The venerable Peabody hotel gets a dazzling makeover.
When the $90 million Peabody Orlando opened on Nov. 1, 1986, the convention center across International Drive was just finding its legs, a one-day ticket to Disney’s Magic Kingdom cost $24.50, and the Orlando Magic were still three years away from playing their first game.
Of course, everything about Orlando has exploded since then—growth, ticket prices, basketball fever. And in late September the Peabody spread its duck wings big time with the opening of a dazzling expansion that elevates it to the 13th largest nongaming hotel in the country.
And, yes, those waddling mallard mascots still put on a good show.
Here are some facts, figures and random observations about the new Peabody:
1. The project cost nearly as much as Amway Center. That’s right. The Peabody expansion cost $450 million; the tab for Amway was $480 million. Nearly a billion bucks for ducks and dunks. Who knew?
2. It’s big. The new tower features 750 rooms and suites, bringing the total number of rooms to 1,641 (all of the existing rooms were remodeled). The spacious lobby areas look bigger than they are with their off-angle ceilings, plenty of natural light and lots of intriguing architectural curves and textures (left) . Drawing conventions and meetings is a priority, so there’s 300,000 square feet of space for that. The Grand Ballroom, at 55,000 square feet, is bigger than all the previous meeting space in the Peabody combined. There are several other big ballrooms, plus 99 breakout rooms for smaller meetings.
3. The bathroom mirrors have TVs in them. Ever since the cellphone made the landline in the loo obsolete, we’ve been looking for some other measure of excess. And this is it. With an LCD TV built into the vanity mirror in every bathroom, you can watch reality shows as you escape reality soaking in the tub (there’s a remote, of course) Another gee-whiz, high-tech feature in the Peabody rooms: motion sensors that trigger low-level lighting underneath nightstands and desks, so that you can find your way to the bathroom at 3 a.m. without stubbing your toe.
4. The new duck master’s name is Donald. And would you believe that his assistant is Uncle Scrooge McDuck? Didn’t think so. Seriously, Donald Tompkins (left) is the man in red who guides the four hens and one drake on their daily red-carpet sojourn from duck suite to elevator to lobby fountain and back in the original tower. (It’s called a march, but these ducks can do some serious running.) Tompkins seems to have a way with animals. He previously worked with penguins, sea lions and seals at SeaWorld Orlando.
5. You forget that you’re in Orlando. Locals would do well to consider this a family or romantic getaway option. There’s a lap pool with cabanas, a grotto pool with a waterslide, five restaurants (including the new Northern California-themed Napa), a spacious new spa featuring the heavenly Watsu flotation massage therapy, and Rocks (left), one of the coolest-looking bars to grace the area in a long time, sporting lots of multicolored glass. Have a couple of signature Rocks Burning martinis—complete with a slice of serrano pepper—and you’ll really forget you’re in Orlando.