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.
• The Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster launched at Walt Disney World on May 27. The indoor ride is the latest to debut as part of Epcot's multiyear renovation project, and is one of the longest fully enclosed coasters in the world.
• Hilton Orlando recently launched the world's largest and tallest mystery-room experience with Escape at Orlando. Upon arrival, guests are given a QR code to access "The Spy" game, transforming the hotel into an immersive mission, as guests try to break into a large spy operation and uncover the secret base. Reservations are available through Dec. 31.
• Orlando's Island H2O Water Park now welcomes groups. Special group pricing was launched in March, so planners can reserve cabanas, have the park opened early for their group or request a full buyout. Gatherings of 15 or more save 50 percent on admissions, and meals can be held in the venue's private spaces.
• Though Orange County offers many championship courses, it also features a great minigolf scene. Created with Tiger Woods and opened in June, PopStroke offers two 18-hole putting courses, and lots of friendly competition. Event packages require a minimum of 15 guests.
• New to the Orlando food scene is Immersion at London House. A new boutique restaurant by Chef Rikku O'Donnchu, it features a three-hour, 15-course tasting menu. The concept's ingredients focus on zero waste, science, climate change and sustainable farming.
• Opened in June 2022 is the Bandbox, a speakeasy-style, alcohol-free tasting lounge and vintage shop. Aside from the menu of mocktails, the bar will serve nonalcoholic beer and wine.
• New York Beer Project will open a tasting room in Winter Garden this summer, the company's first Florida location. Guests can sample up to 20 craft brews on tap, and grab a bite to eat at the gastropub or sidewalk bistro.
• Art² ("art squared"), an urban park featuring a two-story shipping container structure, is coming to downtown Orlando in spring 2022. The park will incorporate a café, art gallery, stage, seating, digital video walls and a gift shop, as well as an artificial turf courtyard, a concrete patio, picnic tables and hammocks and two food truck spaces.
• Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex opened at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The 50,000-square-foot, multi-level attraction features a showcase of NASA and commercial spacecraft hardware with immersive displays, as well as a “journey” through space, unique launch viewing opportunities and more.
• Visit Orlando’s site, OrlandoMeeting.com, has many resources to offer planners, including the 360-degree Orlando Virtual Tour, information on our newest venues, planner testimonials and access to our Healthy Traveler page.
• Steinmetz Hall at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts opened in January 2022 in the heart of downtown Orlando. The facility achieves an N1 sound rating — the lowest level at which humans can detect sound. The facility stages a range of performances by local, national and international artists. The new hall is available for groups and can accommodate 850 for a reception, 600 banquet and 1,700 theater style.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
• Ice Breaker, SeaWorld Orlando’s first launch coaster, opened in February. The ride features four launches, both backwards and forwards, culminating in a reverse launch with a 93-foot-tall spike with 100-degree angle, the steepest vertical drop in Florida.
• Riders on Reef Plunge, Aquatica Orlando's new water slide, twist and turn through 330 feet of fiberglass, and travel underwater to view dolphins, leopard sharks and other marine life.
Orlando International Airport
Orlando International Airport's largest expansion ever is ongoing. The $2.8 billion South Terminal Complex will have 19 new gates and a bridge to the new Intermodal facility with Brightline trains to West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Originally projected to open in late 2021, the completion date is now September.
Orange County Convention Center
The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), the award-winning convention center, 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.
Hotel Additions & Renovations
Home to more than 480 hotels and resorts, including 150+ meeting hotels, Orlando has 5.8 million square feet of total meeting space beyond what is offered at the Orange County Convention Center.
• The 234-room Lake Nona Wave Hotel opened in December. Dubbed a "hotel of the future," the property features self-driving shuttles, voice automated in-room controls, and View Glass smart windows that tint in response to the sun and other outdoor conditions. Groups can incorporate wellness into their events with the Lake Nona Performance Club, home to Deepak Chopra's Mind-Body Zone and Spa, which offers yoga and meditation classes. The new hotel has 17,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.
• The Drury Plaza Hotel Orlando Lake Buena Vista will welcome its first guests in October with an initial 264 rooms. When the entire project is completed in spring 2023, the property will feature 604 rooms and more than 17,000 square feet of meeting space. The first Drury Hotels property in Disney Springs, it will have two restaurants, a resort-style pool and transportation to Walt Disney World.
• As part of an ongoing multimillion dollar renovation, Orlando World Center Marriott has added 24 new 1,200-square-foot meeting rooms, bringing the property's event space to more than 500,000 square feet. The hotel also offers a variety of ballrooms and more than 70 breakout rooms.
• The 1,335-room Caribe Royale Orlando's $127 million transformation is nearly complete. The project added new suites and villas, revamped the on-site dining and upgraded the lobby. Last year, the resort unveiled a new 50,000-square-foot meeting venue to complement the previously existing 170,000 square feet of event space, for a total of 220,000 square feet of space. A two-level sports bar with interactive virtual-reality suites is expected to open in January 2023 as part of the final phase.
• After Disney's 50th anniversary celebration kicked off last October, the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve opened in November. The 14-story, 349-room hotel has a Mediterranean restaurant, a pool area with a fire pit, and more than 15,000 square feet of meeting space, including the Vue, a rooftop venue that looks out over the surrounding area. Guests of the Swan Reserve have access to all of the amenities at the Swan and Dolphin, including the six pools, 22 restaurants and lounges, and the Mandara spa.
• Also new to Walt Disney World Resorts is a Star Wars-themed hotel. Opened in March, the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser features a two-night immersive experience complete with launch pods, lightsabers and more.
• The Sports Illustrated Resort, a new lifestyle concept from the magazine brand, is set to open in 2024. The property, which is still in the planning phase, is expected to include live-action sports, entertainment and high-quality dining.
• The Alfond Inn at Rollins, a 112-room boutique hotel in the heart of Winter Park, has plans for expansion. Scheduled for completion by summer 2023, the project will add 71 luxury rooms and suites, a new spa, a fitness area, and more meeting space.
• The Fairmont Orlando is scheduled to open in early 2025 in Orlando's entertainment district. Plans for the seven-story property include 550 rooms, a spa and wellness center, three swimming pools, more than 44,000 square feet of event space, and seven dining options, including a Mediterranean restaurant and an upscale steakhouse.
• Disney's Contemporary Resort renovated all 655 guest rooms in the fall. The rooms and hallways received a new look inspired by the Disney-Pixar film The Incredibles, featuring futuristic custom artwork and décor elements from the movie.
• The Evermore Orlando Resort will be a massive 10,000-room resort complex. The first phase is expected to open in summer 2023 with the 433-room Conrad Orlando hotel, on which ground was broken in March 2021. On 1,100 acres bordering Walt Disney World, the campus will also have private villas, flats and houses for rent. The project is estimated to cost $1.5 billion.
• The 502-room Waldorf Astoria Orlando is expanding its meeting space. The additional 8,436-square-foot ballroom, to be completed in late 2022, will bring the hotel's event space to more than 63,000 square feet.
• After two years of construction, the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center revealed a $158 million expansion last July. The project added 306 guest rooms and more than 100,000 square feet of meeting space, bringing the property's totals to 1,718 rooms and more than 500,000 square feet of event space.
• In July 2021, the 1,334-room Rosen Centre Hotel welcomed Michael McMullen as its new executive chef. He has been with Rosen Hotels & Resorts for 15 years, and was previously executive chef at sister property Rosen Plaza. Dining outlets at the hotel include Caribbean cuisine at Harry's Poolside Bar & Grill and fresh Mexican fare at 98 Forty Tapas & Tequila.
• The Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is adding new meeting space. The two-story, 88,000-square-foot Waterside expansion, adjacent to the existing event space, will overlook the Bonnet Creek waterways. Scheduled to be available in 2023, Waterside includes a ballroom, seven meeting rooms, an outdoor patio, an event lawn and a screened veranda with views of the Disney fireworks.
• Three-time James Beard Award semifinalist and Top Chef contestant John Tesar has brought Knife Burger to the JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes. Featuring a more expanded menu than the original in Texas, the poolside restaurant offers burgers, seafood burgers and salads.
• AC Hotel by Marriott Orlando Lake Buena Vista will offer a state-of-the-art, 24-hour fitness facility, inventive chef-tailored dining and signature cocktail service. The property is set to open June 2022.
• JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek is one of the newest hotel properties to open at Walt Disney World Resort, the hotel offers 50,000 square feet of space (including a 22,000-sq-ft ballroom) and other rooms for groups that range from large to mid-sized gatherings.
• AC Hotels Orlando Downtown is a recent addition to downtown Orlando, the 180-room features modern guest rooms with a sleek European-inspired design, three meeting spaces, a ﬁtness center, and SkyBar Rooftop Terrace where 360° city views.
• Tru by Hilton Orlando Convention Center Area is a new addition to the convention district, located near the West Concourse of the OCCC. This hotel features 259 guest rooms and 2,200 sq ft of meeting space. Complimentary breakfast, parking and wi-fi are included for all guests.
• Hyatt Regency Orlando has completed a $20 million renovation of the property’s indoor meeting space, including all five ballrooms and 100+ breakout rooms with a new contemporary design highlighting the Florida landscape. The hotel has also added a new Regency Lounge with an outdoor patio.
• The Tuscan-inspired, 126-room ette Hotel Orlando opens spring 2022 near Disney World. Focusing on wellness as an alcohol-free property, the hotel offers culinary experiences in partnership with Michelin Star Chef Akira Back, along with The Spa at ette, with services for everyone from the modern minimalist to the unruly naturalist.