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by Michael C. Lowe | August 01, 2014
Why here?
Golden sunshine, world-class beaches and resorts like the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa (above) make Northern Florida an attractive destination year-round. And in Orlando, the country's most popular city (59 million visitors in 2013 alone), nearly 3,000 new hotels rooms are in the pipeline.

SPOTLIGHT: JACKSONVILLE 
Last December, the Four Points by Sheraton Jacksonville opened with 72 oceanfront suites, complimentary Wi-Fi, a fitness center and 1,800 square feet of meeting space.

The Omni Jacksonville Hotel recently finished an $8 million renovation of its 354 guest rooms, bar and restaurants. The property offers a heated rooftop swimming pool, Juliette's Bistro, the late-night J Bar and 15,000 square feet of meeting space.


Posh Portal 
The 404-room Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort has completed an $85 million renovation that added a new grand entrance with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking an infinity-edge pool.


What's Cooking? 
The Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin hotel recently treated media guests to a reception showcasing its creative F&B offerings to groups. See a slide show featuring highlights at mcmag.com/slideshows.

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NORTHWEST FLORIDA

Local Update

The 602-room Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa completed a four-month, $12.5 million renovation in March. The project included upgrades to the hotel's lobby, public space, Spa Tower guest rooms, spa and more. Features at the resort include six dining venues and more than 32,000 square feet of meeting space.

In June, the Emerald Coast Convention Center unveiled a new 30,000-square-foot outdoor event space called Bayview Plaza, which can be tented in case of rain.

Meeting Hotels: For a full list of Northern Florida properties, and to find and compare hotels and send RFPs, visit mcvenues.com.

Convention Centers: Baytowne Conference Center (Sandestin); exhibit space, approximately 23,350 square feet; number of meeting rooms, eight; (800) 277-0803

Emerald Coast Convention Center (Fort Walton Beach); exhibit space, 35,000 square feet indoors and 30,000 square feet outdoors; number of meeting rooms, 12; (850) 609-3800

Airport Transit: Northwest Florida Regional Airport, 19 miles from Destin, 10 miles from Fort Walton Beach. Transfer cost by taxi to Destin, about $45, and about $30 to Fort Walton Beach

Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, 33 miles from South Walton. Transfer cost by taxi, about $80

Taxes: South Walton and Sandestin: county bed tax, 4.5%; sales tax, 7.5%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12%

Okaloosa County: bed tax, 5%; sales tax, 6%; total tax on hotel rooms, 11%

Group Venue: Henderson State Park offers a 6,000-foot-long stretch of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. Four beachside pavilions are available for rental and can accommodate up to 150 guests each. (850) 269-1062

Contact: Visit South Walton, (800) 822-6877

Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, (850) 651-7131