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Ideal Florida Bleisure Destinations for Rest and Relaxation

TradeWinds Island Resorts, St. Pete Beach

While you won’t find the word “bleisure” in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, this meetings industry term for business and leisure travel is a big buzzword. If you consider pent-up travel demand from the pandemic, and families prioritizing, well, family, then you’ve got a whole lot of attendees anxious to visit the destination before the meeting or stay a few days after to relish the sun and fun. 

A 2021 Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) study found that 37% of all business travelers extend their work trip for leisure. And why not? The company has paid for an attendee’s flight, and hotels often extend the group rate before and after the meeting. This inspires many travelers—especially after being cooped up during Covid to make up for lost time. 

And, no doubt, Florida may be the best place to use up some of that vacation time to reconnect with a spouse, relax alone after the meeting or give the kids a bit of time for play. From the theme parks in Orlando, to the sand-swept beaches on both coasts and Key West, superb experiences await. Shoppers will thrill at the prestigious luxury shops and discount outlets, and a seemingly endless selection of water sports and golf means no end to adventures and recreation to enjoy in the Sunshine State. 

"I’ve heard directly from planners and attendees that the popularity of bleisure increased due to the lack of travel during the pandemic,” said Shane Allor, vice president and general manager, JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa. “And it only increases during school breaks and summertime.

Tidal Cove, JW Marriott Miami Turnberry
Tidal Cove, JW Marriott Miami Turnberry

“We get a lot of bleisure travelers because there is no shortage of activities here,” Allor continued. “Consider two golf courses designed by Raymond Floyd, âme Spa & Wellness Collective and celebrity chef Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak restaurant.” 

To really make a splash, Tidal Cove awaits. The resort’s onsite waterpark features water slides, 25 cabanas, and after a poolside snack, you’ll want to grab a float to meander a wavering path along the lazy river.

“We have a lot of incentive groups that select a destination based on whether they can bring their families for a pre- or post-trip. That’s the beauty of Florida,” said Jessica James, director of sales for the South Florida branch of destination management company PRA Events. “Of all the destinations our Southeast region services (from the Carolinas to the Florida Keys), there is certainly a larger draw of attendance when it comes to Florida. Premium destinations include Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Marco Island, Naples, Tampa and Orlando. Our planners are even putting pre and post into their contracts, from arrivals to departures, allowing guests to take advantage and have the opportunity to really experience the location.”

“The world has changed, and people want to spend less time working and more time living,” said Michael Ferreira, owner, founder and CEO, Meetings Made Easy, based in Las Vegas. “This might be the only time they take a vacation, and they want to take advantage of that. We’ve taken groups to Tampa for Busch Gardens and Disney pre and post to provide the time to experience the destination wherever they can.” 

Following are some more key bleisure destinations to consider for your next program.


Understandably, Casandra Matej, president and CEO, Visit Orlando, knows all about visitors staying after the meeting to experience Walt Disney World, Universal Resort and SeaWorld.

Seaworld Orlando
Seaworld Orlando

“As the Theme Park Capital of the World, Orlando is a prime destination for meeting and convention attendees who want to bring their families and turn their business trip into a bleisure adventure,” she said. “With impressive hotels at every price point, an endless array of dining options to match tastes of all ages, stellar shopping, unique neighborhoods and districts; even outdoor eco-adventures add to the pre-or post-meeting enjoyment. Additionally, attendees who might need some assistance in making the most of their extended stay can visit to take advantage of Visit Orlando’s complimentary Vacation Planning Services.

“Visitors just simply make an appointment for a personalized one-on-one with one of Visit Orlando’s vacation planning experts for insider advice, including special offers and guidance on building the perfect itinerary,” Matej added.

Orlando’s Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort is an ideal destination for bleisure travelers with families, enabling work in its many meeting spaces, and play at the theme parks, with EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios within easy walking distance of the resort. Guests can swim in six pools, have a massage at Mandara Spa and dine at 23 restaurants and lounges, ensuring plenty of options for every member of the family. Close by, the Disney BoardWalk offers Flying Fish and Trattoria al Forno restaurants or BoardWalk Ice Cream. And after dinner, you can climb aboard a Surrey bike built for four to cruise the BoardWalk.

At Universal Orlando Resort, families have multiple hotel and resort options and a variety of dining at Universal CityWalk such as The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. There’s also great entertainment at CityWalk like Universal’s Great Movie Escape and the Hard Rock for great live music. A big draw for families is Universal Studios Florida, Universal Islands of Adventure or the thrilling Universal Volcano Bay Water Theme Park.  

For visitors to SeaWorld Orlando, thrilling rides await, like the Surf Coaster, animal tours and more. At SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove, guests can swim with the dolphins, snorkel or lounge on the beach.


In Sarasota, bleisure is a big draw, too. 

“Our area is an ideal spot to combine business and leisure,” said Kelly M. Defebo, vice president of marketing and communications, Visit Sarasota County. “We see so many meeting attendees bringing in their families to enjoy all our area has to offer from the 35 miles of award-winning beaches, historical and cultural venues, our talented chefs at so many great restaurants—and of course, the weather. 

“We’re also so accessible,” she continued. “It’s 10 minutes from the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport to the city center. If you’re staying at the Westin, Ritz-Carlton, Aloft, Embassy Suites, Art Ovation, Hyatt, voco or Sarasota Modern for a meeting, you can enjoy the area in your pre, post or free time during the conference.”

Defebo recommends exploring downtown on foot, where you can easily walk across the street to Bayfront Park where activities like dolphin sightseeing, sunset boat tours, fishing with a charter or boat rentals await.

“If you stay at Art Ovation hotel, you can experience a new art exhibit every six months and they have an artist studio located in the lobby featuring different artists for visitors to watch and speak to about their works,” Defebo added. “We have something unique here, from the arts and culture offerings including live performances with the Sarasota Ballet, Orchestra, Opera, a community play or a Broadway show, to outdoor experiences year-round on the water and off. The State Art Museum of Florida, The Ringling, is a top attraction here, along with so many others to enjoy.

“We have a visitor return rate of over 90%,” she continued. “Every time I bring a meeting planner on a site visit, they say, ‘I had no idea there was so much here.’”

Clearwater and St. Petersburg

Clearwater beaches get high marks from Dr. Beach (famous for his annual ranking of U.S. beaches) each year. For families that stay a few extra days, there is much to enjoy after a meeting at one of the Clearwater Beach hotels.

“Clearwater Beach offers all the best of Florida in one beautiful destination, making it a natural and popular choice for blending meeting and leisure travel,” remarked David S. Keamy, executive director of sales, Ocean Properties, Hotels & Resorts & Affiliates, which include the Sandpearl Resort Clearwater Beach Hotel & Resort, Opal Sol and Opal Sands Resort. “Three of our four Clearwater properties are directly on award-winning beaches, with the other an elegantly restored, iconic inn just minutes from the Intracoastal Waterway. In addition to elevated event and meeting space, all four properties offer easy access to the area’s many recreational and cultural treasures to enjoy during our great year-round weather.” 

Also on the Gulf of Mexico is Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach, offering an ideal setting for myriad water sports and other recreational activities. The hotel has a partnership with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. In fact, some guest rooms are decorated around the world-famous Winter the Dolphin and its friends. Winter was the star and inspiration of the popular Dolphin Tale movies and resided less than a mile away at the aquarium. When booking this room type, a portion of the proceeds will be donated back to the aquarium to support animal rescue and rehabilitation. It’s a meaningful way for eco-conscious bleisure travelers to blend marine education and leisure while also giving back to a great cause. 

“With our prime beachfront location, guests can easily enjoy activities like swimming, sunbathing, beach volleyball or simply strolling along the coastline to soak in the breathtaking views,” said Miguel Diaz, area director of sales and marketing, Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach. “Daily attractions at our resort include drive-in movies under the stars and daily kids’ activities hosted on the pool deck.” 

Not far from Clearwater is St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach, where TradeWinds Island Resorts, which includes Island Grand Beach Resort and RumFish Beach Resort, see a high percentage of meeting attendees extend their stay either before or after conferences. Many bring their families along to enjoy the resort and all the family-friendly amenities on this 40-acre property on the Gulf of Mexico. 

“The whole family can arrive for the meeting, park the car and never have to leave. While the meeting takes place, the family can participate in several activities that will easily keep them occupied for the day, or several days,” said Karleen Johnson, director of sales, TradeWinds Island Resorts. 

Kids will love the High Tide Slide, Zing Ray Zip Line, Floating Water Park, paddleboats, Triple Wipeout Surf Simulator, mini golf, life-sized chess, pickleball, multiple swimming pools, weekly magic show and tennis courts. Recently added is the Sunsetter Game Zone area geared toward families and teens that offers ping pong, foosball, giant Jenga and mega Connect-4.

“And those that want to explore outside of the hotel can pick up the Beach Trolley right in front of the resort,” Johnson added.

Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach

Located on the southwest Gulf Coast and further south is Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach. This vibrant coastal community surrounds the state’s second-largest harbor and sits conveniently between Tampa and Naples. 

“Outdoor enthusiasts will find a plethora of vibrant experiences here,” said Jeff Berg, senior sales manager, meetings/conventions, Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach VCB. “There is so much to do here, from boating or lounging on the beach, fishing and biking tours, and we have the best shelling and fossilized sharks’ teeth that guests love to search for. Guests visit The Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Garden, too.”

High marks also go to Fisherman’s Village located on the edge of downtown along Charlotte Harbor in Punta Gorda. Just past the row of colorful houses, groups will discover 30 shops and restaurants—including famed Harpoon Harry’s—a must-stop on most visitors’ lists.

Panama City

With 27 miles of beaches, Panama City is known for Shell Island, a seven-mile-long barrier island only accessible by boat. The Shell Island Shuttle offers a selection of sightseeing trips, private charters and boat rental options available for families and groups. Shell Island’s waters are also home to the world’s highest concentration of bottlenose dolphins. Look for shopping and dining at Pier Park, an outdoor entertainment complex, and The SkyWheel, which offers a 360-degree panoramic views of the Emerald Coast. 

Panama City Pier Park Main Entrance
Panama City Pier Park Main Entrance

For water adventures, The Shipwreck Island Water Park features slides, the 500,000-gallon wave pool, Lazy River and Tree Top Drop tube ride. Also, don’t miss an opportunity for glamping at St. Andrews State Park for fishing, snorkeling, hiking and biking.

The Palm Beaches

For those meeting on the east coast of Florida, The Palm Beaches offer the perfect balance between work and play, said Kelly Cavers, chief sales officer for Discover the Palm Beaches. 

“We offer everything you need for a conference, from ease of accessibility to our ‘Between the Sessions’ experiences that set us apart” Cavers said. “On top of that, we have world-class accommodations, pristine and uncrowded beaches, cultural attractions and renowned chef-led restaurants. We’re the perfect bleisure spot for business travelers looking to extend their trip and explore our local assets.” 

Read this next: How Irving, Texas, has Transformed Into a Bleisure Magnet

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About the author
Jennifer Juergens | Contributing Content Developer, Florida and Caribbean