• Beyond the Border: Escape the Madness at J.W. Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes

    FROM THE Fall 2016 ISSUE
  • Beyond the Border: Escape the Madness at J.W. Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes

    FROM THE Fall 2016 ISSUE
  • Beyond the Border: Escape the Madness at J.W. Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes

    FROM THE Fall 2016 ISSUE

Orlando is synonymous with Disney. It’s almost Pavlovian. You hear the name and you immediately conjure up an image of the Mouse. What if you could visit Orlando but stay far from the madding crowd? The J.W. Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes fits the bill. This palatial resort is blissfully free of the hustle and bustle of nearby Disney and offers a regal style reminiscent of Europe. The best part? Partnered with the adjacent Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, this resort is truly a world unto itself. Orlando’s convenience and conference-friendly attitude has always lured groups (the city ranks behind Las Vegas as one of the top spots for conventions), but this resort appeals to groups that want it all at their fingertips with the ability to escape it all. 


The J.W. Marriott has 26 floors with 934 rooms and 64 suites. The rooms and suites share a fresh, contemporary sophistication with soft colors and upscale finishes. Should your group need even more accommodations, The RitzCarlton, accessible by a short walk from the J.W., has 525 guest rooms and 60 suites. 


If you’re a planner who feels like you never have enough space, this resort is your salvation. Between the two hotels, there is a mindbending total of 150,000 square feet! There are six ballrooms (the largest holds up to 2,300 rounds, 3,123 reception-style or 3,248 theaterstyle) and 40 breakout rooms. Both hotels feature A/V provided by in-house vendor PSAV. Outside of the ballrooms and breakout rooms, the resort has plenty to offer in the Florida sunshine. From the pool deck and patios to various lawns and even Whisper Creek Farm, the resort’s own vegetable garden down the road, there are plenty of ways to plan a freshair celebration. 


The J.W. Marriott ups the ante when it comes to dining. Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen, named for the resort’s farm, has a very California ambiance with gourmet farmfocused small plates (short rib macaroni and cheese, anyone?). Open for dinner only, the restaurant’s terrace is the place to be.

The lobby lounge is just right for sushi and cocktails, either indoors or out on the terrace overlooking the pool and lazy river, while Citron, An American Brasserie has fantastic breakfast buffets. Primo by celebrity chef Melissa Kelly is the resort’s fine-dining flagship. The upscale Italian restaurant also features a stunning private room (accommodates 14) that opens out to a charming terrace.

Over at The Ritz-Carlton, don’t miss Highball & Harvest, an all-day dining outlet that has a distinctly southern flavor. There are two private dining rooms and a chef’s table, plus a terrace perfect for groups. 


Let’s face it, the best business takes place outside of the meeting room when you get clients and colleagues away from their screens and enjoying each other’s company. The J.W. Marriott knows how to bring groups together with a stunning array of activities. In fact, the resort has a team of 10 event managers and two event concierges to keep events running smoothly. Choose from the 18-hole Greg Norman golf course or head to the impressive spa at The Ritz-Carlton, where 40 treatment rooms, a fitness center and adultonly spa pool await. The eco-garden treatment, a massage performed while you swing with the gentle breezes in a hammock, is sinfully relaxing. The pool and lazy river is certainly a centerpiece of the J.W. Marriott and perfect for unwinding after a long day of meetings. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the headwaters of the Everglades on a guided kayak trip—it’s just a short walk from the lobby but a world away.

In a city known for its magic, Grande Lakes makes a big impression.

Philadelphia was one of just two U.S. locations on National Geographic’s list of best trips for 2020. The magazine describes the city as “a scrappy underdog with a heart of gold” and uses words like “vibrant” and “creative” to describe this formerly industrial city. That’s good news for meeting planners and should certainly boost attendance at meetings. And adding to the excitement are shopping, entertainment and restaurants cropping up around the Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC), glitzy new hotels and renovated attractions with event space.


Retreats and off-site meetings present wonderful opportunities for groups to collaborate, strategize and build relationships away from their normal office environments. With proper planning, these sessions can be highly effective and even pivotal in setting a new direction. However, off-sites may present some unforeseen challenges that can quickly deflate the energy in the room if not anticipated and addressed in advance.


The Reputation of “America’a First Resort Destination” often precedes itself, with images of the wealthy vacationing in The Palm Beaches, which consists of 39 cities in southeast Florida. But dig deeper and you’ll discover humble roots. Considered the vegetable heartland of the country, agriculture is the area’s No. 1 economic driver and responsible for connecting the southeast of the state to the west.