Other hotels in the news include the
Buena Vista Palace Resort and Spa, now
the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace,
commemorating a large-scale renovation
project that includes 92,000 square feet of
renovated meeting space.
Westgate Resorts recently opened
Village at Westgate Lakes, a seven-story mixed-use development at Westgate
Lakes Resort & Spa. The Village features
Drafts Sports Bar & Grill and 20,000
square feet of conference and meeting
space. In the works is The Sunset Key
Island retreat and event center, a private island for up to 300 people, with
palm trees, tropical flora, tiki figures and
thatched-roof Chickee Hut, constructed
by the Seminole tribe of Florida.
Just west of Orlando in Howey-in-the-Hills, the 176-room Mission Inn Resort &
Club is undergoing a $3.5 million renovation to its guest rooms, including a Wi-Fi
upgrade throughout the hotel.
Just south of Orlando, Kissimmee offers
easy access to Orlando International Air-
port and more than 1 million square feet of
“From practical and affordable, to grand
and luxurious, Kissimmee has something
special for groups of all sizes,” said DT
Minich, CEO and president of Experience
Kissimmee. “We’re also minutes away
from world-famous theme parks, amazing
outdoor adventures, championship golf
One of the largest meeting hotels in the
area, Omni Orlando Resort at Champions-
Gate, recently debuted an extensive $40
million expansion to include 23,000 square
feet of additional pool deck and recreation-
al space, Kissimmee’s only resort wave
pool, a new 93-room property villa building
and a redesign of Trevi’s restaurant with an
outdoor garden terrace and bar. The expan-
sion also includes 100,000 square feet of
event lawn and conference center space.
Bohemian Hotel Celebration recently
underwent a million-dollar makeover to
all 115 guest rooms and an extension of
Activities in the area include Stompin’
Gator Off-Road Adventure opening this
month at Gatorland. Adventurers can
rollick in a 12-foot high, off-road monster
vehicle through Florida’s natural habitat,
an alligator graveyard and a pond filled
with hundreds of live gators.
The Lakeland region also boasts its share
of property news.
“We’ve actually got a lot going on here,”
said Al Snow, tourism representative,
conventions, meetings and events for Visit
Central Florida. “Our biggest focus is The
Lakeland Center, which became RP Funding
Center in May. The center will undergo $15
million in meeting space renovations to be
completed by the end of 2018 or early 2019.”
Also getting a facelift—to the tune of $48
million—is Publix Field at Joker Marchant
Stadium, the Detroit Tigers’ winter home.
East of Lakeland, in Winter Haven, the
$24 million Winter Haven Conference Cen-
ter and Field House project is expected to
bring in more national groups to the area,
according to Snow.
“Because we’re smack-dab in the middle
of the state, we attract meeting planners
who want to be near Tampa, Orlando and
the beaches,” Snow said. “We also have 10
new hotel projects in the pipeline.”
The historic 1926 Walesbilt Hotel in Lake
Wales is scheduled to reopen in December
2018 after renovations, and the historic
75-room Taylor Hotel in Winter Haven
is getting a complete overhaul, and once
completed will have a high-end restaurant,
rooftop bar and meeting space for up 60.
Lakeland is becoming quite the culinary
and brewery hub, according to Jackie Johnson, senior vice president of the Lakeland
Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Brazilian Gastropub Posto 9 has an au-
DOWNTOWN PROMENADE, LAKELAND
Of WINE and SPIRITS
Home to a number of pristine natural springs, Ocala/ Marion County’s sparkling waterways are more than scenic. For Fish Hawk Spirits (http://fishhawkspirits.
com), a farm-to-bottle distillery in Dunnellon, the springs
provide the necessary ingredient for artisan whiskey-mak-ing. Tours of the distillery enable guests to sample its most
popular product, Marion 106 Black, made from tangerines.
Groups can ride horseback to the distillery.
The new Island Grove Wine Company ( www.islandgrove
winecompany.com) at Formosa Gardens near Kissimmee is
surrounded by lush botanical gardens. This sustainable winery and microbrewery features a bistro, winery tours and tastings, and a botanical
garden growing organic fruits and vegetables.
Fiddler’s Ridge Farms and Winery ( www.fiddlersridgefarmswinery.com) is based
in Lake Wales; its founders, Gary and Cindy Farmer, have been in the agriculture industry for nearly 32 years. The Farmers started making wine several years ago from
Florida Fresh blueberries grown and harvested at their own blueberry farm. The
winery now produces seven different wines, all handcrafted using only fresh Florida
and local ingredients. The winery can accommodate up to 20 for private tastings.
Quantum Leap Winery ( www.quantumleapwinery.com) in downtown Orlando offers space for group functions: the Barrel Room for smaller parties of up to 35; the
tasting room for up to 175; or the entire winery, which accommodates up to 400.
More than 160,000 people visit the Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards (www.
lakeridgewinery.com) in Clermont annually, enjoying the extensive tasting room,
festivals and gift shop.
The private room at Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants ( www.coopershawk
winery.com), near Orlando’s convention center, holds up to 50 for an event with
signature menus designed to pair perfectly with Cooper’s Hawk wines. In addition
to the restaurant, there is a private barrel-aging room and full-service bar.
The Corkscrew Winery ( http://thecorkscrewwinery.com), in two locations, Lady Lake
and Ocala, lets attendees be the winemaker as they mix the raw grape juices and prepare it for fermentation. Custom-made labels for a special event or brand are available.
LAKERIDGE WINERY & VINEYARDS