by David Walker | November 23, 2017

The Tide: Road-Trip-Worthy Events Around the State


Photography by Deremer Studios & Amelia

Dickens on Centre

Amelia Island
Dec. 8–10

For three days in December, the likes of Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge walk the streets of Amelia Island. Vendors and artists along Artist Alley feature holiday-themed keepsakes, and local restaurants like Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro offer classic English dishes. The Victorian-era buildings are dressed up in twinkling lights, and the storefronts are decorated to provide attendees a glimpse into London circa 1843. The entire downtown rolls back the clock in celebration of Dickens’s famous holiday story, A Christmas Carol. Mingling with costumed employees and surrounded by old-fashioned English Christmas cheer, it’s hard not to be swept up in the nostalgic holiday spirit.

St. Augustine Film Festival

St. Augustine
Jan. 18–21

The oldest city in the nation kicks off the new year with a major event that celebrates local films and recent international releases. In its eighth year, the four-day St. Augustine Film Festival, which includes three galas, is sponsored by Flagler College and the Lightner Museum. This year, the festival features films from Afghanistan, Russia, Sweden and Estonia. Among the films to be shown are A Hustler’s Diary, a comedy-drama about a small-time crook turned writer, and The Spy and the Poet, a black comedy thriller about a beautiful spy, an abrasive poet and an awkward secret service agent.

Kayak and camp for seven days along the Great Calusa Blueway; Photography courtesy of Paddle Florida

Paddle Florida’s Great Calusa Blueway

Feb. 10–16

The seven-day, 57-mile paddle trip along the Great Calusa Blueway is an intimate journey through Florida’s pristine coastal waterways. Paddle Florida, a nonprofit organization that promotes water conservation, takes care of everything along the trip, except the paddling. Paddlers explore a different aquatic environment each day, from the oak hammocks of Estero Bay to the shallow estuary of the largest undeveloped barrier island in Southwest Florida. Camp in cottages flanked by mangroves on Pine Island and on the sun-drenched shores of Bowditch Regional Park. With food, gear, and lodging provided each day, the week-long trip allows participants to concentrate solely on the quiet beauty of Florida’s coastline.

Sandestin Gumbo Festival

Feb. 16–17

For 29 years, the best gumbo Florida’s Emerald Coast has to offer has been found at the 2,400-acre Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Miramar Beach. The festival begins with the Crawfish Boil Kick-Off Party, where $15 buys a plate of crawfish fresh from the Gulf. The main event pits local restaurants and chefs against each other as they compete to produce the best gumbo in the area. Sausage, chicken or seafood? Seasoned or spicy? Blond roux or dark? You be the judge.


Uncorked Grand Tasting tent;  Photography by Jeremiah Khokhar


Dec. 2–3

More than 80 vendors gather on the Gulf Coast to showcase the finest food, craft beer and wine the Tampa Bay area has to offer. The two-day festival features tastings and cooking demonstrations by notable guest chefs such as local culinary whizzes Jim Hendry and Joseph DiPaolo, who was named one of the top ten pastry chefs in America in 2016. With partners like St. Augustine’s San Sebastian Winery and the renowned Uinta Brewing Company, there are a hundred different ways to wash down the food. Uncorked’s beachside setting makes the fest feel like a culinary vacation, a place to soak up the views with a drink in your hand and your feet in the sand.

Drivers Michael McDowell and Kyle Busch at the Daytona 500 2017; Photography by Daytona International Speedway Archive

Daytona 500 Rolex 24 Lounge Level Suites Package

Feb. 18

The Rolex 24 Lounge package is one of the best ways to enjoy Florida’s premier NASCAR race. The Rolex 24 Lounge Level Suites provide indoor and outdoor seating with an ideal vantage point overlooking pit row. The suites allow for all the sights and sounds of the traditional race experience with the added luxury of amenities like flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, a full bar and a premium buffet. The package includes entrance to the UNOH Fanzone, a walk along pit road, and exclusive prerace access to the drivers.

The Birding & Wildlife Festival offers an up-close and personal tour through the state’s expansive wetlands. Photography by Roy Thoman

Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival

Jan. 24–29

The Space Coast is home to one of the largest collections of endangered wildlife in the country, and that makes it the perfect setting for nature watching. The Birding & Wildlife Festival offers an up-close and personal tour through the state’s expansive wetlands, thick hardwood forests and lush savannahs. All tours are guided by wildlife and birding experts. Trips include a night hike around Merritt Island in pursuit of the resident barred owls, a boat ride along the Gulf Stream—where bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles and even humpback whales have been known to congregate—and a number of bird-watching expeditions designed for beginners.

The Suffers, an award-winning 10-piece ensemble, takes the Sunshine Music Festival by storm with their Gulf Coast Soul. Photography by Greg Noire

Sunshine Music Festival

St. Petersburg and Boca Raton
Jan. 13 and Jan. 14 respectively

The Grammy Award–winning Tedeschi Trucks Band headlines and curates one of the biggest blues, funk and jazz festivals in the state. The moving music festival spends one day in St. Petersburg’s Vinoy Park and the next day at Boca Raton’s Mizner Park Amphitheater. The festival’s lineup includes Medeski Martin & Wood, a jazzy trio that specializes in “avant noise” music; Mike Gordon, a founding member of Phish; and the jam band Foundation of Funk. The Sunshine Music Festival sets itself apart from the many music festivals throughout the state with a kind of carefree soul music that feels distinctly Floridian.


Arrogat, winner 2017 Pegasus World Cup. Photography by Adam Mooshian

Pegasus World Cup

Hallandale Beach
Jan. 27

In its second year, the Pegasus World Cup is set to be the richest thoroughbred horse race in the world with a $16 million purse. Each of the owners of the 12 horses competing put up $1 million for the right to participate. The race takes place at Gulfstream Park, an expansive complex anchored by the racetrack, two casinos and a high-end shopping mall overlooking the Golden Isles in Hallandale Beach. Last year’s inaugural race featured California Chrome and Arrogate, two of the top horses in all of thoroughbred racing. While still in its infancy, the Pegasus World Cup is set to take its place among the most prestigious horse races in the world.

Bonnet House Orchid Festival

Ft. Lauderdale
Dec. 2–3

This floral extravaganza marries natural vegetation, curated plant life and historical art in a beautiful setting that takes full advantage of South Florida’s December sun. Each year, more than 3,000 people flock to the Bonnet House’s 35-acre estate, which includes an art gallery and lush gardens with five distinct ecosystems in the heart of Broward County, to experience an orchid wonderland unlike any other in the state. More than 40 vendors showcase a vast collection of fragrant orchids, colorful fruit trees and exotic bamboo plants. There’s also live music, food and gorgeous garden art. Simply browse the botanical beauty or start an orchid garden of your own with a special purchase.

No Commission

Dec. 7–9

After a couple of years touring on the international art circuit—from the Bronx to London, Shanghai and Berlin—Bacardi No Commission returns to its roots in Miami. The brainchild of Grammy Award–winning producer Swizz Beatz, No Commission combines live music and visual art from a variety of local and international artists. The showcase, presented by Bacardi, mixes different types of art installations reflective of the disparate colors and cultures that make South Florida a vibrant forum for artists. True to its namesake, No Commission works to empower these artists; 100 percent of the profits for artwork sold at the event go back to the artists themselves.

The festival continues with neighborhood strolls through the city’s Old Town and an oceanfront Grand Tasting that pairs wine, food and a famous Key West sunset. Photography by Jeremy Ball

Key West Food & Wine Festival

Key West
Jan. 24–28

Key West, known for its clear blue waters, eclectic character and vibrant bar scene, is starting to make waves as a premier destination for something else—food. The Key West Food & Wine Festival honors the island’s emergence as the latest foodie paradise with a four-day culinary showcase ranging from a Stock Island shrimp boil to a rosé brunch. The festival begins with an island-style gala at the Casa Marina Waldorf Astoria, celebrating the glamour of South Florida in the early 1900s. The festival continues with neighborhood strolls through the city’s Old Town and an oceanfront Grand Tasting that pairs wine, food and a famous Key West sunset.