Orlando's ever-expanding accommodations menu is taking on a luxury theme. With current properties and those under construction, Orlando will feature a line-up of a Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Waldorf-Astoria, JW Marriott, and Disney's Grand Floridian by 2010.
There is a flurry of development activity near the Orange County Convention Center, with new hotel projects such as the 1,400-room Hilton Orlando Convention Center, 315-room Westin Imagine Orlando, and 137-room Element Hotel under construction. The 891-room Peabody Orlando is undergoing a $400 million expansion project that will include a new tower with 750 guest rooms and more meeting space.
Attendees can take advantage of the improvement and expansion of Pointe Orlando, an entertainment and shopping complex across from the Orange County Convention Center. Five blocks from OCCC, The Mercado shopping complex will be replaced by The Square, a 340,000-square-foot mixed-use project slated to open in 2010.
The new Jostens Center, a multipurpose event facility at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, is opening this summer at Walt Disney World. And Disney has announced plans for a luxury destination resort anchored by a Four Seasons Hotel, which will open in 2010, on 900 acres along the northeast border of its property.
Nearby Bonnet Creek Resort is adding a Hilton and a Waldorf-Astoria hotel by 2009.
In downtown Orlando, several high-rise condominium hotel projects are under development, a new $385 million events center is opening in 2010, and a $376 million performing arts center is set to open in 2012.
Meanwhile, in Tampa, three new museums are slated to open in 2009: the Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa Bay History Center, and Children's Museum of Tampa.
On Florida's east coast, in Daytona Beach, the Ocean Center convention facility is undergoing a $76 million expansion.
The former Grosvenor Resort recently became Regal Sun Resort. The new name corresponds with the completion of a $25 million renovation to the resort's 626 guest rooms, 19,000 square feet of meeting space, and pre-function space.
The 900-unit Ravallo Resort & Conference Center, a $520 million luxury condo-hotel that will have 140,000 square feet of meeting space, will begin construction this March and is expected to open in 2010.
The 297-room Renaissance Orlando Airport Hotel recently completed a propertywide renovation that included its 20,000 square feet of meeting space.
The 315-room Westin Imagine Orlando, a new hotel located near the Orange County Convention Center, is scheduled to open in April 2008.
Slated to debut in late summer 2009 is the 1,400-room Hilton Orlando Hotel at Orange County Convention Center, an 18-story hotel with a 15,000-square-foot spa and fitness center and 130,000 square feet of meeting space, including 38 meeting rooms and a 50,000-square-foot grand ballroom. The hotel will link to the convention center via a pedestrian sky bridge.
Scheduled to open in summer 2009 at Bonnet Creek Resort, next to the Walt Disney World Resort, is a 1,000-room Hilton and a 500-room Waldorf-Astoria hotel. The development will offer 145,000 square feet of meeting space, an 18-hole Rees Jones-designed golf course, and a 25,000-square-foot spa and fitness center.
In October 2007, the Orlando World Center Marriott celebrated the grand opening of its 105,000-square-foot Cypress Ballroom, a pillar-free ballroom that can accommodate 9,000 attendees banquet-style or 13,000 theater-style. The Cypress can also be connected to the Palms Ballroom to create over 160,000 square feet of contiguous, pillar-free meeting space.
Planned for an early 2009 debut is the 400-room Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Hotel and Spa Bonnet Creek Resort, adjacent to the Walt Disney World Resort, with meeting space to accommodate up to 300 attendees, a 14,000 square-foot spa, and 18-hole Rees Jones golf course.
The 1,260-room InterContinental Resort at Palazzo Del Lago, expected to be the largest InterContinental Hotel in the world, is slated to open late 2009.
The 510-room Florida Hotel & Conference Center, which is connected to the Florida Mall with 50,000 square feet of meeting space that can accommodate up to 1,200 for a general session, recently received the “Green Lodging” certification from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The 14-story, 1,500-room Rosen Shingle Creek with 445,000 square feet of meeting space, has received a 2008 AAA Four Diamond designation and its golf shop was selected for the third year in a row by Golf World Magazine as a “Top 100 Golf Shop in the U.S.”
California Grill, the 258-seat restaurant atop Disney's Contemporary Resort, is known for its innovative menu and wine selection. And diners conclude their meal with an almost eye-level view of the fabulous Magic Kingdom nightly fireworks display.
To avoid airport congestion, consider the Orlando Sanford International Airport, a 35-minute drive from the tourism corridor. Flights on Allegiant Air travel to and from more than 30 cities, including South Bend, Ind.; Shreveport, La.; and Wichita, Kan.
The ultra-luxurious Mall at Millenia, a 15-minute drive from the Orange County Convention Center, offers several superb dining options including Brio Tuscan Grille, PF Chang's China Bistro, and McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant with nightcaps at Blue Martini.
Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Orlando/Orange County CVB
Tampa Bay & Company
B.B. King's Blues Club opened in December at Pointe Orlando on International Drive. The 16,000-square-foot supper club-style restaurant has three VIP rooms for private dining. Live music will be performed nightly by the B.B. King All Star Band. The club can accommodate 1,000 for receptions. orlando.bbkingclubs.com; (407) 370-4550
Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park offers groups a chance to experience cultural traditions and tribal rituals at an African street party in Harambe Village, enjoy a private event among the crumbling “ruins” of an Indian palace, or experience a night of revelry at Dinoland U.S.A. Event options are available for groups of under 50 people as well as for groups of 5,000 or more. Disneymeetings.com; (321) 939-7221
Courtyard at Lake Lucerne, an historic inn complex with four buildings in downtown Orlando, has an outdoor event space that can accommodate up to 60 people. www.Orlandohistoricinn.com; (407) 648-5188
The Red Coconut Club at Universal's Citywalk is the entertainment district's newest nightclub, with multicolored, high-tech lighting and contemporary furnishings. It can accommodate 280 for a reception and 230 for a buffet. www.uomeetingsandevents.com; (888) 266-2121