The much-awaited opening of the Grande Lakes Orlando happened on July 1. At a cost of nearly $600 million, and covering 500 acres, it's the largest non-gaming hotel project to open in the United States this year, and also heralds the first-ever pairing of a Ritz Carlton with a sister Marriott brand, in this case, a JW Marriott.

Inspired by the 1920s architect Addison Mizner, the 584-room Ritz-Carlton, designed to feel like an Italian palazzo, offers guests a residential ambiance. The 1,000-room JW Marriott is designed with Spanish and Moorish influences. Complementing the two properties is an 18-hole Greg Norman-designed championship golf course and a 40,000 square-foot spa, both managed by The Ritz-Carlton.

Present for the grand opening events was Bruce Himelstein, senior vice president, sales and marketing, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. "It was unbelievable," he said. "It surpassed everyone's expectations. We had to cap reservations that first weekend because we were sold out."

Both properties welcome meeting and incentive business. Together they offer 12 different lounge and dining choices including two signature dining venues. Norman’s, located in The Ritz-Carlton is a culinary collaboration with celebrated chef Norman Van Aken. At the JW Marriott, the highlight is chef Melissa Kelly’s Primo restaurant.

Meeting space is extensive with 33,000 square feet at The Ritz-Carlton, including two ballrooms and 14 meeting rooms, while the JW Marriott features over 72,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms, 23 conference rooms, and two elegantly appointed boardrooms. Wireless high-speed Internet access is available in all meetings rooms and public spaces.

Signature touches at Grande Lakes Orlando include enhanced children’s programs and specialty concierges at The Ritz-Carlton, and a 24,000 square-foot, winding lazy river pool (which holds 672,000 gallons of water) with floating tubes at the JW Marriott. Guests at both resorts share the full range of spa, golf, and dining facilities.

Grande Lakes offers complimentary shuttle transportation to Orlando theme parks, including Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, and Discovery Cove. The resort is located 15 minutes from the Orlando International Airport, five minutes from the Orlando/Orange County Convention Center, and minutes from all the major theme parks.

For more information about Grande Lakes Orlando, visit www.grandelakes.com.