Summer Events in Florida
By Janet K. Keeler
Florida is open for business in the summer and the activities don’t hide in the air conditioning, that’s for sure. The state’s dramatic summer weather is the backdrop for music and dance festivals, and food extravaganzas that celebrate seafood and tropical fruit.
In Miami, July is Spa Month, the perfect time to get pampered with bargain-price luxury services all around the city.
Sarasota transforms into classical music city in June when accomplished student musicians from some of the world’s best programs perform during the three-week Sarasota Music Festival.
Is head-banging more your style? Then head to St. Petersburg in July for the Vans Warped Tour. Some of the top alternative bands bring even more heat to the downtown waterfront.
Here are 15 more summer events to keep you busy.
Craft Beer Takes an Arty Turn
The craft beer scene has exploded in the Tampa Bay area with dozens of breweries providing refreshment for thirsty throngs. The Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg celebrates the art of suds during the Beer Project. Local brewers will be creating new beers inspired by the art in the museum. There will be plenty of tastings and even the opportunity to judge the brews yourself. The Beer Project leads up to the opening of “Skyway: A Contemporary Collaboration,” which features 50-plus Tampa Bay artists with works at the MFA, the Tampa Museum of Art and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota.
Moonlight, Turtles and You
Get close to nature, with supervision of course, on the Summer Moonlight Sea Turtle Walks sponsored by the Museum of Discovery & Science at the beach in Fort Lauderdale. Your guide will explain the mysteries and myths of these glorious creatures. There’s a chance that you just might see a 300-pound loggerhead looking for a spot to lay her eggs.
Florida Takes Pride
There are a number of Pride events around the state, celebrating LGBT communities with parades and festivals. One of the largest Pride parades in the Southeast is St. Pete Pride in St. Petersburg, and this year the revelry shifts to the busy downtown core. There are other events leading up to the parade. The Stonewall Pride Street Festival & Parade is an 11-hour hootenanny in Wilton Manors, culminating with a twilight parade. Key West shows its pride during a five-day celebration that includes a film festival, dance parties and drag shows, a street fair and the “Pride in Our Community” parade.
Get Your Vintage On
The annual Polka Dot Flea at the Central Florida Fairgrounds in Orlando is the place to go for vintage dress forms, old hat boxes or perhaps something you didn’t even know you needed. There are dozens of stalls filled with fabulous finds including antique jewelry, vintage hats, repurposed bicycles and old furniture.
The Rhythm is Gonna Get You
Tallahassee celebrates the Annual Florida African Dance Festival with three days of evening performances plus dance or drum workshops at Tallahassee Community College. Sponsored by the African Caribbean Dance Theatre, styles from the Congo, Senegal and Guinea will be explored by instructors. There are events for children, and a wheelchair dance class.
Watch Them Get Their Motors Runnin’
The Coke Zero Sugar 400 – perhaps better known at the Firecracker 400 – marks Independence Day for lots of NASCAR fans who flock to the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona. Pack the cooler and gas up the RV; the Coke Zero Sugar 400 is more than an all-day affair.
Summer Means Mangoes in South Florida
The King of Fruit gets its due at two mango-riffic events in South Florida. The annual Fairchild International Mango Festival in Coral Gables draws attendees from all other the state to taste some of the world’s best mangoes. The festival includes workshops, a market, tastings and a special Sunday brunch. Mango trees are also for sale. Pine Island MangoMania has gotten so popular, it’s now moved off the island to the German American Club in Cape Coral. There are plenty of tastings and food demonstrations. You don’t want to leave without trying a smoothie.
The Scoop on Sharks
Sharks elicit endless fascination, and sometimes fear for those of us who walk on land and occasionally swim in the sea. SharkCon at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa is a weekend of education and interactive activity geared toward increasing understanding of these amazing underwater creatures. There will be touch tanks, paddleboard lessons and probably more than one reference to the ultra-cheesy Sharknado movies.
You’ll Have a Shell of a Time
Harvest your own scallops during the Florida recreational season that kicks off in July along Florida’s Big Bend coast. You’ll need a saltwater fishing license, snorkel, mask and dive flag and there are many local outfitters and guides to show you the way. Slather lots of sunscreen on your back to ward off the sun as you hunt for the sweet shellfish face down. There are people at the shore who will clean your bounty for you.
The Rhythm is Gonna Get You, Part II
The Miami Salsa Congress is five non-stop days of cha-cha, mambo and bomba at the Deauville Beach Resort in Miami Beach. There will be performances, worships, pool parties, plus other ways to shake your bon-bon, or watch someone else move theirs. Salsa got its start in 1970s New York, drawing from many Caribbean influences. Today, though, it seems like Miami through and through.
You’ll Go Buggy for Bugs
Bugs is a common term of endearment for the Florida spiny lobster, which is celebrated during Key West Lobsterfest. Lots of recreational divers come to the Florida Keys for the two-day season, hoping to catch their limits of the succulent crustaceans. Lobsterfest marks the season with a beach party, lobster boil, concerts and street fair. So, even if you don’t dip a toe into the water, you can still enjoy this Florida treat.
Get your Geek On in Pensacola
The Pensacola Comic Convention brings fan-girls and boys of all genres of comicdom to the Fair Grounds Expo Hall. Don’t be surprise if you see people in full Captain America drag or Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn in prison uniforms. In fact, you might want to start now planning what you’ll wear.
Stomp Like You Mean It
Make like Lucy and get ready to stomp some grapes at Lakeridge Winery’s annual Harvest Grape Stomp in Clermont. Families, and that means the kids too, can feel those squishy grapes between their toes. Don’t worry, the wine you will be tasting won’t have been made underfoot. Other beverages and food available, too.
Cool Off with Fun for Kids
The Florida Kids & Family Expo at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando is acres of fun for kids of all ages. Exhibitors show off their latest kid-friendly wares including bouncy amusements to games and educational tools. There will be interactive offerings including martial arts demonstrations, laser tag and even makeup lessons for teens. On the agenda is party planning help for parents who have run out of ideas.
Surf’s Up, Spike!
Carlin Park at Jupiter Beach Civic Center is going to the dogs. The Hang 20 Surf Dog Classic goes bow-wow-wow for four-legged friends with doggie surfing, doggie paddle boarding and likely doggie ogling. Bring a dog or just watch someone else’s hang 10. The daylong event includes live entertains and plenty of food. Dog treats, too. Sponsored by Furry Friends Adoption.