It may be best known as the home of Mickey Mouse, Elsa, and Cinderella, but Orlando also happens to be one of the top spots for business conventions in the United States. And it’s no wonder why Cvent has ranked the Floridian city as the No. 1 meetings destination in the country four out of the five years that the meetings management company has been compiling its Top 50 list.
Boasting the second-largest concentration of hotel rooms of any U.S. city and one of the biggest convention centers in the country — not to mention, its 5,000 restaurants, 170 golf courses, and easy access to an international airport — sunny Orlando seems like the perfect place to do business.
And it just so happens to be the location for the largest gathering of supply management professionals — the 2017 Institute for Supply Management (ISM) conference — of which American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) is a proud sponsor.
If you’re going to the May 21 to 24 conference, please be sure to stop by the American Express GBT booth. We’d love the chance to meet! (And if unfortunately our paths don’t cross, be on the lookout for the video we’ll be displaying at the conference to learn how GBT can meet your unique business travel needs.)
So whether you’re heading to Orlando for ISM or it’s another kind of business trip altogether luring you down south, here’s how to get the most out of your stay in a city that offers way more than just theme parks.
Where to lay your head at night
Decisions, decisions, decisions. With 450 hotels and resorts in town to choose from, you have plenty of them.
ISM attendees definitely will want to stay at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, as the conference takes place entirely within this Spanish Colonial-themed complex. But we have bad news for procrastinators: All rooms at this luxury resort — which has a pool with a five-story Mayan pyramid waterslide and a 22-person outdoor hot tub — are booked. (At the time of this writing, though, there are still rooms available at the group rate at Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa — but you better act fast!)
Going to Orlando for a conference at the Orange County Convention Center? There’s no better place to stay than across the skywalk at the Hyatt Regency Orlando. Featuring 14 indoor and outdoor venues of flexible meeting space and its own golf concierge, it’s definitely a haven for business travelers, too.
For an ideally situated hotel right in the heart of Orlando, check out DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando Downtown. With free Wi-Fi service, a fully equipped business center with complimentary printing, a fax machine, secretarial service, and videoconferencing capabilities, you will have access to all the comforts of your office back at home.
At Rosen Shingle Creek, a full-service meeting destination featuring over 490,000 square feet of flexible event space, you first can carry out business in the boardrooms and then carry that conversation over just a few yards away at its newly designed, award-winning golf course. And if you need to brush up on the game, book a lesson at its on-site Brad Brewer Golf Academy.
Orlando is a very drivable city, so you may consider renting a car…or not.
The truth is, unless you expect to venture far off the beaten International Drive path, we see no reason to do so. Many of the hotels offer free shuttle service to and from the airport.
Zipcar is available in the city, so those with an account can get their own wheels, temporarily.
There also is the I-RIDE Trolley, which cruises, albeit slowly, down International Drive and is merely two bucks a ride—as well as the free Lymmo service. Just don’t expect a black car pulling up and offering red-carpet service. Lymmo is the city’s bus system.
Eat where the locals do
Or, in this first instance, where the local chefs do. Designed to look like an inviting country inn, Le Coq au Vin is said to be the restaurant of choice for those in the culinary world on their nights off. For fine French food, attentive service, and a great ambiance, it’s a wonderful place to go.
And one that all the travel guides can’t stop raving about is The Ravenous Pig, whose owners were just named James Beard Award semifinalists. Serving locally sourced fare, including lots of fresh Florida fish, this Winter Park gastropub puts down an expertly prepared plate of fresh food, cooked to perfection. If the timing is right, check out its monthly pig roast, which draws a big local crowd.
If you’ve got a few hours to kill…
A ride on Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain can be the ultimate stress buster. Of course, if you want to avoid the hordes of hyperactive kids at the theme parks, Orlando has plenty of adult-friendly options, too.
To really disconnect from it all, take a kayaking eco-tour or do some stand-up paddleboarding in Shingle Creek, the northernmost headwaters to the Everglades, where you can spot alligators, turtles, and bald eagles.
Not into that kind of outdoorsy adventure? You still can listen to the call of nature while getting a “zero gravity” massage—performed outside as you sway gently in a hammock—at one of Orlando’s most luxurious spas at the Ritz-Carlton, Orlando, Grande Lakes.
Or, you can do a little retail therapy. Go totally upscale at The Mall at Millennia, which has Burberry, Gucci, and Jimmy Choo among its luxury lineup. Or seriously shop ‘til you drop at the 1.7-million-square-foot Florida Mall, home to Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, and 250 other retailers and restaurants.
Food for thought. The Orlando International Airport is in the midst of installing its new, state-of-the-art Mitsubishi Automated People Mover (APM) system. (You may have heard of it referred to as “tram” or “shuttle” in other airports.)
How might this affect you? According to the airport’s website, only a single APM train transporting passengers from the main terminal to Gates 1-59 will remain operational during this two-year renovation, which is scheduled to wrap up in early 2018.
One busy international airport plus only one APM train equals…? Well, we’ll let you do the math on that one, but may we suggest not taking too long in the main terminal’s gift shop picking out a Mickey Mouse plush for your little niece.