FloridaFebruary 1, 2017

Sunny Weather and Fabulous Meeting Venues By
February 1, 2017


Sunny Weather and Fabulous Meeting Venues
The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood.

The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood.

When planning the recent 17th Annual State of the Art Winter Symposium for the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS), Jamison Visone, CMP, meeting planner at ASTS, was delighted with the pristine ocean backdrop that Loews Miami Beach Hotel boasts. And Visone is not alone. Many association meeting and event planners revel in all that Florida has to offer in terms of meeting venues, glorious weather and recreational activities aplenty.

As Visone explains, it is hard to beat January weather on Miami Beach. “We like hosting this event in Florida, and specifically Loews Miami Beach, because the hotel is just the right size to manage the size of our symposium,” Visone says.

The meeting focuses on ASTS’ younger members, and they enjoy coming back year after year as they progress in their careers and the Society.

“Our folks love the destination, and when offered other options, attendance has lagged. The time of year we go — September — the weather is always terrific.”
— Dave Huneryager

“Their familiarity with the venue adds to their enjoyment of the meeting,” Visone says. “We have a wonderful partnership with the Loews, and they also share in the success of the symposium. This year, we had around 550 attendees, and the activity that our attendees look forward to the most, aside from the scientific content of the meeting, is the closing dinner on Saturday night.  We host this dinner on the Americana Lawn of the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, and the beach is a perfect backdrop to end another successful symposium.”

Located in the heart of South Beach’s vibrant Art Deco District, the renowned oceanfront Loews Miami Beach Hotel recently completed a $50 million transformation. Guests now are welcomed to a new lobby experience; 790 upgraded luxury guest rooms; state-of-the-art meeting spaces; a new, oceanfront poolscape including private, adult-only cabanas and more. Attendees can reserve private cabanas called Soak Cabanas & Daybeds, and indulge in spa therapies and fitness classes at Loews’ exhale Spa. Located just steps from the shopping and dining of famous Lincoln Road, as well as the nightlife and entertainment of Ocean Drive, Loews Miami Beach Hotel offers 65,000 sf of refreshed, flexible indoor and outdoor state-of-the-art function space that can accommodate events from 10 to 2,700 people.

The resort’s redesigned oceanfront poolscape with private beach access is an ideal location to partake in teambuilding activities or simply bask in the ambience of South Beach.

Something for Everyone

Sean Hewitt, meetings manager at the Nashville, Tennessee-based Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals, recently orchestrated the 2016 Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Annual Conference, which was held at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront in Northeast Florida. More than 1,000 people attended the conference.

Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront was contracted back in 2013 as the designated venue for the society’s annual conference.

“The hotel is large enough to accommodate all of our guest room and function space needs versus having to look at a convention center, for example,” Hewitt says. Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront was a good fit — both from a size as well as room rate/cost standpoint. I know that Florida is always a strong contender in any site selection process due to the number and size of hotel venues available, the availability of ample leisure activities and opportunities to tack on a vacation after the conference for attendees and, of course, the weather.”

One way association meeting attendees can enjoy Florida’s warm climes is by taking part in Hyatt’s new bike service — a fun way to view Jacksonville up close, pedaling along the St. Johns riverfront. Adding to the convenience, helmets, bike locks and baskets are provided by Hyatt for a safe and smooth ride around downtown Jacksonville.

Sunshine and Activities Captivate Attendees

Not surprisingly, Florida’s weather is one of the enticing features that the meeting planners at the Nashville-based Tennessee Trucking Association (TTA) embrace when planning their annual event.

Dave Huneryager, president and CEO at TTA, recently planned their annual trade association convention at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, in Destin on Florida’s Northwest Gulf Coast. Considered to be the most important event on the Tennessee Trucking Association’s calendar, the Florida environment and the recreational amenities offered at the Hilton Sandestin melded well with Huneryager’s vision for the event.

“We had 450 people in attendance, and they enjoyed things such as outdoor receptions, beach activities and a fireworks display,” he says. “Our folks love the destination, and when offered other options, attendance has lagged. The time of year we go — September — the weather is always terrific.”

Group activity options abound at the many recreation facilities at Florida’s hotels and resorts. For example at the Hilton Orlando, which is connected via covered walkway to the Orange County Convention Center (the second largest convention center in the U.S.), is best known for its out-of-the box event and meeting offerings, from onsite food trucks to a live-action circus and world-class culinary options including made-to-order truffles and ramen soup stations. The hotel provides a robust offering of wellness and fitness activities for groups and associations. This includes a themed 5K fun run, ideal for groups that want to engage in a plain fun run, or dress according to their association’s theme.

Hilton Orlando also offers a Boot Camp for a full interval training experience. And to help association attendees relax, the hotel offers yoga and meditation. Chair massage also is available during check-in to enhance the group’s arrival experience, during breakout sessions or even on the trade show floor.

Celebrating everything that Florida has to offer, Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs on Florida’s Southwest Coast features a 26-acre resort teeming with recreational amenities for attendees to enjoy. Delegates can spend time collecting shells on the resort’s semi-private beach on the Gulf of Mexico, noted as one of the best in the country. Or they can tee it up at Raptor Bay Golf Course or relax at Stillwater Spa. The resort’s newly opened pool boasts activities where attendees can plummet down three-story corkscrew slides, ride the gentle currents of a lazy river, and dine on local cuisine from a rotating selection of food trucks.

Nearby the resort, the best of Southwest Florida awaits, from shopping and cultural experiences to outdoor activities including boat charters for fishing excursions on the Gulf of Mexico, exploring the wilds of the Everglades and parasailing 600 feet high above the coastline.

Teambuilding also is a popular element of meetings in Florida. In Naples, 30 minutes south of Bonita Springs, the Naples Grande Beach Resort boasts an in-house GlobalWorks Events & Destination Management group to help provide unique offsite excursions for groups and teambuilding activities. The GlobalWorks team has fostered relationships with the best local tour operators in Naples. Tours and experiences include deep-sea fishing, Everglades experiences and sunset cruises. For example, Ngala Wildlife Preserve is the ultimate destination for a unique, private event with the opportunity to encounter exotic wildlife combined with authentic entertainment. And after hosting a daytime meeting at Naples Grande, an offsite soirée at Naples Botanical Garden — with more than 170 beautiful acres of cultivated gardens and event space — would be an event to remember. Onsite, Naples Grande Beach Resort offers a variety of pursuits from award-winning golf and tennis, to relaxed poolside luxury and diverse dining. The resort offers an unparalleled setting for meetings and events for SMERF groups and all types of associations in a beautiful setting when business and recreation meet.

After spending a day in Turnberry Isle Miami’s 40,000-sf conference center, attendees can enjoy the only lagoon-style pool of its kind in South Florida. Turnberry Isle Miami’s beautiful 7,500-sf Laguna Pool invites time spent splashing and soaking up the Miami sun. A 1,600-foot-long lazy river, 35-foot-high waterslide and splash pool let guests lounge or play. The Laguna Pool boasts a beautiful outdoor space, perfect for poolside celebrations or group gatherings.

New & Noteworthy

Newly transformed in the last couple of years with billions invested in new hotels and reimagined iconic resorts, Greater Fort Lauderdale is a destination that celebrates it diversity with Latin American and Caribbean influences and a landscape that stretches from 23 miles of beach to the Everglades.

Visitors to the Fort Lauderdale area enjoy plenty of options for downtime after meetings with Broadway-style theater shows, Vegas-style gaming at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, shopping at luxury brand stores such as Prada and Gucci at Sawgrass Mills, and an eclectic music and art scene. And associations looking to “wow” attendees will enjoy Seminole Hard Rock’s 5,500-seat Hard Rock Live arena with 18,000 sf suitable for a sound and lighting extravaganza for exhibitions, galas, concerts and sporting events.

The 998-room Diplomat Beach Resort is ideally located in Hollywood, Florida, between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The recently completed $100 million transformation includes reimagined guest rooms, indoor/outdoor event spaces, oceanfront spa and more than 10 dining concepts.

Among the culinary offerings are The Diplomat Prime steakhouse; Monkitail, featuring Japanese-inspired fare crafted by famed chef and restaurateur Michael Schulson; Point Royal, showcasing celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s coastal-American fare with modern seafood dishes and raw bar; and Playa, a beachfront nuevo-Latina restaurant and bar with an extensive selection of rum and tequila. The largest hotel in Broward County, The Diplomat also offers more than 200,000 sf of meeting and event space including a 50,000-sf Great Hall, four ballrooms and 39 individual meeting rooms as well as outdoor special event areas including the pool deck and 33rd floor lounge space. The newly renovated guest rooms at The Diplomat, which feature ocean or Intracoastal views, fit one of two separate design schemes: Sunrise or Sunset. Sunrise rooms are modern, vibrant and refreshing with earthy tones that provide a soothing, calm atmosphere accented with blue ocean colors, with vintage artwork that harkens the region’s history. Sunset rooms reflect a more subtle, modern and organic design scheme.

Situated amid stunning scenery and hushed seclusion in Central Florida, Streamsong is a distinctive luxury meeting destination intentionally designed in harmony with its natural surroundings.

Streamsong boasts two remarkable, nationally ranked golf courses — Streamsong Red and Streamsong Blue —with a third, Streamsong Black, debuting this fall. Leisure activities include a grotto-style AcquaPietra Spa, guided bass fishing, sporting clays, tennis, fitness center and a lakeside infinity pool. Offering five distinct dining options, Streamsong presents the chance to enjoy excellent food and drink in the most beautiful setting imaginable.

The resort also offers an inspirational, distraction-free environment for meetings in its 24,600 sf of dedicated meeting space. Thirteen large and small meeting rooms accommodate 10 to 600 people in complete comfort and privacy. General session and breakout rooms are conveniently clustered for effective program flow. Modern, sophisticated and meticulous in detail, Streamsong features 228 spacious guest rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling glass and custom louvers offering striking sunrise or sunset lake views.

If being in the midst of nature is high on the priority list, The Henderson, a Salamander Beach & Spa Resort, could be the destination. Located on the Gulf along one of America’s top beaches in Destin, the new property is adjacent to the pristine 208-acre Henderson Beach State Park. Some of the most popular recreational amenities that groups participate in include paddleboarding, kayaking, jet skiing, snorkeling, snuba, charter boat fishing and parasailing. Reminiscent of a luxurious grand seaside manor of yesteryear, the resort features 170 spacious guest rooms and suites, a nature-inspired spa, Gulf-to-Table cuisine, 10,000 sf of indoor meeting space, and 20,000 sf of outdoor event space.

Following an extensive multimillion-dollar renovation, the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace has transformed the property with a series of upscale refurbishments including a new guest room and lobby design, new lobby bar and outside terrace.

Perfect for meeting attendees who want to “work some and play some,” the hotel also opened an expansive new recreation area including a Float Lagoon lazy river, new pools and cabanas, as well as a new poolside restaurant — Shades. They have a updated lawn space for meetings, and cocktail receptions can take place in 20 Seven, an event space that boasts panoramic views of fireworks from the highest vantage point in Disney. The hotel boasts more than 90,000 sf of indoor and outdoor event space.

Transforming the landscape of downtown West Palm Beach, the Hilton West Palm Beach recently celebrated the first year anniversary. Connected directly to the Palm Beach County Convention Center, Hilton West Palm Beach is located directly across the street from CityPlace, a shopping and entertainment district with more than 60 specialty retail shops, a distinguished collection of restaurants and bars and an open-air plaza with dancing fountains. Also nearby, there is more entertainment, dining and attractions on Clematis Street, fabulous art exhibits at the Norton Museum of Art, and Broadway shows and more at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, which are all less than a mile from the hotel. Attendees can enjoy thoughtful amenities including a 55-inch, flat-screen TV, an ergonomic work desk, wireless high-speed Internet and views of downtown West Palm Beach.

The property boasts more than 29,000 sf of meeting space, and the hotel exterior includes two 2,400-sf lawn spaces for special events.

To help meeting attendees unwind and relax, Hilton West Palm Beach features outdoor fitness boot camp classes to music designed by the onsite music curator. To decompress after meetings, the hotel offers glow-in-the-dark lawn games such as bocce ball, bean bag toss and ladder golf.

Attendees meeting at Hilton West Palm Beach can cool off by creating their own ice sculptures. The hotel provides tools and techniques courtesy of the culinary team who are well versed in ice sculpting. Participants are divided into teams whose goals are to sculpt blocks of ice into a masterpiece. All finished sculptures are used as centerpieces during dinner.

The new Grove Resort & Spa Orlando recently launched its first phase with 184 of its 878 residential-style suites that span up to nearly 1,600 sf. Open now with three swimming pools, a spa, fitness center, two bars and lounges, a large-scale grab-and-go, a lakefront pier with watersports, and a children’s game room, The Grove will grow to also include a variety of other dining options and an onsite water park with a dual rider surf simulator, winding lazy river and multiple water slides. The resort brings a new type of hotel destination to the Orlando area with an expansive 106-acre blueprint that incorporates a portion of Central Florida’s conservation grounds.

Guests arriving now will be the first to enjoy the resort’s full-service Escape Spa and fitness center; three swimming pools with ample space for both play and relaxation; watersports, paddleboats and fishing at Lake Austin Pier; traditional cocktail favorites and signature citrus-inspired creations at Zest lobby bar; an elegant, modern atmosphere, live entertainment and a libation menu featuring craft cocktails and craft beer at Element lounge; and a selection of hot and cold self-serve food, made-to-order sandwiches and grocery-style items at Alfresco Market.

The hotel, which offers convenient access to Orlando’s prime entertainment locales and iconic parks, also is a retreat from the boisterous pace of the theme parks with its natural marsh, wooded landscape and waterfront setting on Lake Austin. The Grove can accommodate up to 300 meeting-goers with onsite catering and audio-visual support available.  AC&F

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