With outdoor event venues operating virtually year-round in Northwest Florida, meetings and events groups that need to ensure adequate social distancing have a wealth of versatile facilities to choose from.
Stretching from Pensacola to the state capital of Tallahassee, the region boasts some of the best beaches in Florida, along with all the facilities and cultural attractions offered by any state capital and NCAA Division 1 college town.
Following are some social distancing standouts for meetings and events that will make everyone more comfortable while they drink in all the area has to offer.
It doesn’t get much more outdoor than a baseball field, and Pensacola’s minor league Blue Wahoos Stadium, located near downtown, allows for plenty of room for groups to take in the fresh air.
Photo: Blue Wahoos Stadium, Pensacola
The stadium has an in-house catering and bartending team that attends all spaces at the Minnesota Twins AA affiliate, which is a Populous-designed stadium and a three-time recipient of the Southern League Ballpark of the Year. Event spaces include:
- Hancock Whitney Club, a third-floor space overlooking the field and Pensacola Bay, can host up to 350 guests and is an open-air space covered by a roof.
- Better Homes and Gardens Lounge has a capacity for up to 50 guests and is commonly used for smaller corporate meetings or breakout sessions.
- By renting the Field-Level space, groups can engage in activities such as kickball, batting practice and themed parties.
- The Team Clubhouse lets groups can convene in the Blue Wahoos’ locker room.
- Groups can also arrange for a Full Ballpark buyout; the maximum seating capacity at the stadium is 5,038.
Groups can use the giant outfield videoboard to display personalized messages, commercials or rolling sideshows, and Wi-Fi is available throughout the facility.
The sugar-white sands of the Florida Panhandle often don’t get the top billing that beaches in Southern Florida get, but those in the know swear by their beauty and less-congested environment.
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Located about a half-hour drive east of Destin, Florida, Miramar Beach’s Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa features an expansive 20,000-square-foot beachfront deck that is primed for gatherings that seek to accommodate social distancing. Outdoor event space includes the following:
- Sunset Deck (5,500 square feet; maximum capacity: 500)
- Sunrise Deck (4,600 square feet; maximum capacity: 325)
- Barefoot’s Deck (8,000 square feet; maximum capacity: 800)
- Pool Veranda (1,000 square feet)
- Beach (60,000 square feet)
Photo: Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, Destin
The resort is also known for teambuilding programs that utilize its idyllic beach, including Hilton Quest scavenger hunts, NightSpiker glow-in-the-dark beach volleyball, beach cookouts and fireworks shows. The property has also undergone Hilton’s strict CleanStay and EventReady sanitation and safety protocols.
Other outdoor options near the resort include four state parks, 15 coastal dune lakes and Point Washington State Forest, with activities that include hiking, biking and bird and butterfly watching.
Panama City Beach
Outdoor venue opportunities are ample at Boardwalk Beach Resort Hotel & Convention Center.
Besides offering a beachfront convention center with more than 20,000 square feet of space, the resort’s outdoor options include the Sunset Pavilion, a 9,000-square-foot open-air space overlooking the beach; two Overlook decks, measuring 660 and 836 square feet, respectively; and a beach it describes as being five football fields large, with practically unlimited capacity for events.
While Panhandle destinations to the west of the capital offer irresistible sugar-white sands, Florida’s capital city of Tallahassee specializes in unexpected allure—it was named one of Southern Living’s Top 10 Cities of the South two years in a row—and the cultural and historic venue options afforded by most state capitals.
Top Tallahassee outdoor venues include:
- Bricks & Brass Outdoor Patio: This downtown venue is located next to the city’s only LEED-certified hotel, Four Points by Sheraton, and boasts indoor/outdoor meeting space in a contemporary, industrial setting. The indoor ballroom offers 3,563 square feet of space and the outdoor patio, which features tall privacy fencing and patterned turf flooring, measures 2,100 square feet.
- FSU Dunlap Champions Club Terraces at Doak Campbell Stadium: Home of the Florida State University Seminoles, Doak Campbell Stadium’s premier club features two wings with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Bobby Bowden Field and outdoor terraces perched over the field.
- Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Tallahassee: Offering a total of 10,600 square feet of event space, this downtown hotel’s Oasis pool deck offers a covered reception/bar area that leads out to a small pool for small gatherings in a posh, urban setting.
- Old Willis Dairy: Only three miles from the state Capitol, this former dairy dates to the 1930s, offering a taste of Old Florida history that is increasingly hard to find. The Willis family has run the facility—winner of numerous historic preservation awards—since the beginning. Now used only as an events venue that can accommodate up to 125 guests, the grounds of Old Willis Dairy offer a one-acre meadow that links a historic barn to the Carriage House, all of which is centered around a 400-year-old oak tree.
Photo: Old Willis Dairy, Tallahassee
- Florida Capitol Complex: The grounds of the state Capitol offer numerous outdoor spaces available for meetings and events rental. Highlights include the front steps of the Capitol, the Capitol Courtyard, the Plaza Level Rotunda and Waller Park. Food and beverages (including alcohol, with advance permission) may be served in the Capitol Courtyard and Waller Park. CDC COVID-19 guidelines must be followed in all facilities, along with other state government regulations.
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