Florida has received at least 100 million visitors every year since 2015, with the exception of 2020 due to the pandemic. With an average temperature of 70.15 degrees and 1,350 miles of coastline, it’s no wonder the state is such a popular place to visit.
It’s also a popular place for conferences and events, with full-service hotels, retreat centers and conference centers in most of the state’s metropolitan areas. Here, we highlight three of the Sunshine State’s faith-based conference centers to consider for your future meetings.
Location: 110 acres in Bradenton, Fla.
Airports: Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (20 miles) or Tampa International Airport (55 miles)
Affiliations: Nondenominational Christian
Occupancy: 95 hotel-style rooms, mostly doubles
Meeting space: 27,000 square feet with a sanctuary that seats 1,000 and eight additional meeting rooms that can accommodate groups as small as 12 or as large as 350; plus a gymnasium that can be broken into three sections: a meeting room section with a large screen, a multipurpose room for inside sports and a concession area for seated meal functions
F&B: On-site dining hall
Amenities: Swimming pool, basketball court, volleyball court, tennis court, shuffleboard, canoes, fire pit and open fields for outdoor activities
What makes it unique: Individuals can book lodging here as if it were a hotel.
Location: 97 acres in Parrish, Fla. (40 miles south of Tampa)
Airports: Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (18 miles) or Tampa International Airport (50 miles)
Occupancy: Divided into dorms with bunk beds that sleep 200 youth, and cabins and cottages that sleep 81 adults
Meeting space: The largest meeting room can hold approximately 315 people. The campus has additional meeting rooms that hold as few as 15 and as many as 135 people.
F&B: On-site dining room that seats 175 (without social distancing), plus a porch where an additional 30 people can be fed
Amenities: Labyrinth and prayer garden, library, practice fields for outdoor sports, basketball courts, volleyball courts, pool, outdoor chapel, canopy treetop walk, fire pit, canoes, high ropes course, low ropes challenge course and tree climbing courses
What makes it unique: “We focus on mental health, wellness and resiliency,” says Anne Vickers, CFO of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida. “Dayspring has developed mental health initiatives as a part of our core offerings related to mental health. We have access to on-site trainers to help groups become more aware of early recognition of substance and mental health issues, like mental health first aid. If groups renting our facility want to add on a day to get certified as a group, they can.”
Location: 288 acres in Leesburg, Fla., including a mile of lakefront property
Airport: Orlando Sanford International Airport (60 miles)
Affiliation: Baptist. “Like-minded nonprofits and affiliated churches are welcome,” says Ashlee Roberts, the center’s director of marketing and development. “As Southern Baptists, we affirm both the Baptist Faith and Message and the Nashville Statement. These documents clearly outline our position on biblical, social, personal and political issues.”
Accommodations: Hotel rooms and bunkhouses, plus one apartment with multiple beds and a full kitchen. Additionally, the property offers sites for RV and tent camping.
Meeting space: There are conference centers: The Raintree Education Center has an auditorium that seats 300, with customizable breakout rooms and media center classrooms; the John C. Maguire Auditorium seats nearly 1,000 people and has breakout spaces with flexible configurations.
F&B: On-site dining hall
Amenities: Canoes, nine-hole disc golf course, practice fields, swimming pool, basketball courts, volleyball courts, cornhole, high ropes course, low ropes course, fishing ponds, boat ramp, playgrounds, baseball fields, fire pits and traditional camp games
What makes it unique: “There’s no hustle and bustle around here! We’re away from everything,” Roberts says. “Our team is dedicated to giving you the complete experience, allowing you to have peace and quiet—enabling you to reflect on what you are truly out here to do: Grow a deeper relationship with God.”
Image: Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center