WHAT’S NEW IN FLORIDA FOR 2021
Florida is gearing up for 2021 with a wide array of new hotels, attractions, restaurants, not to mention a rocket launch or two. From a new state-of-the-art golf course to an adrenaline-filled rollercoaster ride and a new Margaritaville in Jacksonville, here’s a small sampling of the new and notable:
The new SkyViews Miami is the city’s latest attraction (banner photo). Towering 55 metres above Bayside Marketplace, this enclosed, climate-controlled gondola ride offers unparalleled views of Biscayne Bay, Bayfront Park, and the Downtown Miami skyline. There are 42 gondolas, including a VIP gondola that features leather bucket seats, custom LED lightshow, and a glass-bottom floor. The attraction is open year-round and offers 15-minute rides, or special event rides that can last up to 45 minutes.
Meeting planners take note, the US $1-billion expansion of the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center is underway and phase one is scheduled to open in October. The venue will have 112,000 sq. m. of meeting space, including a 6,040 sq. m. waterfront ballroom, a new, expansive waterfront plaza, new dining concepts, enhanced water taxi access, and an 800-room headquarters hotel.
Due to open in late spring, the oceanfront Four Season Hotel Fort Lauderdale will feature an all-day third-floor indoor-outdoor restaurant, fine dining restaurant, spa, garden promenade and more.
The city will also welcome a slew of new restaurants in 2021, including: The Abbey, part restaurant/part entertainment venue set inside a transformed church; the highly anticipated Cuba Libra Restaurant & Rum Bar on Las Olas Blvd.; and The Old Sistrunk Distillery, which will feature a tasting room, cigar bar, wine lounge, and meeting and event space.
THE PALM BEACHES
No fewer than five new hotels are set to spring up in The Palm Beaches in 2021. They include:
• Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences – Singer Island (April): Spanning over three beachfront hectares of the Atlantic shoreline on Singer Island, the resort promises a program combining eastern wellbeing philosophies and western technology to create personalized journeys for each guest and resident.
• The Ray – Delray Beach (July): The new 141-room property will be located two blocks north of downtown Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue in the artsy community of Pineapple Grove. Featured will be a 1,860-sq-m. pool deck with four food and beverage options for guests including a Michelin Chef, a rooftop venue, signature restaurant, and a neighborhood coffee shop.
• Banyan Cay Resort & Golf – West Palm Beach (Late 2021): Situated on 100 hectares in West Palm Beach, Banyan Cay is home to state-of-the-art golf practice facilities and Jack Nicklaus’ 300th Signature Golf Course. Later in the year, a new luxury hotel will join be added, featuring 150 boutique guestrooms and suites, two dazzling pools, a 465 sq. m. relaxation and wellness centre and more.
• Mandarin Oriental – Boca Raton (Late 2021): The 158-room hotel will be Mandarin Oriental’s second property in Florida. All rooms and suites will be designed in a sophisticated and contemporary style, complimented with golf course or downtown views. The hotel will feature two rooftop pools; fine dining restaurants and bars, including the signature MO Bar + Lounge, located on the rooftop with an outdoor terrace; and a Mandarin Oriental cake shop.
In 2021, the Martin County Golf Course will complete its transformation into the state-of-the-art Sailfish Sands Golf Course. This walkable, regulation, nine-hole reversible course will accommodate every level of player and will also feature a 5.2-hectare driving range with low level lights for evening play and interactive LED targets.
Also in Martin County, the Florida Oceanographic Society on Hutchinson Island, is set expand in 2021 with the opening of the brand new Ocean EcoCenter, which will feature interactive exhibits, play-based learning activities, and educational programming all designed to further enable visitors to understand and protect Florida’s coastal eco-systems.
Weather permitting, SpaceX Crew Dragon is set to have two launches in 2021. Crew-2 is currently set for March 30 and Crew-3 in the Fall. Meanwhile, a United Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner on a second unpiloted test flight to the International Space Station. This launch is currently set for March 29. ULA and Boeing are shooting for June for their Crew Test Flight.
Planet Play, a new play area for kids aged two to 12 has opened at the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex in Florida. The venue is designed to educate kids about technologies used in space exploration and the planets, in a fun, playful environment
The historic Diamond Ponte Vedra Inn & Club will be showcasing its chic, new oceanfront accommodations, designed with couples, families, and groups in mind. The new Ocean House and Peyton House are comprised of 41 luxurious beachfront rooms and suites, located steps from the famed Ocean Course and The Racquet Club, and perched on a 2.5 km stretch of Atlantic coastline. Each room will offer sweeping views of the ocean and ample space to relax and luxuriate, with generous private terraces or patios that lead directly to the beach.
Scheduled to open in Spring, the Margaritaville Beach Hotel in Jacksonville Beach will feature 202 guestrooms, a fitness centre, indoor and outdoor meeting and venue spaces, a beachside pool, and a two-storey restaurant.
In downtown Jacksonville, Downtown Hyatt Place is slated to open a 128-room hotel in April. The new property will feature a lobby lounge, meeting and dining space, pool, rooftop patio, and even space.
For those travelling by RV, 50 km west of Jacksonville, in Glen St. Mary, the new Island Oaks RV Resort is currently scheduled to open in May, phase one will offer a combination of 385 pull-through and back-in sites, waterways, a swimming lake, an outdoor recreation area, daily activities, and a fishing lake with a dock for non-motorized boasts, paddleboards and kayaks.
The new year brings new hotels to Amelia Island. Opening in spring 2021, the Courtyard by Marriott and Springhill Suites by Marriott – located in the main beach area of Fernandina Beach and operating under one roof – will share four storeys and 239 guest rooms, along with a spacious pool and outdoor area, and a state-of-the-art meeting and event space.
Newly renovated guest rooms, luxury pool, and Club Lounge are part of a US$30-million renovation at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grand Lakes, set to completed by March. The 582 guest rooms will feature nature-driven design inspired by the natural beauty of the property’s lushly landscaped 200-hectacre grounds, which includes wildlife-filled water and surrounding habitats.
Just opened last week in Orlando is the AC Hotel Downtown, a design-driven lifestyle property that is spread across eight floors of Orlando’s SunTrust Plaza Building towering above Garland Avenue in the heart of the city. The 180-room hotel for both leisure and business guests features a European aesthetic paired with “Floridian flair.” Spacious rooms are equipped with a slew of modern gadgets including smart ambiance controls that adjust the temperature and lighting, HDTVs with Netflix and Hulu streaming, and several USB ports. Other features include collaborative spaces, beverage & food (B&F) program, SkyBar Rooftop Terrace, indoor meeting rooms, onsite store, fitness centre, and more.
Based on the premise that “vacations now require more planning and preparation than ever before,” Experience Kissimmee has partnered with AdventHealth to provide a “Safety Hub” for visitors on its web site. The new planning tool allows visitors to explore resources and up-to-date safety information before travelling (when the time is right).
The Gaylord Palms is undergoing a major renovation that will add 302 guest rooms in a new tower located adjacent to the resort’s pools. It will also add significant meeting space, as well as waterpark enhancements. The expansion is expected to be completed this year.
THEME PARKS & ATTRACTIONS
Wild Florida acquired a 75-hectare plot of land adjacent to its Drive-thru Safari Park with plans to expand, allowing guests to see more exotic and native wildlife than ever before. In addition to the more than 150 animals already on property, Wild Florida is adding existing herds of wildlife and introducing many more rescued and relocated animals.
Guests who purchase a Walt Disney World ticket or annual pass with Park Hopper benefits can now visit more than one park per day (with some new modifications). And guests buying non-discounted four-night/three-day room and ticket packages at select Disney Resort hotels for arrivals most nights until Sept. 25 will receive an additional two days of theme park tickets. In other WDW news:
• As part of the phased reopening of Walt Disney World, restaurants continue to return to operation. Recent re-openings include The Crystal Palace inside Magic Kingdom and the character breakfast at Chef Mickey’s inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
• The annual Taste of EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival, return this year on March 3, featuring fresh cuisine, creative gardens and unforgettable topiaries.
• After remaining closed for all of 2020 due to the pandemic, Blizzard Beach Water Park is planning to reopen in March to celebrate its 25th season in splashy style.
• Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a new family-friendly attraction coming to the France pavilion in EPCOT, will debut in 2021. And the new Cirque du Soleil show “Drawn to Life,” coming to Disney Springs, will be a collaboration between Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering. More details are to come.
Florida’s fastest and tallest launch coaster – along with a pack of fierce Velociraptors – will be unleashed at Universal Orlando Resort in the summer with the debut of Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Universal Orlando Resort. The “new species of roller coaster” touts a series of intense maneuvers that will send guests catapulting up to 113 km/h and more than 45 m. in the air with the swiftest of prehistoric predators.
SeaWorld Orlando’s first launch coaster, Ice Breaker, will feature four airtime-filled launches, both backward and forward, culminating in a reverse launch into the steepest beyond-vertical drop in Florida – a 28-m. foot tall spike with 100-degree angle. The attraction is set to launch this Spring.
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Legoland Florida Resort is planning to keep the party going all year long. The park will build the biggest LEGO cake ever, in addition to giving guests all-new experiences – from weekend events, to 4-D movies, and new stage shows.
Opening in Spring, the new Iron Gwazi ride at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay will be the tallest, steepest, and fastest hybrid rollercoaster in North America. The new year will also see the addition of the new Solar Vortex ride at Busch Gardens’ water park, Adventure Island.
A gleaming new attraction on the waterfront the St Pete Pier combines 26 acres on Tampa Bay with downtown St. Petersburg’s parks. The perfect place to stroll, bike, dine, drink, shop, swim, take in a concert or just hang out.
The Pinellas County Transit Authority (PSTA) has unveiled its new self-driving Autonomous Vehicle Advantage car. AVA is one of the first autonomous vehicle programs in the state to operate in mixed used traffic, on an open road next to other vehicles. AVA is operating on Bayshore Drive between 5th Avenue N (The Vinoy Hotel) and Dali Blvd (The Dali Museum) during its three-month pilot making an ideal way for those staying at The Vinoy or exploring downtown to efficiently visit the St. Pete Pier, Saturday Morning Market or The Dali Museum.
A new rooftop bar, the Ember Lounge, is a highlight of the newly opened Cambria Hotel in St. Petersburg at the Madeira Beach Marina. The five-story, 125-room waterfront hotel is Cambria’s third property to open in Florida and features the rooftop bar with panoramic Gulf Coast views, an infinity pool with cabanas, spacious guestrooms and suites, and locally curated food and beverage menus.
In 2021, two popular attractions will become one – Marie Selby Botanical Gardens has adopted Historic Spanish Point, a hidden 12-hectacre gem on Little Sarasota Bay that is also one of the largest waterfront preserves in the state that showcases native Florida plants. It is also one of the largest intact and actively preserved archaeological sites on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
With six new hotel properties under construction, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel is set to add 671 guest rooms by the end of 2021. They join the newly opened 243-room Luminary Hotel & Co., which pays tribute to the neighbourhood’s electric history nearly 134 years after Thomas Edison put down roots in “The City of Palms.”
The Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina starts the new year as the rebranded 178-room Opal Key Resort & Marina, part of the Opal Collection Hotels & Resorts. Located next adjacent to Mallory Square at 245 Front St., the resort is home to a full-service 37-slip marina with watersports, outdoor and indoor dining options, waterside shops and live entertainment.
In Key West, the 219-room Kimpton Key West collection is its fifth Old Town boutique-style resort: Ridley House (the former Cypress House Inn) at 601 Caroline St., is ideal for honeymooners and VIPs, and is set to open Feb. 14.
The new boutique hotel Capitana Key West — one of the closest properties on North Roosevelt Boulevard to downtown Duval Street and with a private beach fronting the Gulf of Mexico — is scheduled to open by early 2021 as an Opal Collection property. Seventy-five rooms, each with a balcony, include 64 units, including townhome-style cottages.
First published at Travel Industry Today