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.
• 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 mcvenues.com.
Convention Center: Tampa Convention Center; exhibit space, approximately 200,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 37; (813) 274-8511; tampaconventioncenter.com
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
NAPLES AND MARCO ISLAND
• 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.
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.ST. PETERSBURG AND CLEARWATER
To find and compare hotels, and send RFPs, visit mcvenues.com.
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
Contact: Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau, (239) 252-2379; paradisecoast.com
• The 230-room Opal Sands Resort, Clearwater Beach,
opening in February 2016, will have 25,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space and Gulf of Mexico views from all meeting venues and guest rooms. Located directly on Clearwater Beach, the property will feature nine meeting rooms, a 7,650-square-foot ballroom, two restaurants and a full-service spa.
• In 2014, the RumFish Grill
opened at St. Petersburg's TradeWinds Island Resorts.
In the restaurant's 33,500-gallon aquarium, guests can snorkel among dozens of indigenous fish species. TradeWinds features more than 70,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space and 28 breakout rooms.Meeting Hotels:
For a list of area properties, and to compare hotels and send RFPs, visit mcvenues.com
Sirata Beach Resort & Conference Center; exhibit space, 30,000 square feet; meeting rooms, 14. (855) 318-4768; sirata.comAirport Transit:
Tampa International Airport, about 18 miles east of Clearwater and 20 miles northeast of St. Petersburg. Transfer cost to Clearwater or St. Petersburg by taxi, $50 Taxes:
Room tax, 5%; sales tax, 6%; total tax on hotel rooms, 11%Group Venue:
At the Dali Museum,
some genuinely surreal function space can host up to 650 guests. Rental of the venue includes two hours of gallery viewing time. Leonardo da Vinci is featured in the current exhibit. (727) 823-3767LEE COUNTY
• On Sanibel Island, the 400-room Sundial Beach Resort & Spa
has completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of its fitness center, landscaping and outdoor areas, and added six clay tennis courts. The property offers 12,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor event space.
• In Bonita Springs, the 454-room Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa
has completed a renovation of its 14,000-square-foot ballroom and foyer to the tune of $2.4 million. The ballroom now sports new digital signage and furnishings. In total, the hotel has more than 70,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.
• In 2016, the Harborside Event Center
will begin work on a renovation that will include new sound and lighting systems and other upgrades. The work will finish in 2017 in conjunction with construction of a new, attached 225-room Sheraton.
In Fort Myers, properties with meeting space include the 347-room Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa
, 225-room Crowne Plaza Fort Myers at Bell Tower Shops
, 212-room Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina
and the 126-room Hilton Garden Inn Fort Myers
To find and compare hotels, and send RFPs, visit mcvenues.com
Harborside Event Center (Fort Myers); event space, 41,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 9. (239) 321-8120; harborsideevents.com
. Lee Civic Center (North Fort Myers); exhibit space, approximately 90,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, four; (239) 543-8368; leeciviccenter.comAirport Transit:
Southwest Florida International Airport, 10 miles southwest of Fort Myers, 25 miles northeast of Sanibel Island. Transfer cost to Fort Myers by taxi, $35; to Sanibel Island, $56Taxes:
Room tax, 5%; sales tax, 7%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12%Group Venue:
For a more fun meeting, the HeadPinz bowling center, opening this month, includes 28 lanes, eight of which are in a boutique bar area and four of which are vintage-style lanes with pin-setting still performed by hand. Flat-screens hanging over each lane can project presentations. Two meeting rooms seat up to 250 guests. (239) 302-2155; headpinz.comContact:
Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, (239) 338-3500; fortmyers-sanibel.com