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Visit Orlando's Casandra Matej Unveils New Meetings Experiences for 2023, From PCMA Convening Leaders
What's new and coming online in the perennial popular Central Florida destination of Orlando? From major new hotel and attractions openings and renovations to group activity options, and the hugely anticipated Brightline high-speed rail line connecting Orlando and Miami, there's a wealth of updates to share.
Meetings Today's Tyler Davidson sat down with Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, to discover what's in store for meetings and conventions groups in 2023.
A list of updates from Orlando:
Hotels and Resorts
Conrad Orlando is set to open in fall 2023 and will debut with 433 rooms, including 51 regular suites and 10 spacious family suites. Other features include 40,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, a tranquil spa, numerous dining options and a signature rooftop experience. The hotel will be part of the massive 10,000-bedroom resort complex, Evermore Orlando Resort, offering an array of stay experiences, from single homes to villas, flats and hotel guest rooms.
Drury Plaza Hotel Orlando — Disney Springs® Area, the newest official Walt Disney Partner Hotel, is set to be completed in spring 2023 with 604 guest rooms and over 17,000 square feet of meeting space. Property guests will be able to enjoy a resort-style pool, splash pad and poolside dining and refreshments, as well as an extensive marketplace, a cozy dining experience, complimentary hot breakfast, shuttle service to all four Walt Disney World® Resort theme parks, and evening snacks and beverages.
The Alfond Inn at Rollins, the award-winning boutique hotel in the heart of historic Winter Park will renovate 112 existing rooms and suites and add an additional 71 luxury guest rooms and suites and a lobby café. The expansion, set to be completed in summer 2023, will also include a new meeting room and boardroom, providing an additional 2,400 square feet to the existing meeting and functions rooms. In addition, a new spa will feature seven treatment rooms, a new fitness area and added meeting space.
Aloft Lake Nona will open in fall 2023 as a six-story, 205-room music-themed property. Its eclectic décor and design nods to the hotel’s music and technology roots that gives each guest room its own character. Aloft Lake Nona will also feature a 10,000 square-foot conference center and full-service restaurant.
Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek has commenced on elevating the meetings experience with the new Waterside expansion, slated to wrap in late 2023. This two-story addition of over 90,000 square feet of meeting space will be located directly adjacent to the existing meeting space, overlooking the Bonnet Creek waterways. The Waterside expansion includes one ballroom, a screened lanai with incredible views of the Walt Disney World® fireworks, an outdoor patio, event lawn, and seven additional meeting rooms.
Cambria Hotel Orlando Universal Blvd will welcome guests this winter. Located in the International Drive Resort area—near major attractions as well as local shopping and restaurants—this 118-room property offers flexible meeting spaces and amenities including a rooftop pool and lounge, state-of-the-art fitness center, the sophisticated Veer Kitchen & Bar restaurant, rooftop bar and more.
The Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, in downtown Orlando, will complete a comprehensive renovation in 2023 with new additions—like the upscale Altira Rooftop Pool Lounge where guests can savor seasonally influenced dishes and specialty cocktails—and reimagined spaces like the property’s signature restaurant, The Boheme; the Bösendorfer Lounge; and guest rooms. The hotel includes over 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes completed several multimillion-dollar renovations just in time for 2023 travel. The property’s new amenities and offerings include: an expansive waterpark, refreshed guest rooms and suites, the introduction of inspired executive family suites and a redesigned and upgraded lobby lounge. There is over 144,000 square feet of functional space for planners to incorporate into their events.
Brightline Orlando Station, conveniently located at Orlando International Airport’s (MCO) Terminal C, will connect domestic and international visitors traveling between Orlando and Miami with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Riders will enjoy touchless ticketing, premium in-station lounges, complimentary Wi-Fi, and topnotch bars and restaurants at every Brightline station.
Walt Disney World Resort
TRON Lightcycle/Run, scheduled to open at Magic Kingdom Park in spring 2023, will be one of the fastest coasters at any Disney theme park in the world. Based on the Disney sci-fi film TRON: Legacy, guests will speed across a world with no horizons in a high-stakes race in their very own Lightcycle.
Walt Disney World announced an updated nighttime spectacular with the return of the “Happily Ever After” lighting up the skies at Magic Kingdom Park in 2023.
Journey of Water, inspired by Moana, opens in late-2023 within World Nature - the EPCOT neighborhood dedicated to understanding and preserving the beauty, awe, and balance of the natural world. The all-ages attraction will allow guests to explore and engage with water as it travels from the skies to the oceans and back again.
Universal Orlando Resort
Universal’s Great Movie Escape at Universal CityWalk is the first-ever escape room experience that features two rooms with interactive state-of-the-art missions, captivating storytelling and intricately detailed sets, inspired by Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment’s blockbuster films Jurassic World and Back to the Future.
Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast—opening summer 2023 at Universal Studios Florida—will combine innovative screen technology, state-of-the-art gaming interactivity and elaborate physical sets to create a one-of-a-kind, game-based adventure where guests encounter immersive environments, nefarious villains and tons of mischievous Minions from Illumination’s blockbuster film franchise. The new attraction will be part of a new Minion land, featuring the beloved Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction, a new Minion café and more.
SeaWorld Orlando Parks & Entertainment
Pipeline: The Surf Coaster, SeaWorld Orlando’s 7th roller coaster, will debut in spring 2023. The attraction will be the world’s first “Surf Coaster,” offering immersive design elements, including a dynamic surfing launch and “wave jumping” motions, for a one-of-a-kind ocean adventure.
Dining and Nightlife
Rosa Mexicano opens its first Orlando-area location in the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin in early 2023. The menu showcases a contemporary interpretation of authentic Mexican cuisine, including beloved classics and innovative dishes that pay tribute to Mexico's richly varied culinary regions. The restaurant will feature an extensive beverage program boasting over 100 varieties of tequila and agave-based spirits. A private events team can host small dinner parties to 12 guests to larger gatherings of 200 people.
In 2023, the Hyatt Regency Orlando will open its newest food & beverage concept – Descend 21. A dynamic all-new lounge and entertainment venue that can host private events, Descend 21 will feature indoor and outdoor seating, communal tables, Billiards, virtual golf and an expanded terrace with fire pits. The hotel has commissioned Central Florida mural artist, Maureen Hudas, to create a feature wall for the space.
Pointe Orlando’s newest restaurant addition KAVAS Tacos + Tequila, a restaurant concept by the owners of Tapa Toro and Taverna Opa, pays tribute to Mexico’s rich culinary history, featuring savory comfort food, fresh tableside experiences and recipes hand-crafted from the freshest ingredients. The 7,000 square foot venue can host groups as large as 500 people.
Arts and Culture Venues
Orlando Fringe will open “Fringe ArtSpace,” a year-round performing arts venue, in downtown Orlando on Jan. 11, 2023. The 9,100 square foot space will include two performing theater spaces: a main stage with 166 seats and a black box with 40-60 seats. The programing will feature a mix of traditionally programmed theatre and concerts as well as a studio series with weekly, monthly and pop-up events like workshops, classes, readings, performances and artistic explorations.
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando will open Judson’s in fall 2023. The dynamic music room will offer intimate cabaret-style seating for 150 for live performances. Judson’s joins Steinmetz Hall, Walt Disney Theater and Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater as the fourth performance space in the $613 million, nine-acre venue.
Luminary Green Park is a new unique and special gathering space located in the Creative Village district near downtown Orlando. The 2.3-acre park has a large, welcoming lawn for everyone to gather, play and enjoy the outdoors. Soon, the lawn will host events for unorganized recreation and feature landscaped areas shaded with canopy trees.