by Lisa A. Grimaldi | June 01, 2015
Orlando

• The Orlando Eye, a 400-foot-tall Ferris wheel at the I-Drive 360 entertainment complex, is up and spinning. The ride features enclosed, air-conditioned capsules -- each accommodates 15 guests -- that offer expansive views of Orlando's theme parks and downtown.

• The 1,000-room Loews Royal Pacific Resort Deluxe Hotel is expanding its 85,000 square feet of meeting space by more than 56,000 square feet. New gathering venues, including the Pacifica Ballroom and the open-air Wantilan Pavilion, will open this fall.

• The Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando will debut in the summer of 2016. The Caribbean- themed 1,000-room property will have 131,000 square feet of meeting space and will connect via an air-conditioned covered bridge to the Loews Royal Pacific Resort.

• The Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando has completed a revamp of its 650 guest rooms, including the addition of music-related artwork. The hotel has 6,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, with 140,000 square feet of function space nearby at the Hard Rock Cafe and Hard Rock Live venues at Universal CityWalk.

• The 151-room Element Orlando is set to open in mid-2016. The eco-friendly property, less than a mile from Universal Studios Orlando, will feature a 750-square-foot meeting room, a fitness center, free Wi-Fi and complimentary breakfast.

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort is in the midst of an expansion. Once work is completed, the property will have 360 deluxe studio villas and 20 two-bedroom, over-water bungalows, in addition to its 484 guest rooms.

• Downtown Disney is getting a new look and name. The entertainment/retail/dining complex, which will be called Disney Springs, will double its size. When completed in 2016, it will feature four interconnected "neighborhoods" -- The Landing, Marketplace, West Side and Town Center.

Meeting Hotels: Downtown properties include the 247-room Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando and 118-room Aloft Orlando Downtown.

Along International Drive and near the Orange County Convention Center are the 1,641-room Hyatt Regency Orlando, 1,417-room Hilton Orlando, 1,362-room Rosen Shingle Creek and 1,334-room Rosen Centre Hotel.

For a full listing of area properties, as well as to find and compare hotels and send RFPs, visit mcvenues.com.

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; occc.net

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, $35 to downtown, $33-$39 to the convention center/International Drive; by shuttle, $19 to downtown, $20 to the convention center/International Drive

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

Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orange County: room tax, 6%; sales tax, 6.5%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12.5%

Disney properties in Osceola County: room tax, 6%; sales tax, 7%; total tax on hotel rooms, 13%

Group Venue: The Boathouse, a nautical-themed eatery on the waterfront, has debuted at The Landing, the first of four planned neighborhoods of Disney Springs (the former Downtown Disney). The place is decked out in nautical artwork, including antique mahogany boats from the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Groups of up to 100 people can chow down on dishes such as Hoisin-Glazed Florida Wahoo or Baked Crab-Stuffed Lobster, followed by the decadent S'mores Baked Alaska. (407) 939-2628; theboathouseorlando.com

Contact: Visit Orlando; (800) 643-0482; orlandomeeting.com