Often sultry by day, Florida gets even steamier when the sun goes down, as clubs, lounges, bars and other venues light up the night from the Panhandle to the Keys.
But don’t take our word for it. Our event professionals have the final word on what’s hot beneath the cool tropical moon.
Nadene Grossman Orr, president, We’ve Got the Keys, Key West
- The Smokin’ Tuna Saloon (www.smokintunasaloon.com): The Smokin’ Tuna Saloon is a newer venue in town but has that Old Key West charm. I love to bring my groups there because they have great live music. The owner produces the Key West Songwriter’s Festival with me, so the music is a top priority. They also have a really great inside function room and offer a private bar area with some of the best bartenders in town.
- La Te Da (www.lateda.com): In true Key West flair, I would recommend La Te Da, which has true cabaret performances upstairs, so groups can have dinner downstairs then go upstairs for the show. We have a huge drag culture here in Key West, and La Te Da features some really top-notch female impersonators. Groups can buy out the cabaret if they choose.
- Bar Crawls: A bar crawl through Old Town is something I do often with groups. That way, you’re hitting a lot of different venues, including Conch Republic Seafood, the Hog’s Breath Saloon, the Lazy Gecko and Sloppy Joe’s, and you can pre-arrange the signature cocktail at each place. It’s just a fun way to experience Key West. And we can even create a T-shirt to commemorate the experience.
Susan Greenstein, manager of sales, Miami chapter of Kuoni Destination Management, South Beach
- Nikki Beach Miami (www.nikkibeach.com): Nikki Beach on South Beach has to be one of Miami’s great nightspots. It’s very iconic and very much a quintessential Miami experience. It’s also the only place here where you can actually party right on the sand. It’s just a very hip club and has become a landmark for parties. You’ll find a cool VIP feel about it, with hammocks and teepees and casual furniture. It’s very “St. Tropez meets Miami” with a tropical outdoor atmosphere. We’ve done so many events at Nikki and there are a lot of group options. They can privatize a few areas, including a garden area and a few more spots that can be roped off.
- Bongo’s Cuban Cafe (www.bongoscubancafe.com): Bongo’s Cuban Cafe in downtown Miami is the perfect fusion of Miami and Latin America that our city has become famous for. It gives you that unique blend of Cuban cuisine and the nostalgia of Havana in the 1950s, while also being owned by Gloria Estefan, who’s like a local hero. The setting is just amazing, overlooking the Port of Miami and Biscayne Bay, and inside, Bongo’s has a beautiful tropical Deco feel. We’ve had groups stay at the InterContinental who were able to walk over, and anyone staying at the Marriott Marquis can walk over as well. Bayside is also very close, and there are a few yachts docking there that we charter as well, so we can offer a seamless nightlife experience in downtown Miami.
- 1111 Lincoln Road (www.1111lincolnroad.com): 1111 Lincoln Road is actually a parking garage, but they rent out the top floor for events. In fact, a few years ago the idea of parking garage rooftops as event venues became popular, so that’s how this came about. It’s 25,000 square feet and you get a fabulous view of the city, plus it’s very breezy and comfortable, even in summer. They take out the parking bumpers and we can set it up any way the group wants.
Jaime McCabe, director of events, Plan Ahead Events, Fort Lauderdale
- W Fort Lauderdale (www.wfortlauderdalehotel.com): The W Fort Lauderdale has two phenomenal spaces. The Living Room is right off the lobby and has an incredible 20-foot bar, plus an outdoor terrace that overlooks the beach if groups want a separate area. Theother lounge is Whiskey Blue, which has this really avant-garde look to it, with brass barstools and intimate booth seating if you want some privacy. Both spaces are really beautiful and modern, very versatile for groups, with a classy appeal.
- Briny Irish Pub on 2nd (www.brinyirishpubs.com): Briny Irish Pub on 2nd has a casual atmosphere, but very energetic, so it creates a vibe different from any place I’ve ever been. They play nightclub music from the ’80s to today, but it’s all driven by videos, so what you’re hearing is what you’re seeing on TV. The DJ mixes videos the way some DJs mix songs. I’ve never seen anything like it before. No matter where you look, you see video screens. So it’s a really cool place.
- Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (www.seminolehardrockhollywood.com): The Seminole Hard Rock is probably the largest entertainment facility in Broward County. They’ve just got so much to do, you could be there for the entire evening and not see or do the same thing twice. There’s a huge arena where they host concerts a few times a week. They have a comedy club and dance clubs like Opium, which is sophisticated and has a South Beach feel, plus it has VIP rooms for privacy. But Hard Rock also offers casual spots where you can just hang out and have a drink. If you’re dining, there are themed sit-down restaurants and quick spots to grab a bite. The variety is just amazing. Then there’s the casino of course, but you don’t even have to gamble to have a full night of entertainment at Hard Rock.
Paget Kirkland, president, Kirkland Event & Destination Services, West Palm Beach
- Ragtops (www.ragtopsmotorcars.com): Ragtops would be my first recommendation [for a nighttime group experience]. It’s a vintage car museum that also has great event space. Everything’s all on one level, and you can do cocktails on one side, then these roll screens go up, the band strikes up and you get the big “reveal” for dinner. Then while people are eating dinner, we can bring the roll screens down and create a casino, so that when they’re finished, they can enjoy gaming. It’s such a versatile venue. Another thing we can do is have the CEO or a VIP drive in with a Marilyn Monroe look-alike perched on the back of a convertible. It creates that wow factor. We’ve also had Blues Brothers look-alikes drive in. People get into it and want to dress ’50s-style. They love it because everybody’s got a car story whether you’re 20 or 80.
- Yachts: Yacht cruises are another really good option, especially for groups coming from landlocked areas or from up north during the winter. They really enjoy getting out on the water. We do a lot of yacht cruises—anything from 20 people to 350 people—for cocktails, dinners and sunset cruises. It really ends up being a Palm Beach tour because that open water is a front door to these breathtaking, opulent mansions. Normally, if you’re driving by, you get the hedges and the walls and you can’t see anything.
- The Flagler Museum (www.flaglermuseum.us): The Flagler Museum is one of our premier nighttime event venues. For one thing, it’s the former estate of Henry Flagler, who basically created Palm Beach and other Florida cities. Flagler’s original railcar, No. 91, is now part of a pavilion space that can host 250 people, and there are other event spaces as well, including these incredibly lavish rooms with period furnishings. Sometimes people take their cue from the furnishings and get into the Gilded Age or Gatsby mood and dress accordingly. We’ve also had black-tie events with docents giving short tours as people enjoy their cocktails. I would say a good size group for an evening at the museum would be about 150 people.
Erin Cook, president ESquared Meetings & Events, Orlando
- Epcot (www.disneyworld.com): When groups come into Orlando and have one or two evenings free, usually the attractions are somewhere in the equation, and 90 percent of the time we do Disney, Universal or SeaWorld. But I would say the most popular park for nighttime group functions is Epcot because the restaurants are really neat and they’re themed well. From what I’ve seen, Epcot’s different “countries” appeal to corporate groups, and the park works really well for international groups as well. If a group wanted to be a little separate from the crowd, they could also have a private viewing of the IllumiNations fireworks and laser show from one of the patios.
- CityWalk (www.citywalk.com): CityWalk at Universal Orlando is another really hot spot. They have all kinds of dance clubs, including the Red Coconut Club and the Latin Quarter. Really, there’s something for everyone there, even if people have different tastes. The great thing, too, is that you can rent those different venues and even rent several right in a row just for your group. Another popular thing to do is have an event at one of the parks, which are right there, and then give everyone CityWalk passes.
- SeaWorld (www.seaworld.com): SeaWorld can also be rented out at night, and one of the most popular options is renting out a beach at Discovery Cove. The group can do a beach party or a luau-type event with a family from Hawaii who come in and perform in the typical Hawaiian style, including dancing right on the beach. It’s like you’re in your own little oasis instead of at SeaWorld. It’s really a natural setting and I would say one of the most unique locations in Orlando because you really feel like you’re in Hawaii even though you’re right by the Orange County Convention Center. Literally, you could be at the convention center and within 10 minutes, have your shoes off and be standing in the sand with a tropical drink. That’s how close it is. It just doesn’t feel like you’re right off International Drive.
- Park Avenue (www.parkavenue.com): Park Avenue offers something totally different from the typical Orlando experience. It’s part of a more traditional neighborhood in Winter Park and not so touristy. There are all kinds of neat shops, there’s a boat tour through Winter Park that groups can take, plus the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum, which is famous for its Tiffany Glass collection. So there’s culture, there’s great shopping, and the area also has fantastic restaurants, cafes and wine bars Groups can enjoy it all on their own, or we can make some arrangements, like pre-purchase the boat tour or do private boat tours. We can also pre-purchase museum tickets then give people a few hours to shop and meet afterward for dinner and a wine tasting where they’ll get about $25 worth of wine on a card. There are a couple of places on Park Avenue where you put the card into something like a wine machine and it dispenses a sample. It’s pretty nice, and people love it.