Planners who can't decide between Orlando and Tampa should consider meeting in Lakeland, which is midway between the two major urban centers. Lakeland is situated approximately 25 minutes from the Walt Disney World Resort complex, 45 minutes from downtown Orlando, and 35 minutes from downtown Tampa. Meeting venues in Lakeland provide a value alternative for small to mid-sized groups.
Located on Interstate 4, Lakeland is 36 miles from Tampa International Airport and 47 miles from Orlando International Airport.
Conference venues in Lakeland begin with the Lakeland Center. Located in downtown, it encompasses a 10,000-seat arena with group meeting facilities such as a 28,000-square-foot exhibit hall, as well as a 24,000-square-foot banquet room with a 20-foot-high ceiling and a 2,296-seat theater with optimum production capabilities.
Accommodations venues in Lakeland comprise vacation homes and smaller national chain and independent properties; these are situated near major arterials affording easy access to Tampa, Orlando and downtown Lakeland. Heading the list is the 171-room Avenue Hotel Lakeland, with 1,576 square feet of meeting space; followed by the 105-room Hilton Garden Inn Lakeland, with 5,000 square feet of meeting space; and the 87-room Country Inn & Suites Lakeland with 1,000 square feet of meeting space.
Peppered with 38 lakes, the aptly named city is home to the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world at a single site at Florida Southern College; the corporate headquarters of Publix (one of the largest regional grocery store chains in the U.S.); and the spring training complex of the Detroit Tigers. For some added sizzle at an off-site venue, the Lakeland menu includes the Club at Eaglebrooke, home to a Ron-Garl designed golf course and special event facilities for up to 300, and the 1,400-seat Polk Theater, a wonderfully refurbished theater originally built in 1928 that's available for meetings, performances, receptions and film showings.
After intense meetings, recreation and relaxation opportunities abound near Lakeland. Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando are less than a 30-minute drive, as is Busch Gardens Tampa. Other options include Legoland in Winter Haven; and Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, which is home to more than 40 rare aircraft, aerial demonstrations, biplane rides and hot-air balloon excursions.
Lakeland's dining scene is dominated by reliable chain restaurants such as Carrabba's, LongHorn SteakHouse and Bonefish Grill.