Meeting groups visiting Orlando this year have lots of shiny new hotels, restaurants, and attractions to look forward to. Because the city takes a long-term, strategic view of its tourism infrastructure, capital investment is a big part of its offerings and one of the main reasons the city was named by Cvent as the number-one meetings destination in the U.S. last year.
The fifth on-site hotel at Universal Orlando Resort is being built and will open this summer. The Loews Sapphire Falls Resort will have 1,000 rooms and suites with a casual Caribbean theme. The new Loews Meetings Complex, consisting of 247,000 square feet of contiguous meeting space, will open between Loews Royal Pacific Resort and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.
The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort is undergoing a multi-phase, multi-year, $125 million redesign project that will give all 2,265 guest rooms in the two buildings a brand new look. The hotel’s meeting and convention space will also be equipped with the latest advancements in high density Wi-Fi technology.
Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa, one of Orlando’s condominium-style resorts, is expanding its meeting footprint with the development of 20,000 square feet of new event space. The 3,000-villa resort will offer a total of 36,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as a new steakhouse ideal for group buyouts.
DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation featuring an all-new 20,000-square-foot ballroom, new pool decks, and 100,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting and event space.
Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek has begun a major expansion project, which will increase the resort’s meeting space by 7,000 square feet when it opens in May.
Villas of Grand Cypress announced the redesign of its Executive Meeting Center, a standalone complex that houses 7,200 square feet of flexible indoor/outdoor event space. Situated on the resort’s 1,500 acres in the Lake Buena Vista neighborhood and framed by the Villas’ 45 holes of Jack Nicklaus Signature golf, the Executive Meeting Center is the latest update to the hotel, following a recent $17 million renovation of its 146 guest rooms.
Restaurants and Nightlife
Walt Disney World Resort will complete a multi-year transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs this year, featuring new shopping, dining, and entertainment options, doubling the number of outlets to more than 150. Among the new restaurants:
• The Edison, themed around a 1920s-period electric company with live entertainment, classic American food, and craft cocktails. It will feature nightly entertainment including contortionists, palm readers, DJs, and more.
• Frontera Fresca, the creation of celebrity Chef Rick Bayless, a six-time James Beard Foundation award winner, will feature authentic Mexican cuisine including specialties such as hand-crafted tortas, tacos, salads, and fresh-made guacamole.
• Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine from celebrity chef and native Floridian Art Smith, which will offer Southern classics and whimsical cocktails.
• STK will open early this year as a blend of modern steakhouse and chic lounge, featuring a DJ in a high-energy atmosphere.
Several still-to-be announced restaurants will open at one of Orlando’s newest dining and entertainment areas, I-Drive 360, home of the 400-foot-tall Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds, and SEALIFE Aquarium.
Universal Orlando Resort will open Skull Island: Reign of Kong in at Universal’s Islands of Adventure this summer. Guests will board large vehicles and explore ancient temple structures while encountering hostile natives and fending off terrors.
SeaWorld Orlando announced plans for Mako, a brand new 200-foot-tall coaster opening this summer. Named for one of the ocean’s fastest known sharks, it will be Orlando’s tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster, reaching speeds of 73 mph as it races along 4,760 feet of steel track.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will add Heroes and Legends, showcasing the U.S Astronaut Hall of Fame. Guests will vicariously experience the thrills and dangers of America’s earliest space missions through high-tech elements and special effects.