A flurry of new openings and upgrades have opened upscale possibilities for groups in a city some previously may have associated only with roller coasters and animated characters. A mouse-optional version of Central Florida includes fine dining, luxury accommodations and world-class entertainment. I recently stopped by for a taste and am now a true believer.


The new, easy way to travel to Central Florida from the coast is the eco-friendly high-speed rail Brightline at Orlando International Airport (MCO). Modern, comfortable Brightline Orlando Station offers a premium lounge, fun bar with viewing areas and a conference room. It is a faster, less expensive and more comfortable way to take the group to Miami. Plus, car buyouts can turn the journey into the reception.

Where to Stay and Meet

hotel guest room
Waldorf Astoria Orlando

Orlando is always refreshing. Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, the first Hilton product to adopt the Signia luxury brand, recently added a 90,000-square-foot Waterside Ballroom with a screened lanai and 37,855-square-foot outdoor patio and event lawn with golf course views to the campus that includes Waldorf Astoria Orlando and a 482-acre nature preserve. Waldorf Astoria Orlando was itself renovated from lobby to suites and added 8,000-square-foot Central Park Ballroom as a stately area a group can make its own away from the sparkling Grand Ballroom. The two properties are Official Disney World Hotels with convenient access to the theme parks and terraces for fireworks viewing, but inside, the focus is on elevated meeting, dining and amenities rather than mouse ears.

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One of the newest luxury offerings is Conrad Orlando, which recently opened with 433 generous guest rooms and 65,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including a fabulous new rooftop experience. It is part of a new 10,000-room resort complex Evermore Orlando Resort surrounding Evermore Bay by Crystal Lagoons. Evermore Meeting Center offers its own 7,000-square-foot indoor space in addition to an outdoor deck and lawn and a 2,500-square-foot The Boathouse with sweeping views from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes invested millions to add a water park and refresh guest rooms to serve 144,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. And Caribe Royale Orlando added a 500-seat Stadium Club as an exciting activation at the property with 220,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Orange County Convention Center is in design mode for an 80,000-square-foot ballroom addition to North-South Building that will create a new entry experience and once the second phase of that addition is complete will bring the exhibit space there to 1.15 million sq. ft.


An expansion last year of Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts boats three art stages, a twinkling rooftop patio and plans to add a jazz supper club and outdoor amphitheater. Think of the downtown cultural venue as a sophisticated backdrop to deliver an elevated message.


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The Boheme inside The Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando

Orlando is home to 46 Michelin-recommended restaurants, many of them anchoring fabulous hotel complexes. The Boheme inside The Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando downtown was part of a property-wide renovation that brightened the lush Art-Deco, gilded décor in the guest rooms, 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and rooftop dining space. Look for Kessler Collection touches like a Bosendorfer piano in the entry.

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Also refreshed, Bull & Bear in Waldorf Astoria Orlando is as much a tableside experience as it is fine steakhouse dining in a wood-paneled enclave with sunset golf course views. From the assembled Caesar salad and the $100-baked potato to creme brulee flambe, come ready to be impressed.

This article appears in the March/April 2024 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.