Travel tips: Make the most of your trip to the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando
An engaging blend of a massive trade show, glitzy product display and fun networking party, the PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando attracts more than 40,000 attendees every year.
Now in its 60th year, "The Show," as most attendees call it, can be overwhelming with more than 10 miles of aisles lined with booths and displays.
I've attended The Show for the past 16 years and can offer these simple tips:
1. Determine a good transportation strategy (take a complimentary bus from one of many designated hotels or pre-plan where to park).
2. Formulate a pre-show list of the booths you definitely want to visit and the people you want to meet.
3. Wear comfortable shoes for those miles of aisles.
4. Have fun and enjoy the parties and social aspects of the show.
As an Orlando resident, not surprisingly, I'm asked by many out-of-town friends/attendees to suggest places for golf, dining, nightlife and entertainment.
Places to play golf in Orlando
The nearest place to tee up (two blocks from the OCCC) is Shingle Creek Golf Club, a resort course designed by Dave Harman that's typically jammed during Show week.
For those who don't mind driving 20 minutes, some excellent choices are Stoneybrook West, an Arthur Hills design; West Orange Country Club, a tree-laden Lloyd Clifton course, and Windermere Country Club, which is set between two lakes.
Within 30 minutes of the OCCC are exceptional layouts such as the luxurious Bella Collina near Clermont -- which has amazing undulations -- and Orange County National, home to two championship courses, Crooked Cat and Panther Lake.
Just a three-minute walk from the OCCC is The Pointe, an upscale dining, shopping and entertainment complex brimming with dining options. There's something for everyone, including Copper Canyon Grill (American), Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar (Cuban), Maggiano's Little Italy (Italian), Taverna Opa (Greek), The Capital Grille (steak), Oceanaire Seafood Room (seafood) and The Pub (British).
A five-minute drive from the OCCC is an area on Sand Lake Road known as "Restaurant Row," where you'll find more than 30 restaurants. Heading the extensive dining menu here is Roy's (Hawaiian fusion), Rocco's Tacos (Mexican and a Tequila bar), Moonfish (seafood and steaks), Eddie V's (seafood) and Ocean Prime (seafood and steaks).
The place to see and be seen for the cocktail crowd is at the expansive lobby bar in the Hyatt Regency Orlando, situated directly across the street from the OCCC.
The Pointe has nightlife options such as B.B. King's Blues Club, Minus5 Ice Bar, Improv Comedy Club & Fat Fish Blue and a 20-screen Regal Cinemas theater.
About a 10-minute drive from the OCCC is Universal CityWalk, a sprawling entertainment complex highlighted by nightclub possibilities such as The Groove, Pat O'Brien's, Hard Rock Live and Bob Marley-A Tribute to Freedom.
Fishing and hunting
Kissimmee, about a 20-minute drive from the OCCC, is world renowned for its largemouth bass fishing on the upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. A wide variety of guide services are available. A helpful listing of guides is available at experiencekissimmee.com
For hunters, Ross Hammock Ranch, about a two-hour drive west of the OCCC near the town of Crystal River, is a sprawling private ranch with more than 10 miles of border where you can hunt for native and exotic wildlife.
Beaches within reach
For those escaping snow and ice up north who want to thaw out, the closest beach to Orlando's tourist corridor is Cocoa Beach, about a 45-minute drive via the FL-528 toll road.
Other great beaches within a 60 to 90 minute drive are Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Canaveral National Seashore and Melbourne Beach.
For members of your traveling party who don't play golf, there's much to do beyond the theme parks.
The most popular shopping options are Premium Outlets on International Drive with more than 180 stores and the ultra-luxurious Mall at Millennia. A fun full-day activity is visiting Winter Park -- a quaint, New England-style village three miles north of downtown Orlando -- which is loaded with shops, restaurants and museums.
January 16, 2015