Family fun in the Despicable Me Kids Suite at Portofino Bay Hotel

Family fun in the Despicable Me Kids Suite at Portofino Bay Hotel

June: the time of replenishment, relaxation, and revving up for the (hopeful) onslaught of fall corporate business, unless you happen to be immersed in the tourism market or taking an overdue family vacation. For any, and all of the above, here are some deals to be done, places to ponder, and events to excite.

RESORTS AMP UP FUN FACTOR FOR FAMILIES

How cute are the new Despicable Me-themed kid suites at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort? It was a no-brainer to renovate all 18 kid suites in time for occupancy on October 1. Holidays will fast approach. The Despicable Me 2 will have opened July 3, and Universal’s Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction has already proven to be a hit for the family. What fan of the animated movie wouldn’t love to sleep in missile beds on Minion-inspired bedding just like Gru’s three adopted girls: Margo, Edith and Agnes? The two-room suites keep the parents happy with a luxurious Italian design. Save 30% with the Stay More, Save More promotion. On-site hotel guests receive early park admission and free Universal Express Unlimited ride access. http://universalorlando.com/portofinobay; (888) 273-1311.

It’s going to be a happening summer in Central Florida. The theme park-aphile in me is ready to check out Busch Gardens’ annual Summer Nights programs, now through Aug. 18. (Hey… that’s my birthday. Wouldn’t that make an awesome birthday gift?) The event includes Cheetah Hunt (which I have yet to brave) with an after-dark twist, Kinetix music and acrobatics show on the Gwazi Park Stage, and the nightly fireworks finale. For a more “natural” adventure, you might want to get in on The Florida Aquarium’s Summer Fun Nights program. The mermaids do what mermaids do in a spectacular show, or you can hop aboard the Wild Dolphin Cruise for a sunset cruise. Love Lowry Park Zoo, especially now that summer hours go til 8 pm. The June 29 ladybug release could be fun, but I think the July 13 Fairytales & Frogs celebration in honor of frog conservation might get the kids enthused. They won’t have to wait for Halloween to don a costume. Attendees are encouraged to dress as their favorite fairy tale character and enjoy unlimited rides, special animal encounters and refreshments.

TradeWinds Island Gand Resort's new 3-story beach slide

TradeWinds Island Grand Resort’s new 3-story beach slide

In nearby St. Pete Beach, The TradeWinds Island Grand Resort has a family fun package that includes two, one-day unlimited passes for the 15,750-sf Splash Island Water Park, the bungee trampoline and the gyrosphere. Hey, where else can you groove on a three-story beachfront slide with three different chutes that will all safely land you at the bottom? The package also includes two $50 TradeWinds Adventure Passes that can be used for on-site crafts and the supervised kid’s KONK Club, and a Vacation Gourmet Card good for a 20% savings on all resort food and beverage. The nightly resort amenity fee, also part of the package, includes a hooded beach cabana, paddleboats, tennis court play, fitness center, self-parking, wireless Internet access and more.  The TradeWinds Family Adventure package is available now through Sept 15. Details at www.JustLetGo.com; (866) JUST LET GO (587-8538).

Vacation at The Shores Resort & Spa between now and August 18 and receive a $25 “Sand Dollar” voucher for each night of your stay (4-night max). I’ll just mention again that my birthday is Aug. 18. Maybe I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a special day.  OK, back to the promotion. The “Shores’ Summer Sand Dollar” program allows you to redeem up to $100 in vouchers for food and beverage purchases, spa services or cabana rentals on a future stay between Aug. 19 and Dec. 30. The Daytona Beach property has 212 guestrooms. If you want to take advantage of the promotion, use code: SANDSH. For details: www.ShoresResort.com;  (866) 934-Shores

HOTEL ACTION WITH CORPORATES IN MIND

Look up! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No… it’s the new 3,000-sf Blue Sky Suite on the 11th floor of the Disneyland Hotel. Located in the hotel’s Fantasy Tower, the Blue Sky Suite accommodates 15 people. It was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering to encourage creative problem solving, collaboration and idea generation. How so, might you ask? Three distinct brightly-colored meeting spaces will have relaxed seating, great views, and built-in audiovisual equipment includes three televisions, two of which feature 55-inch screens that can be programmed to show presentations simultaneously. Escape ennui found from traditional boardroom-styled meeting rooms. With this one, a portrait of Walt Disney greets you at the door. A colorful, etched reproduction of Sleeping Beauty Castle based on original artwork by famed Disney artist Herb Ryman adorns a glass wall near the entry. This upscale conference suite includes a king-size bed and private bath. The Blue Sky Suite is the last piece of a four-year renovation of the 969-guest rooms and 136,000 sf convention center in the AAA-Four Diamond Disneyland Hotel. www.disneylandmeetings.com; (714) 520-7079

The $13 million renovation of the 36-year-old Renaissance Westchester Hotel, located on 30 acres of scenic countryside in Westchester County, NY, is finished. The six-month redo is now home to the new Hive Living Room + Bar, featuring American cuisine prepared by award-winning Chef Jean-Claude Lanchais. Think urban barn, with warm woods, diffused lighting, and the trending variety of communal tables and booths. Each of the 347 guest rooms and six suites are painted in the colors of nature. The open lobby has semi-private nooks, tables, WIFI, polished woods and intricate stonework. There’s also a new ballroom. The 2,080-sf Harrison Ballroom overlooks the beautiful wooded landscape with floor-to-ceiling windows. Seats 180, banquet style. visit www.RenaissanceWestchester.com; 914-694-5400.

Royal Kaanapali Golf Course photo by Brandon LaRue

Royal Kaanapali Golf Course
photo by Brandon LaRue

Golf, anyone? The Aston Hotels & Resorts on Maui two rounds of world-class golf at the Royal Kaanapali and Kaanapali Kai golf courses with Aston’s “Tee for Two in Kaanapali” Golf Package, will be the enticement you need to book your personal vacation or group function. A three-night minimum stay gets you specially-priced rates, spacious accommodations conveniently located near the courses, plus special perks such as a golf cart, additional same-day rounds at no cost, and a warm-up bucket of range balls. Travel must be concluded by Dec. 31. Book now for travel through Dec. 31, 2013, and experience Aston hospitality in one of the world’s most desirable destinations. The 6,700-yd top-ranked Royal Kaanapali Golf Course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr, has scenic fairways overlooking the Pacific Ocean and mountains. The 6,400-yd Kaanapali Kai Golf Course was originally created as an executive course and redesigned in 1976 by architect Arthur Jack Snyder. www.astonhotels.com/teefortwo.

ATTENTION ARTISTS!

This Captain Morgan is not drinkable, but you can take a shot at redesigning the statue of said icon that has been standing photo-op ready for many years at America’s Backyard (AB) in Ft. Lauderdale. AB is the area’s largest outdoor venue and holds 1,200 -1,500 people. The aforementioned Captain Morgan has greeted customers for years and is due for a revamp. AB decided the local community should have a say in what happens next, so from July 1 to 13 at 5pm, you can submit your completed sketch of the redesign. Submissions will be judged on creativity, originality, and ingenuity. The top five submissions will be displayed one evening at America’s Backyard, as well as on their social media pages. Interested in the prizes?

First place: paint the statue and get a private party for you and 10 guests of your choice, as well as tickets to the Mad Decent block party.

Second place: private party for you and 10 guests.

Third place: tickets to the Mad Decent block party.

Please send your completed sketch to AmericasBackyardContest@gmail.com.

KUDOS ARE IN ORDER

Good news for Orlando. Americas Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition (AIBTM) moves to Orlando for its June 10-12 conference. Beginning this year, the conference will rotate between Chicago and Orlando. As of this year, the show’s location began a rotation between the gateway cities of Chicago and Orlando.  Each year, AIBTM hosts nearly a thousand international and U.S qualified hosted buyers and eligible trade buyers for three days of business and education programming. The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) was recently nominated as the No. 1 convention center in the U.S. by Business Review USA. OCCC is the second largest convention facility in America, bringing in approximately 1.4 million attendees a year.

Newly-formed 54 Sports, a sports and entertainment management firm, will dedicate resources to work directly with the meetings and event planners. The firm’s portfolio of services includes a 360-degree approach to planning and management of exclusive, VIP-type hospitality experiences at highly-desirable events, such as the US Open, the Masters, the Kentucky Derby, and US Open Tennis. Access includes “inside the ropes” experiences, VIP access, celebrity meet and greets, and “member for the day” privileges. 54 Sports was founded by three industry veterans whose recent collective backgrounds include executive level roles within the PGA Tour Club and NASCAR. www.54Sports.com; 704.650.2662

DID YOU KNOW?

Did you know The Williams Conference Centre is home to the Williams Grand Prix Collection, the largest private collection of Formula One cars in the world? Not surprised that the Center is located in the home of the Williams F1 Team in Grove, Oxfordshire, England? No boring museum, the Centre houses over 40 of the team’s seminal race cars, charting the team’s 30+ years of motor racing history. There are public tours and private event spaces. If you’re travelling on your own, you receive refreshments on arrival, a fully automated tour with unique video footage and commentary on the team’s illustrious history, and you receive a light finger buffet luncheon and visit to the Williams Shop. Planners looking for a unique experience will want to know there are 10 flexible event rooms for up to 200 guests, with an in-house AV Technician, dedicated Event Managers and five-star catering and service. The group will have the opportunity to visit Sir Frank Williams‘ private Grand Prix Collection of more than 38 of the team’s seminal race cars. conferences@williamsf1.com; 01235 777900

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. 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; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady

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