• Beyond the Border: Universal Orlando, Florida

     
    FROM THE Summer 2016 ISSUE
     

    Universal Orlando, Florida has it all—hotels, theme parks and restaurants—in one place.

  • Beyond the Border: Universal Orlando, Florida

     
    FROM THE Summer 2016 ISSUE
     

    Universal Orlando, Florida has it all—hotels, theme parks and restaurants—in one place.

  • Beyond the Border: Universal Orlando, Florida

     
    FROM THE Summer 2016 ISSUE
     

    Universal Orlando, Florida has it all—hotels, theme parks and restaurants—in one place.

Places like Universal Orlando make a meeting or event planner's job easier. Built-in transportation like shuttle buses and water taxis, five on-site hotels, myriad restaurants for all tastes, a bounty of entertainment options, and flexible and plentiful meeting/event space are a package deal on Universal’s campus. The options might be overwhelming, but there is, truly, something for every planner and attendee.

Theme Parks

Imaginations can run wild at Universal’s two theme parks—Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida—with the help of the Production Services team of event professionals. Flexible event space abounds throughout the parks, making it possible for a group of 20 or up to 20,000 attendees to team-build, participate in a scavenger hunt or “ride and dine,” where attendees enjoy one (or more) of Universal’s simulator rides and a meal afterwards. The options are seemingly limitless with both theme parks. At Marvel Super Hero Island, it’s easy to incorporate a superhero theme into an event, or guests can be greeted with a red carpet and mingle with Universal characters on the streets of New York, drink a Duff Beer at Moe’s Tavern in Springfield or ride the Hogwart’s Express from Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley. Universal’s versatile catering services team can create dishes to stay in theme with an event, like traditional British fare and, of course, Butterbeer—hot, classic or frozen. The 15,000-square-foot concert stage and event lawn is just one of the nonthemed venues in the park, too.

Universal is always growing, so plan for the mysterious and creature-filled Skull Island: Reign of Kong, which opens this summer; and Fast and Furious: Supercharged; Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon; and Volcano Bay (a water-theme park to become Universal’s third park overall), all slated to open in 2017.

Universal CityWalk

If you leave CityWalk hungry, you’re doing something wrong. After undergoing an expansion in 2014, Universal CityWalk added to its collection of famed eateries like Pat O’Brien’s, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville and Bob Marley - A Tribute to Freedom. The Cowfish, originating in North Carolina, marries burgers and sushi for “burgushi”; the High Class Hillbilly, for example, has pulled pork, caramelized onions and barbecue sauce wrapped up in potato that’s flash fried and topped with coleslaw. At Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, you’ll find made-from-scratch tortas, enchiladas, fajitas and tacos, and VIVO Italian Kitchen features a contemporary atmosphere where pastas are handcrafted in an open kitchen. Constant sports coverage and a choice of 100 beers at NBC Sports Grill and Brew means heaven for a lot of people, but for those planners who simply can’t pick, the CityWalk Block Party combines three or more venues for a Taste of CityWalk and accommodates groups of 600-6,000.

CityWalk is more than a strip of restaurants, with loads of unique entertainment options. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a show that’s a better fit for big groups than Blue Man Group. With group ticket rates or the option to reserve the entire theater for an exclusive performance, planners can’t go wrong with this quirky, multisensory show. Venues like Rising Star lets attendees do karaoke with the help of a back-up band and singers, and the groove is the ultimate club experience, perfect for dance parties and/or themed events. Both venues can be catered to your liking, using Universal’s Catering Services team.

On-site Hotels

With its fifth on-site hotel opening this summer, Universal Orlando Resort will boast a total of 5,200 guest rooms and 295,000 square feet of indoor meeting and function space. Keeping with Universal’s theme of themes, each hotel or resort has its own distinctive identity and restaurants with corresponding cuisine. The Loews phenomenal catering team, which prides itself on its delicious culinary offerings and outstanding service, is able to whip up just about anything imaginable.

Modeled after Italy’s seaside village, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel features cobblestone streets and quaint European facades. Loews Royal Pacific Resort transports you the South Pacific from the ‘aloha’ at check-in to the fine, sandy, white beaches and palm trees throughout the property. When it opens, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort will connect to the Royal Pacific via a covered and air-conditioned bridge. Much anticipated here is Strong Water Tavern, the lobby lounge’s rum and ceviche bar with rum specialists on staff (you might order a Mai Tai and be served a concoction that’ll broaden your rum horizons). Together, Sapphire Falls and Royal Pacific will have 247,000 square feet of combined meeting space and 2,000 rooms, creating an all-new Loews Meetings Complex.

The Hard Rock Hotel was designed to evoke the Eagles’ Hotel California album cover; the staff’s mission is to make you feel like a rock star—you can leave, but you might never want to. A virtual throwback is what you get upon entering the 1,800-room, retro-themed Cabana Bay Beach Resort, complete with a 10-lane bowling alley. While there’s no dedicated meeting space, the value-priced rooms are ideal for booking blocks, with 400 more rooms coming in 2017.

Aventri, a leader in events management software (EMS), recently released ‘The Top 100 Meeting and Event Venues in the United States’ for 2019. The company took the ten top-rated meeting and event cities in the United States and picked the top ten venues in each area, compiling a list of 100 highly-regarded spaces. 

The guide identifies the two most valuable factors in attendee satisfaction as venue location and activities in the host city, followed by capacity, uniqueness and proximity to local attractions.

 

Standing in the Emery's lobby, where live greenery thrives and natural light streams in, it's hard to believe that this used to be Hotel Minneapolis. Emery is still an Autograph Collection hotel, like Hotel Minneapolis was, but it is, for all intents and purposes, a new, not just renovated, hotel. 

 

With the NCAA Final Four tournament coming to Minneapolis, there's an abundance of events, activities and places that all visitors and Bold North natives alike will want to check out.