There is plenty of news coming out of Florida these days, from Brightline—the All Aboard Florida intercity passenger rail that will run from Miami to Orlando, which is slated to begin service later this year—to improvements to Tampa International Airport to the tune of $1 billion. Also in the works is the renovation and expansion of the Miami Beach Convention Center, which will soon accommodate large-scale convention, civic and cultural events.

In Orlando, a new pedestrian bridge opening in May will connect the West Building of the Orange County Convention Center to the Hyatt Regency Orlando. Meanwhile, the new 62,182-square-foot Valencia Ballroom was recently unveiled at the convention center.

New attractions include Universal Orlando Resort’s Volcano Bay, while Walt Disney World Resort’s Pandora–the World of AVATAR will open this year. AVATAR will be the largest expansion in Animal Kingdom’s history and will feature floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests, a Banshee flying attraction and new after-dark entertainment.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios plans two historic-themed land expansions, bringing the far, far away galaxy of Star Wars and the colorful world of Toy Story closer to guests, and SeaWorld Orlando will debut its first digitally enhanced ride this summer as the legendary Kraken roller coaster is transformed into a virtual reality (VR) roller coaster experience.  
At the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, the grand opening of Heroes & Legends happened in November. Featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame presented by Boeing, the exhibit celebrates the pioneers of NASA’s early space programs. Additionally, all over the state, hotels are being built or refurbished. Following is a sampling.

Latest & Greatest

CAPE CORAL

The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village is set to expand its meetings and events capabilities with the addition of a $15 million, 35,000-square-foot conference center. The facility will also offer an expansive new terrace overlooking the Caloosahatchee River estuary.

CLEARWATER
Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach opened in January, and is now the largest hotel/resort on Clearwater Beach, with 343 guest rooms, waterfront vistas, a waterside bar, an Asian-Fusion restaurant and 22,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.

Opal Sands Resort, Clearwater Beach opened in 2016 with a sleek, Mid-Century vibe and a gently curving facade fronting the Gulf of Mexico. All 230 guest rooms boast unobstructed views of the Gulf’s emerald waters, and there is 17,000 square feet of waterfront meeting space.

Safety Harbor Resort and Spa completed a $5 million renovation in November that added 30 newly refurbished treatment rooms to the property.

EMERALD COAST

The Henderson, A Salamander Beach & Spa Resort debuted in November as a $300 million luxury resort in Destin. The Henderson offers 170 guest rooms, 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including a 5,221-square-foot ballroom, and a variety of Gulf-side dining options.

Hilton Garden Inn, Fort Walton Beach is set to open in spring 2017. The new 178-room Hilton Garden Inn Hotel will feature a 5,000-square-foot conference center.

FLORIDA KEYS

The 20-acre Oceans Edge Key West Hotel & Marina is scheduled to open in mid-December with 175 suites and guest rooms, six pools and an on-site marina. Spacious units range from 375 to 948 square feet.

The 100-room boutique Perry Hotel Key West, located within the Stock Island Marina Village complex, recently opened. All rooms have water views and property amenities include a lush pool area, watersports options and a full-service restaurant. The $38 million hotel includes flexible small group, incentive and event space. It offers the Keys’ largest deep-water marina, featuring 220 slips, and can accommodate vessels up to 300 feet long.

The Historic Key West Inns hotel collection recently opened an 11-room extension at Key West’s Chelsea House Hotel, bringing the number to 48 total guest rooms. The collection acquired and fully renovated the former Blue Parrot Inn, built during the late 1880s as the Walter C. Maloney House, adjacent to Chelsea House. Chelsea House’s addition includes a fully accessible room, a private courtyard and a pool.

Key Largo’s Jules’ Undersea Lodge, the only submerged recreational hotel for divers in the U.S., and its adjacent MarineLab Undersea Laboratory, recently celebrated more than 30 years underwater in a Key Largo lagoon. The lodge, initially a research laboratory, was renamed in the 1980s after novelist Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and transformed into a two-bedroom retreat. Its entrance is 21 feet beneath the surface.

Hyatt Hotels rebranded its Key West hotel property as the Hyatt Centric Key West Resort & Spa following a multimillion-dollar enhancement. The 120-room waterfront property became part of the Hyatt Centric portfolio of lifestyle hotels in early November. Property upgrades include a redesign of the Blue Mojito Pool Bar and Grill with new decor and space for larger parties, and an expansion of the property’s Jala Spa.

JACKSONVILLE

The Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront recently underwent a major renovation that included additional meeting space, a new rooftop fitness center, an updated rooftop pool, a redesigned Regency Club Lounge and a complete overhaul of the hotel’s 951 guest rooms.

The Sheraton Jacksonville Hotel recently underwent a $7 million renovation of the entire property.

The Omni Jacksonville Hotel recently completed all of its room renovations as part of a $9 million overhaul of the downtown hotel. The hotel offers a new club lounge and the pool area is undergoing updates. This comes on the heels of upgrades to the Omni’s restaurant, Juliette’s Bistro, and a complete renovation of the hotel’s meetings space.

The Lexington Hotel & Conference Center is in the midst of major renovations, including new guest room decor, a reconfiguration of the lobby, new landscaping, an overhaul of the meeting rooms, a remodeled pool area and more. The work will take place in phases, as the hotel will remain open during the overhaul. The renovations will be completed by this summer.

MIAMI/FORT LAUDERDALE

The Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel & Executive Meeting Center officially completed an expansive and stylish $10 million renovation. Enhancements include all 405 guest rooms and the lobby and outdoor pool, as well as the entryway—all of which complement 17,000 square feet of recently renovated meeting and event space.  

The Diplomat Beach Resort is fresh off a $100 million transformation, including 10 new dining concepts meant to deliver an all-encompassing group experience. Fully renovated guest rooms and suites offer water views from most rooms.

The Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach is expected to open this winter with 290 expansive studio and suite accommodations, four alfresco dining experiences, a 4,000-square-foot ocean view spa and fitness center, and 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space.

The $23 million Tryp Maritime by Wyndham in Fort Lauderdale opened in March. The eight-story, 150-room maritime-themed hotel offers a European-style tapas bar featuring 11 aquariums.

The Fontainebleau Miami Beach recently updated the design of its historic Versailles Tower and renovated its existing 33 poolside cabanas. Each cabana is equipped with a flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi and butler service, among other amenities.

Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort recently debuted a new upscale restaurant, JWB Prime Steak and Seafood. The resort offers 30,000 square feet of meeting space and a rooftop for receptions with a view.

NAPLES

Following a $40 million renovation, Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa renovated its lobby and upgraded accommodation options, including new luxury rooftop guest suites as well as first-floor guest rooms and suites with spacious patios and direct pool access. Additionally, a completely re-envisioned restaurant concept and corresponding grab-and-go market will launch upon the property’s debut.

Naples Grande Beach Resort announced the unveiling of its renovated public spaces, including $2 million of enhancements to its Vista Ballroom and Lobby Lounge. The resort offers over 83,000 square feet of function space.

The 189-room LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort, a Noble House Resort located on the idyllic Naples beachfront, completed a $6 million renovation that includes luxurious new Beach House guest rooms, property-wide beautification updates, new sustainability initiatives and the introduction of a gourmet coffee bar.  

ORLANDO

The AAA Four Diamond Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando completed extensive renovations to its 1,501 guest rooms, its grounds and amenities. The hotel also added a special events pavilion, practice spaces and new technology to its freshly redesigned 18-hole golf course.  

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort’s lobby will undergo a $12 million redesign as the final stage of the largest makeover in the resort’s history. When finished this fall, it will feature a new lobby and new dining and beverage options. The lobby redesign is the final stage of a $140 million project that also includes the transformation of all of its 2,267 guest rooms, along with upgrades to the hotel’s meeting space.

Universal Orlando Resort opened the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, featuring 1,000 rooms and suites with a casual Caribbean theme, built around a lagoon and towering waterfall. The new Loews Meetings Complex consists of 247,000 square feet of contiguous meeting space between Loews Royal Pacific Resort and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, the largest of the six convention hotels at Walt Disney World Resort, is expanding over the next two years, adding new dining options, resort rooms and outdoor spaces. As part of that expansion, construction is underway on a new 15-story tower that will bring an additional 500 rooms to the resort, including suites and concierge-level services. A new rooftop restaurant and lounge atop the tower will offer panoramic views. The expansion will also include new meeting venues, adding a boardroom and two multipurpose rooms to the resort’s current 220,000 square feet of dedicated meeting and function space.