Florida Friday Vol. 3, Issue 9 | May 25th, 2018

Festivals in Florida

Head to the Sunshine State this summer to celebrate the best of its food, wine, sport, music and more. Here are just some of the fabulous festivals you can enjoy.

Fort Myers and Sanibel
Enjoy more than 100 live performances from local and national singer-songwriters at the 2018 Island Hopper Songwriter Festival, now in its fifth year. Gigs are spread across 21 unique venues on Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach and historic downtown Fort Myers on 21-30 September. Musicians include country superstars Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean and Tricia Yearwood and others, many of whom have taken their inspiration from the tranquil surroundings of The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel.

Florida Keys & Key West
Devoted to the fruit that inspired the signature dessert in this southernmost tip of Florida, the Key Lime Festival takes place over four days (30 June-4 July) with a Mile High Key Lime Pie Eatin' Contest at Ocean Key Resort. New for 2018 is Key Lime Pie Hop, which takes lime lovers on a stroll through Key West to sample five variations of the popular dessert. A few days later, (7 July), the Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival see divers and snorkellers explore Looe Key Reef, an area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, while listening to music piped under the water. Now in its 34th year, the festival spotlights coral reef protection and environmentally responsible diving.

Busch Gardens
Beer appreciation at Busch Gardens reaches new heights later this year with the all-new Bier Fest, bringing more than 200 years of Oktoberfest and Tampa Bay's hottest beer culture to life each weekend from 25 August to 16 September. Featuring 100 beers from local and global breweries, along with traditional German cuisine and festive music, guests can join in the celebrations as part of their regular theme park admission. From now until August 5, visitors over the age of 21 can also enjoy two complimentary 7 oz. beers a day at the park, bringing back a tradition from the first 50 years of the park's history.

Florida's Historic Coast
Golf enthusiasts should head to St. Augustine on 11-17 June for a special week dedicated to the US Open at the World Golf Hall of Fame. There will be a photo opportunity each day featuring US Open artefacts and visitors can watch the tournament screened throughout the museum. Later in June this historic city hosts the St. Augustine Music Festival, a series of six free concerts held over two weekends in the historic Cathedral Basilica. This year, cellist Andres Diaz and violinist Nigel Armstrong are among the performers.

Pensacola
Enjoy sand, surf, seafood at Pensacola's Taste of the Beach festival on 14-15 September when top restaurants and celebrity chefs pack up their kitchens and head to the sand for great food, live music and beach party fun. With fresh-caught fish, oysters, shrimp, scallops, crawfish and more, Pensacola Beach chefs showcase their favourite dishes, all at just $5, served in more than 20 festival tents, alongside cooking competitions, a team cook-off, live entertainment and kid-friendly activities. Admission is free.

Paradise Coast
Foodies will be flocking to the Paradise Coast Food & Wine Experience when it returns to Naples October 27, featuring celebrity chef Scott Conant. On 27-29 Naples will host the Stone Crab Festival when various locations on the Old Naples Waterfront will be serving up delicious crab claws and other seafood. There's more seafood to try at the Everglades Seafood Festival early next year (8-10 February), along with live country music, carnival rides and arts and crafts, and again in March at the Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival. And, if that's not enough, during the first two weeks of June and December visitors can sample cuisine from many of the top Naples and Marco Island restaurants during Sizzle Southwest Florida Restaurant Week, with three-course menus for just $26 or $36.

New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna Beach is celebrating all things reggae on 21-24 June at the New Smyrna Beach Reggae and Island Music Festival. The event will see over a dozen acts perform, for free, around the city, with multiple band meet and greets and plenty of free giveaways. If jazz is more your thing, later in the year (20-23 September) it's the New Smyrna Beach Jazz Festival. Concert-goers can go from club to club, throughout the day, catching live performances at venues stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian River. The hub of the action is on Flagler Avenue but gigs are also taking place on Third Avenue, Canal Street, Atlantic Avenue and the North Causeway.

Amelia Island
Amelia Island will go positively Mediterranean later this year (9-11 November) when it hosts the annual Pétanque Amelia Island Open, the largest event in the Americas devoted to this popular French sport. Players, aged 13, from novices to former world champions, will gather at the harbourfront and historic district to compete against each other, enjoy the local restaurants and beaches and share some joie de vivre.

St. Pete/Clearwater
More than 250,000 people will come together to party in St Petersburg next month at the three-day Pride event, the largest in Florida. Celebrating equality in the LGBTQ+ community, there will be a spectacular night parade and street festival in downtown St. Pete and Vinoy Park on 22 June. This year's line-up also includes a benefit concert with all proceeds going to charities across the entire Tampa Bay area, which includes St. Pete/Clearwater, Pasco and Polk Counties and Sarasota.

West Volusia
Dust off your grass skirts, Hawaiian shirts, tropical hats, and colourful leis and hit the streets of downtown Deland on 20 July to hula, conga and dance the night away. Thousands of revellers come to downtown DeLand every year to join the Tropical Nights celebrations with Calypso bands, limbo contests, hula hoop showdowns, conga lines, kids activities, food and drink and prizes for the best decorated hats.

Getting around the Sunshine State this summer is easy when hiring a car from Hertz. Join the free Hertz Gold Plus Rewards programme to beat the queue, and simply pick up your car from any of the 300+ locations across the State, and take advantage of daily rates from 22 per day on Florida bookings.

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