Why Orlando for Your Next Meeting or Event?
Orlando's legendary appeal to meetings and incentive groups of all ages is due to its magical blend of resorts, venues, dining, air accessibility, activities and — naturally — its theme parks and attractions.
As the no. 1 meetings destination in the United States (according to CVENT), Orlando is adding even more resources for meeting attendees, improvements at the conventions center, as well as new convention hotels, venues, and dining and attractions options throughout 2020 and beyond.
“With a major convention center expansion, unprecedented hotel inventory growth, new dining and entertainment venues and new attractions, the next few years will be some of the most transformative years for Orlando as a meetings and convention destination,” said George Aguel, president and CEO, Visit Orlando.
Transportation in & Around the Area
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
- Cost by shuttle
- $20-$32 to downtown
- $21-$33 to the convention center/International Drive
- $23-37 to the Disney Resorts area
What's New? Attractions & Unique Venues
From theme park thrills to indoor entertainment, there are plenty of fun, new options for groups to enjoy after business hours that are a short walk (or drive) from the Convention District.
• Visit Orlando’s new site, OrlandoMeeting.com. It has many resources to offer planners, and the added benefit of the 360-degree Orlando Virtual Tour.
• On International Drive, ICON Parktm, home to The Wheel and Starflyer attractions, will welcome more record-breaking attractions in 2020, including two major thrill rides:
o The Orlando Slingshot will catapult guests 450 feet into the air and be the World’s Tallest Slingshot ride.
o The Orlando Gyro Drop Tower will reach 400 feet, making it the world's tallest free-standing drop tower. Riders freefall at up to 75 miles per hour.
• A new venue in downtown Orlando is the 1700-seat Steinmetz Hall at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. It opens September 2020 and will achieve an N1 sound rating — the lowest level at which humans can detect sound. The hall’s design is fully customizable: its stage, walls, and floor can be lengthened, shortened or be lowered, giving an endless range of configurations.
• One of Central Florida's most beloved symbols has a new name: The Coca-Cola Eye is now known as the The Wheel at Icon Park. New this summer is a nightly light show, synchronized with the Icon's plaza fountains.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando, opening spring 2020, dives through four launches that run both backwards and forwards and takes riders on the steepest vertical drop in Florida.
Riptide Race at Aquatica Orlando will be Florida’s first-ever dueling water slide, featuring side-by-side racing lanes through nearly 650 feet of slide.
Orlando International Airport
Beat The Heat
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More TSA security officers, bomb-detection dogs and screening lanes are popping up at Orlando International Airport. 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.
Orlando International Airport’s South Terminal Complex is expected to open in 2021. The three-floor terminal facility will feature 19 new gates to accommodate at least 24 aircraft and more than 10 million passengers.
Orange County Convention Center
The Orange County Convention Center, the second-largest convention center in the country, is growing its capacity with a $605 million expansion, bringing total exhibit space to 2.3 million sq. ft. with expected completion in 2023. It's expanding its 7 million-square-foot campus with a $605 million project. Among the additions will be new meeting and exhibit space for the North and South concourses. The enclosed Convention Way Grand Concourse will be built to connect the North and South buildings. The new concourse will feature an 80,000-square-foot ballroom, while a new 200,000-square-foot, column-free multipurpose venue will provide seating for 18,000 to 20,000 people.
Currently, the OCCC welcomes more than 200 conventions and events each year and 1.4 million attendees. In the past five years, walkability and connectivity have been enhanced throughout the facility and its surrounding district. Four pedestrian skybridges now connect more than 5,200 guest rooms to the convention center.
In addition, the OCCC upgraded its digital signage. It has formed a partnership with etech, a provider of digital signage solutions for the events industry. The signage is intended to engage, inform and inspire attendees. It’s designed to elevate the attendee experience and help the convention center’s clients connect to their audiences. The signage employs integrated and centrally controlled digital branding and motion graphics.
Hotel Additions & Renovations
Home to more than 450 hotels and resorts, including 150+ meeting hotels, Orlando is in the midst of the biggest two-year period for hotel expansion in over two decades.
• 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.
• Universal Orlando Resort completes its Endless Summer Resort with the opening Dockside Inn and Suites, adding 2,050 guestrooms, in March. The resort’s sister property Surfside Inn and Suites opened in June 2019 with 750 rooms. With proximity to the Convention District, the resort is ideal for citywide convention needs.
• The Tru Hotel by Hilton Orlando Convention Center will open its doors in the heart of the Convention District in summer 2020 with 259 rooms, a variety of on-site amenities, and a walkway leading to the Orange County Convention Center’s west concourse.
• Cambria Hotel Orlando International Airporthas broken ground on its new hotel property. Set to open in 2021, the five-story, 106-room hotel will have upscale amenities, an open concept lobby, multi-function meeting and event space, and is located less than two miles from the airport.
• The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort will add a new hotel to its resort in 2021. The Cove will have 349 guestrooms and suites, 22,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 16,700 sq. ft. of flexible outdoor space, which includes two new ballrooms, 12 meeting and breakaway rooms and a unique rooftop space. Among the new tower's offerings will be more than 22,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms, 12 meeting rooms and a rooftop reception space that will provide views of the nightly Walt Disney World fireworks. Once the new tower opens, the resort will feature more than 2,600 guest rooms and 350,000 square feet of meeting space. The new guest-room inventory will include 151 suites with separate working and private spaces, a built-in A/V system and large conference tables. A landscaped 16,800-square-foot elevated deck with a fire pit and pool will be built; a 90-seat restaurant and a 50-seat lounge will serve refreshments; and guests will have access to a health club, a business center, a grab-and-go market and an upscale craft cocktail lobby bar.
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.
• Just opened is the 184-room Margaritaville Resort Orlando. The 300-acre property features 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.
• A 28,000-square-foot expansion of the convention center has been completed at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resort. The new convention area includes 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.
• Two new properties are set to open at Walt Disney World:
- Disney Lakeside Lodge
- A 900-room, nature-inspired resort
- Disney's Riviera Resort
- “Inspired by the European grandeur Walt Disney experienced in his travels along the Mediterranean coastline.”
No opening dates have been set for the hotels.
Orlando Travel Essentials
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
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
Rides, new hotels 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 Bourne Stuntacular, a cutting-edge live-action stunt show based on Universal Pictures’ blockbuster Bourne films, will debut in spring 2020 at Universal Studios Florida.
• Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is an epic new addition to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™. Guests fly deep into the wilds of the Forbidden Forest, beyond the grounds of Hogwarts™ castle. Anything can happen here.
• The sleek Universal's Aventura Hotel debuted last August with 600 guest rooms and a rooftop pool. Also on-site are a lobby bar, the rooftop Bar 17 Bistro, a game room and a "food hall" with other dining options.
• Also rolling out in Universal are the 2,025-room Endless Summer Resort comprising two properties: the Surfside Inn and Suites, which debuted in summer 2019, and the Dockside Inn and Suites, opening in 2020.
• An outpost of hip Voodoo Doughnuts has opened at Universal CityWalk. Among the delightfully weird and delectable offerings is the iconic Voodoo Doll doughnut, which comes with its own pretzel stake.
Whole New Worlds
The spotlight's on Toy Story, Star Wars and more at WDW Resort
Two beloved franchises in the Disney family — Toy Story and Star Wars – began to take center stage at Walt Disney World Resort back in 2018. Here's some of what's going on:
• It's out of this world! Climb in the cockpit of a brand-new attraction, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It transports guests to a never-before-seen planet. Disney debuts the next generation of all-electric, life-like animatronics, called A1000s, here.
• “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance” opened in December and is the second attraction for the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
• The first-ever Mickey-themed ride-through attraction, “Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway,” will also open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios March 4, 2020.
• Epcot is undergoing one of the biggest transformations of any Disney park in history, bringing a host of new attractions and experiences in 2020, including:
o Three new films: Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360 and Awesome Planet.
o Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens in summer 2020, shrinking guests to the size of Chef Remy and racing them through Gusteau’s restaurant on a wild adventure.
o HarmonioUS, the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park.
o La Crêperie de Paris, a new restaurant in the France pavilion.
• “Drawn to Life,” a new Cirque du Soleil show, opening at Disney Springs in March 2020.Building at Legoland Florida
• The Legoland Florida Resort is perfect for small family-friendly meetings; a new hotel being built there will feature in-room treasure hunts and Lego games for the kids when it debuts next spring. The 150-room Pirate Island Hotel, the resort's third lodging option, will offer a heated pool, hundreds of Lego models, the Shipwreck Restaurant, the Smuggler's Bar, pirate-themed entertainment and Lego play areas. The "wreckage" of a pirate ship will sit outside of the hotel’s entrance.
Culinary Hot Spots Around Orlando
Named a top food city in the United States by WalletHub, Orlando’s breadth and quality of dining options continue to attract celebrity chefs and independent restaurateurs
Knife & Spoon at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, is a concept from Chef John Tesar, James Beard Award semifinalist and “Top Chef” contestant, opening spring 2020.
Ole Red, a new restaurant by country superstar Blake Shelton, will merge southern hospitality, good food and live country music, opens on April 13. Ox Grill, which opened in December, offers contemporary fare with steaks, pasta and a selection of international dishes. Both restaurants are located at ICON Park on International Drive.
Norman’s will be moving to Restaurant Row. Created by celebrity chef and James Beard Award winner Norman Van Aken, the concept will open in the Dellagio Plaza spring 2020.
Pointe Orlando will get a $32 million makeover, with upgrades improving connectivity and gathering spots, to be completed by summer 2020. New restaurants opening at Pointe Orlando include locally owned Kavas Tacos + Tequila opening in September and The Hampton Social, themed after the New York coastal resort region.
Three talented chefs showcase their culinary prowess in Orlando.
Mickey and Pluto can be forgiven if real-life characters with names like Wolfgang are stealing the show in Orlando -- at least when it comes to eating. Here's the savory details of local eateries headed by these talented toque-topped denizens of fine dining.
• Rick Bayless: Frontera Cocina at Disney Springs
Eight-time James Beard Award-winner Bayless is a master of modern Mexican fare as amply demonstrated here. Try his version of ribeye steak, with ancho chile, crispy onion strings, Cotija mashed potatoes, caramelized plantains and other south-of-the-border ingredients for un comida mas excelente.
• Wolfgang Puck: Wolfgang Puck Express at Disney Springs
Superstar Puck serves up Italian favorites like rigatoni Bolognese, chicken alfredo and penne primavera. The new Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, also in Disney Springs, offers a Mediterranean-influenced menu with an ambience "inspired by California." Okay, we'll bite!
• Melissa Kelly: Primo at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes
Melissa Kelly, who rose to fame with her original Primo in Maine, crafts dishes here using ingredients from the resort's on-site organic garden. Try the sautéed scaloppini of pork saltimbocca with garlic mashed potatoes, prosciutto, spinach and sage-infused mushroom madeira jus.
Partners' Properties and Venues
Always Something Happening at SeaWorld Orlando
These are busy days for SeaWorld Orlando®. Looking ahead to 2020, the park is anticipating the opening of Ice Breaker, SeaWorld's first launched coaster. Ice Breaker will feature four airtime filled launches, both backwards and forwards, culminating in a reverse launch into the steepest beyond vertical drop in Florida — a 93 feet tall spike with 100 degree angle. A walk down memory lane is in store at the recently opened Sesame Street Land™ at SeaWorld Orlando. Your group can explore Sesame Street, reminiscing about the fun and learning of the world-famous street. How's that for a unique experience? Your group can visit Sesame Street for the very first time at SeaWorld Orlando. Get more info on SeaWorld here.
- Rosen Shingle Creek, Best Hotel/Resort, Southeast, Silver winner
- Doubletree Hilton Orlando by SeaWorld, Best Hotel/Resort, Southeast, Finalist
- Rosen Shingle Creek, Best Décor/Design, Southeast, Silver winner
- Rosen Shingle Creek, Best Food & Beverage, Southeast, Silver winner
- Rosen Shingle Creek, Best Golf Resort, Southeast, Bronze winner
- Rosen Shingle Creek, Best On-Site Support Staff, Southeast, Gold winner
- Hilton Orlando, Best On-Site Tech/WiFi, Southeast, Gold winner
- Visit Orlando, Best CVB/DMO, Southeast, Gold winner
2018 Stella Award Winners
- Rosen Shingle Creek, Best Hotel/Resort, Southeast, Bronze winner
- Rosen Shingle Creek, Best Golf Resort, Southeast, Bronze winner
- Rosen Shingle Creek, Best Décor/Design, Southeast, Bronze winner
- Hilton Orlando, Best Food and Beverage, Southeast, Gold winner
- Hilton Orlando, Best On-Site Support Staff, Southeast, Gold winner
- Rosen Shingle Creek, Best On-Site Support Staff, Southeast, Bronze winner
- Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, Best Renovation, Southeast, Gold winner
- Hilton Orlando Altamonte Springs, Best Renovation, Southeast, Finalist
- Visit Orlando, Best CVB/DMO, Southeast, Gold winner