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CARTHAY CIRCLE at the Disney California Adventure park os an exciting new event venue. It’s modeled after the site of the 1937 world premiere of €œSnow White and the Seven Dwarfs. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort)

 We don’t usually discuss software and apps, but this one is so specific to the events & meetings industries, we thought it should be mentioned. VenuesOnline, in partnership with imbookin.com, now has a simplified tool for searching more than 10,000 event venues. Planners and marketers can sign up at VenuesOnline.com to search and book events. Venue managers can sign up to sell their spaces. Searches on VenuesOnline can be filtered by date, budget, guest count, location, privacy, amenities, age group, and keywords. There are map-based searches, videos, user profiles and reviews. Check it out at VenuesOnline.com or contact Lee Elman at lelman@red7media.com.

I’m a Disney-phile and proud to admit it. From the many miles I’ve walked through Disney World resorts and parks, the endless numbers of chocolate-covered frozen bananas I’ve devoured, and the thousands of convention parties I’ve performed for (as Natasha, The Psychic Lady), I am continuously surprised by the creative possibilities that exist unbeknownst to me. For instance, I just learned that Disneyland Paris offers more than 252,000 square feet of meeting facilities, including two convention centers, 95 meeting rooms and space to accommodate up to 2,300 attendees. They also have three new teambuilding events for 30-250 that I’d skip the rides to try personally. Anahita’s Adventure tests the physical and mental abilities of attendees, combining individual and group challenges that boost team spirit and camaraderie. Participants take part in raft racing at Lake Disney, a footrace on giant skis, balance and speed tests, along with other fun activities like tug of war and team relay challenges. Trappeur Team is an orienteering challenge that plunges participants deep into the forest that is home to Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch. Participants are equipped with compasses and maps, before setting out in teams to explore and complete challenges. Planners can chose different challenges based on the profile of their groups. It might be games of skill, such as a swamp challenge, tug of war or a hilarious race on giant skis. Other challenges include blind tasting experiences, a clay workshop, and races on Segways or eco-karts. Points are awarded along the way, and the final challenge will determine the overall winner. A full-day version of this program is also available. These aren’t the only possibilities, just the latest. Other experiences for 10-1000 include fencing, regatta racing, treasure hunts and an exciting zip-line adventure through the treetops of Davy Crockett Ranch.  http://www.disneylandparis-business.com;  33 (0) 1-60-45-75-00.

Lest you think that Disneyland in California is just resting on its well-deserved laurels, check out these private group events. The final phase of the Disney California Adventure opened June 15, introducing the 12-acre Cars Land, inspired by the Disney-Pixar animated film, Cars. Buena Vista Street is an immersive experience of 1920s Los Angeles. New park icon, Carthay Circle Theatre, towers over one end of Buena Vista Street.  Party down at the “Mad T Party” evening, where everything is a tad off-kilter is an Alice in Wonderland kind of way.

There are hot times to be had in the cool mountains of Colorado, July 13-15. Still looking to “jazz up” your summer vacation? Keystone Resort challenges you to taste from 300 wines, partake in a VIP mountaintop wine tasting (which includes a glorious gondola ride), or lay back and groove on the cool sounds of jazz. Admission is FREE to all concerts, no sampling ticket necessary. The jazz line-up includes Salsa Con Jazz, Elan Trotman & Lin Rountree, Dotsero and Hazel Miller. Love the sound of their wine education sessions. Where else can you learn “Bubbles Everyday on Any Budget” and “Jelly Belly Wine Bar Experience.” Classes are $20 each, per person.

If Bluegrass and beer are more your style, head for Keystone’s 16th annual Bluegrass and Beer Festival at River Run Village, August 4-5. Sample from 30 breweries, enjoy sweet sounds of downhome music from world-class performers, or take banjo instruction from Jesse Langlais (Town Mountain), fiddle instruction with Casey Driessen, singing lessons from Tim O’Brien or learn songwriting from Darrell Scott. www.kesytonefestivals.com for advanced ticket purchase and detailed event information. Lodging info: keystoneresort.com or call (877) 204-7889.

OK, Orlando is officially the City Beautiful. At least as far as the Premiere Beauty Show is concerned. They signed a four-year contract to keep the largest beauty show in the U.S at the Orange County Convention Center through 2015. More than 53,000 attendees could produce an economic impact of more than $91 million. (Wonder if they’ll need the services of Natasha, The Psychic Lady for those glam afterglow parties??)

LeMay—America’s Car Museum (ACM) is the Pacific Northwest’s newest attraction. The 165,000-sq. ft., four-level museum with sweeping views above Tacoma, WA debuted in June to thousands, including Washington Lt. Governor Brad Owen, GM Vice President of Design Ed Welburn, Tonight Show host Jay Leno, jewelry magnate Nicola Bulgari, and Mariners’ two-time batting champ Edgar Martinez. This will be an incredible addition to off-site event venues. There’s a 3.5 acre Haub Family Field to host concerts, car shows, civic events and even drive-in movies and an educational center with unique exhibits, from the British invasion of the ‘60s to the collections of jewelry magnate Nicola Bulgari and Tacoma icon Harold LeMay (whose vast mix of vehicles was the genesis of the museum 14 years ago). (www.lemaymuseum.org)

The JW Marriott Hotel Miami has added three more reasons why it’s a preferred destination for executives and business groups. Winner of the ‘Award of Excellence” for five consecutive years (2007-2012) from Wine Spectator Magazine, the JW Marriott Hotel Miami now has three new Concierge Level floors, a new Spa and TechnoGym facility. Businessmen may be oohing and aahing for the ergononomic work area with HSIA terminals, three telephones, and 42” plasma TV, but you’ll find me relaxing on the feather beds sipping my hot Nexpresso coffee.

Amelia Island is a tiny barrier island off the northern-most coast of Florida, but it carries a mountain of prestige when it comes to business and leisure travelers. The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island has earned North America’s most prestigious travel award, the AAA Five Diamond travel designation, for its resort and premier restaurant, Salt. There is only one other hotel in Florida that have been awarded two AAA Five Diamond awards: The Four Seasons, Palm Beach. www.ritzcarlton.com/ameliaisland.

The Hoyt House joins Amelia  Island Williams House, Elizabeth Pointe Lodge and the Fairbanks House  as an approved Select Registry Property. There are less than 400 inns in the nation to earn this distinction. The stunning historic property shows off its appeal with sumptuously-decorated rooms and gourmet dining experiences, such as their new eight-course experience for two. Available only for one lucky couple each evening, the fantasy dinner includes a wine pairing and is served in the outdoor gazebo with candlelight and draping ivory sheers. The menu includes dishes such as Warm Fresh Mozzarella Crab Meat, and Shrimp & Smoked Salmon with a Fig Reduction.  Only one dining experience is available per day and on limited dates throughout the month, offering a truly personalized experience. www.hoythouse.com or call (800) 432-2085. Many of the island’s accommodations have won multiple accolades in 2012, including 10 properties receiving TripAdvisor’s Certificates of Excellence, voted on by travel reviewers. Those named: Addison on Amelia, Amelia Hotel at the Beach, Fairbanks House, Florida House Inn, Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, Hampton Inn & Suites, Hoyt House, Residence Inn – Amelia Island, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, and Williams House. Fernandina Beach got a nod from Yahoo! As one of the Best Five Florida and Georgia Beaches.  The Omni Amelia Island Plantation, ranked as the No. 2 Tennis Resort on Florida’s East Coast, and one of the Top 50 Tennis Resorts in the U.S. by Tennis magazine, is partnering with Cliff Drysdale Tennis (CDT). Experts from CDT will now direct tennis clinics and personal lessons for resort guests and locals. www.omniameliaislandplantation.com.

From fishing to flying, new adventures await on Amelia Island. Sky Coast Adventures now has helicopter tours of Amelia Island, Cumberland Island and Tiger Island. Departing from McGill Aviation, the tours are limited to three passengers. www.skycoastadventures.com or (904) 206-3062. Amelia Angler offers Fishing Classes and just in case you don’t catch enough to cook, lunch is provided. www.ameliaangler.com. Of course, if your fish experience doesn’t need exaggeration, you may want to check out Captain Russell Tharin’s new 2012 Skeeter ZX 24v vessel that can accommodate up to four anglers. Russell is on the Skeeter Boat Pro Staff Team. The Skeeter is powered by a 300 V6 Yamaha Outboard and loaded with features like the 101 Minn Kota trolling motor, dual Power Poles, Humminbird sonar with side scan imaging and GPS. www.flyfishingameliaisland.com.

You won’t need a rainy afternoon as the reason to visit the Amelia Island Museum of History when it launches its “History of the Blues” exhibit on August 3. The two-month long exhibit will feature blues memorabilia, an interactive video about the genre, and a tribute to the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” a collective name for venues from Brunswick to the Florida Keys which allowed African-American musicians and entertainers to perform during segregation.  www.ameliamuseum.org.

Visit Orlando has inviting news for meeting professionals. Book a city-wide meeting for 2013 or 2014, and you may receive reduced cost or complimentary airfare to Orlando as well as possible gift certificates. (A citywide is defined as utilizing 1,500 hotel rooms on peak and/or 60,000 square feet of convention space.) To participate, citywide meetings must be confirmed and contracted now through Dec. 31, 2012. Site visits must be arranged with Visit Orlando and the city-wide meeting must be held at a Visit Orlando member property. For planners booking three eligible meetings for 2013 and 2014, they may also obtain free registration to an annual industry association meeting.  Associations that qualify include ASAE, IAEE, MPI or PCMA. For full details or to schedule the site inspection, contact Ken Barnett at 407-363-5815; ken.barnett@visitorlando.com.

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI, for which she is on the Membership Advisory Council and the Industry Advisory Council. She writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, Karen has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. karenkuzsel@earthlink.net; www.ThePsychicLady.com

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