If you had to name the top two cities in the U.S. for food-lovers, would you guess Orlando is one of them? If not, I'm pleased to surprise you with the happy news that we are No. 2 in the nation (behind Portland, Oregon), according to Wallethub.
The rankings were based on two key factors: "affordability" and "diversity, accessibility and quality" — and we certainly score high in both!
At Visit Orlando, spreading awareness about our incredible dining scene is one of the most rewarding aspects of our job — we love eating here as much as you do! — and we're proud that over the past 16 years, Visit Orlando's Magical Dining has generated considerable publicity for restaurants across our destination.
Speaking of, more than 75 restaurants have now opted to be part of our recently extended signature program, which is now serving three-course meals for $37 through Oct. 17. Head to OrlandoMagicalDining.com for menus and reservations, all in support of a great cause.
Orlando: Most Booked Destination for Thanksgiving and Christmas
As we near the winter holidays, a historically popular visitation period for our destination, we can expect higher hotel occupancy rates, due to the combination of pent-up demand and international travel resuming. Supporting this projection, Hopper's Holiday Travel Guide Report lists Orlando as the most booked U.S. destination for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2019, the average occupancy rate for Dec. 26-31 was 91%. Currently, the booking pace for that stretch is about 85% of where we stood at this point in 2019. For the week ending Oct. 2, Metro Orlando hotel occupancy dipped 5.5 percentage points to 46.7%, returning to the levels it had been for most of August and September. Average daily rate was down $1.59 to $113.20.
IMMERSE 2021 Heading to Downtown Orlando
The popular downtown art, music and culture festival IMMERSE is back Oct. 15-16, 5 to 11 p.m., featuring hundreds of performances and enhanced safety measures. Catch aerialists swinging from scaffolding high above Orange Avenue, be delighted by unexpected creative encounters with interactive art, and enjoy other immersive experiences that will challenge your perceptions. Performances from the Orlando Ballet, Orlando Philharmonic, Central Florida Community Arts and more will also be on display. You won't want to miss it!
OCCC Launches "Business Better than Usual" Campaign
The OCCC has successfully welcomed 130 conventions, trade shows, meetings, consumer and sporting events since July 2020. While most convention centers and meeting facilities are just beginning to get back to business, the OCCC is doing "Business Better than Usual" through its expert knowledge of hosting safe, successful events.
Looking ahead to next fiscal year, the Center is expecting to host 125 events, welcoming approximately 1.5 million attendees and generating $3.1 billion in economic impact from Oct. 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022.
L to R: Laura Kelley, Central Florida Expressway Authority; Roseann Harrington, Orange County Government; Casandra Matej, Visit Orlando; artist Jefrë; Mark Tester, Orange County Convention Center; Kelly Cohen, The Southern Group.
Orlando's "50 Most Powerful"
This week, I was honored to be featured in Orlando Magazine's 50 Most Powerful People of 2021 for Tourism & Transportation. I am both humbled and inspired to be named among so many incredible leaders across our destination, including the seven other Tourism & Transportation honorees:
Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort
Bill Davis, president of Universal Orlando Resort
Harris Rosen, president & COO of Rosen Hotels & Resorts
Christopher Jaskiewicz, president & CEO of ICON Park
Maria Triscari, president & CEO of the International Drive Resort Area Chamber of Commerce
Laura Kelley, executive director of the Central Florida Expressway Authority
Phil Brown, CEO of Orlando International Airport
Pride Week and the Bid to Host WorldPride
On Monday, our team joined Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, business organizations and city officials at a kickoff reception by Come Out with Pride to celebrate the start of Pride Week and discuss plans for our upcoming 2026 WorldPride bid.
Orlando is a strong contender to host WorldPride, an international celebration of the LGBTQ+ community held in a different city every year. As 2026 will be the 10th anniversary of Pulse, it's a fitting time to welcome thousands of attendees for an LGBTQ+ rights conference, festival events and perhaps the biggest parade Central Florida has ever seen.
Visit Orlando is joining efforts to bring WorldPride 2026 to our destination, as this event will truly showcase the strength, unity and diversity of our amazing community. Learn more about how you can be involved here.
Welcome New Members
Please join me in recognizing our newest members. These companies are committed to working with us to brand, market and sell our destination, and we welcome their engagement!