Cool Stuff to Do in Florida This Summer
Festivals, Wildlife, Dancing, Racing and the Paranormal
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, as well as 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.
Year round at Lakeridge Winery Clermont, you can enjoy Weekends at the Winery, staged in its expansive vineyard green 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.
Orlando Carnival Downtown
Continuing its run of more than three decades, the multicultural Orlando Carnival Downtown celebrates Caribbean life and customs with an entire weekend of brilliantly colored, feather- and sequin-adorned costumes, dancing, rhythmic music, spicy dishes and cocktails. This family-friendly event includes masquerade bands, DJs, pageantry and aromatic Caribbean street food treats from Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados and other Caribbean nations.
SunFest Shines in West Palm Beach
More than 100 artists present their works over three days in West Palm Beach’s Art District. Also featured at SunFest: artist demonstrations, immersive art installations and innovative new products. Food at SunFest is from all over the world, including Caribbean flavors, barbecue and ethnic favorites. And there’s always a party going on at three famous floating bars with their specialty cocktails and frozen drinks. A huge fireworks display closes the festival.
Shakespeare in the Park
Celebrate the advent of summer with a Shakespeare classic performed under the stars. The Southern Shakespeare Company returns to Cascades Park in Tallahassee for its free festival. This year’s production of Antony and Cleopatra stars two-time Emmy nominee Kelsey Scott and is directed by Alexander Bond. The Bardlings, the company’s junior acting troupe, will also perform a streamlined version of As You Like It. Seats are first-come, first-served at the Adderley Amphitheater, and guests are also welcome to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets. Food trucks will be on site.
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, and there’s a chance you just might see a 300-pound loggerhead looking for a spot to lay her eggs.
Sunshine State Games
Sunshine State amateur athletes of all ages and skill levels compete in this multi-sport festival. Whether they’re just a weekend warrior or have bigger aspirations for the future, the Sunshine State games feature 30 different sporting competitions and have been awarding winners for four decades. The competitions are held in venues throughout the state from late May through the end of June.
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 across 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.
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, workshops, 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.
August and September
Key West Claws
"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.
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 onshore who will clean your bounty for you.
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.
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?