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.
And year round, at Lakeridge Winery Clermont, you can enjoy Weekends at the Winery, staged in its expansive vineyard green and complete with delicious food, live entertainment, and -- naturally--your favorite Lakeridge wines.
But that's just the tip of the sandbar. Here are some sizzling Florida summer events to keep you busy.
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 shows, a street fair and the “Pride in Our Community” parade.
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. The Pine Island MangoMania in Bokelia offers more lusciousness, with 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 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
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.
Watch Them Get Their Motors Runnin’
The Coke Zero Sugar 400 attracts flocks of NASCAR fans to witness stock cars roar for 160 laps around the famed high banks at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach. Pack the cooler and gas up the RV; the Coke Zero Sugar 400 is more than an all-day affair.
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 Para Con is for fans of fans of the paranormal, science fiction, horror, fantasy, gaming, anime, and costuming, with celebrity meet-and-greets, discussion panels, events, gaming, and costume contests. What are you going to wear?
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.