On Location: The Peabody Orlando

The Peabody Orlando

The Orange County Convention Center in Orlando and surrounding restaurants/attractions combine to make this one of the most convenient, varied and accessible conference destinations in the country. The only thing that’s been lacking is a signature upscale hotel with serious capacity for groups seeking 1,500 peak room nights.

That will change this October when the new 750-room, 31-story tower opens at The Peabody Orlando, located adjacent to the Convention Center. Total meeting space with 80 breakout rooms is 250,000 sf. Total room count is 1,641 guestrooms, including 120 suites. And the new 22,000-sf spa and fitness center is long overdue.

The sheer drama of the 60-ft high prefunction space anchoring the three big ballrooms totaling 106,000 sf is a jawdropper. Towering walls wrapped with teal glass and the large skylights overhead create a powerful sense of arrival, and the contemporary design headlined by a striking floor-to-ceiling waterfall utilizes limestone, marble, exotic black limba wood and venetian plaster. We’re particularly looking forward to the new, yet to be named, Napa-inspired restaurant with a covered patio overlooking three new pools.

“The prefunction space is really an atrium with 45- to 60-ft ceilings and so much natural light, day and night,” says Tony Aslanian, director of sales/marketing. “It’s going to be a great ambience that will be wonderful for entertainment and networking. It’s really going to become a grand central station for important meetings in Orlando.”

So what do planners think?

“It puts them in a whole new category,” says Vi Boehm, senior director, global accounts for HelmsBriscoe in Pittsburgh. “It’s monumental. We’re always looking for all that meeting space and rooms under one roof. It’s great for associations because they don’t have to pay convention center fees.”

And the 80 breakouts?

“That’s huge. We just handled an event with FedEx that required 36 breakouts. That many rooms can be hard to find, even in Las Vegas. It’s very functional and critical.”

But Boehm really wants to talk about the service.

“It’s just the best, bar none, due to the longevity of their employees,” she says. “You see it every day, no matter where you go, in all of the departments.”

Anxious to see for ourselves, we popped up for a site visit that opened with a welcoming reception highlighted by a live concert flautist. (Book through entertainmentcompany.net).

“How many times have you heard a flautist up close playing Claire de Lune?” asked Alan C. Villaverde, executive vp of Peabody Hotels, and general manager of The Peabody Orlando. Villaverde escorted our group to a final evening event with the Orlando Symphony performing Beethoven’s 9th, Ode to Joy. “We want people to know that Orlando is a world-class destination for the cultural arts.”

To that end, we took in a ribald play at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater on the Margeson Stage, which seats 324 for private events. A big surprise was The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. The collection of Tiffany glass is “the most comprehensive and most interesting collection of Tiffany anywhere,” according to New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Consider a docent tour for up to 50.

“Our groups have a profile of meeting in traditional cities like a Chicago, Boston or Philadelphia, where arts and culture are expected,” says Aslanian. “It’s a blessing that so much is happening here, although it’s still unexpected for some.”