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Abundant sunshine, miles of coastline and an explosion of cultural finds are all event planners need to know to vault Miami to the top of their short list for meeting destinations.

Last year Miami saw 15.2 million visitors. Fueled by a significant post-recession investment in tourism infrastructure, the city anticipates a 5 percent increase in 2015, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Nowhere is Miami’s growth and transformation more dramatic than downtown. The residential population has doubled since the recession, and more than 400 new restaurants have opened here since 2009. “A cultural renaissance jump-started by the internationally acclaimed Art Basel Miami has inspired more than 60 artist studios downtown,” says Javier Betancourt, deputy director at the Miami Downtown Development Authority. Downtown Miami also has more four- and five-star hotels than anywhere in Florida, with 12 new openings scheduled over the next two years.

Cultural attractions like the Perez Art Museum, Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center and Bayside Market Place complement the beach, and exciting developments are afoot. Later this year, Miami Beach Convention Center will undergo a $500 million renovation and expansion, increasing its total meeting and exhibition space by nearly 30 percent—to nearly 1.5 million square feet—by 2017.

“We have the enviable combination of being a tropical and cosmopolitan destination,” says Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer, GMCVB. “Groups love exploring Little Havana, art deco touring and eclectic shopping, as well as visiting our fabulous beaches.”

Strictly by Design

Miami’s Design District opens a fascinating window into innovations in fashion, design, art, architecture and distinctive shopping. Cultural programming and design are married with art and architecture in this LEED-Gold Certified neighborhood project, the first such designation in Miami Dade County and the 33rd in the entire United States.

This once-abandoned area now hosts 46 luxury brands. Cartier, Tiffany, Hermes, Celine, Christian Louboutin, Luminaire, and Prada all have shops in the Miami Design District.

MDD offers several distinctive multi-function event spaces where groups receive red carpet treatment.

Wrap your event around the iconic Buckminster Fuller Fly’s Eye Dome at the District’s central Palm Court where the open air space accommodates a reception for 250 or 150 seated.

The historic Moore Building built in 1921 hosts groups up to 3000 standing or 1000 seated. Attendees are enthralled here by the site specific installation, “Elastika,” created by Iraqi- born London based artist Zaha Hadid.

Hit the Links
In Miami, Doral is synonymous with world-class golf. Trump National Doral’s Blue Monster serves as host to the PGA’s annual WGC – Cadillac Championship. The course is in its best shape ever after Trump turned to renowned course architect Gil Hanse, designer of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics course, for a comprehensive renovation just over a year ago.

Your group can access the same top flight instruction as the pros at Jim McLean Golf School, where McLean’s sophisticated digital swing analysis and high-tech BodiTrak instruction help golfers turn bogies into birdies. Host a half-day clinic here followed by a tournament on the Blue Monster or one of its three other signature courses.

Easy In, Out and Around
Miami International Airport is the second busiest airport in the United States, with more than 100 carriers and direct access nationwide. It’s a 15-minute drive from downtown and 30 minutes from the beach. Hop on Miami’s light rail Orange Line for direct service to the city center.

Once downtown, the electrically powered Metromover connects riders with 21 stations, stopping at all major center city destinations.

PortMiami is home to seven cruise terminals designed for accessibility and effortless transfers. Meet and cruise possibilities provide for intriguing optional incentive offerings.

Get Outside
In Miami, event venues go way beyond basic ballrooms. “There’s no more stunning alfresco space than the newly opened Perez Art Museum Miami,” says Betancourt. Designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron (known for Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium), PAMM’s terraced outdoor plaza overlooks Biscayne Bay. The venue’s east portico has about 12,000 square feet of event space, accommodating a reception for 1,200 or a banquet for 500. It’s popular among the star set, too—it was here that Sir Richard Branson announced First Virgin Cruise Ships’ upcoming Miami launch.

Opened in April, new-to-the-scene 1 Hotel South Beach’s breezy rooftop bar and lounge is a choice spot for more intimate gatherings, with incredible ocean views, serious craft cocktails and Latin-inspired bites.

Suite Spot
High atop the 20th floor at the Mandarin Oriental Miami VIP’s enjoy the Oriental Suite, a one of kind escape with a stunning wrap-around private balcony affording stunning skyline views.

This Presidential Suite is complete with fireplace, formal dining room, piano, oversized master bath, and a media presentation room with theater seating. Luciano Pavarotti christened the comprehensive chef ready kitchen.

A full bar set up awaits execs as does an array of services such as high speed internet, valet pressing, airport transportation and butler service.

Unusual requests are the specialty of the staff here who recently arranged private seaplane transport for a VIP couple to a secluded island dining experience.

Latin Flavor
The gateway to Latin America swings both ways with an influx of Central and South Americans moving to Miami. Lucky for diners, they’re bringing their culinary traditions with them.

“One of my new favorites is Coya,” said Betancourt. “It’s Peruvian with a contemporary flair.” Located in the luxe Brickell neighborhood, the Miami outpost of the London-based concept by restaurateur Arjun Waney opened in March.

Coya can comfortably host up to 225 guests for a private event. Specialties from the sea top their signature dishes with Lubina Clasico, Mediterranean seabass, red onion, sweet potato and white corn, leading the list of menu musts. Coya’s Bife de Chorizo, a Josper sirloin with chimichurri and tamarind salsa, is an off the grill favorite. Be sure to enjoy a signature Pisco Sour cocktail in one of the most dramatic dining rooms in the city.

Local Intel
Melina Martinez, media relations director at GMVCB, shares her Miami favorites:

Restaurants: Barton G.; Wynwood Kitchen & Bar; Soho Bay
Off-Site Venues: Vizcaya; Coral Gables Country Club
Shopping: Bal Harbor Shops; Aventura Mall
Must–Sees: Wynwood Walls-outdoor street art; The PAMM
Hidden Gem: Little Havana, especially during the monthly cultural street party, Viernes Culturales