courtesy Dali Museum
Published October 10, 2018
Although the Sunshine State is best known for its beaches, it’s also home to an array of one-of-a-kind cultural attractions offering unforgettably inspiring settings.
So whether your group’s tastes favor world-famous art, space history or NASCAR hallowed ground, Florida’s out-of-the-ordinary meeting venues offer something for everyone.
Florida’s Dali Museum represents one of the largest collections of Salvador Dali art in the world, all showcased since 2011 in a new, custom, fittingly avant-garde exhibition space on the waterfront in picturesque downtown St. Petersburg.
Museum guests can meander more than 60,000 square feet of space featuring roughly 100 paintings and more than 2,000 works of art by the surrealist master while taking in the award-winning architecture of the museum itself.
Many aspects of the museum’s design, from its stunning, helical, three-story staircase to its 75-foot glass sphere dubbed “The Enigma” and formed from over 1,000 pieces of triangular glass, “have a basis or a reference to Dali or his work in some way,” said Diana Schneider, Dali’s event sales manager.
The museum’s Raymond James Community Room is available for both daytime and evening rental and can accommodate 120 seated or 200 standing. After-hours rental of the entire museum, with capacity to host up to 750 standing, is possible, as is rental of more intimate, specific exhibit spaces within the museum, as well as its outdoor East Garden and the Will Raymund Theater. Space rental includes access to the museum exhibits as well as audiovisual equipment, tables and chairs, janitorial and security service and more.
“We host only one event at a time, so our groups who come here have the entire museum for themselves,” Schneider said. “There’s no space quite like ours. We sit literally on the water. So from all of our interior spaces, you can look out through ‘The Enigma’ over our East Garden right into Tampa Bay.”
Kennedy Space Center
At Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, roughly 45 minutes from Orlando International Airport, guests can experience NASA history through the facility’s 70 acres of exhibits. They can also hear it firsthand.
“We work with a lot of veteran astronauts who have been to space, and we can coordinate booking them as keynote speakers for our after-hours events,” said Melissa Qualls, event coordinator for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. “That’s something that our guests really seem to enjoy.”
At after-hours events, attendees get to meet amid iconic artifacts from NASA’s space legacy. The facility’s 90,000-square-foot Space Shuttle Atlantis venue seats up to 280 or can accommodate receptions for up to 1,200 guests, with the retired space shuttle hanging overhead.
Other after-hour event spaces include the Heroes and Legends exhibit space, which features the U.S. Astronauts Hall of Fame display. It can host 60 for dinner or 150 for a standing reception. A conference facility near Heroes and Legends offers a state-of-the-art multimedia system, space for 220 and a view of the nearby Rocket Garden.
For larger groups, the 10,000-square-foot Apollo/Saturn V Center, home to the Saturn V moon rocket, the largest ever flown, can facilitate 600 for dinner or 3,000 for a reception .
Recently, the Kennedy Space Center has begun offering groups of more than 1,000 the option to buy out the entire park during operating hours. “The buyout doesn’t include the bus tour or the Saturn V Center, but it includes all the exhibits within the main center,” Qualls said.
Daytona International Speedway
Even those who don’t follow racing have heard of the Daytona 500. And for NASCAR fans, a visit to Daytona International Speedway is a bucket-list experience. Since undergoing a $400 million redevelopment in 2016, the speedway has been able to “attract a different level of clientele to come to Daytona and host here,” said David Strahan, the track’s senior director of sales. “The amenities we have now are state-of-the-art and very premium in our sport.”
Less than a mile from the Daytona Beach International Airport, the racetrack offers easy access for meeting attendees, who can enjoy a growing list of restaurants, retail and entertainment attractions. And they can stay at any of 250 hotel rooms at the new One Daytona development directly across the street from the Speedway.
Following a redesign, the Speedway now boasts 75 luxury suites with trackside views, plus eight private event and meeting venues that can cater to groups of 75 to 700 attendees. Many of the venue spaces offer intimate views of the infield and track. Some also include stadium or patio seating.
“Our guests like to be able to do the work at their meetings but still have the feel of being at a NASCAR track,” said Kelly Kinney, the speedway’s sales manager for meetings and conventions.
Though most events are hosted outside of the track’s regular racing season — most of its races are held in February — it is sometimes possible to book meeting space in the early hours of race days in order to “leverage the space from both a business and entertainment aspect,” said Strahan.
Routinely voted one of the top aquariums in the country, the Florida Aquarium, in Tampa, offers guests the chance to enjoy an elegant sit-down dinner or an informal reception among its 20,000 water-loving plants, animals and fish.
The aquarium recently added its Mosaic Center, a ballroom and event space with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer sweeping views of Tampa’s Garrison Channel and Harbour Island neighborhood. The aquarium’s private Vinik Channelside Rooms overlook Tampa’s Channel District as well, and its newly renovated outdoor plaza offers an open-air, waterfront gathering space. Large groups can even consider a full buyout of the aquarium’s 250,000 square feet of exhibit space.
Private groups can choose to use either of the aquarium’s two large lobbies or, instead, set up near specific exhibit spaces, such as the aquarium’s 500,000-gallon coral reef habitat or its Wetlands dome, which features free-flying birds and one of the world’s largest indoor mangrove tunnels.
Museum of Discovery and Science
Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Discovery and Science is the type of place that’s engaging “whether you’re 2 or 82,” said Marlene Janetos, vice president of visitor services, marketing and communications for the museum. With exhibits that include everything from a living coral reef and simulated Everglades airboat ride to a Mars Rover simulator and a newly installed 27,000-square-foot outdoor science park, this is one museum that delivers on its promise to make science fun.
“At one of our private events, attendees were having so much fun and were so into the flight simulator that when the host told them the bus to the hotel was here, the people still in line said, ‘Go on without us. We’ll catch a cab. We are having too much fun here. We don’t want to miss this,’” Janetos said.
During the museum’s operating hours, groups can rent one of two classroom spaces, each of which holds about 100 people. In the evenings, groups can rent space and meet within the museum’s 119,000 square feet of exhibit space. Specific accommodations include the Keller Science Theater, which seats 100, and a state-of-the-art, 3D Imax theater that seats roughly 300.
“Generally, what we are best at is a reception-style event because when guests come here, they want to get up and explore the exhibits and really have a good time,” said Janetos, who said the facility can host receptions for up to 2,000 guests. “We have the food and beverage stations scattered throughout the exhibit areas and just let people go freely throughout the space.”
In addition to rotating exhibits, attendees can always enjoy live otter and turtle habitats, nine cockpit simulators, displays on prehistoric Florida and much more.
The museum’s new outdoor science park, which features several large-scale, hands-on physics exhibits, is itself an excellent outdoor team-building venue, Janetos said.