It's no mystery why Orlando draws more meetings than any other U.S. city, per Cvent's latest rankings. Beyond a fast-growing list of attractions and a vibrant downtown (pictured), Orlando is home to more than 450 hotels and one of the country's largest convention centers, all bathed in Florida sunshine.
• The 400-room Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek has finished a $5 million renovation. The project added a ballroom and a meeting room, giving the resort a total of 32,000 square feet of event space.
• Coming this summer to SeaWorld Orlando is the Electric Ocean, a new nighttime attraction featuring special bioluminescent lighting that will immerse park guests in a glowing "sea of wonder."
BRING YOUR INNER CHILD
New at Legoland Florida Resort is the mystical Orient-themed Lego Ninjago World; coming soon is the Legoland Beach Retreat, with 83 beach-themed bungalows outfitted with whimsical Lego décor.
• The Rosen Shingle Creek has completed a head-to-toe refurbishment. The project included upgrades to the property's 1,501 guest rooms and suites, the grand lobby and retail, restaurant and lounge spaces. In addition, the hotel's 18-hole championship Shingle Creek Golf Course has unveiled an innovative redesign -- including an open-air (but covered)event pavilion, all courtesy of the Arnold Palmer Golf Co.
• Calling all Parrotheads: The 187-room Margaritaville Resort Orlando is slated to begin welcoming guests late this year. The property, which also will include 1,000 Margaritaville-themed vacation homes and 300 time-share units, will have a dining and entertainment district and a 12-acre water park.
• The 54-room boutique Delaney Hotel will open in Orlando's downtown district in late spring. The property will offer high-tech conveniences such as remote check-in, in-room digital tablet-based concierge services and smartphone room keys.
• The 1,910-room Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista will add 500 guest rooms and expand its meeting and event spaces over the next two years. As part of the expansion, a new 15-story tower currently is under construction and eventually will house a rooftop restaurant and lounge with panoramic views of the nighttime fireworks at nearby theme parks. 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 current guest rooms and grounds; the latter will see floating gardens and an island oasis connected by a series of bridges to surrounding areas.
• The convention center at the 1,190-room Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resort will undergo a 28,000-square-foot expansion that, upon completion, will give the property a total of 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space. The new section will include a 16,000-square-foot ballroom, three prefunction areas and two rotundas for gatherings. A completion date for the project has not yet been announced.
• In other news from Walt Disney World Resort, WiFi and hard-wired services have been upgraded at the convention properties (Disney's Boardwalk Inn, Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney's Yacht & Beach Club). The new high-capacity bandwidth provides WiFi that can accommodate up to 5,000 attendees who use multiple devices. The enhanced service is available throughout the resorts' ballrooms, meeting rooms, exhibit halls and convention foyers. The properties also offer complimentary WiFi service in guest rooms and common areas.
• Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort will open two new towers comprising 400 guest rooms, adding to the property's current 1,800 rooms, upon completion this year. Cabana Bay amenities include two pools, a lazy river, a 10-lane bowling alley, and walking proximity to all of Universal's theme parks and Universal CityWalk.
• Orlando City Stadium, with 25,500 seats and the 10,000-square-foot Fan Plaza, has opened with lots of local buzz. The new sporting venue is home to Major League Soccer's Orlando City Lions and the National Women's Soccer League's Orlando Pride.
• Loews Hotels & Resorts announced it will open its sixth property in Universal Orlando in the summer of 2018. The Aventura Hotel is slated to have 600 guest rooms and will be the theme park's first property to feature a rooftop bar and grill with scenic views. It follows the 1,000-room Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, which opened in Universal in late 2016. This newcomer has a lively Caribbean theme and 115,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 41,000-square-foot ballroom, a 31,000-square-foot hall, 16 breakout rooms, some 27,000 square feet of prefunction space and 16,000 square feet of outdoor event space. Other amenities include a swimming pool with a water slide, cabanas and a fire pit.
• Top Golf Orlando will debut this fall near the Orange County Convention Center. The venue will offer approximately 100 climate-controlled hitting bays and advanced technology that can track the accuracy and distance of players' shots.
• The 1,011-room Buena Vista Palace Resort has been reflagged as the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace following a refurbishment.
• Disney Springs, the former Downtown Disney attraction currently being redesigned to resemble a colorful town from the turn of the 20th century, will continue to unveil new shops and dining spots as they are completed. Set to debut this summer is The Edison, a performance venue designed to resemble a vintage 1920s electric-company power plant.
JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT
The theme park capital of the world is about to increase its fun quotient with the debut of three major new attractions.
Universal Orlando Resort's Volcano Bay, a 30-acre water park, will open next month. The park has four themed areas with features including a multidirectional wave pool with sandy beaches, a winding river, twisting multi-rider raft rides, a 200-foot waterfall and speeding body slides that drop from the top of a volcano into the waters below.
Also making its debut next month at Disney's Animal Kingdom is Pandora--The World of Avatar, created by Avatar filmmaker James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment. Pandora will feature the Na'vi River Journey, which will send riders through a bioluminescent rainforest.
Coming in 2019 is the new Star Wars park at Walt Disney World, which will transport guests to a "never-before-seen planet" and include a ride aboard Hans Solo's space ship, the Millennium Falcon.
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 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; by shuttle, $20-$32 to downtown, $21-$33 to the convention center/International Drive
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%
Group Venue: Throw a block party for your group right in the middle of a theme park. Sign on for an Our Block Party at Universal CityWalk, which combines three or more venues within the attraction to allow attendees to experience an eclectic mix of themes, cuisine and entertainment, all in one night. Enjoy a taste of CityWalk or allow Universal chefs to build a menu of specific preferences. This event is for groups of 600 to 6,000 people. (888) 266-2121
Contact: Visit Orlando, (800) 643-0482