FLORIDA ROADTRIP: What’s new and notable around the state
Whether travellers are looking for new places to stay, visiting iconic theme parks, returning to favourite haunts, or discovering a part of the state they may not have known, there is never a shortage of new experiences and opportunities in Florida. Here is a just a small sampling of some of what’s brightening the tourism scene in the Sunshine State in 2023.
The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Miami Health & Wellness Months are underway. Through March 31, the program features discounts on wellness and self-care activities, treatments, and experiences. More than 60 offers are listed at MiamiTemptations.com.
Greater Fort Lauderdale is preparing to set a new record this month (February) with four, back-to-back, sold-out LGBT+ cruises, welcoming more than 11,500 global visitors to the destination. Greater Fort Lauderdale is Florida’s LGBT+ capital and one of the most progressive destinations in the United States. The South Florida City also celebrated the Pride of the Americas festival Feb. 10-12, featuring a performance by Boy George.
The Palm Beaches
• The high-speed Brightine passenger rail service, which runs between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach unveiled a Boca Raton station in November. Service to Orlando is begin in 2023.
• Rapids Waterpark, South Florida’s largest water park, has announced a new ride coming in 2023 – Mega Mayhem, Dueling Water Coaster will open this summer at the Riviera Beach park in Palm Beach County. The new attraction features two side-by-side flumes where riders speed down twists and high-banked turns as they are propelled uphill by a unique blast jet propulsion technology. Thrill seekers will compete to reach the finishing plunge first while experiencing drop and dive sensations along the way. Riders can see other racers speeding down the slide through open low-separator walls at a max speed of up to 22 35 km. The park opens for the season on March 11.
• Located on more than three hectares acres along Palm Beach County’s picturesque Singer Island, Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences is a new health-centric resort expected to open in April. It will offer first-class service along with a program combining Eastern well-being philosophies and western technology with 92,000 sq. m. of wellness amenities including The Aayush Hydrothermal water therapy circuit; indoor/outdoor treatment rooms; float tank; IV, sound and light therapies; acupuncture; body therapies from around the globe; and arguably the most sophisticated, spa-centered Ayurvedic and yoga program in the US.
• Banyan Cay Resort & Golf will become Florida’s first ‘Destination by Hyatt’ hotel and the first full-service Hyatt-branded property in Palm Beach County. The new-build luxury resort, due this spring, will boast an upscale West Indies style with 150 oversized rooms and suites and a robust menu of amenities that include a lush spa inspired by West Indies rituals, three on-site restaurants, two pools, and 18 holes of golf designed by Jack Nicklaus. Banyan Cay’s premier location within minutes of downtown West Palm Beach.
• The luxurious Jupiter Beach Resort is undergoing renovations to complete the remaining guest rooms, in-house restaurant, Sinclair’s, and the spa. While Sinclair’s is undergoing an exciting update, guests can enjoy the same service and menu at a new pop-up version of Sinclair’s. Completion is expected mid year.
Kennedy Space Center
Carnival Cruise Line has partnered with the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to launch a children’s space program with activities inspired by NASA science. Launched last fall on Carnival Celebration this November, the program enables children of all ages in the Camp Ocean program to explore the universe and earth in an array of hands-on and one-of-a-kind learning experiences.
The 65th annual Daytona 500, kicks off NASCAR’s 75th Anniversary season this weekend (Feb. 19) with the 65th annual event.
• Newly approved plans for Shipyards Four Seasons include a 176-room luxury hotel and marina. The five-star hotel will include resort amenities, such as a spa, pool, and meeting spaces.
• Plans include a $4-million investment in Metropolitan Park, creating a 4-hectare destination riverfront park. Construction is expected to be completed in 2025. An extension of the full project also includes Miller Electric Center, a new Jaguars sports performance centre currently underway. The Shipyards will deliver a downtown experience that blends urban design with waterfront entertainment.
• A Hotel Indigo in the Historic Waterfront District of downtown Panama City is set to open in May. The $30-million boutique hotel will feature 124 guest rooms with restaurant, sky bar and a promenade along the waterfront. Guest rooms will offer sweeping views of the St. Andrews Bay.
• Embassy Suites by Hilton is another new property scheduled to open early 2023. The hotel will overlook the white sand beaches and Gulf of Mexico and will be located adjacent to the famed Pier Park lifestyle centre.
• Historic downtown Pensacola has welcomed a new boutique luxury property to the neighbourhood: Lily Hall. The 15-oom hotel was converted from the former Mount Olive Baptist Church (1928-1982).
• Through 2023, Innisfree Hotels will unveil upgrades to several of its Pensacola properties, as well as new additions to Pensacola Beach.
• Broadway touring performances will take place at the Saenger Theatre, including “Jesus Christ Superstar’s 50th Anniversary Tour,” “The Book of Mormon” and “CHICAGO The Musical.”
• Adventure enthusiasts can take their adventures to new heights with the Laguna’s Scenic Zip, Northwest Florida’s longest zip rail – a new, custom 120-m zip rail that has guests feeling the wind in their hair as they zoom around the park from 12 m. above ground.
• As the destination grows, new hotels are popping up to accommodate more guests. Recently opened are the Avid Hotel, only minutes from downtown Ocala, and a new Towne Place Suites by Marriott hotel.
• Black History Month in Orlando continues throughout February with commemorations and celebrations of African American history and culture. With limited-time exhibitions and musical performances, a robust collection of Black-owned or run restaurants, along with year-round cultural attractions and tours through historic towns and landmarks, Orlando offers a wide range of opportunities for locals and visitors to experience the inspiring, rich culture of the African American community.
• Cambria Hotel Orlando Universal Blvd. will welcome guests this Spring (bookings open March 31). Located in the International Drive Resort area – near major attractions as well as local shopping and restaurants – this 118-room property offers amenities including a rooftop pool and lounge, state-of-the-art fitness centre, the sophisticated Veer Kitchen & Bar restaurant, rooftop bar and more.
• Opening this fall in Orlando, Aloft Lake Nona will be a six-story, 205-room music-themed property. Its eclectic décor and design nods to the hotel’s music and technology roots that gives each guestroom its own character. Aloft Lake Nona will also feature a 930 sq.-m. conference centre and full-service restaurant.
• Canadian residents can now take advantage of the “Get 2 Days Free with a 3-Day, 2-Park Ticket” offer at Universal Orlando Resort. Available for booking by Dec. 9 for travel in 2023, the offers start at US$234.99 per adult, plus tax and allows guests spend five full days at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure for the price of a 3-Day ticket. And for $35 more, guests can upgrade their ticket to include access to Universal’s Volcano Bay water theme park.
• Mardi Gras celebration continue through April 16 at Universal Studios Florida. The parkwide celebration features cuisine inspired by Carnaval celebrations from New Orleans to Brazil to Belgium and beyond, plus a lively parade filled with vibrant floats where partygoers can catch beads by the handful. And on select nights, guests can cap the festivities with live concerts by top names in music. Access to Universal’s Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval is included with regular admission to Universal Studios Florida.
• Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast – opening this summer at Universal Studios Florida – will combine innovative screen technology, state-of-the-art gaming interactivity and elaborate physical sets to create a one-of-a-kind, game-based adventure where guests encounter immersive environments, nefarious villains, and mischievous Minions from Illumination’s blockbuster film franchise. The new attraction will be part of a new Minion land, featuring the beloved Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction, a new Minion café and more.
• TRON Lightcycle/Run officially opens April 4 at Magic Kingdom Park. The attraction will be one of the fastest coasters at any Disney theme park in the world.
• ‘Journey of Water,’ inspired by Moana, will open in late-2023 within World Nature, the EPCOT neighbourhood dedicated to understanding and preserving the beauty, awe, and balance of the natural world. The all-ages attraction at Walt Disney World in Orlando will allow guests to explore and engage with water as it travels from the skies to the oceans and back again.
• Drury Plaza Hotel Orlando – Disney Springs Area, the newest official Walt Disney Partner Hotel, is set to be completed in spring 2023 with 604 guestrooms and 1,600+ sq. m. feet of meeting space. Guests will be able to enjoy a resort-style pool, splash pad and poolside dining and refreshments, as well as an extensive marketplace, onsite dining, complimentary hot breakfast, shuttle service to all four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks, and evening snacks and beverages.
LEGOLAND Florida has opened its newest attraction – Pirate River Quest – early this year. The family-friendly treasure hunt adventure, led by a pirate in search of a lost treasure, takes guests through the uncharted waters of the legendary Cypress Gardens to discover the secrets protecting its canals.
SeaWorld Orlando’s newest roller coaster, “Pipeline: The Surf Coaster,” is set to be unveiled this Spring. The attraction is the world’s first “Surf Coaster,” which will enable riders to “feel the power of the ocean” in a whole new way.
Featuring 20 bedrooms and many more bathrooms, the VIP Hollywood Experience home – the first opened in the Fantasy Island quad of vacation rentals – features everything from a bowling alley to a half-court basketball area, a pool with its own lazy river and a wall that’s a single, movie-theatre style screen. The venue is just minutes from Orlando’s theme parks or the LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven.
• Visit Tampa Bay (VTB) has launched the third edition of its Tampa Gay Guide, which details a host of LGBT+-owned and LGBT+-friendly businesses across the many districts within the destination as well as events such as the Tampa Pride Parade, Pride on the River, and the Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. With a steady influx of LGBT+ travellers, the first edition of the Tampa Gay Guide was launched in 2019 to showcase Florida city’s diversity.
• The award-winning Epicurean Hotel is serving up a $21-million expansion project. Located directly across Howard Avenue from the 137-room main hotel, the expansion will include 51 new guest rooms and suites, a private lobby, meeting space and rooftop terrace. The four-storey structure will incorporate two restored historic apartment buildings and add two floors of parking with 91 spaces. The expansion is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2023.
TradeWinds Island Resorts (Island Grand and RumFish Beach Resort) has added 141 guest rooms to its portfolio, along with a three-storey, new dual-line zipline on the beach, plus a new Mexican restaurant concept at the Island Grand.
The Zing Ray Zip, makies them the first-ever St. Pete Beach resort with a three-story, dual-line zipline on the beach. More amenities will be added this summer at TradeWinds, including the Aqua-Bana, a 10-person covered floating cabana complete with a table and a cooler of ice.
Punta Gorda’s Harbor Walk is a 5-km. walk along the beautiful Charlotte Harbour shoreline. Part of the Punta Gorda Pathways program, it connects to Fisherman’s Village, a highlight of Punta Gorda and the place to hop on a King Fisher Fleet tour of the harbour, the Peace River and nearby islands Gasparilla Island/Boca Grande, Cayo Costa and Cabbage Key. The Harbour Walk is a great location to take advantage of the Free Bike Loaner Program – bike stations include Fishermen’s Village, Laishley Marina, Bayfront Punta Gorda’s Wellness Center, Sheraton Four Points and SpringHill Suites.
The Keys are celebrating the bicentennial of the subtropical island chain throughout 2023, starting with the “200 Years of Paradise Kick-off Concert,” which includes a drone firework show March 25 in Key West. Other events will include an air show in Key West April 15-16; a sea-to-table dinner set for June 10, in Islamorada highlighting the island chain’s local chefs, fishing captains, artists and coral restoration initiatives; and Bicentennial Day festivities and fireworks July 3 in the Lower Keys, to feature the creation of the world’s largest Key lime pie.
In addition, museum exhibits around the Keys, annual festivals, and the Florida Keys Council of the Arts’ 300-canvas “Connections Project” mosaic mural are themed to celebrate the historic bicentennial and the Keys’ multifaceted heritage.
First published at Travel Industry Today