North/Central Florida

Universal Orlando Resort globe

Why here?
Florida's north/central region offers the greatest concentration of theme parks (including Universal Orlando Resort, pictured) and attractions on the planet, along with top-level accommodations, abundant meeting space, fabulous golf, restorative spas, fine dining, world-class shopping and more.

Orlando welcomed 72 million visitors in 2017, breaking its own record and making it the first U.S. destination to top 70 million annual visitors. The milestone figure represents a 5 percent jump over 2016 numbers.

The Rosen Centre Hotel, connected to the Orange County Convention Center, has completed a renovation of all 1,334 guest rooms. The property offers more than 150,000 square feet of meeting space.

One of Central Florida's most beloved symbols has a new name: The Coca-Cola Eye is now known as the Icon Orlando. New this summer is a nightly light show, synchronized with the Icon's plaza fountains.

The Orlando World Center Marriott recently unveiled a series of upgrades, including the addition of dining spot Latitude & Longitude and the HyCube, a multi-storied hydroponic garden that supplies fresh produce for the 2,009-room property. The hotel offers 450,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space.


Local Update

 The 187-room Margaritaville Resort Orlando is set to open this year. Offerings will include 30,000 square feet of meeting and function space, 200,000 square feet of retail space, a dining and entertainment area, a 12-acre water park, a wellness center, wooded fitness trails, bike trails, a water-taxi system and a three-acre swimming area.

• Universal Orlando Resort has three new properties coming online. Set to open in August is the 600-room Aventura Hotel, which will have a rooftop pool, public spaces designed for impromptu networking, a lobby bar, a rooftop bar, a game room and a "food hall." Universal's recently announced Endless Summer Resort will have two properties: the Surfside Inn and Suites, which will debut in summer 2019, and the Dockside Inn and Suites, opening in 2020.

 The Rosen Shingle Creek recently upgraded its 1,501 guest rooms and grand lobby, redesigned Tobias Burgers & Brews, expanded Mi Casa Tequila Taqueria and redesigned its championship golf course. The AAA Four Diamond hotel has 524,000 square feet of meeting and event space, along with a golf academy.

 At Walt Disney World Resort, the 1,190-room Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resort is adding a 28,000-square-foot expansion to its convention center. When completed this summer, the property will have a new total of 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

 Also expanding at Disney is the 1,910-room Disney's Coronado Springs Resort. Over the next two years, the hotel will add 545 new guest rooms and expand its current 220,000 square feet of meeting and event space with the addition of two multipurpose meeting rooms and a boardroom.

 The 516-room JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort will debut in 2020 with 50,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 23,000-square-foot ballroom. The property will offer an indoor/outdoor restaurant, a rooftop bar with panoramic views of local evening fireworks, two pools, a spa, a fitness center and a games deck.

 The 2,267-room Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort has unveiled the results of an extensive renovation project. All guest rooms have been upgraded with new carpeting and high-definition TVs, the resort's 332,000 square feet of meeting space was refurbished with electronic reader boards and upgraded WiFi, and a new group venue -- the 2,800-square-foot Lake View room -- was added.

Meeting Hotels: To find and compare Orlando area and other properties, and to send RFPs, visit

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: Room tax, 7%; sales tax, 6%; Dallas Orlando/Orange County: Room tax, 6%; sales tax, 6.50%; total tax 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) 972-3304


Orlando is known as the "theme park capital of the world" for good reason. The destination has the largest concentration of attractions in the world -- and keeps upping the ante with new parks and rides to thrill and delight kids of all ages. Following is a rundown of the newest offerings.

 Aliens, flying saucers, Woody, Buzz Lightyear and other characters galore are all part of the fun at Disney's Toy Story Land, which will debut June 30. The new land, part of Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, gives visitors the illusion of shrinking down to the size of a toy as they enter a recreated version of Andy's backyard from the Disney Pixar films. Highlights of the 11-acre park's offerings include Alien Swirling Saucers and the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster.

• Fast & Furious--Supercharged, based on the racing-film franchise, zoomed into Universal Studios Florida this spring. The ride transports guests through the underground headquarters of the Fast family and includes a high-speed race on a tricked-out party bus, featuring virtual cameos by characters from the films. A garage filled with iconic cars from the franchise is a sweet spot with the selfie-taking crowd.

 Guests will get a big splash at Ray Rush, the new water slide/ride at Aquatica, SeaWorld's waterpark, which opened in May. The attraction promises to get riders wet in three ways: via water jets upon launching, again when they spin through a water-sphere tunnel, and finally upon landing atop giant manta wings that take them swooping along various pathways.

The latest news from a storied Atlantic Coast destination

What's New: The Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach, near the iconic Daytona Beach Pier and the Ocean Center, debuted this spring. Amenities include Sessions, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner; the Wave Terrace bar and eatery; the Rock Spa & Salon; the Body Rock fitness center, and an oceanfront pool. The 200-room beachfront property has 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including an open-air terrace.

One Daytona, a multimillion-dollar entertainment complex with multiple dining and retail outlets, has opened across from the world-famous Daytona International Speedway.

Meeting Hotels: Properties include the 744-room Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, 740-room Wyndham Ocean Walk and 200-room Hard Rock Hotel.

To find and compare Daytona Beach properties, and to send RFPs, visit

Convention Center: Ocean Center; exhibit space, approximately 149,000 square feet; umber of meeting rooms, 32; (800) 858-6444.

Airport Transit: Daytona Beach International Airport, about four miles west of the downtown district. Transfer cost by taxi, $18-20

Taxes: Room tax, 6%; sales tax, 6.5%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12.5%

Contact: Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, (386) 255-0415

An update on this gem among the Jacksonville area beaches

What's New: The 249-room Ponte Vedra Inn & Club is celebrating its 90th anniversary with a yearlong schedule of festivities and packages. Among the anniversary offerings are 1928-inspired cocktails, 1950s-style sock hops and special packages in the resort's spa.

Meeting Hotels: Properties in the area include the 514-room Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa and 66-room Lodge & Club at Ponte Vedra Beach.

Airport Transit:
 Jacksonville International Airport, about 50 miles from St. Augustine's downtown district and 33 miles from Ponte Vedra. Transfer cost by taxi to Ponte Vedra, about $85

Northeast Florida Regional Airport, 20 miles to Ponte Vedra. Transit cost by taxi to Ponte Vedra, $40-$60
Contact: St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau, (904) 209-4422 or (800) 418-7529