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2016 Preview: 10 Most Anticipated Orlando/Central Florida Venues for Meetings and Events

The conference spaces, eateries, drinking spots, and more slated to open in Orlando/Central Florida for events and entertaining next year.

By Mitra Sorrells December 29, 2015, 7:15 AM EST

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort

Rendering: Courtesy of Universal Orlando

Looking for a new venue to host your next event? Here are the most anticipated Orlando/Central Florida restaurants, corporate event venues, hotels, conference centers, and party rooms to open next year. These new and renovated Orlando/Central Florida venues will accommodate groups large or small for private and corporate events, conferences, meetings, weddings, business dinners, teambuilding activities, cocktail parties, and more.

1. Opening this summer, the Caribbean-theme Loews Sapphire Falls Resort will be Universal Orlando Resort’s fifth hotel. The property will have 1,000 rooms and 115,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 41,000-square-foot ballroom, 16 breakout rooms, and 27,000 square feet of prefunction space. There will also be 11,000 square feet of outdoor function space. The meeting area will connect via covered walkway to the newly expanded event space at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. The hotel will also have a pool, fitness center, water taxis, and a landscaped path to the Universal Orlando theme parks and CityWalk.

2. The One Group, based in New York, will open an STK steak house at Disney Springs in early 2016. The 14,000-square-foot STK Orlando will be one of the largest locations for the brand. It will seat about 260 people on the first floor and 157 people on the second floor. There will also be an outdoor dining area accessible from the second floor that will seat 78. On the main level a circular private dining room will seat 12. The contemporary-styled restaurant will also have a sleek lounge with a DJ. The menu will include items such as bite-size burgers made with Wagyu beef, lobster mac 'n' cheese, and a variety of steaks served with STK’s signature sauces.

3. Similar to its sister location in Los Angeles, the Edison will be designed to evoke the ambiance of a 1920s-era electric company when it opens in early 2016 at Disney Springs. The “industrial gothic”-style restaurant and bar will have 35-foot ceilings and several themed areas. The venue will offer nightly entertainment including contortionists, palm readers, DJs, and more.

4. Noted Chicago-based chef Rick Bayless will open Frontera Fresco at Disney Springs in the summer. The restaurant will serve Mexican specialties such as hand-crafted tortas, tacos, salads, guacamole, and classic braised meat entrées. The venue will comprise nearly 6,000 square feet and have seating for 200 people.

5. Also this summer, celebrity chef Art Smith will open Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine at Disney Springs. The 200-seat restaurant will have a “rustic-chic” atmosphere with a glass-walled show kitchen. The menu will focus on Southern staples such as shrimp and grits, pimento cheese, deviled eggs, and pork chops with gravy. Smith is best known as Oprah’s former chef and for his appearances on the Food Network.

6. Chef Norman Van Aken will open his newest restaurant in early 2016 in the quaint town of Mount Dora, about 30 miles northwest of Orlando. 1921 by Norman Van Aken will be located in a converted home that was built in 1921 (hence the name). The restaurant will seat about 160 people. There will also be a private tasting room that seats 10 and two larger rooms that seat 25 and 70, respectively. Management describes the menu as focusing on “modern Florida cuisine” with an extensive wine list. The restaurant will also showcase works from artists such as Wendell Castle and Dale Chihuly as part of a partnership with the Modernism Museum, which is located next door.

7. A team of experienced food and beverage professionals will open DoveCote in late spring in the Bank of America building in downtown Orlando. The restaurant is an effort of James and Julie Petrakis, chefs and owners of the Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder; Clayton Miller, a past winner of Food & Wine’s Best New Chef award; and Gene Zimmerman, a wine industry veteran and owner of the Courtesy cocktail lounge. The restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the menu will focus on French-inspired fare and comfort food. The 6,000-square-foot dining room will seat about 120 guests, and there will also be seating on a patio.

8. Canvas will be a new waterfront restaurant and market in Lake Nona. The main dining room will seat 278 people and have an exhibition-style kitchen and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake. There will also be a private dining room that seats 40 and has doors to a terrace. The menu will focus on fresh seafood along with wood-grilled pizzas, sandwiches, and salads. In addition to the restaurant, the new venue will also include a market selling breakfast and lunch items, housewares, books, and more. Canvas is scheduled to open in January.

9. Hilton Orlando will open nearly 9,000 square feet of new meeting space in January. The expansion will add eight meeting rooms, prefunction space, and a registration desk and office. The new areas are adjacent to the existing Florida Ballroom and just steps from the 50,000-square-foot outdoor Promenade.

10. Paddywagon Irish Pub will open in March at the Dellagio Town Center. Management describes it as a “casual, neighborhood bar with an Irish theme.” The 2,300-square-foot venue will have pool tables, dartboards, and several televisions. There will also be seating on a covered patio.

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