Epcot Walt Disney World

Central Florida's 228-room Streamsong Resort offers groups three top-rated golf courses, four dining spots, a spa and 24,600 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting and event space.

Top Golf Orlando debuted last fall near the Orange County Convention Center. The venue offers more than 100 climate-controlled hitting bays using technology that tracks the accuracy and distance of players' shots. The facility has a full-service restaurant and five rooms for private events; full buyouts are available.


Local Update

 The 2,009-room Orlando World Center Marriott has unveiled several upgrades. A new dining spot, Latitude & Longitude, serves Southern-inspired dishes by executive chef Eric Martinez, as well as seasonal specials with ingredients from area farms and vendors. The eatery can accommodate up to 500 guests for breakfast and lunch, 200 for dinner and 700 for special events. Other improvements include a refurbishment of the Crystal Ballroom. The property offers a total of 450,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

 The Grove Resort & Spa Orlando, which debuted its inaugural phase in 2017, has revealed several new additions that have opened or are set to open this spring. The resort's Surfari Water Park, an attraction with two water slides, a winding lazy river, a dual-rider surf simulator and more, is now open to guests, while Surfari's on-site restaurant, the Longboard Bar & Grill, will open next month. The Grove's continued expansion also includes the addition this spring of more than 280 suites to the existing inventory of nearly 300 guest accommodations. The suites include living and dining areas, full kitchens, screened balconies, and full-size washers and dryers. Also on-site are three pools, a spa, a fitness center and 6,000 square feet of meeting space. The 106-acre property will continue to unveil new accommodations and amenities over the coming months; when completed, it will offer a total of 878 guest suites.

 Making its debut this year is the 187-room Margaritaville Resort Orlando, along U.S. Highway 192 in Western Osceola County. The 300-acre property will feature a wide range of amenities, including 30,000 square feet of meeting and function space, 200,000 square feet of retail space, a dining and entertainment district, a 12-acre waterpark, a wellness center, wooded fitness trails, bike trails, a water-taxi system and a three-acre swimming area. The development eventually will include 1,000 Margaritaville-inspired units, including a mix of resort vacation homes, cottages, villas and time-share units.

• The Orlando Airport Marriott Lakeside, minutes away from Orlando International Airport, has completed a renovation of its 485 guest rooms and suites. Among the upgraded features are walk-in showers, hard-surface flooring, open floor plans, pillow-top mattresses and smart TVs with Internet-streaming capabilities. The hotel offers 36,800 square feet of meeting and event space and complimentary airport shuttle service to the airport.

 Plans to expand the Orange County Convention Center, a process begun in late 2014, are still being debated. Proposed additions include a 200,000-square-foot multipurpose venue and a 60,000-square-foot ballroom. According to convention center officials, an expansion could generate a half-billion dollars in new economic impact and fill 550,000 more hotel room nights annually. The last major renovation of the center dates back to the opening of the North-South Building in 2003. The facility currently has 2.1 million square feet of exhibit space,

 The 167-suite Embassy Suites Orlando-Downtown, in the Lake Eola central business district, is undergoing an extensive renovation. Upgrades are touching upon the property's atrium, restaurant, bar, patios, pool and sundeck, fitness center, meeting space and guest rooms. The latter will be outfitted with new furniture, carpeting, appliances, 50-inch televisions and digital locks that interface with smartphones.  Also being added are 2,500 square feet of meeting space for a new a total of 12,400 square feet. The in-house WiFi system already has been upgraded to increase speed and bandwidth. In addition, the hotel's tree-canopied patio, which opens onto Central Avenue, will be enhanced to transform it into a venue for receptions. Chicago-based Gettys Group designed the project.

• The 516-room JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort will open during the first quarter of 2020 at Bonnet Creek, a 482-acre mixed-use resort community near the city's famed theme parks. Eighty guest rooms will be suites, including 16 two-bedroom units with optional connections to create four-bedroom family suites. The hotel will have 50,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 23,000-square-foot ballroom. Other property offerings include an indoor/outdoor restaurant; a rooftop bar that will provide panoramic views of local evening fireworks; two pools; a spa with 10 treatment rooms; a fitness center; and an amenity deck where guests can play tennis, basketball and shuffleboard.

• The 2,267-room Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista has completed a $140 million, head-to-toe facelift. Included in the three-year project was the redesign of all guest rooms, which now reflect the resort's water-themed architecture. Room technology was upgraded with additional outlets and USB ports for charging devices, along with new high-definition TVs. The resort's 332,000 square feet of existing meeting space was refurbished and now features electronic reader boards and upgraded WiFi to accommodate groups of up to 15,000 attendees. A new venue, the 2,800-square-foot Lake View room, also was added, while a new restaurant, Fuel, and a new bar, Phins, have opened at the Dolphin. Finally, the Dolphin lobby now features a contemporary look with a geometric ceiling, enhanced lighting and more than double the amount of guest seating. The centerpiece of the space is a grand chandelier hanging 20 feet from the ceiling with nearly 1,000 strands and about 10,000 individual crystals suspended above the Dolphin fountain.

• The 650-room Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando has unveiled 14 redesigned Future Rock Star Suites where guests can perform even outside the shower. Each two-room suite features a stage complete with liquid flooring and lights, as well as a twinkling starlight canopy over the bed. Every suite's main room connects through a "stage door" to a room with two twin beds and furniture resembling the equipment cases roadies use while schlepping from venut to venue. Décor elements include at least one item donated by a music celebrity -- the first time memorabilia has been installed inside a guest room at the property.

• More TSA security officers, bomb-detection dogs and screening lanes are popping up at Orlando International Airport for the spring and summer rush of passengers. Still to be resolved is the airport's preliminary push to replace TSA screening officers with a private workforce. In other news, the facility will complete the $2.1 billion construction of a south terminal -- said to be one of the most expensive public-works projects ever in Central Florida -- in the fall of 2020.

• Ray Rush, a new waterslide ride, is set to debut at Aquatica, SeaWorld's Waterpark, this spring. According to SeaWorld representatives, Ray Rush "promises to be a fully loaded water adventure that will combine three unique slide elements into one action-packed attraction." The 60-foot-tall waterslide launches rafts through several sets of tubes, including a colossal translucent sphere that spins the raft around the slide walls. The watery trip continues with a drop into an open-air halfpipe that resembles the shape of a manta ray, where the rafts soar back and forth on the manta's wings.

 A 28,000-square-foot expansion of the convention center at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resort will bring the total amount of flexible meeting and event space to 100,000 square feet. The new convention area will include a 16,000-square-foot ballroom that can be divided into eight breakout spaces, as well as three prefunction areas and two gathering rotundas designed to promote networking. The expansion is scheduled for completion this summer. In all, the resort offers 1,190 newly renovated guest rooms, all within walking distance of Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's BoardWalk entertainment district.

• The 1,910-room Disney's Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World Resort will add 545 new guest rooms and expand its meeting and event spaces over the next two years. As part of the expansion, a new 15-story tower is now under construction and eventually will house a rooftop restaurant and lounge with panoramic views. On the events front, two multipurpose meeting rooms and a boardroom will be added to the resort, which currently has 220,000 square feet of meeting space. The property also plans to upgrade its guest rooms and grounds; among the enhancements will be the addition of floating gardens and an island oasis connected by a series of bridges to surrounding areas.

• The Rosen Centre Hotel, conveniently close to the Orange County Convention Center, has unveiled a renovation of all 1,334 guest rooms. Upgrades included new furnishings, soft goods and color schemes. The vast convention property offers more than 150,000 square feet of meeting and function space, including a 35,000-square-foot grand ballroom, plus nine restaurants and lounges, and a spa.

 The AAA Four Diamond Rosen Shingle Creek recently undertook a variety of upgrades. Among all the work, the property refreshed its 1,501 guest rooms and grand lobby; redesigned Tobias Burgers & Brews; expanded Mi Casa Tequila Taqueria, and redesigned its championship golf course. In all, the hotel has 524,000 square feet of meeting and event space, along with a golf academy.

Meeting Hotels: Properties within walking distance of the Orange County Convention Center include the 1,639-room Hyatt Regency Orlando, 1,417-room Hilton Orlando, 1,334-room Rosen Centre Hotel and 800-room Rosen Plaza Hotel.

To find and compare Orlando area and other properties, and to 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) 345-984

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, $38-$45 to downtown, $38-$45 to the convention center/ International Drive, $52-$68 to the Disney Resorts area; by shuttle, $20-$32 to downtown, $21-$33 to the convention center/International Drive, $23-37 to the Disney Resorts area

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%

Contact: Visit Orlando, (800) 643-0482

Two rides, a new hotel and more are on tap at the resort

The ever-expanding Universal Orlando Resort has new accommodations and exciting theme-park attractions set to open in the coming months. Among them are the following.

• The sleek Universal's Aventura Hotel will debut this August. The property, which will feature 600 guest rooms along with a rooftop pool, was designed  with a number of open spaces perfect for impromptu gatherings and networking. Also on-site are a lobby bar, the rooftop Bar 17 Bistro, a game room and a "food hall" with other dining options.

• Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort
 recently unveiled 400 new guest rooms for a propertywide total of 2,200 rooms. Resort amenities include two pools, a lazy river and a 10-lane bowling alley. The property is within walking distance to Universal's theme parks and Universal CityWalk.

Fast & Furious--Supercharged, based on the Fast and Furious racing-film franchise, will debut this summer at Universal Studios Florida. The ride transports guests through the underground headquarters of the Fast family, as music and scenes from the movies play. The attraction also includes a high-speed race on a tricked-out party bus and "visits" from classic characters from the films. Of course there will be plenty of iconic cars on hand -- including Dom's Charger and Letty's Turbo Truck -- in which guests can be photographed behind the wheel.  Visitors will be able to use the new virtual-line system to select specific times to ride, rather than waiting in line, via the Official Universal Orlando Resort Mobile App or kiosks near the ride.

• Leaping wizards: A new roller coaster at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Hogsmeade at Universal's Islands of Adventure will debut in 2019. The attraction promises to take riders deeper into J.K. Rowling's alternate universe, where they'll encounter favorite Harry Potter characters and creatures. The theme park's creative team will collaborate with Warner Bros. and production designers from the beloved films to create the adventure, which will replace the now-shuttered  Dragon Challenge roller coaster.

The spotlight's on Toy Story, Star Wars and more at WDW Resort

A room far, far away:
The Star Wars-themed hotel
is set to open in 2019.
A room far, far away: The Star Wars-themed hotel is set to open in 2019.

Two beloved franchises in the Disney family -- Toy Story and Star Wars -- are set to take center stage at Walt Disney World Resort beginning this summer, along with several other film characters and themed events.

 Toy Story Land will be the first in the wave of new attractions to debut. Beginning this summer, the 11-acre park at Disney's Hollywood Studios will recreate the backyard of Toy Story protagonist Andy, complete with rides including the Slinky Dog Dash, a coaster that will "send riders dipping, dodging and dashing around turns and drops"; Alien Swirling Saucers; and Woody's Lunch Box, a quick-service kiosk serving tasty eats and old-fashioned soda floats.

 Tomorrowland (in the Magic Kingdom) will be taken over by Disney Pixar superhero characters from The Incredibles, who will host a dance party on the Rocket Tower Stage, while heroes from another franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy, will join an "alien" band at the America Gardens Theatre at Epcot.

 Disney's Animal Kingdom will unveil two all-new experiences in 2018: a "dino-tastic" celebration that has irascible Donald Duck taking over Dinoland U.S.A., and Explorers Meet UP! A Great Bird Adventure, where beloved characters from the Disney Pixar film Up discover wildly exotic species of birds from around the world.

 In 2019, the highly-anticipated Star Wars-themed land is slated to open at Disney's Hollywood Studios, complete with its own resort. The out-of-this-galaxy property modestly promises to give guests a "one-of-a-kind experience, where a luxury resort meets a multi-day adventure in a galaxy far, far away." Further details were not available at press time; stay tuned to M&C for ongoing updates.