by Michael C. Lowe | June 01, 2013
Atlantic Playground
Daytona Beach is 23 miles long and up to 500 feet wide during low tide.  
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Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort is scheduled to open in 2014. The complex will offer 900 standard hotel guest rooms and 900 family suites. There will be no dedicated meeting space on-site, but amenities will include two pool areas and a 10-lane bowling alley.

The Aloft Orlando Downtown broke ground last year and is expected to open in September. The 118-room property will offer more than 7,000 square feet of function space.

The 720-room Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate added a 55,000-square-foot conference center in January, which includes a 28,800-square-foot convention space. The resort now offers a total of more than 128,000 square feet of indoor event space, with an additional 52,000 square feet outdoors. Also on-site are two championship golf courses, two outdoor pools and five dining options.

The 300-room Embassy Suites Orlando-Lake Buena Vista South opened last November in nearby Kissimmee with 300 rooms and 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

The 2,000-room Orlando World Center Marriott completed a multimillion-dollar renovation in February with enhancements to the North Tower guest rooms, meeting space and outdoor event areas. The resort offers 450,000 square feet of meeting space.

In April, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando finished a $14 million renovation of its 750 guest rooms, which now sport new Mediterranean-inspired design. The property has three swimming pools, seven restaurants, a spa and more than 42,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, in addition to several outdoor venues.

Last year, the Peabody Orlando unveiled 52 boutique accommodations within three private-access floors of the Mallard Tower, dubbed The Loft. The rooms are appointed with premium comfort items, from blankets to slippers, as well as Keurig coffeemakers. Loft guests also can attend a complimentary nightly wine reception. In all, the hotel has 1,641 guest rooms and 300,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.

The Dr. Phillips Center for the Per­forming Arts is opening next fall with two theaters, a public performance space and educational facilities. The 330,000-square-foot downtown Orlando facility, named for legendary Florida businessman and philanthropist Dr. Philip Phillips (1874-1959), will have several spaces for private-event use.

The 613-room Wyndham Orlando Resort is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation that is expected to finish in October. The resort has approximately 60,000 square feet of upgraded meeting space.

Gaylord PalmsLast May, the 1,406-room Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, right, completed a $50 million renovation that revamped the guest rooms and added features such as a water park, a 16,000-square-foot sports bar and a 10,000-square-foot event lawn. Two new offices for meeting planners each accommodate up to 22 people and are near the resort's two main ballrooms.

The 238-room Drury Inn & Suites opened last July, offering free Wi-Fi connectivity and more than 4,000 square feet of meeting space.

The 112-room Alfond Inn at Rollins College opened this spring with 8,000 square feet of function space. The hotel also includes a fitness center, a swimming pool and a restaurant serving traditional Southern cooking.    

The Villas of Grand Cypress Golf Resort recently completed a $14 million renovation of all 146 guest rooms and opened a new fitness center in February.
A new covered pedestrian bridge will connect the 800-room Rosen Plaza Hotel to the Orange County Convention Center by late fall. The $1.5 million skybridge will be dedicated to the late Visit Orlando president and CEO Gary Sain, who passed away in May 2012.

The Ramada Plaza Resort & Suites Orlando opened a second tower last July with 131 suites. In total, the property offers 295 guest accommodations in addition to a boardroom for up to 25 attendees, an outdoor pool, and a bar and lounge.

The 128-room Homewood Suites by Hilton Orlando Airport opened in March with approximately 760 square feet of meeting space, complimentary Wi-Fi, a fitness center, an outdoor pool and a business center.

The Embassy Suites Orlando-North in Altamonte Springs recently completed a $3.5 million upgrade of its public areas, meeting rooms, restaurant and lobby. Meeting space at the 277-room hotel totals 7,100 square feet.

Meeting Hotels
Downtown properties include the 290-room Sheraton Orlando Downtown and 247-room Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando.

Along International Drive and near the Orange County Convention Cen­ter are the 1,641-room Peabody Orlando; 1,334-room Rosen Centre Hotel; 650-room Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort, a Loews Hotel; and 582-room Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.

Near Orlando Inter­national Airport are the 511-room Florida Hotel and Conference Center, 471-room Orlando Airport Marriott, 353-room DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando Airport and 288-room Holiday Inn Orlando-International Airport.

In Lake Buena Vista, near Walt Disney World Resort, are the 2,000-room Orlando World Center Marriott, 1,149-room Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort, 1,338-room Caribe Royale All-Suite Hotel & Convention Center, 815-room Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress and 490-room Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort.

In Kissimmee and Celebration are the 1,406-room Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, 718-room Radisson Resort Orlando Celebration, 300-room  Embassy Suites Orlando-Lake Buena Vista South and 115-room Bohemian Hotel Celebration. In Reunion is the 320-room Reunion, a Salamander Golf and Spa Resort.

To find and compare hotels, and send RFPs, visit

Convention Center
Orange County Convention Center; exhibit space, 2.1 million square feet; number of meeting rooms, 74; (407) 685-9800 or (800) 345-9845;

Airport Transit
Orlando International Airport, about 13 miles southeast of downtown Orlando and 14 miles east of the Orange County Convention Center/International Drive. Transfer cost by taxi, $26 to downtown, $33 to the convention center/International Drive; by shuttle, $16 to downtown, $17 to the convention center/International Drive

Orlando/Orange County: room tax, 6%; sales tax, 6.50%; total taxes on hotel rooms, 12.5%

Universal Orlando Resort will open the new Transformers, the Ride: 3-D, later this summer. The immersive attraction will combine lifelike HD CGI media with state-of the-art 3-D to place riders right in the action. (888) 266-2121;

The Space Shuttle AtlantisThe Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is debuting a 90,000-square-foot home for the Space Shuttle Atlantis, right, which saw its last mission in 2011 after 33 voyages to outer space. The new $100 million facility opens at the end of this month with more than 60 interactive exhibits and simulators that will detail the entire space-shuttle program. The space will be available for events. (866) 737-5235;

SeaWorld Orlando
 recently completed its biggest expansion yet with its Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin attraction. The immersive area, which opened in late May, features an adventure ride and a very lively colony of penguins. (888) 800-5447;

ContactVisit Orlando, (407) 363-5872 or (800) 972-3304;

Experience Kissimmee, (407) 742-8200;