Sign up for our newswire newsletter


On The Scene: Discover Orlando's Newest and Timeless Group Experiences

Conrad Orlando Polynesian Restaurant & Bar Papaya Club

One of the best things about being the Meetings Today Florida contributing editor is the invites to see new hotels and attractions throughout The Sunshine State. For me, it’s always a treat when the trip is in my own backyard. This winter, I had the golden opportunity to discover some amazing new properties and venues in Orlando sure to amaze meeting professionals.  

Because I live in downtown Orlando, I don’t often get to the convention area, so I was especially keen to explore the updates. 

Our first day began with a welcoming check-in to Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, a property that rests on a 482-acre nature preserve surrounded by Walt Disney World Resort with a unique array of amenities, including a lagoon-style pool, three-acre lazy river and 12 dining outlets. Guests enjoy early theme park entry and complimentary transportation to Disney Theme Parks and Disney Springs, the dining, entertainment and shopping mecca.  

[Related: Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Beckons Meetings to a Brand-New Experience]

We had little time to enjoy our luxurious rooms, however, as we were whisked to dinner on International Drive in the heart of the convention district and treated to Chima Brazilian Steakhouse, named after chimarrão, a traditional drink of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, that symbolizes hospitality and friendship. Chima serves traditional Brazilian rodizio in an elegant setting. The array of appetizers such as seafood salad, charcuterie, roasted artichokes and creamy soups will tantalize your taste buds before you get to the meat of the meal, where “gauchos” present black angus picanha with chimichurri and grilled jalapeños, sausages, or New Zealand lamb chops, all grilled to mouthwatering perfection. Groups are welcome and will be astonished by the wine cellar with more than 8,000 bottles from vineyards around the world!  

Introducing: Evermore Orlando Resort 

The following day, we were driven to the newest resort to grace the Orlando convention area, Evermore Orlando Resort and its anchor hotel Conrad Orlando. We toured this impressive development just before the January grand opening. The billion-dollar investment has paid dividends to groups now easily able to secure rooms, flats and homes for their meeting attendees. 

Evermore is a 1,100-acre enchanting oasis centered around a massive eight-acre crystalline lagoon on the site of the former Villas of Grand Cypress Golf Resort and sits 20 miles from Orlando International Airport (MCO). Already a renowned luxury hotel brand, Conrad Orlando is setting a new bar as the brand’s new flagship property.  

Conrad Orlando
Conrad Orlando

And yes, it is grand. 

Located on the north end of Evermore’s tropical paradise, the 433-room hotel includes 51 suites and 10 family suites, 65,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, a tranquil spa and a private pool area with a splash pad. Looking to dazzle groups? A signature rooftop experience is also available with breathtaking views, chilled cocktails and tasty tidbits. Ceiba, the resort’s Mexican rooftop restaurant, dishes up a fusion of traditional and contemporary Mexican cuisine with panoramic views and a retractable roof sure to make your attendees wonder if they are perhaps heaven-bound as they sip frosty margaritas. Onsite resort amenities include the luxurious Conrad Spa, private Water Garden, zero-entry pool, cabanas and arrival/departure lounge. Guests of Conrad Orlando also enjoy exclusive access to Evermore Orlando Resort’s amenities. 

[Related: New Hotels, Attractions and Restaurants Elevate Orlando as a Meetings Destination]

Evermore features a 20-acre tropical beach complex and an eight-acre crystalline lagoon with white-sand beaches and an aquatic adventure area complete with a waterslide, rope swing and watersports. In addition, Evermore offers accommodation options beyond Conrad Orlando, which include 41 two- and four-bedroom villas, 206 four-bedroom flats and 69 vacation rental homes that range from five to 11 bedrooms, allowing groups to hold up to 32 people in one unit—a great option for teambuilding or executive retreats.  

Other amenities for groups include 36 holes of golf including the famed Jack Nicklaus-designed Scottish links, pickleball courts and a 2,500-square-foot event space, The Boat House, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering spectacular views of Evermore Bay.

On and Around the Water 

Alfond Inn Spa
Alfond Inn Spa

After our tour, we headed to Winter Park, a suburb of Orlando, for our Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour. Having been on this tour a dozen times, I feel it never gets old. Since 1938, it has remained an area attraction, probably for that reason. While most people don’t think of Orlando as having much water, we are blessed with hundreds of lakes that offer numerous recreational activities. After a quick stroll from the restaurants and boutiques of fashionable Park Avenue, we boarded a pontoon boat (that accommodates 18 passengers) to tour the chain of lakes where groups will discover the house where Mr. Rogers (Fred) lived while a student at Rollins College (Florida’s oldest college), and the Capen House, one of Florida’s oldest homes dating from 1885 and a great venue for elegant events. 

After a trip on the calm waters, it was off to the Alfond Inn, a boutique hotel featuring 112 guest rooms, a rooftop pool, Hamilton’s Kitchen restaurant, an expansive fitness center and series of courtyards. The hotel houses the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, an ever-growing assortment of artworks on display, certain to enchant your guests. 

Dinner was held at the Pinery, a Michelin-recommended restaurant located on Lake Ivanhoe in downtown Orlando. The Pinery is on the first floor of a building built on land once used to cultivate pineapples, one of Florida’s former top export crops. Watch for a spectacular sunset over the lake with Orlando’s illuminated views of the skyline as a breathtaking backdrop.   

[Related: A Stroll Through Orlando’s Neighborhoods Reveals Historic and Eclectic Meeting Experiences]

A Perfect Ending 

We started our next day with a tour of the Brightline Orlando Station, with trains coming and going from Orlando, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Aventura and Miami. Just opened in September, the Orlando station is sure to inspire groups to extend their Orlando adventures a few days after their meeting to visit several other cities in Florida.  

Jennifer Juergens Making Pizza at Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnett Creek
Jennifer Juergens Making Pizza at Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnett Creek

Following our train tour, it was back to Signia by Hilton’s La Luce restaurant for one of the most entertaining lunches I’ve experienced. Our charming hosts were Franck Riffaud, executive pastry chef and Bernard Fiemeyer, director of culinary for the Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. Like the Abbott and Costello of the culinary world, they kept us howling while we made gourmet pizzas, and Riffaud showed us how to make homemade ice cream.  

Not only did they prepare this entertaining event for us, but they can also do the same for groups. After our lunch, we went for cocktails and mocktails at the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club next door. Named in Golf Magazine’s prestigious “Top Courses You Can Play,” The Waldorf Astoria Golf Club was the perfect spot to hit a few on the driving range after a few drinks.


Visit Orlando

Read this next: A Collection of Meetings Today's 2023 On-the-Scene Reports

Profile picture for user Jennifer Juergens
About the author
Jennifer Juergens | Contributing Content Developer, Florida and Caribbean