With 59 million visitors in 2013, Orlando is the most visited destination in the US. And while Orlando may be known for its leisure activities and theme parks (e.g., SeaWorld, University Orlando and Wald Disney World), it’s also a popular business destination for meetings, conventions, incentives and special events.
Orlando has six major districts: Convention Area (includes International Drive), Disney/Lake Buena Vista, Downtown, Restaurant Row (near the convention area), Universal/CityWalk and Winter Park (a small neighborhood with chic shops and restaurants).
It’s this broad range of options that allows Orlando to appeal to a diverse range of people. And this range is also appealing to meeting planners who are seeking business destinations to meet their needs (including the option to extend stays and bring family members).
Orlando is a city that is constantly reinventing and renovating itself, and that’s also why so many return to Orlando. People have high expectations and aren’t disappointed here.
If you haven’t been there in a while or are considering Orlando for a future meeting, you’ll be surprised to learn that many upscale and luxury properties are available for meetings.
Hotels in Orlando, Florida
Orlando has more than 180,000 hotel rooms and 450 hotels. In the convention district alone, Orlando has more than 11,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) — and hotels with more than 5,000 guest rooms are connected to OCCC through a network of covered pedestrian bridges (plan for up to 20 minutes depending on building locations).
If you’re attending or planning a meeting in this area, the Hilton Orlando (built in 2009) is a contemporary convention hotel with 225,000 square feet of flexible meeting space that is connected to the OCCC. It has its own convention facilities with 225,000 square feet of meeting space (3 grand ballrooms, 9 boardrooms and 21 meeting rooms). The Hilton Orlando has more than 1,400 guest rooms and suites, an outdoor pool, lazy river, 9-hole putting green, five restaurants, a lobby bar and a very impressive fitness center and spa. The Hyatt Regency Orlando and Rosen Centre are also connected to the OCCC.
For those interested in the Disney district, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando (498 excellent guest rooms and suites) offers 42,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 7,945 square foot Grand Ballroom, 8,712 square foot Central Park Ballroom with adjacent 5,544 square foot Central Park Gardens (covered outdoor space), 13 meetings rooms and outdoor venues, including private Signature Island. It’s connected to the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek (1,001 guest rooms and suites) which has an additional 132,000 square feet of meeting space.
Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida
The OCCC has two buildings (North/South and West). It’s a massive space, and the second large convention facility in the U.S. — 2.1 million square feet of total exhibition space.
To give you an idea, the North/South Building’s exhibition hall itself is the equivalent of 22 acres under one room. And the West building is the equivalent to the height of Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) –it’s 1,454 feet in height would fit lengthwise inside the West Building’s contiguous exhibition space (which is 2,500 feet in length). Combined, the two buildings offer 7 million square feet of space.
The West Building offers a total of 4 million square feet of space, 49 meeting rooms, 138 breakout rooms, the 62,182 square foot Valencia Ballroom, a 2,643 seat theater, a lecture hall with 200 seats and parking facilities with 1,450 spaces.
OCCC’s North/South Building offers a total of 3 million square feet of space, 25 meeting rooms, 94 breakout rooms and parking facilities with 4,777 spaces.
OCCC has initiated a five-year, $187 million project to enhance and upgrade aesthetics and connectivity to the complex.
Pointe Orlando for Special Events
Located in the convention district on International Drive (I-Drive), Pointe Orlando offers shopping, dining and nightlife options. If you’re in Orlando for a meeting in this area, chances are you will want to spend time at Pointe Orlando (for dinner or nightlife).
In fact, many meeting planners will host opening night programming at one or more venues at Pointe Orlando to allow attendees to experience many of the restaurants and clubs here. Examples include B.B. King’s Blues Club (comfort southern cuisine and a main stage for live music), Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar (two floors of lively Cuban music, flavors and art — with many different rooms to and spaces), The Pub (British inspired American cuisine) and Tommy Bahama Restaurant (fresh seafood with local produce).
Pointe Orlando can accommodate groups of all sizes, with many of our restaurants offering semi-private and private function space as well as full buyouts. The property can also accommodate up to 10,000 guests for special events, including block parties and buyouts, by utilizing multiple venues. Plus, the party doesn’t have to end when your event does. Your group can continue to enjoy Pointe Orlando on their own into the evening.
I-Drive has more than 100 hotels and 200 restaurants, and many new projects are underway, including plans for new hotels, entertainment complexes and I-Drive 360, featuring The Orlando Eye.
Things to Do in Orlando, Florida
Many of Orlando’s unique attractions, sports facilities, culinary schools, restaurants, department stores and destination management companies offer things to do for meetings and events (including spouse programs). If you’re visiting or attending a program, keep the following ideas in mind for nightlife options:
- Downtown Disney is an area that offers shopping, restaurants, music and entertainment. A few places you may want to stop by include Bongos Cuban Cafe (owned by Gloria Estefan), Ragland Irish Pub and Restaurant, Paradiso 37 (a mix of North, Central and South American cuisine and music) and Splitsville Luxury Lanes (which also offers an outdoor patio and live music). Downtown Disney is also home to La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil, a performance of acrobats, singers, trapeze artists, jugglers and clowns—more than 65 artists representing 15 countries—delight and mystify with daring acts of grace.
- Disney’s BoardWalk is a lovely, quarter mile promenade of restaurants, shops and nightlife. Here, you’ll find several dining options from counter to sit down service. ESPN Club (casual dining) is one popular spot, and you’ll also enjoy an evening at Jellyrolls, a casual, dueling piano bar where you can make requests and sing along for the night.
- University CityWalk is located adjacent to the theme park, and this is a busy and lively entertainment complex of restaurants, clubs and shops. A few places you may want to stop by include Pat O’Brien’s (which is famous for its New Orleans pub and dueling piano bar), Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom (reggae music and Jamaican cuisine), CityWalk’s Rising Star (the ultimate karaoke bar where you can live your dreams of being on stage with a professional backup band), Red Coconut Club (a tropical and trendy lounge and dance club) and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.
Some other things to do include museum hopping and a scenic boat tour in Winter Park, a hooded tour through the Harry P. Leu Gardens, an interactive presentation about shipwrecks and waterskiing and wake boarding at the Orlando Watersports Complex are just a few of the additional ideas.
Orlando Logistics and Weather
The Orlando International Airport (MCO) is located about 15 miles from the OCCC and other attractions. (Note: Orlando is a very large city, so it’s appropriate to allow sufficient time to transfer.) MCO will begin a $1.1 million capital improvement plan in 2014 so that it may eventually handle nearly twice its current passenger capacity.
Orlando is also accessible by train service (daily trains originate in New York and Miami with stops in Downtown Orlando, Winter Park, Sanford and Kissimmee).
There are plenty of options for ground transportation companies for groups, as well as private cars and taxis for individual travelers. It’s also worth noting that many hotels located in the Disney and Universal Studios districts offer free shuttles to the nearby theme park that they are associated with in each district.
From October to May, daily average temperatures range from the low 70s F (22 C) to mid 80s (27 C) during the day, and low 60s F (16 C) to high 60s F (20 C) in the evening.
From June to September, daily average temperatures range from the upper 80s F (27 C) to mid 90s (32 C) during the day, and upper 60s F (20 C) to mid 70s F (20 C) in the evening. This, according to Visit Orlando.
Updated. Initially published July 9, 2014.