Mr Flexible Space
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

ORLANDO

Large-scale events will find ample accommodations at the Orange County Convention Center, which boasts 2.1 million sq. ft. of exhibit space, along with two 92,000 sq. ft. general assembly areas, 74 meeting rooms, a 160-seat lecture hall and a 62,000-sq. ft. multi-purpose room.

The convention center is going green with a recycling program already under way and a solar energy project in development. Several local hotels are participants in the Florida Green Lodging Program. Altogether, the Orlando area has an inventory of about 113,000 guestrooms.

For groups that want to convene right in the midst of the city's biggest visitor attractions, there is more than 600,000 total sq. ft. of meeting and space at six Disney convention resorts, including 220,000 sq. ft. at the Coronado Springs Resort.

Many famous African-American musicians stayed in the historic Wells' Built Hotel during the 1920s when playing in Orlando. A drive to nearby Eatonville, the oldest African-American municipality in the United States, offers a chance to visit the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, named for the Harlem Renaissance writer and folklorist who was the town's most famous native daughter.

Orlando's popular theme parks are constantly adding new attractions. Some of the most recent additions at Walt Disney World include Toy Story Mania, Block Party Bash (an interactive Disney parade) and The American Idol Experience. The new Aquatica Waterpark at SeaWorld opened in March 2008, while Manta, a simulation ride that lets visitors experience how it feels to be a stingray, will open in the summer of 2009. Universal Studios Florida has added a new ride based on The Simpsons television show, and Busch Gardens Africa has a new exotic jungle area called Jungala.

Other things to do include browsing the galleries at CityArts Factory, strolling through the Henry P. Leu Gardens and shopping at local outlet malls.

PALM BEACH

The 350,000-sq. ft. Palm Beach County Convention Center is the premier meeting facility for this Florida Atlantic Coast destination, while many of the area's 200 hotels also have meeting space. Delegates and family members can choose from a wide range of activities to fill their leisure time, from visiting The Breakers - Palm Beach's historic Mobil Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond resort - to browsing the shops in the Clematis Street district, along Worth Avenue and at CityPlace, a European-style town center. Other notable attractions include the Norton Museum of Art, the Flagler Museum and Sea Gull Cottage, the oldest house in Palm Beach.

PENSACOLA

With 12 meeting rooms, more than 20,000 sq. ft. of arena floor space and four pre-function areas, the Pensacola Civic Center is the main convention facility for this Gulf Coast city.

Historic Pensacola Village is a can't-miss attraction that is home to two major Black historical and cultural sites: the Kate Coulson House, headquarters for the African-American Heritage Society, which operates a small art gallery and museum in the building, and the Julee Panton Cottage, the early 19th century home of a free woman of color.

Other places that preserve and honor the area's Black heritage include St. Michaels Cemetery, one of the only U.S. cemeteries where slaves and nobility are buried side-by-side; Fort Pickens, built with the help of slave labor and occupied by African-American troops during the Civil War; Johnson Beach, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Perdido Key that is named for an African-American from Pensacola who died in the Korean War at age 17; Chappie James Memorial Gardens, named for the Pensacola native who was the first Black four-star general in the U.S. Air Force; and the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum, which features a Black Ink exhibit chronicling the history of the local Black press.

TAMPA

The most extensive meeting accommodations in Florida's Tampa Bay area can be found at the Tampa Convention Center, where the amenities include 200,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space and a 36,000-sq. ft. ballroom.

Tampa offers a wide range of visitor attractions, including many than would be especially appealing to meeting delegates traveling with kids. Options for family-friendly fun include the Museum of Science and Industry, which contains more than 300,000 sq. ft. of interactive exhibits; Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island waterpark; The Florida Aquarium, a shell-shaped facility that houses more than 10,000 aquatic plants and animals; the Lowry Park Zoo; and in Plant City, just east of Tampa, the world's largest dinosaur attraction: Dinosaur World.

The Tampa Museum of Art will move into its new home in downtown's Curtis Hixon Park in the fall of 2009. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay History Center, which opened in January 2008, showcases exhibits that cover 12,000 years of local history.

Ybor City, the hub of Tampa's Latin American community, has a new 210,000-sq. ft. shopping and entertainment complex called Centro Ybor that includes restaurants, a museum and other attractions. Channelside Bay Plaza, another new entertainment center, is located on the downtown waterfront next to the aquarium.


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