If you’re looking to go to a quieter, more relaxing, sweet spot that isn’t quite on the national meetings radar yet, consider Ocala in Central Florida’s Marion County. There, planners will find a relaxed pace amid the gentle green hills of Florida’s horse country.
According to Loretta Shaffer, CDME, executive director of the Ocala/Marion County Visitors & Convention Bureau, there are endless possibilities for successful meetings in a slightly different yet memorable environment.
“You’ll notice the horse farms and the beautiful countryside as soon as you arrive,” Shaffer says. “We have premium meeting spaces and plenty of places to explore or relax after the meetings. Whether your attendees are nature-lovers or thrill–seekers, or would just like to explore a beautiful new region, they can find it here. We’re different…and that’s the secret to our charm and to your attendees’ experience here.”
Existing hotels are freshening up to address the increasing interest from planners in the destination. Hilton Ocala, with 196 guest rooms and 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, is undergoing a $6 million upgrade to its exterior, guest rooms and meeting spaces; its fitness center was just remodeled and enlarged last summer. Courtyard By Marriott Ocala has just completed a $3 million upgrade of its 169 guest rooms, with new furniture and carpeting, to go with its 3,062 sq. ft. of event space
New restaurants that can accommodate groups include Brick City Southern Kitchen & Whiskey Bar, Las Margaritas and Edo Sushi & Steakhouse.
Silver Springs State Park just renovated its original Paradise Ballroom, adding floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the springs and the glass-bottom boat dock. It offers 5,000 sq. ft. of event space. Comfort Suites Dunnellon opened earlier this year with 71 guest rooms, meeting space for 20 and an outdoor pool and business center.
A new hotel will be added by March 2019. Current plans call for 90 guest rooms and 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.