Even the lemurs like the pumpkin giveaway at Safari Wilderness in Florida.

Book three-nights at Paradisus Cancún by October 31 and stay before December 22 to get 35% off the stay, plus added amenities for taking advantage of other promotional offers, such as booking a Royal service room and getting a $100 in MeliáRewards points that you can exchange for services at Cocos Beach Club, fine & prime cut, exclusive brand bottles.

ME Cabo

Book and stay at ME by Melia Cabo by December 22 and receive $500 in US credits that can be used to pay portion of goods and services during your stay including Yhi Spa Services, room upgrade, dinners at BMI Restaurant and Beach Club. Book from up to three nights for a $150 USD credit and $500 USD credit for stays of four+ nights. Resort credits are issued as saving coupons.
Book your next meeting with at least 15 rooms per night with a two-night stay at Shula’s Hotel & Golf Club in the heart of Miami Lakes (FL) by December 31and receive a $129 room rate with a $65pp complete meeting package including breakfast, lunch, AM & PM breaks.; Maria Pellitero, Group Sales Manager Maria.Pellitero@GrahamHospitality; (305) 820-8053

Championship Golf Course ready for action at Don Shula Hotel in Miami Lakes, FL

Hilton Denver City Center

You can receive the latest smart watch of your choosing just for booking a meeting at the Hilton Denver City Center by March 31, 2019, with stay actuated by December 31, 2019. Obviously, there are restrictions, such as there must be a minimum of 50 room nights on available dates. The watch can be valued up to $500. Hilton Denver City Center is blocks from the Colorado Convention Center. The hotel has 32,000 sf of indoor meeting space, 3,200 sf of pre-function space, and 15,000 sf of outdoor plaza space.

Paradisus Punta Cana

Use this promo code 0484-NEWMELIA and receive an extra 10% off the newest adults-only resort, Meliá Punta Cana Beach Resort. The resorts officially opens December 15 and will feature 12 dining options, the signature YHI Spa and unlimited golf at Cocotal golf & Country Club. Additionally, you can receive up to $900 in resort credit.
Time is running out to earn a free pumpkin just for taking the 45-minute guided tour at Safari Wildness, a 260-acre natural park halfway between Tampa and Orlando. The family-owned, working game ranch provides up-close, interactive encounters with herds of roaming exotic animals. The Pumpkin Safaris are an annual fall event. Tour departures are on the hour from 1 – 5 pm. Final dates for this year are October 20, 21, 27 and 28. The pumpkins can be decorated at the ranch and given to the animals for enrichment or taken home. Tours are held rain or shine.; (813) 382-2120.
Director of Food & Beverage Robert Ivey and Executive Chef John Botkin are in the final countdown to the December opening of Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort. Ivey recently was on the team that opened the 1,000-room Golden Nugget Lake Charles Hotel & Casino and for more than two decades was the Director of Catering and Convention Services for Universal Orlando Resort. He happens to also be a Certified Meeting Planner and a certified Professional Catering Executive. Executive Chef John Botkin, known for preparing sustainable seafood and southern cuisine, has been Executive Chef at both the Bellagio of Las Vegas and Casa Monica Resort & Spa. “In addition to unparalleled ocean views and exceptional amenities, we want to be known for our all-encompassing culinary experiences,” said Jason Kern, the new resort’s general manager. The resort’s signature restaurant, Harvest & Reel, will feature such dishes as pan-seared jumbo crab cakes with a lime mustard aioli, a traditional bouillabaisse, and diver scallops Corn Maux Choux with smoked bacon lardons. The poolside Castaway Cantina will serve more Latin-inspired dishes, while the upscale Rhum Bar will serve their specialty cocktails paired with dishes such as flash-fried calamari with pickled shrimp, and steamed PEI mussels with Applewood smoked bacon and garlic shallots. When open, the Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort will have more than 20,000 sf of meeting space, including a 5,200 sf oceanfront ballroom with outdoor terraces and expansive waterfront lawns for events. Ten mnutes from historic downtown St. Augustine and adjacent to the iconic St. Augustin Pier, the 175-room resort will offer customized breakfast, nightly complimentary evening reception and two-room suites, and 24-hour fitness and business centers. There are currently 250 Embassy Suites by Hilton, with 44 more in the planning stages.; (904) 461-9004.

North Beachat Scrub Island Resort, Spa and Marina

Ixora Spa Terrace & Plunge Pool at Scrub Island Resort, Spa and Marina

Hurricane Irma may have been a year ago, but many of the hardest-hit locations are finally recovering. One such property is Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina on the British Virgin Islands (BVI). The 230-acre resort at the east end of Tortola has not only been renovated but is now a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel. By December, all 52 guestrooms and suites will be open. Until then, guests can book 26 rooms in Marina Village. Additional villas will open in November. Dining options have been expanded and the Ixora Spa has added multiple treatment rooms, including in beachfront cabanas that overlook the Caribbean. Renovations include an upgraded Wi-Fi network throughout the resort, expansions to North Beach, a private beach, and a 55-slip marina with brand new pedestals and lighting.; (813) 849-4153 or visit
Cruise line agendas will have another entertainment stop coming soon to the Caribbean. IGY Marinas has leased the landmark 360 building at Yacht Haven Grande located in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands to LWI is an attractions company focused on creative art, entertainment and hospitality experiences. Last West Indian (LWI) company includes Dr. Kiran Akal, former Creative Consultant for Walt Disney and Warner Music writer and artist as well as Mr. Dave Goodman, former Vice President and Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Walt Disney Company (The Disneyland Resort, Tokyo Disney Resort and the Walt Disney Special Events Group) and Anheuser Busch Theme Parks. The group intends to transform the 360 building into a premier, mixed-use attraction, that is unique along the Caribbean cruise line route. The project has the support of the USVI Department of Tourism, Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, and IGY Marinas, which is one of the largest international marina companies in the world.;;     

Gaylord Palms, Kissimmee, FL

Opening date may not be scheduled until summer of 2021, but here’s what you can look forward to when Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center (Kissimmee, FL) finishes its $150 million expansion. There will be 90,000 sf of additional meeting space, including a new 30,000 sf ballroom, 30,000 sf breakout space, and 30,000 sf of pre-function space. After the expansion, Gaylord Palms will contain over 490,000 sf of meeting space. The expansion will also include 303 additional guest rooms, 20,000 sf of outdoor terrace and function space, parking garage and expanded pool offerings.
Two new resorts by Meliá are opening in Cuba this winter. Paradisus Los Cayos opens December 1 and Meliá Internacional Varadero opens January 1.

Meliá Internacional Varadero

Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld is adding 30,000 sf of meeting and event space. The expansion increases the hotel’s current 185,000 sf to more than 215,000 sf of flexible meeting and event space. The new building, expected to open January, 2019 will include the new Peninsula Ballroom (16,500 sf) with 22-foot ceilings and flexible rigging points; six new breakout rooms (each 1,350 sf) with floor-to-ceiling windows offering landscaped views; conference board room at 1,000 sf; and 8,000 sf of pre-function space. Technology will be a focus in the expansion. A multi-use LED Media Wall comprised of nine separate screens spanning 50 sf will be available for branding, group messaging, and conference information. A fiber-optic AV infrastructure will support each meeting room, and WiFi capabilities will support up to 5,000 standard devices or 10,000 mbs of bandwidth in the new space.; 407 351-5555.
I wish more hotels would design their properties with more in mind that basics and efficiency. Give me a hotel with personality such as the recently-opened Hotel X Toronto (Toronto, Canada), who utilized the memorable designs of Stephen B. Jacobs Group, PC/Andi Pepper Interior Design. Established in 1967, the architectural and interior design firm are the originators of the Hotel Gansevoort concept and popularizing the rooftop as a hotel icon. One of the facets of Hotel X Toronto that I applaud is that they are recycling materials found during the excavation of the historic site, which used to be an enlisted men’s barracks. The foundations of the former barracks have been glassed over so when you enter the lobby you can see the past emerge into the present. On display are artifacts such as bottles, tableware, buttons, toothbrushes, and rings, as well as a lobby showcase of the different uniforms worn by the various regiments stationed at the former military fort. With sustainability in mind, Hotel X Toronto was designed to LEED Silver standards, with recycled content for insulation, LED Lighting, etc. They emphasized the inside out concept, such as having some of the ballrooms open to the exterior. The green wall is the focal point of the lobby.

Hotel X Toronto lobby

Palladium Hotel Group opens the newly-renovated TRS Cap Cana Hotel, a new adults-only waterfront resort property in the Dominican Republic on November 1. The resort has 115 luxury suites, 39 swim-up junior suites, nine ocean view suites, and one ambassador suite. Among the amenities are the Zentropia Palladium Spa & Wellness®, as well as a personal butler and 24-hour room service. TRS Cap Cana Hotel includes two two à la carte restaurants: Gaucho, offering Argentinian specialties, and an informal Japanese à la carta restaurant offering street food specialties, along with the TRS brands’ renowned Helios beach club. There are two slow cooking restaurants, a coffee shop, and four premium bars. Palladium Hotel Group is a 40+ year Spanish hotel chain with 44 hotels and more than 14,000 rooms in six countries: Spain, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Italy and Brazil. Coming also in November: Palladium Hotel Group opens TRS Coral Hotel and Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres Resort & Spa. Two new Bless Collection Hotels, one of the nine brands the chain owns, opens in January and summer of 2019 in Madrid and Ibiza, respectively.

Heart in Hands Awards 2018 (3)

Every event that fulfills their pledges to benefit a worthy cause deserves recognition. I hear about many, but rarely have the opportunity to write about them. This story is about a cause that I think has become all too universal in scope. The benefit was the Third Annual Heart in Hand Awards gala held at the Faena Forum in Miami Beach, FL on September 30. Funds collected benefit No More Tears, a non-profit organization with a mission to assist and empower victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. The occasion honored five Miami women in specified categories: Influencer, Jackie Nespral; philanthropist, Jenine Howard; artist, Bernice Steinbaum; activist, Stacey Honowitz; and pioneer, Karla Dascal. The funds collected from the awards ceremony will support and encourage victims of abuse and trafficking to become active, contributing members of the community. Somy Ali, Founder and President of No More Tears, hopes to continue encouraging and guiding victims to build new lives and promising futures.
The event was so popular that TradeWinds Island Resorts – Island Grand & Guy Harvey Outpost on St. Pete Beach, FL is once again hosting St. Pete Beach BikeFest, a five-day celebration full of motorcycles and music, presented by Bert’s Barracuda and Bert’s Black Widow Harley Davidson®. The real winners will be Athletes for Hearts, which receives a portion of the proceeds from BikeFest, November 14-18. The organization provides financial assistance to families with children with heart conditions and it funds advancements in medical technology for the treatment of heart disease, especially as it affects children. The Builders Row Indoor Expo will be the gathering place for bikers showcasing custom designs. Vendors Row will feature the latest in biker gear, clothes and accessories. Three alternating stages will feature music from groups such as Sister Hazel (Thursday.), country’s Travis Tritt (Friday.) and Southern rockers, 38 Special (Saturday.). Competitions include the Roadkill Scavenger Bike Rides and Baddest Bagger Competition.The TradeWinds is offering several different promotional packages, although beach concerts and Builders Row Showcase are open to the public. Parking for motorcycles only is available, with a daily $10 fee; (800) 360-4016.
Vedem Underground was a magazine run by teenage Jewish creators held in the Terezin Ghetto inside Czechoslovakia from 1942 – 1944. Named as one of the Smithsonian’s 10 “Don’t Miss…” new exhibits for Winter 2017, visitors can now visit the VEDEM UNDERGROUND: The Secret Magazine of the Terezin Ghetto (1942-1944) exhibit at The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta (GA) through March 10, 2019. The art installation deconstructs and reinterprets the literary work of the teenage Jewish creators of the longest-running underground magazine in a Nazi camp. Using a combination of pop-art graphics, archival photographs and cartoons as well as the prose and poetry created by the magazine’s contributors, Vedem Underground celebrates the artistic and cultural legacy of Vedem by breaking down its 83 weekly issues totaling 800 pages, then reconstructing them in the form of a contemporary magazine. Vedem Underground was produced and curated by Rina Taraseiskey, whose grandfather led the resistance at Lithuania’s Kovno Ghetto, and who is also co-writing the companion book Vedem Underground: Pages of Resistance and producing the Vedem Underground documentary film with an Oscar – and Emmy-award winning team; Los Angeles-based art director Michael Murphy, who conceptualized the exhibit as a merging of punk subculture-inspired art and the 1940s-era ‘zine aesthetic; and Dallas-based writer and journalist Danny King, who is producing and co-writing the companion book. Inspired by Vedem’s invaluable lessons about the necessity of free speech and the dangers of propaganda and censorship, the exhibit premiered at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles in 2016, and has since been presented in Houston, El Paso, Austin and Sacramento. It is scheduled to travel to several additional North American locations, including Dallas, Milwaukee and Canada, by 2020.
AlliedPRA, Briggs, Destination Nashville and DSC have united under the PRA umbrella. The new moniker stands for Passion. Reach. Authenticity. The new company’s theme line is Experience Anywhere.
Luxurious resorts, stunning ocean views, diverse beaches, gourmet cuisine, and a vast array of options for outdoor activities are just some of the reasons Los Cabos, Mexico is a destination, especially during the frigid winter months impacting much of North America. Los Cabos has more than 76 resorts with more than 16,000 rooms, many offering All-Inclusive or European plans. Now, new non-stop flights on various airlines make travel arrangements even easier. Connections now originate in Milwaukee (WI), Ottowa (Canada), Las Vegas (NV) to Cabo San Lucas, and Baltimore (MD). Coming soon are non-stops from Cincinnati (OH) and St. Louis (MO).;;;

La Casa Dragones, 17th centry stables, is home to premium tequila company Casa Dragones.

Don’t know how much tequila I can drink, but just seeing this venue is enough to make me want to travel to Mexico City, Mexico and test my limits. So, Journey Mexico, a destination management company in Mexico dedicated to upscale and experiential travel throughout the country, has partnered with Casa Dragones, a leading ultra-premium tequila company and Recreo San Miguel, a luxury apparel and lifestyle brand. The unique teamwork is that they are offering an experience combining a comprehensive tasting of Casa Dragones´ Joven label while enjoying an exclusive viewing of Recreo San Miguel´s future fashion collection. “This unique opportunity grows our portfolio of insider access experiences that we offer throughout the country”, says Zachary Rabinor, founder & CEO of Journey Mexico. The tasting and fashion preview takes place in “La Casa Dragones”, the original 17th Century stables of the legendary Dragones Cavalry of San Miguel de Allende. This historic property has been renovated into a private luxury villa located just steps from San Miguel de Allende´s town square. Guest can munch, sip and shop designer ponchos, capes, kaftans, shawls and wraps.  designed by Recreo San Miguel. Each guest couple will also receive a personalized bottle of Casa Dragones Joven.; +52 1 (55) 4373 5566; (202) 329-1262; (800) 513-1587
According to a WalletHub survey, which compared more than 180 U.S. cities across 65 key metrics, ranging from fitness clubs per capita to movie costs to average open hours of breweries, there 20 cities fight hardest for your entertainment budget. Don’t know about you, but I am not surprised by the top three: Las Vegas (NV), Orlando (FL) and New York (NY), respectively. New York actually gets mentioned quite a bit in the outlined specifics. For instance, New York has 31.5 times more restaurants than Peoria, AZ, which has the fewest. The Big Apple also has 19 times more playgrounds per square root of population than the lowest-scored Hialeah (FL). And if you spend a lot of time bar-hopping, New York has more than 71.5 times the number of bars than West Valley City (UT). But, if you are passionate about dance clubs, then leave your heart n San Francisco, which has 86.2 times the number of dance clubs by population than Plano (TX). In descending order, from #4 to #20, the most cities are Atlanta (GA), Miami (FL), Chicago (IL), Portland (OR), San Francisco (CA), New Orleans (LA), San Diego (CA), Denver (CO), Honolulu (HI), Los Angeles (CA), Austin (TX), Washington DC, Seattle (WA), Philadelphia (PA), Houston (TX), St. Louis (MO) and finally, Tampa (FL). Want to know where your city falls in the way of entertainment and dollars spent?

Hard Rock Daytona Beach’s guitar-shaped pool. photo by Architectural Photography Inc

Less than six percent of more than 27,000 properties inspected an approved by AAA on an annual basis receive the Four Diamond Rating. Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach (FL) joined those ranks on September 28. The 200-room beachfront property includes the signature Sessions restaurant and bar, the open-air Wave Terrace and 20,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting space, as well as a versatile ballroom terrace. It’s the fourth Hard Rock Hotel in Florida.
Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is an active member of ILEA and MPI and is now serving on the 2018 – 2019 MPI Global Advisory Board for The Meeting Professional Magazine for the second consecutive year. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she 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; @thepsychiclady.

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