Known as the home of motorsports, Daytona Beach is the headquarters of NASCAR, the International Motor Sports Association and the International Speedway Corporation. Part of the nearly $2 billion in renovation and construction taking place in the area is the $400 million renovation of the Daytona International Speedway, completed in January 2016. Speedway tours now include a visit to the 10,000-sq.-ft. Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. The city also has its fine arts side, represented by the 26,000-sq.-ft. Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art, which opened in February 2015 on the campus of the Smithsonian-affiliated Museum of Arts and Sciences. Visitors can view more than 2,700 Florida oil and watercolor paintings.
According to the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, an exclusive Marriott Autograph Collection hotel called The DAYTONA and an upscale Westin are in the planning stage. Approximately 12,000 guestrooms surround the aptly named Ocean Center, located just 400 feet from the Atlantic Ocean and 10 minutes from Daytona International Airport. The Ocean Center offers a 93,028-sq.-ft. exhibit hall, an 11,904-sq.-ft. ballroom, 32,000 sq. ft. of meeting space with 32 breakout rooms, and a 9,300-seat arena. The Ocean Walk Shoppes and Daytona Lagoon waterpark are in walking distance, affording convenient free-time options for attendees.
Getting to Daytona Beach from New York has been facilitated with JetBlue Airways’ daily, nonstop service from JFK International Airport, launched in January 2016.
Jacksonville’s SMG-managed Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center is one of the state’s most distinctive facilities of its kind, housed in a historic railroad station building with impressive architecture. The Center’s 78,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space is divisible into two halls with 33-ft. ceilings; the ornate Grand Lobby boasts 75-ft. ceilings. Groups have 22 meeting rooms at their disposal.
Major investments are being made to upgrade the city’s hotels. They include a $7 million property-wide renovation of the 159-room Sheraton Jacksonville (6,000 sq. ft. of meeting space); a recent redesign of the 963-room Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront (110,000 sq. ft.); a $9 million renovation of the 354-room Omni Jacksonville (14,000 sq. ft.); a $13 million renovation of the 277-room Embassy Suites Jacksonville–Baymeadows (7,000 sq. ft.); and ongoing meeting space renovations at the 323-room Lexington Hotel & Conference Center (35,000 sq. ft.), scheduled for completion by the end of March.
Planners looking for a unique offsite venue in the city can consider The Barge Jax, which affords panoramic skyline views from the St. Johns River. The Barge offers about 6,000 sq. ft. of function space.
Air travel to Jacksonville is ramping up with new American Airlines’ twice-daily nonstop service from LaGuardia Airport; Allegiant Travel Co.’s direct flights to and from New Orleans, Memphis and Richmond, VA, beginning mid April; and Air Canada’s nonstop flights between JAX and Toronto beginning May 7.