Sometimes making a top ten list helps keep things simple. But with premier hotels, award-winning destination-wide convention services, a sparkling 600,000-square-foot convention center, 23 miles of Blue Wave Beaches, 300+ miles of navigable waterways, heralded attractions and an eclectic dining scene, cutting this one to ten wasn't very simple.
"Some planners are looking for a meeting venue that is fun and unique, and Greater Fort Lauderdale certainly does not disappoint," says Nicki E. Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
10. All Aboard for Luxury: Yachts are Hot in Greater Fort Lauderdale
Greater Fort Lauderdale's marina and Intracoastal Waterway are lined with some of the East Coast's most glamorous, expensive yachts. A journey by water through the area will have visitors ooh-ing and ahh-ing as they point and stare at multi-million-dollar pleasure crafts, some which even seem to dwarf the lavish homes that line the destination's famed inland canals. A wide array of yachts are available for charter to meeting & incentive groups visiting Greater Fort Lauderdale. Pleasure crafts ranging in length from 12 to 120 feet make possible everything from daytime snorkeling excursions for a dozen to moonlit, floating ballroom receptions for over a hundred. Luxury yacht charter companies in Greater Fort Lauderdale include A Water Fantaseas (954) 524-1234, www.waterfantaseas.com; Presidential Yacht Charters (954) 781-6884, www.sunny.org/sports; Sun Dream Yacht Charters (954) 765-1460, www.sundreamyachts.com); and Windridge Yacht Charters (954) 525-7724, www.windridgeyachts.com). A full list can be found be visiting www.sunny.org/sports and selecting "Boating."
9. Create a Meetings Masterpiece at The Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale
Greater Fort Lauderdale's most acclaimed art institution, the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, also makes for a dynamic venue for a meeting or event. The facility's inspired design, abundance of space, and prime location also have earned it the right to host such renowned exhibitions as Diana: A Celebration, Saint Peter & the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes and the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. This December, the museum will host Cradle of Christianity: Treasures from the Holy Land presenting biblical artifacts from the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, dating from the time of Jesus through the concurrent development of formative Judaism and Christianity in the 4th - 7th centuries, including the Temple Scroll, one of the most important of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The museum's two floors have a total of more than 21,000 square feet of space available for exhibitions and events. The Norma and William Horvitz Auditorium, with a seating capacity of 256, is a versatile facility that can be used for presentations or film viewings, and the Miriam and Bernard Peck Sculpture Terrace makes a beautiful setting for an outdoor reception. Several indoor rooms also are available for functions. The Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale can accommodate 100 for indoor banquets, and 250 for those held outdoors. For receptions, the museum can accommodate up to 500 inside and 600 outside. (954) 525-5500 or www.pyci.com.
8. Going Native American: Billie Swamp Safari and the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum
Another one of Greater Fort Lauderdale's selling points is its proximity to the Florida Everglades, which offer opportunities not only for eco-tourism but for learning about Native American history. This is the place the native Seminoles have shared with giant alligators, big cats and beautiful surroundings for centuries. For meeting planners, it offers an ideal venue for an interesting and unique retreat or banquet. Billie Swamp Safari is a Seminole-operated nature attraction where visitors can take guided tours aboard swamp buggies into the wetlands, hardwood hammocks and sloughs where wildlife abounds, including water buffalo, bison, wild hogs, hawks, eagles, alligators and even Florida panthers. Along the way, guides give insight into history, wildlife and Seminole culture. Nearby is the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, where The Seminole Tribe of Florida presents their history and culture through exhibits, rare artifacts, dramatic film, nature trails and a "living" village.
Up to 500 can be accommodated for outdoor banquets, and the museum offers a 5,000-square-foot exhibition hall that can sit up to 250 theater-style. 863-902-1113 or www.seminoletribe.com/museum.
7. Events Worth a Standing Ovation: The Broward Center for the Performing Arts
Greater Fort Lauderdale's premier, state-of-the-art venue for everything from Broadway productions and musicals to dance theater and children's shows makes for an intriguing locale for large-group presentations, viewings, and meetings. Its Abdo New River room is perfect for medium-sized banquets, and the venue features a catering menu that is both delectable and flexible to suit the needs of any event planner. Want a truly memorable meeting or event? Have your guests arrive by boat via the New River! The Broward Center for the Performing Arts can accommodate 2,700 theater-style, 1,300 for a complex-wide reception, and 225 for a banquet in the Abdo New River Room. (954) 468-3337 or www.browardcenter.org.
Rather stay outdoors? Hold your event right in the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District. The lush landscaping along Riverwalk Park contains world-class shopping, dining, theater, music, dance and visual arts. Select one of several venues that offer outdoor gathering areas and truly unforgettable ocean vistas.
6. History Loves Company: The Stranahan House and Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
The oldest standing structure in Greater Fort Lauderdale - restored to its original ambiance - is also one of its most suitable for an elegant event. Located in downtown Fort Lauderdale on the New River, Stranahan House has been the site most closely associated with both the founding of the City and its economic and social development. Visitors are thrust back in time to the turn of the 20th Century, when a young Ohioan named Frank Stranahan came to what was then a frontier settlement and befriended the native Seminole tribe. Since then, Frank's home has been a trading post, post office, bank, and even the town hall before becoming the charming museum it is today.
The Stranahan House's grounds feature a riverside patio and an attractive brick courtyard. The grounds can accommodate 300 for a banquet or 325 for a reception. (954) 524-4736 or www.stranahanhouse.org.
This 35-acre, subtropical estate home is an elegant tribute to Old South Florida. Ponds with bonnet water lilies and tropical gardens surround this historic 1921 plantation-style waterfront house, whose artistic and innovative owners, famed artist Frederick Clay Bartlett and his wife Evelyn, made equally beautiful inside with art galleries and other charming rooms.
Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
For history buffs, special lecturing detailing the history of the Bonnet House and its surrounding area is also available. Elegant and peaceful, the Bonnet House makes a terrific setting for corporate meetings and parties alike. Banquets and receptions of up to 300 can be held at the Bonnet House. It can also accommodate up to 45 participants for a theater-style presentation. (954) 563-5393 or www.bonnethouse.org.
5. Ahh, to be eight years old again: Wannado City
Keep your group young at heart with a meeting or event at Wannado City. A complete children's indoor city located at Sawgrass Mills Mall, this 140,000-square-foot venue was designed to let kids experience what they "wannado" when they grow up. Empowering for children and nostalgically pleasing to adults, Wannado City has dedicated stations where children can "train" in some 250 careers, including TV anchorperson, lawyer, doctor, firefighter, banker, and police officer. For meeting & incentive groups, the playground backdrop makes for a dramatic yet tasteful clash to a meeting or reception. Wannado City can accommodate up to 3,000 for banquets and receptions. The facility also contains a theater that can accommodate up to 300 for presentations. (954) 838-7100/888-WANNADO or www.wannadocity.com.
4. A Truly Tasteful Excursion: Dine-Around Along Las Olas Boulevard
Having trouble choosing restaurants for your group on Las Olas Boulevard, Greater Fort Lauderdale's unofficial "main street" lined with award-winning eateries, chic shops and art boutiques? Then don't choose just one - choose three, or even five. Regardless the number, a dine-around along Las Olas Boulevard ensures that outstanding cuisine is part of your group's Greater Fort Lauderdale experience, leaving palates pleased and a good taste in their collective mouths. Start with a cocktail or two, regroup down the block for hors d'oeuvres, then settle in a few storefronts away for an enticing entree. And of course, dessert is only a few steps from the dinner table.
Terrific restaurants located right on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale include Chima (Brazilian steakhouse; (954) 712-0580); Indigo (Indonesian/seafood; (954) 467-0671); Jackson's Steakhouse (954) 522-4450); Johnny V (New American; (954) 761-7920); Le Café de Paris (French; (954) 467-2900); and Mark's Las Olas (Florida Fusion, (954) 463-1000).
3. Pleased to "Meet" You: Destination Convention Services and Simply SUNsational
From initial inquiry to site inspections to the plane ride home, the fully-integrated sales and operations staff at both the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center stand ready, willing and able to assist meeting planners with anything and everything they might need.
First and foremost, Greater Fort Lauderdale's professional convention sales department helps meeting planners locate the most ideal hotels and venues for each group that visits the destination. In addition to acting as a one-stop shop for meeting planners, the GFL CVB has its own in-house hotel reservation service free for groups using at least 600 rooms in a minimum of two hotels.
Next, the details. Should a meeting or event require registration assistance, ground operators, special event producers, musicians, yacht charters, or off-site venues, the destination's successful referral program speeds up the selection process. And if a group is using the convention center, they are provided with a concierge during meeting registration hours to provide information on transportation, attractions, restaurants, shopping and cultural activities throughout the destination.
Simply SUNsational - A Service Program Meeting Planners Can Trust
Greater Fort Lauderdale's SUNsational Service campaign is a destination-wide program that binds all elements of the area's tourism industry in outstanding quality and - just as importantly - a consistency in service essential for meeting planners to confidently make arrangements for clients. The program includes training industry employees and executives, a customer service hotline, prizes for exemplary service and improved taxi services.
SUNsational Service not only means a shared understanding and commitment to service excellence, but a shared definition of what service excellence means. The result is an escalated level of service standards throughout the destination that is communicated to clients through easily identifiable and highly visible symbols, increasing client satisfaction and providing the meeting planner with invaluable peace of mind. Visit www.sunny.org/meetingplanners for more information.
2. Something for Every Event: Greater Fort Lauderdale's Meeting Hotels
From on the Atlantic to on the Intracoastal Waterway, and from intimate to in the middle of it all, Greater Fort Lauderdale offers a wide range of hotels capable of everything from a small meeting to a grand event or convention. The destination boasts dozens of hotels suitable for premier group functions, with respected names like Hyatt, Marriott, Sheraton, Westin and Wyndham dotting the list. Other hotels include time-tested, industry-respected faithfuls like Lago Mar Hotel Resort and Club and the Riverside Hotel, the elegant Las Olas Boulevard fixture that holds the distinctions of being Greater Fort Lauderdale's oldest hotel. And coming soon are luxury hotels that are sure to be some of the destination's finest: the Hilton, St. Regis Resort, Fort Lauderdale, Trump, and the W Fort Lauderdale. Both will occupy prime real estate just across from Fort Lauderdale Beach. A complete list of meetings hotels, including exact dimensions, maximum occupancies for various functions, and floor plans, is available at www.sunny.org/meetingplanners.
1. The Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center
No fuss, no stress…and a no-brainer for #1 on our Top Ten list. The Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center rests on an impressive 17-acre swath in Port Everglades along the Intracoastal Waterway. The Convention Center boasts more than 600,000 square feet of event space, solidifying its reputation as Florida's most attractive and functional state-of-the-art meetings facility featuring Wi-Fi.
And then there's reason #1(a): Currently, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau offers an incentive program to meeting planners in order to generate group business for the months of August and September 2006, 2007 and 2008. Meeting planners who book groups at the convention center for those months and contract a minimum of 600 peak-night hotel rooms will receive free rental of all floor space throughout the entire facility, as well as have attrition fees waived at contracted hotels. A complete event planning guide for the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center is available online at www.ftlauderdalecc.com/epguide. (954) 765-5900 or www.ftlauderdalecc.com.
For more information or for a free copy of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Meeting Planners Guide, contact the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, 100 East Broward Boulevard, Suite 200, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, visit www.sunny.org/meetingplanners or call 800-356-1662 (in the U.S. and Canada).