorts has purchased the 500-acre Grande Lakes Orlando resort, which includes the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton, Orlando. Slated for a September 2006 debut at the 584-room Ritz-Carlton is a new 14,135-square-foot ballroom, which will accommodate up to 1,500 people, with a separate 3,000-square-foot private patio available for outdoor functions. The addition brings the Ritz-Carlton, Orlando's total meeting space to 47,635 square feet.

  • The 750-room Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando has completed an extensive $5.5 million renovation that includes new bedding, pillows, curtains, upholstery, artwork and lamps, and carpets in all rooms.

  • Scheduled to open late this year is the Regent Winter Park Spa & Residences, operated by Regent Hotels International. It will feature a 150-room luxury hotel and spa in downtown Winter Park.

  • The 778-room Renaissance Orlando Resort at SeaWorld is gearing up for a $20 million makeover this year, which will include the complete refurbishment of the Crystal and Coral ballrooms. The hotel also plans to open a full-service spa in 2007.

  • The 1,334-room Rosen Centre Hotel is adjacent to the Orange County Convention Center. The hotel has 106,000 square feet of meeting space, and it offers an off-site airline check-in and a TSA-approved remote skycap service that allows guests to receive their airline boarding passes and check their luggage directly from the hotel.

  • On schedule for a September opening is the 1,500-room Rosen Shingle Creek Resort near the Orange County Convention Center. It will feature 250,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 95,000-square-foot ballroom, a spa, and an 18-hole championship golf course.

  • Royal Plaza in the Walt Disney World Resort has reopened after a multimillion-dollar renovation of its 394 guest rooms, common areas, and 17,500 square feet of meeting space. The hotel had been closed since August 2004, when it sustained damages from Hurricane Charley.

  • The 260-unit, 10-story Sage Resort, a new condominium hotel near the Orange County Convention Center, is scheduled to open in June 2007.

Daytona Beach

  • Following an extensive, propertywide renovation and refurbishment program, the oceanside 315-unit Daytona Beach Resort & Conference Center is primed for group business. Within walking distance of boutiques, restaurants, and entertainment, the resort features two oceanfront swimming pools; a fitness center; and 20,000 square feet of meeting, banquet, and exhibit space, including the Tides Ballroom, which can accommodate 1,000 people theater style.

  • Daytona Beach's largest oceanfront resort has undergone a $20 million refurbishment program and reopened as the Hilton Daytona Beach Ocean Walk Village.

Port Canaveral

  • Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach is developing a 400-room hotel and resort complex along the Banana River in Port Canaveral. The surf-themed project will include conference space, a surf school, a Ron Jon store, entertainment, and retail stores and restaurants. It is scheduled to open within three years.

Tampa/St. Petersburg Area

  • The 800-unit Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa recently introduced a new meeting venue that includes a 5,400-square-foot ClearSpan tent that is sealed and climate-controlled. It is surrounded by the 11,000-square-foot Fountain Courtyard.

  • The TradeWinds Island Resorts is spending $12.6 million on a renovation program on the Island Grand Resort and Sandpiper properties on St. Pete Beach.

Ask the CVB

Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
(800) 544-0415
Total Hotel Tax: 11.5%

Kissimmee-St. Cloud CVB
(407) 847-5000; www.floridakiss.com
Total Hotel Tax: 12%

Orlando/Orange County CVB
(407) 363-5872
Total Hotel Tax: 11.5%

St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area CVB
(877) 352-3224; (727) 464-7200
Total Hotel Tax: 11%

Tampa Bay CVB
(813) 223-1111; www.visittampabay.com
Total Hotel Tax: 12%

Phantom Planner

  • Toll road Florida 528, the main expressway from Orlando International Airport to the Orange County Convention Center, recently changed its marketing name from “The Bee Line” to “The Beach Line.”

  • Walt Disney World offers a weekly podcast featuring a mix of exclusive content such as behind-the-scenes tours of Disney's four Florida theme parks, celebrity interviews, news about upcoming events, and conversations with Disney Imagineers. Listeners can subscribe to the free program at http://disneyworld.com/podcast.

  • Orlando is close to the Atlantic Ocean. For a full- or half-day beach excursion, Cocoa Beach is only a 45-minute drive (take the Beach Line from International Drive), and Daytona Beach is about an hour (take I-4 East). Port Canaveral, with Carnival, Disney, Royal Caribbean, and SunCruz Casino Cruise Lines, is located 45 minutes west of Orlando. Fare for a shuttle to Port Canaveral costs an average of $160 round-trip for up to four passengers.

  • For your shopaholics, try a combo shop-around/dine-around at the upscale Mall at Millenia, a 10-minute drive from the Orange County Convention Center.

Special Venues

  • The Kissimmee Civic Center is designed to meet the needs of small and large groups. The facility features 3,500 seats and has 18,000 square feet of meeting space as well as catering facilities. (407) 935-1412; www.kissimmeeparksandrec.com

  • The 57,000-square-foot House of Blues at Downtown Disney West Side can book a big-name entertainer for an event or host any performer provided by a group. In addition to a 1,500-seat concert hall, the complex has many unique patio and courtyard locations and can accommodate as many as 3,000 guests. (407) 934-2270; www.HOB.com

  • Celebration Golf Club, located in the quaint Disney-created Town of Celebration, overlooks an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Jr. — designed public golf course. There is a full-time event manager on staff. Two banquet/meeting rooms can accommodate up to 150 people. (407) 566-Golf; www.celebrationgolf.com

  • The Orlando Museum of Art, near downtown Orlando, focuses its collection on 19th-century American art, African art, and the art of the ancient Americas. The building is available for receptions, meetings, and lectures; guided gallery tours; special events; and spouse programs. It can accommodate intimate receptions for 50 guests, seated dinners for 180, or gala events for 1,000. (407) 896-4231; www.OMAArt.org