• Beyond the Borders: The Magic of Meetings at Universal

     
    FROM THE Fall 2015 ISSUE
     

    The Orlando resort makes planner's dreams come true.

  • Beyond the Borders: The Magic of Meetings at Universal

     
    FROM THE Fall 2015 ISSUE
     

    The Orlando resort makes planner's dreams come true.

It should come as no surprise that Orlando is one of the top MICE (Meeting, Incentive, Conference, and Exhibition) destinations in the country. From convention centers and top hotels to thrilling entertainment choices, this Florida city knows how to welcome groups. Orlando may be inextricably linked to Mickey, but Universal Orlando Resort gives the mouse a run for his money. This theme park brings the magic of the movies alive and brings out the kid in all of us, but quite simply, Universal is a meeting planner’s dream come true. The options are limitless: four hotels (with an additional hotel slated for completion by summer 2016), plus 250,000 square feet of event space located throughout the resort.

WHERE TO STAY

Universal has four distinctive hotels with a total of 4,200 guest rooms. When completed, the fifth hotel—Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, which will add 1,000 rooms and 115,000 square feet of meeting space—will feature a festive Caribbean theme and will be linked to the Royal Pacific’s conference space via an enclosed walkway.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Walk across a bridge into the Royal Pacific and you’ll feel instantly transported to the romance of the tropical South Seas. Serene and sophisticated, this hotel has 1,000 guest rooms, six restaurants, including one from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, and a theme pool complete with sandy beach. The meeting space tops out at 85,000 square feet with a ballroom, 10 meeting rooms and three private office spaces and outdoor venues. The Royal Pacific will expand event space to 132,000 square feet with five new meeting rooms.

The Loews Portofino Bay Hotel 
Reminiscent of the Mediterranean, the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel has 750 guest rooms, eight restaurants, three themed pools and the Mandara Spa (with 14 treatment rooms). Portofino Bay has 42,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms, eight meeting rooms (divisible into 15 sections) and 60,000 square feet of outdoor function space.

Hard Rock Hotel
Make your attendees feel like rock stars at this hip hotel, where the rock-and-roll lifestyle dominates. Even the 12,000-square-foot swimming pool features underwater stereos, so you literally don’t miss a beat while taking a swim. The hotel features 650 guest accommodations, as well as five restaurants (including The Palm). The ballroom and two meeting rooms adds up to over 6,000 square feet of meeting space, but the Woodstock Lawn is definitely the crowd-pleaser.

MEET AND DO

Universal Theme Park
You might know a little something about Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade from your Harry Potter-loving kids, but did you know that you can book these sections of the park for your group? It’s perhaps the most unique part of planning an event at Universal Orlando Resort. Why book a conference room when you can have your group wandering the back alleys of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? From the movie-set streets of New York and San Francisco to the world of the Simpsons, Universal allows event planners to book by section. Of course, if you have an over-the-top budget, you could always rent the entire park exclusively.

Universal CityWalk
The CityWalk is packed with shops and restaurants, as well as a 20-screen movie theater. From Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and NBC Sports Grill & Brew (opening this fall) to unique concepts such as Cowfish, which blends burgers and sushi (they even offer burgushi, sushi-style rolls filled with everything from pulled pork to burgers), there’s something for everyone here. Groups can rent individual spaces and/or private rooms in any of the establishments or enjoy CityWalk block party-style. uomeetingsandevents.com

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.