Florida Friday Vol. 1, Issue 15 | December 18th, 2015

2016 is fast approaching and is anticipated to be another diverse and thrilling year for the Sunshine State. Not only will Florida be hosting the Invictus Games in Orlando in May and joining in the 100th anniversary celebrations of the U.S. National Parks Service in August, across the State a host of new attractions, events, hotels and experiences are set to expand on the nearly 11 million visitors who are attracted to the sandy shores each year. Here is a snippet of what's in store for 2016...

Panama City Beach's idyllic beach location will play host to the inaugural SpringJam country music festival in April, 2016. Over three days festivalgoers can enjoy sensational country music from the likes of Rascal Flatts, Thomas Rhett and Chris Young.

Gainesville recently unveiled a unique display of colourful, creative urban art collectively titled the 352walls project, which features talent of regional and international muralists using historic downtown buildings as a canvas. A second phase of the project is set to begin in February, 2016.

SeaWorld Parks & Resorts will launch Mako, Orlando's tallest, fastest and longest hypercoaster in summer, 2016. At 200-foot-tall it will reach speeds of up to 73 mph along 4,760 feet of steel track.

Bush Gardens Tampa will launch Cobra's Curse, a brand new, one-of-a-kind spin coaster, featuring a vertical lift which will take riders on a whirlwind adventure of exciting explorations.

Daytona Beach, "The Festival Capital of Florida" has an exciting 2016 lined-up. DAYTONA Rising, the $400 million reimagining of an American icon - Daytona International Speedway, is due to be completed in time for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, 2016 and the world famous DAYTONA 500 in February, 2016. The Country 500 Music Festival, also called 'The Great American Music Fest at Daytona,' will take place in May, 2016. The festival will feature the biggest stars in country music and will take place on the infield of the hallowed Daytona International Speedway, one of the most iconic motorsports venues in America.

Deland in West Volusia County will debut Florida's Cheese Festival in April, 2016. Over 35 varieties of cheese will be available for fromage lovers to savor and sample. There will also be cheese making demonstrations and cheese experts who will conduct beer and wine pairing seminars.

The newly extended Tampa Riverwalk will stretch 2.4 miles from Ulele to the Tampa Bay History Center once completed in spring 2016, linking downtown Tampa Bay's most popular attractions.

Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau will host the Taste Fort Lauderdale event series for the first time in February, 2016. The five day festival will feature internationally renowned talent and leaders of the hospitality industry at uniquely crafted events showcasing world-class wine, spirits, food, and fun.

In Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau the opening of Faena Hotel Miami Beach in November 2015 by Alan Faena and Len Blavatnik was the inauguration of the Faena District - only the second official designation of its kind in Miami's history. This new neighborhood is rooted in art and culture.

Florida Keys & Key West have a range of new restaurants and culinary experiences in store. Sample award-winning locally-brewed beers at the recently opened Waterfront Brewery, enjoy a cooking class with local chefs at Isle Cook Key West or indulge in gourmet Oceanside dining at Spencer's by the Sea at The Reach, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. Eight new properties with over 1000 rooms have opened, or are planning to open in 2016, spanning the length of The Keys, from Key Largo to Key West.

Sarasota's Nathan Benderson Park is the only International Rowing Federation approved course in North America and in 2016 will welcome the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, the World Rowing Championships in 2017 - the first United States destination to host the event since 1994 and it will host the World Rowing Masters Regatta in 2018. The Aloft, with its 139 stylish urban design rooms is set to open in February, 2016, a new Embassy Suites is set to open in the heart of Sarasota's vibrant downtown, late 2016, and The Westin is poised to open a brand new 255 room, full-service hotel with a rooftop pool overlooking Sarasota Bay in early 2017.

Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor Bureau will welcome the new Waterline Marina Resort & Beach Club in autumn 2016, marking the first ever full-service resort on Anna Maria Island. The boutique waterfront hotel on the east Shore of Anna Maria Island will offer exclusive amenities and numerous opportunities for guests to enjoy the authentic, laid-back, beach town vibe of Anna Maria Island and The Waterline Marina will be the center of aquatic activity at the resort.

The Paradise Coast will be launching the Keewaydin Express, a new water shuttle offering a water taxi service from a variety of Marco Island locations to Keewaydin Island's expansive, deserted beaches, which are only accessible by boat. A chic new signature restaurant at the newly expanded and renovated Inn on Fifth in downtown Naples is Avenue5, with executive chef David Nelson supervising the creation of cutting edge American cuisine. Naples Botanical Garden recently debuted the new Eleanor and Nicholas Chabraja Visitor Center and three new gardens: the LaGrippe Orchid Garden, Irma's Garden and Kathryn's Garden, all designed by famed landscape architect Raymond Jungles.

VISIT FLORIDA and Hertz would like to wish all readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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