Orlando remains a top draw for meeting groups, and it's obvious why, from its always-evolving Orange County Convention Center, to wealth of theme parks and entertainment attractions (such as the fast-growing Disney Springs). Successful Meetings recently spoke with, George Aguel president and CEO of Visit Orlando, to pick his brain about what's new in the city, and what are some hidden gems groups might not know about.
1. What's new in Orlando for groups?
There's so much new here that we sometimes have trouble keeping up. By the end of this year, Disney Springs will add about 80 new retail and dining outlets to its already impressive 70. I-Drive 360, anchored by the Orlando Eye, is our newest retail, dining, and entertainment complex on International Drive and has recently added a wine bar to its extensive list of restaurants and other venues. Also on I-Drive, there's Mango's, a 55,000-square-foot Latin-inspired restaurant and nightclub, which recently opened, great for all size groups.
2. What's a great "hidden gem" for visiting groups?
Several of our hotel restaurants are hidden gems. Capa, at the Four Seasons, for example, is not only a wonderful place for a meal; it's the perfect spot to see fireworks from all three Walt Disney theme parks.
3. What's a good outing to get a sense of the culture or history?
The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts opened in November 2014 and it's a great place to see Broadway theater and other performances. We also have a history museum and several art museums, including the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, housing the largest collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
4. Where can a group get a truly local culinary experience?
Locals go to the East End Market, near our downtown region. It's a venue filled with creative kiosks from local vendors where they can find local meats and cheeses, craft beer, and fresh baked bread, among many other options. There's also Tkokos restaurant in the market, specializing in Basque fare.
5. Anything else that you think makes Orlando a great destination for groups?
Meeting professionals are amazed at the fact they can work with all of the major theme parks in setting up a special event for their groups, offering a highly immersive experience that cannot be replicated in any normal venue at other destinations.