Brightline seems keen on opening more than just its new station in Orlando these days -- the high-speed rail company is trying to show travelers that there's so much more to central and south Florida than beaches and theme parks.
And I was fortunate enough to be a willing guinea pig in that effort on a recent press trip. But before I get to the sites, bites and stops in Florida, let's talk about the actual station.
First, it's massive. The new Brightline Orlando station, which spreads out to 37,350 square feet, is located inside the new 80,000 square foot Terminal C Train Station at Orlando International Airport, and its size is made all the more apparent and grand by its modern glass and concrete design scheme.
Brightline Orlando train service to Miami will launch this summer. Tickets go on sale in May. Photo Credit: Nicole Edenedo
The new station is just as modern on the inside, too. It's beyond bright -- and not just because of its signature Brightline yellow, white and light-gray color scheme woven throughout the facility. There are over 80 electronic screens in the new Brightline station that, at the time of my visit, played loops of welcome greetings and showcased the company's branding -- though in time the screens will be used for more dynamic purposes.
"Advertising, showing some of our events that might be happening as you're going to South Florida -- it helps you kind of have that sense that you can see what's happening and kind of get a whole picture of when your train is arriving," said George Edwards, Brightline's vice president of guest experience.
In addition to the bright electronic screens, there's a cool throwback to the travel days of old in the new Brightline station as well. Whether you call it a split flap, a flip flap, or just one of those old-timey message boards with the moving letters that I know I've seen at Grand Central Terminal in New York, the Brightline Orlando station has one of those, too. It will be a fun reminder that any minute your train journey is about to kick off, once the board starts displaying train schedules, boarding times and even the news of the day and other announcements.
The new Brightline Orlando station is located inside the new Terminal C Train Station at Orlando International Airport. Photo Credit: Nicole Edenedo
One of the standout technology features at the new Brightline Orlando station is the Mary Mary My Tap bar. It's basically the spin-off version of the main Mary Mary bar at the heart of the terminal, but what's special about this bar is that it's self-serve and works by using facial recognition.
You just walk up to the bar, allow the camera to take your picture and scan your ID or passport via the built-in camera or via the app, and once the system verifies your age, you're on your way to a frosty margarita or a cold brew in under five minutes. You don't even have to keep pulling out your credit card -- just enter the information once and the system remembers forever.
The bar comes from a local company called Tended Bar, which was co-founded by Jacksonville resident Justin Honeysuckle in 2019 and first started out in stadiums at sporting and music events.
"We started in high-volume venues, [specifically] the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, which is about a 15,000-person municipal arena, and then we really went towards that high-volume event space," Honeysuckle said. "We're now in five different NFL stadiums, a couple of NBA arenas, several amphitheaters and racetracks across the country. And then we started with Brightline as our launch into the everyday-use-space environment."
Brightline vice president of guest experience George Edwards and Tended Bar co-founder and CEO Justin Honeysuckle stand in front of the Mary Mary My Tap bar. Photo Credit: Nicole Edenedo
The Orlando station is the only one of Brightline's six stations that features the Mary Mary My Tap Tended Bar, which is located inside the Premium Lounge.
Speaking of lounges, the Orlando station has a Premium and a Smart Lounge, which is in line with what its other stations offer. Seeing as how this was my first visit to a Brightline station, I liked the idea of giving the term 'economy' a rebrand. It immediately made sense before they even revealed their reasoning.
Economy, while affordable sounding, does kind of give off a certain 'back of the plane where the seats don't recline and you have to pay for snacks' vibe, which is fine when you are just focused on getting from point A to B. But the thing about Brightline, which reminds me a lot of Europe's trains, is that you want your economy section to be nice. too. You don't want to feel like just because you may not want to or can't shell out the extra money for premium that you have to give up comfort and quality.
The Smart Lounge at the Brightline Orlando station features leather seats with built-in charging stations and is free for ticketed travelers to use. Photo Credit: Nicole Edenedo
(By the way, you do have to pay for snacks and drinks if you use the free Smart Lounge, but at least you get to do so from nice-quality leather seats that have built-in charging stations.)
Service between Orlando and Miami won't officially start operating until a little closer to the summer, but tickets go on sale in May. So while our press group did not get to be the first to take the three-hour trip to Miami, our tour did include a ride down to West Palm Beach, where we caught the train from there and sped down to Magic City.
Stay tuned for another dispatch for details on how our tour through central and south Florida showed off the local tourism possibilities that Brightline is eager to showcase to travelers and travel advisors.