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by Lisa A. Grimaldi | July 01, 2016
Why here?
Where else but Central Florida can you find a spanking new "turn-of-the-century town" (Disney Springs, pictured), a mysterious island with a giant ape and a community of wizards (Universal Orlando), all within a  few miles? These singular experiences are just a few of many reasons groups flock here.


PARK PICKS
 The Force has reawakened at Disney's Hollywood Studios, where the "Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away" stage show and the multimedia "Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular" entertain aspiring Jedi warriors of all ages.

 Making a splash this summer is Mako, the area's tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster, new at Seaworld Orlando. The ride reaches dizzying speeds of up to 73 mph.


SKELETON CREW
No bones about it: The new Skeleton Museum at I-Drive 360-- featuring hundreds of animal remains -- is a unique setting for a reception, dinner or even overnight "lock-in" themed event.
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CENTRAL FLORIDA

Local Update
 The Grove Resort & Spa, a new 878-suite property being built in Orlando on Lake Austin near Walt Disney World, will debut 292 suites this fall, with full completion slated for 2019. The property will have 6,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, as well as several outdoor event spaces. Amenities will include Grove's Surfari Water Park; a lazy river; a trio of neighboring swimming pools, known as the Springs; and a lakeside dock for paddle boats and fishing. Plans also call for the Escape Spa, a 2,000-square-foot fitness center and two restaurants.

 The 1,004-room DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld will complete a multimillion-dollar renovation this year, including an upgrade of its 100,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor event space.

 The Rosen Plaza Hotel completed a refurbishment of its 800 guest rooms and suites in late 2015. The property, near the Orange County Convention Center, has 60,000 square feet of meeting space.

 The Rosen Shingle Creek is updating its 1,501 guest rooms, with completion expected late this year. The property, which has 490,000 square feet of meeting and event space, completed a renovation of its public spaces in January.

 Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando has completed a refurbishment and upgrade of its 1,000 guest rooms, following the addition of  47,000 square feet of meeting space last fall. The resort now has a total of more than 132,000 square feet of flexible meeting and function space.

 Opening this fall at Universal Orlando is the 1,000-room Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. The property, which will be connected to the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, will include approximately 115,000 square feet of meeting space.

 Also in the works at Universal, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort will add two new towers comprising 400 guest rooms next year, adding to the property's current total of 1,800 rooms. Cabana Bay features two swimming pools, a lazy river and a 10-lane bowling alley. The property is a short walk from Universal Orlando's theme parks and Universal CityWalk.

 Disney Springs, the former Downtown Disney being redesigned to resemble a turn-of-the-century town with sections including The Landing, Marketplace, West Side and Town Center, will continue to unveil new shops and dining spots throughout 2016.