by Josh Lieberman | June 01, 2015
Beautiful beaches abound on Florida's West Coast, but just as attractive are the group venues in places like Fort Myers, Naples and St. Petersburg. After a day spent meeting in Tampa, attendees can take to the Riverwalk (above), a 2.5-mile pedestrian path linking together restaurants, bars and attractions.


• Go for the cheeseburger at the Cabbage Key Inn - but don't expect to drive there. The restaurant is located on car-free Cabbage Key island, 20 miles from Fort Myers; daily water taxi service operates from mainland marinas.

• Tampa's Fodder and Shine features rarely served Florida cuisine popular between the Civil War and World War II, like fried gizzards, sour orange pie and pilau, a slow-cooked rice dish.
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• The 540-room Saddlebrook Resort has refreshed its landscaping, exterior entryways and balconies, in addition to updating its meeting foyers with new artwork and lighting. The 480-acre property has 95,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, two 18-hole Arnold Palmer golf courses and a five-acre team-building course. The resort recently upgraded to fiber-based Internet.

• In June 2014, the 130-room Le Méridien Tampa opened in a former courthouse. The hotel features a pool, a 24-hour fitness center and a business center in which a judge's bench serves as the work station. The property's four meeting rooms comprise some 4,000 square feet; the
 ballroom can hold up to 120 guests.

Meeting Hotels: Properties include the 719-room Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, 520-room Hilton Tampa Downtown and 422-room Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay.

To find and compare hotels, and send RFPs, visit

Convention Center: Tampa Convention Center; exhibit space, approximately 200,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 37; (813) 274-8511;

Airport Transit: Tampa International Airport, about 9 miles to downtown Tampa. Transfer cost by taxi, $32

Taxes: Room tax, 5%; sales tax, 7%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12%

Group Venue: Ulele opened last year on Tampa's colorful Riverwalk, featuring the foods Florida's native population ate centuries ago: oysters, seafood and other locally sourced fare. The 7,000-sqaure-foot restaurant has indoor and outdoor spaces that can accommodate from 50 to 400 people. (813) 999-4952


• Formerly known as the Waldorf Astoria Naples, the Naples Grande Beach Resort has completed an $18 million renovation of its 474 guest rooms, meeting spaces and dining areas. A new restaurant, The Catch of the Pelican, features fresh local seafood, while the casual Rhode's End, also new, offers Mediterranean taverna fare. The property has 83,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space.

• The 726-room Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa is temporarily closed as it undergoes an expansion that includes a revamped lobby, redesigned restaurants and a new tiki bar. The hotel reopens in August, but the $250 million renovation will continue throug January 2017, when the property will become the 810-room JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort. The new hotel will have expanded its event space from 65,000 to more than 100,000 square feet.

• Last year, the 55-room Park Shore Resort upgraded its bedding, armchairs and love seats, and this year is adding 42-inch flat-screen TVs to guest rooms. In March, the casual Magoo's Island Grille opened on-site.

Groups of 30 to 1,000 that want to enjoy a safari experience without schlepping to Africa will love Ngala, an East Naples wildlife preserve with a giraffe, a zebra, a white rhino and other critters. The venue also showcases three authentic grand safari tents with bamboo furniture, steamer trunks and "Old World curio cabinets."

Meeting Hotels: In the greater Naples area, properties with meeting space include the 474-room Naples Grande Beach Resort; 454-room Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa; 450-room Ritz-Carlton, Naples; and 319-room Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club.

To find and compare hotels, and send RFPs, visit

Airport Transit: Southwest Florida International Airport, 33 miles northeast of Naples. Transfer cost by taxi to downtown Naples, $55

Taxes: Naples and Marco Island: room tax, 4%; sales tax, 6%; total tax on hotel rooms, 10%

Group Venue: Soaring ceilings, twin staircases and colorful art galleries make the Hayes Hall Grand Lobby at Artis-Naples a graceful place for an event. The lobby can hold receptions for up to 1,000 people. (239) 254-2620

 Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau, (239) 252-2379;