The Arts Al Fresco in Florida

By: Kanika Jelks

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The arts scene in the Sunshine State is often set on an outdoor stage.

The wonderful weather that is signature to Florida makes outdoor events possible all year long. Here’s a look at some of the state’s best al fresco outings.

In North Florida the arts are alive in every genre in nearly every town. The riverfront metropolis of Jacksonville is known for its annual jazz festival. Considered by many to be among the nation’s top 20 jazz festivals, the free Jacksonville Jazz Festival is scheduled for May 25, 2012. For three days jazz claims the streets of downtown Jacksonville where nationally known headliners such as Roberta Flack and Boney James literally stop traffic in this exciting urban setting. Just as exciting as the concerts are the additional activities that round out the Memorial Day weekend performances, ranging from the Wine Down/Brew Town Tasting Experience to the Art in the Heart Downtown juried art show and sale.

Insider’s tip: Rain doesn’t ever stop this show. Bring your umbrella and be prepared to brave the weather for this world-class event. It has been known to rain, but don’t worry, the showers never last for long.

Pensacola keeps the pulse of its arts community on beat with Pensacola Gallery Night. Several times throughout the year, the Arts Council of Northwest Florida hosts this free celebration of arts and culture. An al fresco walking tour through Downtown Pensacola’s art galleries, this hip and happening gathering is a culmination of the area’s scene and the city’s heard, generated by like-minded muses delighting in a shared appreciation for Pensacola arts.

Insider’s tip: The trolley is the way to go for this fun night out. Park in the Baylen Street Garage and leave the traffic to the tour guide. 

Posh and chic pair perfectly at the annual Winter Park Sidewalk Arts Festival every March (16-18, 2012). This sleepy Central Florida town comes alive with the wonderful work of local and national artists from every medium. Known among collectors as one of the nation’s most prestigious shows, this esteemed festival draws more than 350,000 people every year to see the distinguished work of nearly 300 artists. Free music, entertainment and other family-focused fun round out this engaging outdoor event.

Insider’s tip: Check out the exhibit of student work at the Leon Theodore Schools. Thousands of pieces from Orange County kids line the halls and remind us of the importance of creativity and art in the learning process. Absolutely inspiring!

On May 5, 2012, Polk County will carry on a grand 22-year tradition. The Imperial Symphony’s annual Concert Under the Stars sets the sounds of Central Florida’s orchestra on the Great Lawn of the historic Bok Tower Gardens. Bring a blanket and spread out for beautiful music in a warm, Florida summer’s night setting.

Insider’s tip: Concert Under the Stars is great fun for the whole family.

On Nov. 3, 2012, more than 150 performances at 80 venues makes up Sleepless Night in Miami. The doors are literally open all night for this free celebration of South Florida arts and culture. For 13 hours, on one night, acrobats, poets, dancers, comics, actors and artists will entertain pedestrian audiences of more than 100,000 people. From Normandy Fountain to South Pointe Park, the city comes alive with arts in every iteration.

Insider’s tip: The New World Symphony now performs at its Frank Gehry-designed home, the New World Center.

And on March 9-10, 2012, the state’s blues lovers will come together in Bonita Springs for the Bonita Blues Festival. A day of outdoor concerts brings out the best in South Florida blues to this quaint Southwest Florida town. 

Other can’t miss outdoors arts events: Al fresco Arts on the St. Petersburg scene: American Stage in the Park's annual al fresco performance in St. Petersburg’s Straub Park. Pack a picnic and prepare for a stellar performance. Florida Orchestra's Pops in the Park at Vinoy Park is held in October.

Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Coachman Park, Clearwater: One of the nation’s premier outdoor jazz concerts transforms the Gulf Coast shore every October.

Symphony Under the Stars in Ocala: May 2012, the Ocala Golf Club becomes the stage for the Central Florida Symphony Orchestra every year on Mother’s Day.

Mount Dora Arts Festival: The Mount Dora Arts Festival lands this Central Florida town, best known for its antique treasures, on the map. On Feb. 2-3, 2013, the streets of Mount Dora are an al fresco art gallery where the nation’s best artists gather to showcase their work. Ranked in Sunshine Artists Top 100 Festivals, the Mount Dora Arts Festival is one of the first of the season and sets the tone for the season’s shows.   

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners

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