Sunday, 19 February 2017

Looking Ahead to 2017 in the Sunshine State

- New hotels, restaurants, activities and attractions in Florida ~

With its theme parks, beaches and year-round sunshine, it's no wonder but there's so much more to the Sunshine State than sandy shores and high-octane thrills. From chic, urban centres to National Parks via shopping, dining and the thrill of the open road, Florida offers experiences to suit everybody.2017 is expected to be another bumper year for the Sunshine State, here's a brief overview of what is in store in Florida as we move into the new year.

Adventure Coast

A TreeUmph! Adventure Course spanning fifty acres of wooded landscape is due to open in February, 2017. Winding waterways, scenic salt marshes and the open Gulf of Mexico highlight a newly-mapped Adventure Coast Blueway paddling trail. Mapped and signed, the 1.57 mile trail will officially open on February 1, 2017.


Zota Beach Resort, formerly the “Hilton LongboatKey”, is set to open in early 2017. The $24 million property offers 187 guest rooms and suites in a secluded beach front setting with a stylish pool area, restaurant and chic wine bar.

For the first time in over twenty years, the World Rowing Championships will return to the United States and, more specifically, to the Bradenton Area's own Nathan Benderson Park from September 23 through October 1, 2017. The World Rowing Championship regatta is the biggest annual World Rowing event and the most important of the season, held over the course of eight days from September 23 to October 1, 2017.


Due to open in summer 2017, Brightline trains will provide a new express intercity passenger rail service connecting Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach initially, with the service being extended to Orlando in 2018. The trains will come equipped with all the expected mod-cons like Wi-Fi and power outlets for each seat, a food and beverage selection and bike and luggage storage. The 235-mile trip between Miami and Orlando will take approximately three hours, traveling at 125 miles per hour. It will take less than 30 minutes to get to Fort Lauderdale from Miami and under 60 minutes to get to West Palm Beach from Miami.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

A live version of the great stories from the Emmy nominated weekly show, The Wildlife Docs™, will take to the stage in May 2017, featuring live animals, video production, live ambassador presenters and performers in the park's Stanleyville Theatre. The show is directed by acclaimed Broadway director and choreographer Jeff Whiting.

Columbia County

Halpatter Brewing Company will be opening its doors in downtown Lake City in spring/summer of 2017, as Columbia County's first craft brewery. The Brewery will include a tap room and beer garden.

A digital trail map of the Alligator Lake Recreational Park has been released and is available on the SpringsRUs mobile app as well as Google My Maps. The map highlights the variety of nature trails, hiking and biking trails and recreational opportunities at Alligator Lake.

The Florida Keys & Key West

On Stock Island, the 20-acre Oceans Edge Key West Hotel & Marina is due to open in December with 175 spacious suites and rooms and six pools. In Key West, the new 22-room boutique H2O Suites Hotel is also due to open in December with luxury one-bedroom suites, a rooftop deck and pool, and 11 plunge pools.

The 14-acre, 144-room Playa Largo Resort & Spa at mile marker 97.5 in Key Largo has opened as the first new-build resort in the Upper Keys in 21 years. Also in Key Largo, Largo, a private sanctuary at mile marker 101.7 is open, welcoming guests to its indigenous mahogany, palm, buttonwood tree and orchid surrounded retreat. Little Basin Villas opened this summer in Islamorada's Arts District at mile marker 81.8, offering nine three-bedroom, 3.5-bath waterfront holiday rentals. The 36-room “Play Naughty, Sleep Saintly” themed The Saint Hotel Key West has been named an Autograph Collection Hotels member.

From December 16 through May 4, 2017, United Airlines will offer a daily non-stop service from Newark Liberty International Airport into Key West. United is to offer a Saturday-only non-stop service from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to Key West from January 7 through to April 29, 2017.

Greater Miami

Centrally located in Downtown Miami's waterfront Museum Park, Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is due to open in 2017. The museum will incorporate a state-of-the-art planetarium, dazzling exhibitions on living ecosystems, the miraculous human body, outer space, frontiers of technology and a vast aquarium complex.

The 10th Annual Life In Color (LIC) Festival Miami will take place at Mana and RC Cola Plant in Wynwood on January 16. The festival is a magnet for rambunctious paint partiers, drawing some of dance music's most colourful characters.

The City of Miami will become a first-time host of the Midsummer Classic when the 88th All-Star Game is played at Marlins Park on July 17, 2017.

LEGOLAND Florida Resort

LEGO® NINJAGO® World opens on January 12, 2017 adding an immersive area filled with several hands-on, outdoor activities where kids can sharpen their ninja skills before the ultimate showdown on LEGONINJAGO The Ride, a dazzling new attraction that blends 3D computer animation, “4D” effects and ground-breaking technology never seen outside a LEGOLAND theme park.

Construction continues on LEGOLAND Beach Retreat, which once complete will more than double the resort's on-site accommodations when themed bungalows open in mid-2017.

Ocala/Marion County

Silver Springs State Park is home to one of Ocala/Marion Counties most treasured landscapes. The newly constructed Ross Allen Trail, named in honour of the long-time Silver Springs reptile performer, offers a 1,600-foot boardwalk that leads to Ross Allen Island.


The Delaney Hotel will be a 54-room boutique hotel in SoDo, expected to be open by late spring 2017.Margaritaville Resort Orlando is expected to open in late 2017. The waterfront destination resort will offer187 rooms, 1,000 Margaritaville-themed vacation homes and 300 timeshare units.

The Polite Pig, sister restaurant of The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, is set to open in Disney Springs in spring 2017, led by local celebrity chefs James and Julie Petrakis. Circo Orlando, a part of Le Cirque Restaurant brand, will offer high-end Italian cuisine when it opens in mid-2017. The Edison, similar to its sister location in Los Angeles, will open its 1920s-era electric company themed doors this spring at Disney Springs.

The Palm Beaches

The Boca Raton Mandarin Oriental is set to debut in downtown Boca Raton in late 2017. The 158-room property will include two adjacent towers that will form part of an upscale mixed-use development featuring a world-class private club, which will offer social, fitness, spa and championship golf amenities. Canopy by Hilton Hotels will break ground in 2017 with a new 150-room, 14-story hotel, which will be built two blocks from City Place.

The Jupiter waterfront will welcome 1000 North, a new restaurant partly-owned by NBA star Michael Jordan, in 2017. This November, Culver's Butter Burgers & Frozen Custard, a popular restaurant chain in the upper Midwest, opens its first location in Jupiter.

The Delray Beach Marketplace will add four new restaurants in late 2016 and early 2017. These include Hoffman's Chocolates, Lucille's Bad to the Bone BBQ, Batch Gastropub and Menchie's Frozen Yogurt. The Warehouse District, an eclectic urban neighbourhood comprised of eight vintage-style buildings, is experiencing a transformation and will boast a New York-inspired food hall, Grange Hall Market when it opens in 2017. West Palm Beaches' first-ever brewery, Steam Horse Brewing, will be housed here and promises a wide variety of flavours that can be enjoyed from its 6,000 square-foot brewery and tasting room.

Due South Brewing Company is expanding their production facility allowing for an indoor beer garden, a large air conditioned tap room, a dedicated area for barrel aging and a sour program. Nano brewers Dominick Peri and Ken Gross recently open Prosperity Brewers in Boca Raton. The one-barrel brew house is located inside a 2,400-square-foot warehouse bay, part of which has been fashioned into a tasting room and lounge area.

The Ana Cecilia cargo ship was sunk 1.25 miles off the Lake Worth Inlet in 85-feet of water in July 2016. It's also the 45th ship to be scuttled in Palm Beach County in recent decades and will draw divers away from natural reefs, ensuring their sustainability. Art Boca Raton will launch the second edition of its annual fair from March 15 - 19, 2017 and will feature international galleries exhibiting modern, contemporary, and emerging art from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Panama City Beach

The newly renovated Sheraton Bay Point is home to an award-winning Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and is scheduled to be completed in December 2016. Boasting spacious rooms overlooking the Grand Lagoon, an award-winning spa, pool and fitness centre, the resort also offers access to golf and tennis facilities at the nearby Bay Point Golf & Tennis Club, home to two of the spectacular 18-hole golf courses.

Panama City Beach will host a number of exciting events in 2017 including UNwineD: Vines to Steins, the premier wine, craft beer and gourmet coastal fare experience from March 31 – April 1, 2017. After a successful inaugural year, SpringJam music festival returns April 28-29, 2017 for the two-day event which will see Darius Rucker and Sheryl Crow as the festival headliners.

Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach

Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens will be the first botanical and sculpture garden in Punta Gorda when it opens in September 2017. Seven large-scale sculptures will adorn the landscape of the 27-acre property, which will also feature boardwalks and docks.


Pensacola's downtown core will soon have its first new hotel in more than three decades. The new five-story, 106-room Holiday Inn Express Pensacola Downtown will be made to fit within the historical and architectural context of the Pensacola Historic District when it opens in spring 2017.

In late spring of 2017, two 75-foot, double-decker, 150-passenger catamaran ferries will begin services around Pensacola Bay, travelling between Downtown Pensacola, Pensacola Beach and Fort Pickens located at the Gulf Islands National Seashore on Santa Rosa Island. Each passage will last between 35 to 45 minutes.

SeaWorld Orlando

Electric Ocean will debut at SeaWorld parks in Orlando in summer 2017. This brand new, end-of-day spectacle event will see the lights and energy go up as the sun goes down, offering guests a different kind of fun after dark. The ocean comes to life with bioluminescent lighting, music and pathway entertainment, immersing guests in a glowing sea of wonder.

SeaWorld will also debut its first digitally enhanced ride experience as the legendary Kraken roller coaster is transformed into a virtual reality (VR) roller coaster experience, making this thrill ride the only VR coaster experience in Florida.

SeaWorld Orlando's Dolphin Nursery will become more interactive in summer 2017, giving guests the opportunity to see mother and baby dolphins up close like never before. Large-scale acrylic windows will offer better guest viewing, including multiple levels to provide children a face-to-face perspective with the baby dolphins.

The Seven Seas Food Festival, a popular music and food event, will debut in Orlando in 2017, expanding SeaWorld Orlando's popular music and food events to a total of 14 weekends.

St. Lucie County

The Tug Kathleen, a 70 foot steel tugboat was recently sunk 15 miles off the coast of Fort Pierce. This new artificial reef is destined to become a popular spot for local fish and sea creatures, attracting divers and fishermen alike.

Becker Preserve on the North Fork of the St. Lucie River in Fort Pierce will open to the public later this autumn offering a boardwalk trail or visitors can make their own path through woods.

The Savannas Recreation Area has opened a new paved walking trail through the wetlands of the savannas. At the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, you can put your skills to the test with the Navy SEAL Obstacle Course. Run, jump, balance and climb your way through this tough course.

St. Pete/Clearwater

When it opens in February 2017, the high-end Wyndham Grand Resort will be the biggest hotel/resort on Clearwater Beach with 343 luxuriously appointed guest rooms, spectacular waterfront vistas, a waterside bar and restaurant. The reincarnated Fenway Hotel, a 1920's-era building which will feature a strong historical influence, is on pace to open in February 2017. Hyatt Place in Downtown St. Pete is due to open late 2017 with its 175 rooms forming part of a larger mixed-use development called One St. Petersburg. Allure Suites Hotel-Beachfront Resort on St. Pete Beach is set to open in 2017 expanding the condo-hotel from 39 to 66 units.

The Dali Museum will debut an exhibition of Frida Kahlo, one of the 20th Century's most renowned artists, from December 17 - April 17, 2017. The collection includes 15 paintings, a series of drawings and personal photographs, and extends outdoors, where a collection of flowers and plants representative of Kahlo's own garden will grace the grounds of the Dali's Avant-Garden. The Dali will also be hosting a Dali-Duchamp exhibit from February 2018 - April 2018.

St. Augustine

The hugely popular Downton Abbey TV series will be brought to life at the St. Augustine's Lightner Museum which will host Dressing Downton, Changing Fashion for Changing Times, an exquisite exhibition of 36 authentic Victorian Era costumes and accessories from the drama series. The exhibition runs October 4, 2017 – January 7, 2018, and presents a costume history of the period surrounding World War I - a fine selection from the series' wardrobe reflects on the changing times through fashion from 1912 to the mid-1920s.


The Centre of Tallahassee redevelopments are underway and will include cobblestone streets, three murals curated by Street Art Tallahassee, a 10,000-seat amphitheatre, the campus of Tallahassee's School of Arts and Sciences (a top ranked charter school), Dreamland BBQ, Barnes and Noble, Urban Food Market, a local brewery and movie theatre as well as a wide variety of restaurants and retail shops.

The “Capital City to the Sea Trail” weaves together more than 600 miles of trails allowing pedestrians and cyclists to explore the natural beauty of the destination. Within the city, the trail will link to the Tallahassee - St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail, an existing 20-mile-long, rails-to-trails route that runs from the Tallahassee to St. Marks on the Gulf Coast. The trail network will eventually extend into other neighbouring counties, along the abandoned Georgia, Florida & Alabama Railroad corridor, the U.S. 98coastal highway and Ochlockonee Bay Trail.

Tru by Hilton will add 90 guest rooms to the Southeast corridor of town when it opens in 2017 and the Hampton Inn & Suites with its 124 guest rooms will make its debut in 2018. Additional properties slated to open in 2017 include a 180-room Drury Inn & Suites and another Holiday Inn offering 103 rooms.

Table 23 puts a contemporary spin on traditional Southern comfort with a large front porch ideal for families wishing to dine al fresco under canopied oak trees and oversized chandeliers. Centrale Italian restaurant offers an extensive wine menu – including wine on tap, while Madison Social is planning on opening a beer garden in the area, featuring a retractable roof, set to open mid November 2016.

For beer lovers, the Tallahassee Brew Bus offers behind the scenes tours and a new way of cruising around town sampling the best brews in the Capital City. The tour includes stops at Proof Brewing Company, Lake Tribe Brewing, Deep Brewing and Grasslands Brewing, and offers a tour of each facility and a free pint/flight of tasty brews.

The Museum of Florida History will showcase award-winning landscape photographer Clyde Butcher's work February 1 – April 30, 2017. Butcher has captured the untouched natural landscapes of North America in a stunning editorial display of black and white photographs, consisting mostly of the Florida Everglades.

Tampa Bay

A monthly celebration of Downtown Tampa's rich arts and culture scene takes place on the fourth Friday of each month and in 2017 Fourth Friday will includes discounts, tours or free admission to Riverwalk attractions. The Riverwalk will host the biennial Lights on Tampa art festival in February.

The open-air Hyde Park Village near downtown is expanding for 2017, adding restaurants and high-end retailers. Tampa's local brewers produce award-winning drafts, and in 2017 Rock Brothers Brewing will blend beer and music at their Ybor City site. In 2017 food halls will bring a dynamic vibe to historic Tampa Heights. Sample the fare at Hall on Franklin or Armature Works, both historic buildings reborn as modern eateries.

The Cross Bay Ferry will link Tampa and St. Petersburg from November to May with trips departing from the Tampa Convention Center.

The AC Hotel by Marriott will be a new addition to Tampa Bay's hotel offering and changes are in store for The Paramount, formerly InterContinental Tampa, and for Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, which has added a wellness-focused floor.

In 2017 Iceland Air will join Tampa Bay's international carriers, which includes daily British Airways flights from London Gatwick. The award-winning Tampa International Airport wraps up a $1 billion expansion with new options for shopping and dining, including a new outdoor dining terrace.

Universal Orlando Resort

Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort is set to open June 1, 2017. The all-new water park promising innovative, thrilling attractions, peaceful moments of relaxation and an entirely new guest experience. A highly themed, completely immersive environment is planned, inspired by postcard-perfect tropical islands. “Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon” is a new ride for 2017 which invites guests to join the Tonight Show's studio audience on the ultimate race through the streets and skies of New York City.

Walt Disney World

Pandora - The World of AVATAR at Disney's Animal Kingdom will open is set to be the largest expansion in the park's history. Based on the popular James Cameron film, the new land will feature floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and a Banshee flying attraction, as well as new after-dark entertainment. Miss Fortune Falls at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, a new family-style raft ride, is set to open in spring 2017 and will send visitors ascending to the top of the attraction before plunging into a white-water adventure.

The makeover of the Dolphin Hotel is one step closer to completion. The 1,509-room Dolphin redesign is scheduled for completion by the end of 2017.

As the Sunshine State's No. 1 industry, tourism was responsible for welcoming 106.6 million visitors in 2015 who spent $108.8 billion and support 1.4 million Florida jobs. According to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, for every $1 the state invests in VISIT FLORIDA – the official tourism marketing corporation for the State of Florida – $3.20 in tax revenue is generated. 

VISIT FLORIDA promotes tourism to Florida through sales, advertising, promotions, public relations and visitor services programs. As a public/private partnership, VISIT FLORIDA serves more than 12,000 tourism industry businesses, including major strategic alliance partnerships with Busch Gardens Tampa, Disney Destinations, The Hertz Corporation, LEGOLAND Florida Resort, SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando, Simon Shopping Destinations and Universal Orlando Resort. To learn more about VISIT FLORIDA, please go to or follow us on our industry social media channels:, Facebook and Twitter @FloridaTourism.

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