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18 Showstopping Outdoor Venues in Florida

April 7, 2021
Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida

One of the “Six Industry Trends for 2021,” according to the Caribe Royale Orlando All-Suite Hotel & Convention Center, is the rise in popularity of outdoor venues. The perception is that social distancing in the open air is safer during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to how the virus travels indoors. Plus, meeting outdoors doubles as a way to further enjoy Florida’s sunny weather.

Here are some truly unique spots to consider across the state.

1. Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral

Atlantis West Pavilion, Kennedy Space Center
Atlantis West Pavilion, Kennedy Space Center

Seeing a space launch in person may be on the bucket list for some, but just visiting the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex and the Space Shuttle Atlantis is also a treat. 

At the Atlantis West Pavilion, lunch or cocktails can be served for up to 100 seated, 200 for cocktails. Additionally, the Rocket Garden, which can accommodate up to 250, can be used in conjunction with the Dr. Kurt H. Debus Conference Facility indoors. The Rocket Garden is also a great meeting spot and is dotted with retired spacecraft from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs.

2. The Wyndham Grand Clearwater

Ocean Hai at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach
Ocean Hai at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach

The Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach overlooks the pristine blue green waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the signature Ocean Hai is just the spot to enjoy a group meal. Sample Asian-inspired cuisine by Executive Sous Chef Sean Ragan while viewing the surf below. Ocean Hai includes the beautiful O’Hai Lanai, an outdoor patio that adds cool breezes to the mix. 

Other outdoor spots at the hotel include Dock’s Pool Bar & Grill or the hotel’s Presidential Suite with an expansive, private terrace. The Ocean Hai can host 140 guests. The outdoor venues at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach can accommodate groups of 10 to 500.

3. The Rooftop Bar at The Henderson, Destin

The Rooftop Bar at The Henderson
The Rooftop Bar at The Henderson

The Rooftop Bar at The Henderson has views of the Gulf and the expansive Henderson Beach State Park. Groups of up to 65 can have a sit-down dinner, and the bar is perfect for cocktails for up to 100. Try the signature smoked fish dip and lavender lemonade.

4. Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, Fort Lauderdale

The Bonnet House courtyard
The Bonnet House courtyard

One of Fort Lauderdale’s exclusive historic gems, the landmarked Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is an elegant 1920s-era property surrounded by hibiscus gardens, orchids and a tree canopy providing lots of shade. The 35-acre property sits between the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Intracoastal Waterway to the west. Bonnet House is a haven for migratory birds, and manatees occasionally seek refuge in the estate’s Boathouse Canal. The Bonnet House can host virtually any size of group. 

5. Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, Key West

Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

Key West is famous for its Ernest Hemingway lookalike contest, great restaurants and a spectacular sunset every night. It’s also home to the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The French Colonial estate is on one acre and is filled with tropical plants, beautiful flowers—and roaming (often six-toed, or polydactyl) cats. The gardens create an intimate atmosphere for all types of events for up to 100.

[Related: Florida CVB Veterans Talk Pandemic Recovery and Beyond]

6. The Brannon Center, New Smyrna Beach

The Brannon Center
The Brannon Center

The Brannon Center is a top event location with a waterfront dock and outdoor 7,500-square-foot private waterfront terrace. The center also has the indoor 6,500 Indian River Ballroom with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway. The venue is a modern setting amidst a historic neighborhood and some of the state’s most stunning views and is just minutes from Daytona. 

The ballroom can seat 500 banquet-style and 750 theater-style. Complimentary amenities include: AV, tables, chairs for up to 400, podiums, Wi-Fi and charging stations. 

7. Rooftop Terrance at Museum of Science & History, Jacksonville

MOSH Rooftop
MOSH Rooftop

The Museum of Science & History’s (MOSH) Rooftop Terrace offers an expansive space with scenic views of the St. Johns River and downtown Jacksonville skyline. The venue can accommodate 150 for dinner, 200 for cocktails. The Museum makes science, history and innovation accessible for all with interactive exhibits such as the Florida Naturalist’s Center, which houses animals native to Northeast Florida.

8. Bok Tower Gardens, Lakeland

Bok Tower Gardens outdoor kitchen
Bok Tower Gardens outdoor kitchen

Bok Tower Gardens, opened in 1929, is centrally located between Tampa and Orlando and has several areas for events. Fountain Courtyard is the spot for cocktail events and the 6,400-square-foot outdoor kitchen and garden is great for outdoor experiences. The outdoor kitchen, with a maximum of 60 guests seated and 100 cocktailstyle, features a wood-fired pizza oven and top-of-the-line outdoor appliances. A center island with a granite countertop provides more than 15 feet of space for chef demonstrations. The Kitchen Garden includes a fruit orchard, grape arbors and raised beds with herbs and vegetables.

9. Trump National Doral Miami

Trump National Doral Miami
Trump National Doral Miami

Trump National Doral Miami provides 75,000 square feet of outdoor venues, including The Champions Patio, with 3,600 square feet of space and complete with an outdoor bar and grill where up to 300 attendees can enjoy the sunshine as well as sweeping golf course views.

The Imperial Terrace offers a different perspective looking out to a Blue Monster Golf Course fountain and back toward the clubhouse. This covered patio spans 2,300 square feet and connects to the standalone ballroom sharing its name. Steps from the main clubhouse is the Royal Palm Pool, offering a 15,000-square-foot pool deck where outdoor events can be held for up to 1,000.

10. Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, Orlando

Swan and Dolphin Reserve rendering
Swan and Dolphin Reserve rendering

Opening this summer, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort’s newest addition is The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, a 14-floor hotel with 349 guest rooms. The hotel’s top floor will boast an impressive event space with views of the Swan and Dolphin as well as Walt Disney World’s Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Capacities are 260 for a banquet and 476 for theater-style seating. Including the top floor event space, The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve will feature more than 27,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space.

[Related: 6 Ways Florida Meeting Planners Modified In-Person Programs During the Pandemic]

11. Havana Beach Rooftop at Pearl Hotel, Rosemary Beach

Havana Beach Rooftop
Havana Beach Rooftop

The newly renovated Havana Beach Rooftop at the Pearl Hotel has a pool deck of 4,000 square feet with a capacity of 75. It’s a hot spot for lunch or a night out while viewing the breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico. The Rooftop also includes two fire pits with seating, as well as four cabanas for lounging under Florida’s signature sunshine or starry skies.

12. Urban Asado, St. Augustine

Urban Asado
Urban Asado

Urban Asado is a custom Argentine Asado (grill) manufacturer located on the waterfront of the San Sebastian River in St. Augustine. The Asado offers a multifunctional outdoor space where events are regularly held—including pop-up restaurants and rustic soirees. Shrimp boats and a rustic waterfront atmosphere give this venue a true old Florida feel. The Asado works with local chefs to provide a unique setting that can accommodate 40 to 50 people for a sit-down, full-service dinner and up to 150 people for grilling and dining events.

13. Don CeSar, St. Petersburg

Don CeSar terrace
Don CeSar terrace

Groups to the Historic 277-room Don CeSar on St. Pete Beach will love the North Terrace Veranda and South Terrace Veranda. At 2,600 square feet each, the terraces can accommodate up to 100. The hotel has expansive views of the Gulf of Mexico and just introduced a new double-decker pool bar offering The Lookout, perfect for a cocktail for toasting the beautiful St. Pete Beach sunset.

14. Railroad Square Craft House, Tallahassee

Railroad Square Craft House is located within the Art District, boasting the largest outdoor dining experience in Tallahassee with nearly 10,000 square feet in the Art Garden. Events are often accompanied by live music, art and other cultural events. The restaurant specializes in craft beer, craft wine and craft cocktails with tasty pub grub like sliders and chips and salsa.

15. Sal Y Mar, Tampa

Sal Y Mar
Sal Y Mar

High atop the recently opened dual-branded Aloft and Element Hotel in Midtown Tampa, Sal Y Mar (Salt and Sea) is easily accessible from a dedicated elevator on the hotel’s ground floor. The rooftop boasts 360-degree views of the Tampa, Westshore and St. Petersburg skylines. Guests can experience tapas, from Citrus Crab Cakes and Vegetable Bruschetta to more authentic Spanish treats such as Carne Asada Street Tacos and Pan Seared Scallops with mango puree. The unique 4,900-square-feet space offers a private space for up to 118 outdoors.

16. Spruzzo at The Ben, West Palm Beach

Spruzzo rendering
Spruzzo rendering

Spruzzo on the roof of the new The Ben hotel is a breezy, laid-back spot where guests can enjoy an Ibiza Sangria with some Frutti di Mare in private cabanas. At night, Spruzzo becomes a sophisticated night spot with a fire pit and live music after sunset. High tops, lounge chairs and a 360-degree rooftop bar bring glamour to the scenic open-air dining space for up to 200.

17. JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa

JW Marriott Miami Turnberry
JW Marriott Miami Turnberry

The rebranded JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa is a tropical oasis with a culture of accessible luxury and enriching experiences. A $300 million renovation was recently completed, adding the new 16-story Orchid Tower to nearly double the total number of rooms to 685. 

Tidal Cove, a world-class water park with five acres of pool deck, offers guests amenities that include 25 cabanas, two restaurants, seven water slides and a state-of-the-art FlowRider® Triple surf simulation—the only one in the world. Cabanas are available for up to 10 people with personalized cabana service.

18. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Orlando

Piazza at Loews Portofino Bay
Piazza at Loews Portofino Bay

While we’re all itching to travel abroad—whether for vacation, an incentive program or special event— after a year of staying home, you can get a taste of Italian flair in Orlando. The 750-room Loews Portofino Bay Hotel fits the bill, and has newly renovated rooms and suites. 

Its 47,000 square feet of outdoor meeting venues will make guests feel like they are in the seaside village of Portofino, Italy, with outdoor cafes and shops dotting the piazza. Boats anchored in the harbor and Vespas parked at the gelateria bring those who visit a true taste of Italy. Several restaurants on-property have outdoor event space.

Read more from the 2021 edition of Meetings Today Florida

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About the author
Jennifer Juergens | Contributing Content Developer, Florida and Caribbean