disney’s grand floridian resort

manda jayne events blog

Closing out my series on Disney World meeting space, we have the Grand Floridian. The Grand Floridian is the flagship resort of the park. It’s one of the oldest resorts and it has a sophisticated Victorian theme. The resort sits on the Seven Seas Lagoon and is only a short monorail hop from the Magic Kingdom. This resort just oozes luxury (at least for a Disney Vacation) – I like to just sit in the lobby and people watch (and let’s be real – I’m secretly judging some of the people I see: “Seriously – YOU paid $500+ a night to stay here!?!”).

The meeting space is gorgeous. It’s a little more sophisticated than the whimsical BoardWalk Inn, but more old-fashioned and classic than the Contemporary Resort (that’s the one that was “Contemporary” in the 70s when it opened, and the monorail just passes right through the atrium). There’s 40,000 square feet of meeting space in the on-site convention center, including the 18,000+ square foot Grand Floridian Ballroom:

disney's grand floridian | amanda jayne events blog

That’s pretty, right? For an interior ballroom with no windows? The carpet actually works here (although I’ve already mentioned that I’m not particularly bothered by garish hotel carpets they way some people are).

But I was more interested in some of the smaller spaces with more character (although not necessarily characters like Minnie or Mickey – although I’m sure Disney could make that happen for you) so I was shown the Whitehall room and patio. The meeting room is octagonal and has some nice details, particularly the ceiling. The room holds about 50 guests, so it would be perfect for a shower or small party, or a small wedding ceremony.

manda jayne events blog

manda jayne events blog

But the real draw for this space is the private patio accessed from the room. It’s partially covered (with ceiling fans which hopefully help with the central Florida humidity – I went in early June and felt like I was melting).

manda jayne events blog

But check out this view!

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort | amanda jayne events blog

Yes – I would love a view of the monorail because I’m a nerd like that. But I actually meant this view:

jDisney's Grand Floridian Resort | amanda jayne events blog

That, my friends, is the Magic Kingdom, and that’s not even zoomed in! That might not seem that impressive, but wouldn’t it be fun to watch the nightly fireworks from here on your private patio?

For a less-private event space, (also outdoors), you can reserve space at the marina:

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort | amanda jayne events blog

And of course, all of these locations (and everything else within the Grand Floridian) is within walking distance of the Disney Wedding Pavilion, which I did not get to peek in (unfortunately), but this 43 second video sums it up nicely:

One thing to note about the wedding pavilion is that it is literally next door to the Grand Floridian, including the Grand Floridian Disney Vacation Club construction. That must not have been pleasant for some of the brides who have had their view of the beautiful red and white hotel obstructed, but the construction is almost over and shouldn’t affect weddings for much longer.

manda jayne events blog

What are your thoughts? Would you have a wedding or event at the Grand Floridian?

Read my other posts on events at Epcot and the BoardWalk Inn.

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hosting an event at epcot


My husband says that I’m obsessed with Disney World. I would not agree with the word obsessed, but I am more than a little intrigued by their entire operation as a hospitality company. This is all because my husband and I went to Disney World on vacation last year (one more time just the two of us before we have kids – I swear!) and I probably over-prepared and planned for the trip (Hey – I am a planner by profession), and in doing so learned so much more than most visitors do about the company and their philosophy surrounding hospitality.

I recently had the opportunity to tour some of the meeting space that Disney has on site. I was only on a site visit, so I didn’t have the opportunity to experience the service and execution, but I wanted to write about the space.

The first thing to know about hosting a meeting or event at Disney is that they will treat you differently based on whether you are hosting your entire meeting on Disney property, or just part of it. Meaning, if you are hosting a large conference with sleeping rooms at one of the resorts and you want to host a welcome reception, you will have many more options available to you because you have those sleeping rooms at a Disney resort. However, let’s say you were hosting an event at a nearby hotel not on Disney property, such as the Hilton or the Omni, but you wanted to host a welcome reception at Disney because it’s so close. You will still have several options available, but not as many, since they prefer to reserve some of the prime event locations for their on-site guests.

The majority of the event space at Disney World is located in the resort hotels, not the parks themselves. There are no private event spaces in Magic Kingdom at all, there are some spaces in Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, but the most common option for theme park events is in Epcot. That’s great for me because Epcot is my favorite Disney park and always has been. Ever since I visited the park as a little girl, I’ve loved Epcot. Now as an adult, I could ride Spaceship Earth over and over again. Soarin’ is my favorite ride in all of Disney. I could spend days meandering around the World Showcase. Long story short: I love Epcot!

The spaces that I toured in Epcot were the ones that are available to groups without sleeping room blocks. There are many other exciting places to hold events beyond these if you are hosting your entire meeting at Disney.

The Odyssey Pavilion is located right in between Future World and the World Showcase, specifically between the Test Track attraction and the Mexico pavilion. The building itself has an interesting history – it used to be a restaurant and then it became a multi-group event space, now it’s available for meetings and events and is sometimes used for special programs.

The space is a bit dated looking, but if you’re concerned with that, Disney is happy to use some Disney magic to transform it with lighting and decor. The food and beverage options for this space have an international flair owing to the proximity to the world showcase. The best part of this venue would be only having to step outside to be able to view the Illuminations nightly fireworks show.

I assume this looks much better without the house lights on!

I assume this looks much better without the house lights on!

The other space I toured in Epcot is the Norway Lounge which is located above the Maelstrom ride (who knew?!).  Again, this space is rather dated as well (and much smaller – maximum capacity is 120 for a reception or 80 for a seated meal), but it’s pretty neat to be in one of the world showcase buildings. While there are windows that overlook the rest of the park, you wouldn’t be able to view the fireworks from the building.

Neither space is really all that impressive on its own – you are paying for the opportunity to have a private event inside Epcot. Don’t forget, there are plenty of other options available if you are hosting a meeting or event with sleeping rooms – in Epcot alone you can host an event in nearly every world showcase pavilion.

But if you are having your event at one of the non-Disney hotels and want to have an event inside the park, this is a great option, especially if you want your group to eat together and then go out and explore the park on their own.

Related: The Attic and Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

site report – private events at sea world orlando

I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a theme park enthusiast – not always a good thing according to my husband, whom I dragged on a vacation to Disney World last year under the auspices of – “We have to go one more time before we have kids!”

I’m also a sucker for an event in a fun, interesting venue. So when I saw that the Cvent Corporate Meetings Summit was hosting an evening reception in Sea World Orlando, I was sold on attending.

The space…

The event was supposed to be in the just-opened Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin attraction. In fact, this event was the first private event to be held in the facility.

We actually started the evening at Ports of Call, the banquet facility. And the only penguin we saw was a costumed entertainer dressed like one. Once I got over my initial disappointment that we weren’t going straight to see the penguins, I realized that Ports of Call was a very nice space. It is essentially a large ballroom that can be divided into three, but there is nothing about the space that says boring ballroom. The lighting and decor lend the space a very subtle nautical theme that can easily be played up for your event, or downplayed if you prefer.  There is plenty of natural light, with an entire wall of windows and doors.

The Cvent event was definitely trying to play up the nautical theme. I tried to take a few pictures but it was a little dim in the space – I was also trying not to be a creeper and take random people’s photos.

 

Apparently I was too discreet....

 

There is an attached covered patio and a little lagoon with a mini waterfall which is perfect for a cocktail reception.

This is obviously not our event, it's a press photo, I just didn't get any shots of the patio. Photo via  Sea World Orlando

This is obviously not our event, it’s a press photo, I just didn’t get any shots of the patio. Photo via Sea World Orlando

But seriously, everyone just wanted to see the penguins we were promised, so after about an hour they announced that we could board buses to go over to the other side of the park to continue the party. And everyone rushed to the covered patio to wait in line.

Once on the bus it was a short ride to our destination, which turned out to be behind the Journey to Atlantis ride. After snaking around that ride building we found ourselves at the designated event space, which included the new Antarctica space and the roller coaster Kraken, which was running for our exclusive use. I should mention that the park was closed to guests at this point so it definitely felt private.

The penguins…

My new penguin friend

My new penguin friend

I was promised penguins so I went straight to the Empire of the Penguin attraction. Now, I know this is an events blog but I’m going to do a mini review of this ride (just in case you decide to host an event at Sea World, you know what you’re getting into).

So prior to the attraction opening in May there was a ton of hype – it was a brand new ride system, unlike anything we’ve seen, etc. etc. etc. So expectations were high – probably too high. The basic gist is that Puck is an adorable baby penguin, just born in the harsh, yet beautiful Antarctic world, that you follow through an adventure as he tries to reach the rest of his family. After the pre-show you board these state-of-the-art trackless ride vehicles that twirl and spin and basically just take you to the penguins.

Here is a ride-through video (if you’re curious):

So while the ride itself was a bit of a letdown, the penguins really are the main attraction, not the ride. And the exhibit is pretty cool – literally, it’s kept at a near antarctic temperature for the sake of our tuxedoed friends. There is the viewing area right after the ride but then you can go to the underwater viewing area, which is kept at a more human-friendly climate. They had a bar set up in this space, which was great for a small cocktail reception on its own, or part of the larger event.

After seeing the penguins, we had the option of – as one Sea World staff member put it – “eating, drinking, riding or spending money.” The last part referred to the Antarctica gift shop which was conveniently open.

The F&B…

The Sea World catering was decent. Better than standard theme park food but not amazing. The reception at Ports of Call featured several specialty stations with food from around the world. The mac and cheese with truffle oil served in a can was pretty amazing and I went back for seconds, probably would have went back for thirds if I didn’t think my new found companions would have been a bit judgy.

Other opportunities…

Sea World offers plenty of other private and semi-private spaces for events, especially for nighttime events when the parks are closed, including private Shamu shows and entire park buyouts. You can find more info on private events here.

Have you had an event, or attended an event at Sea World? What did you think?

site report – the hyatt regency orlando sleeping rooms and amenities (formerly the peabody orlando)

Editors note: This hotel became a Hyatt Regency in November 2013. This post was current when it was published and reflects the service and amenities as a Peabody Hotel, not a Hyatt Regency.

 

See my site report on The Peabody Orlando’s Meeting Space

The sleeping rooms at the Peabody Orlando are very nice and there is a TV in the bathroom mirror. In. The. Bathroom. Mirror.

I was in a double room (two double beds) and it was plenty spacious for just me. Had my husband been with me it would have been fine for the two of us. If we had more people with us it might have been a bit crowded.

The beds were super comfortable – comfy enough that I didn’t want to get out of bed for the conference I was attending.

The bathroom though – that’s the main event. Like I may have mentioned earlier – there is a TV in the mirror! I’m not sure why I find this so exciting because I didn’t even really watch it, but I was excited that it existed.

My only complaint about the bathroom is the towels are stored under the sink and the only towel rack is over the bathtub which seems awkwardly placed. Otherwise the bathroom was perfectly functional. They even provided a digital scale which I made sure to nudge under the sink just in case I accidentally stepped on it – we wouldn’t want THAT happening!

Everything was very nice and obviously renovated fairly recently. My room overlooked the tennis courts and a swamp. Allegedly you could see gators sunning themselves in the swamp but since the sun didn’t really come out during my stay, I didn’t get to see any.

The hotel has several restaurants and room service. You get two bottles of water per room per day as part of the resort fee (thank goodness because I’m trying to drink more water but I’m too cheap to buy it). I didn’t get to try most of the restaurants since I was eating banquet food with the conference, but I did try the B-Line Diner’s quick service window because I wanted something quick when I arrived. The quick service menu is fairly limited but my caesar salad was ok.

The hotel also has an incredible pool complex. I was there for business so I didn’t try out the pool (actually I didn’t try out the pool because it rained just about the whole trip) but I did manage to snap some pictures when the sun briefly came out the day I left.

There is also a spa and a fitness center. The fitness center offers classes for a nominal fee – I was pretty excited about this as I was packing for my trip but then I didn’t get my butt out of bed early enough to take advantage. But if you find yourself at the Peabody, you should totally try the classes out and let me know how they are!

All in all, a great hotel, a comfortable room. Depending on when you go, the price can range wildly. Since it does a lot of meetings business, most groups get a discounted stay. The room rate for the conference I attended was $120/night which was VERY reasonable given the quality of the resort.

Have you been to The Peabody? What did you think?

site report – the hyatt regency orlando (formerly the peabody orlando)

 

peabody1

Editors note: This hotel became a Hyatt Regency in November 2013. This post was current when it was published and reflects the service and amenities as a Peabody Hotel, not a Hyatt Regency.

When you think of Orlando, you probably think of theme parks. Unless, of course, you are an events nerd like myself, than you might think of meetings and conventions. Orlando is one of the top convention cities in the US, with a huge convention centers, tons of hotel, plenty of flights in and out of the airport, and attractions nearby.

I recently got to stay at the Peabody Orlando for a conference hosted by Cvent. It was my first time staying at the iconic property and my first impressions were: this place is HUGE but it has a ton of character.

Location, location, location…

The Peabody is located next to (and I mean – right next to) the Orange County Convention Center. It’s about a 15-20 minute drive from the Orlando airport. It’s pretty close to Universal Studios and Sea World, Disney World is a bit farther away (about 20-25 minutes). The hotel sits in a row of hotels and there isn’t a ton to do within walking distance, if that’s important to you.

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Meeting space…

I’m a meetings and event nerd so I’m likely to snoop around the meeting space at whatever hotel I’m visiting – regardless of whether I’m there to plan or attend an event (my husband loves this feature of our family vacations!). The thing you need to know about the Peabody is that it’s BIG. HUGE. It almost seems silly that the hotel is adjacent to the convention center because you could easily host a small convention in the hotel’s own meeting space. The property boasts 300,000 square feet of meetings space (that’s a lot – to put in perspective, that’s almost six times bigger than the White House!).

The conference I was attending used mostly the Windermere ballrooms, which are at the very end of the conference space. It was a bit of a hike. My room was in the Mallard Tower and I clocked it at about 12 minutes to walk from my room to the Windermere Ballroom for sessions. Now I didn’t mind this personally (getting to walk so much makes me feel less guilty about skipping the fitness center for my entire stay), but if you are planning an event with lots of older guests or guests with mobility concerns, keep that in mind.

There are so many meeting rooms and venues in The Peabody that I feel like I barely scratched the surface. They offer plenty of flexible space. The rooms I was in were in good condition. Mostly standard ballrooms with airwalls galore, but Windermere had a unique tiled ceiling which added some flavor to the room.

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Service…

The service throughout the conference and my stay was top notch. Now, full disclosure: I was attending a conference for meeting planners and it’s not uncommon for hotels to pull out all the stops to impress meeting planners so we take our events to their facilities, and certainly The Peabody was aiming to impress. But even when I didn’t have the ginormous conference name badge on, the staff was kind, accommodating and incredibly friendly. The hotel is large and the staff is probably used to people getting lost. Every time I paused in the lobby or a hallway, I was greeted and asked if I needed help. I’m stubborn and refused that help, but it was offered all the same.

The F&B…

Food & Beverage for you non-event nerds (read: normal people). The food I experienced at the conference was good hotel food. Not blow your socks off but not bad for mass-produced food for a 500+ person conference. Some of the hors d’oeuvres at the opening reception were very good – mini beef wellingtons were excellent, and this is something that caterers sometimes mess up. The fritatta at a plated breakfast was a miss for me, it was unique but it didn’t have a ton of flavor. The coffee was pretty good. I’m not a coffee snob (my husband is though) but I do like my coffee to be pretty good and I drink it black. Good coffee is a must for conferences – you don’t want your attendees showing up late for sessions because they were in line at the Starbucks down the street because the hotel coffee is terrible!

The Ducks…

You can’t mention The Peabody and not mention the ducks. The ducks are the mascot for the hotel, ever since the 1930s when the GM of the original Peabody in Memphis brought live ducks to the fountain – full story here. Today you can see live ducks at the fountain during the day and they are paraded through the lobby each morning and evening (I’m pretty bummed I missed seeing this myself). But they use ducks everywhere – from duck artwork in the sleeping rooms to soap in the shape of a duck in the bathrooms, even butter in the shape of a duck on the dinner table (which led me to feel guilty about beheading the butter duck in order to butter my dinner roll which was very yummy). It’s tastefully done – ducks are everywhere in the decor, but it’s never garish or overdone. I think it gives The Peabody its charm and makes the hotel feel more special.

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Overall… 

Overall, I would come back to the Peabody if I had an event in Orlando. It’s a great location and a great property.  Small meetings might feel a little lost since there is so much meeting space, and the long walk to the ballrooms might be an issue depending on your guests’ demographic, but for medium and large sized groups it would be a great option over a big box hotel.

For more information on hosting meetings and events at The Peabody, click here.