Animatronic alligators that wiggle their tails. Fog machines. Sound effects — frogs croaking, seagulls crying. No, it's not the set of sci-fi flick. It's the new Gaylord Palms, a resort and convention center a few miles from Walt Disney World in Kissimmee-St. Cloud, Fla.
Like its elder sibling, Opryland Nashville, Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center is a self-contained meeting destination under a gigantic glass dome where it's always a balmy 72 degrees. But aside from the signature bubble, this incarnation is quite different, and not just in name. For one thing, it's smaller: 1,406 guest rooms instead of 2,883 — all with free T1 Internet access. And it's housed under one atrium instead of four. Designed primarily for conventions, Gaylord had booked one million room nights even before opening day.
The property is divided into four themed areas, St. Augustine, Key West, Everglades, and The Emerald Bay. The walkways are graced by 1,200 palm trees, orange trees, and flowering vines. And for those of you who may have been, well, challenged finding your way in Nashville, leave your compass at home — Gaylord Palms is much easier to navigate. Glass-walled elevators and multisensory directional cues help guide you. If you hear the ocean, you're in the Key West area. If you are walking on a monkey carpet, you're in the Emerald Tower.
Meeting space is easy to navigate too. Most of the meeting rooms are on one floor in the 400,000-square-foot convention center, including the 46,650-square-foot Osceola Ballroom and 46 of the 61 breakout rooms. The 178,000-square-foot exhibition hall is on the lower level. A fiber-optic network allows groups to create an intranet among meeting rooms, the exhibition hall, and guest rooms.
With upgraded guest room amenities, exclusive group check-in, and other perks, the 362-room Emerald Tower is designed for high-end incentives and executive meetings. It has its own 3,600-square-foot ballroom and 12 executive meeting rooms.