Florida Faves

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Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel Pool
Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel Pool

Many people who live in Florida patronize the same places that make the Sunshine State such a huge international draw for visitors. Over the years, we develop a list of favorite places we like to show friends and family when they come to town. We have our favorite hotel pools, oceanfront restaurants, quirky cultural venues, and yes, even our favorite theme parks.

Well that’s all been blown out of the water lately. There’s been so much new development in Florida—where inspired, forward-thinking design and highly emotive experiences are the priorities—that we needed to write this story just to keep up.

Not only are all of the following venues exceptionally well-suited for groups, they’re places we’d be happy to escort you around the next time you’re in town.

INSIDER MIAMI

One example of South Florida’s evolution into a globally vibrant destination is the conversion of old textile warehouses into the explosive art scene in the Wynwood Art District, just 10 minutes from the group-friendly hotels in downtown Miami and South Beach. It’s now home to over 70 art galleries and one of the year’s trendiest corporate functions.

“We’ll pick three galleries featuring the most exciting exhibits at that time and lead a progressive dinner through them,” says Ed Beaman, DMCP, VP Operations for the locally-based DMC, Florida Meeting Services. “The first has cocktails, cheeses and passed hors d’oeuvres. The second hosts a catered tapas dinner and the third offers dessert.” Beaman says he often creatively pairs the menu to the exhibit’s art too. “Guests love being immersed in Miami’s multicultural art scene while simultaneously supporting local arts and artists.” Dinearounds are manageable up to 100 pax.

Wynwood Kitchen & Bar debuts in November, just in time for Art Basel, Miami’s international contemporary art show that’s eclipsed its older Basel, Switzerland sister in importance and size. We’re not sure what’s going to pique our interest more: Chef Marco Ferraro’s international specialties or the original murals by acclaimed local graffiti artists Shepard Fairey and Christian Awe wrapping around the American Brasserie.

A mile offshore in Biscayne Bay, seven 1930s-era shacks remain of Stiltsville, originally a colony of 27 weekend party houses for the rich and famous, perched on tall supports over the water. They’re now part of the Biscayne National Park.

“This is the first year we’ve had permission to hold events in them,” says Beaman. “There’s no other venue in the world like it.” Multiple houses can be used for up to 40 persons each, but everything has to be transported by boat. No electricity, furniture or plumbing, so restrooms are aboard a yacht stationed alongside. “The houses are pretty much a blank canvas against unparalleled scenery of beautiful sunsets and calm azure water.”

Beaman uses wireless LED technology to uplight walls and ceilings for evening receptions. Projected historical images of Stiltsville or the client’s DVD serves as a backdrop while guests enjoy catered meals or listen to an astronomer describing the visible constellations.

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