by Katie Hendrick | November 24, 2016

The Tide: Winter 2017

Road-trip-worthy events and things to do in Florida




December 9–10

The country’s premier pit masters will descend on Northwest Florida for the 10th annual Southern Pines Blues & BBQ Festival. The quest to become grand champion comprises four challenges: pork, ribs, chicken and brisket. Insiders predict Myron Mixon (with more than 200 titles to his name) or Winter Haven-based Sweet Smoke Q (2014 World Barbecue Champion) will take top honors. Ancillary events include a people’s choice pulled pork contest, a battle of the sauces, and a kid-cue battle, all simmering with a rockin’ soundtrack by local blues bands.


Ichetucknee Springs State Park
January 7

This is no polar bear plunge. At 72 degrees, Florida’s springs feel downright tepid on a crisp January morning. During Iche Nippy Dip Day, swimmers luxuriate in the crystal clear water then socialize over cups of coffee or cocoa. Traditionally, participants cover up in bathrobes (often embellished with patches, buttons or faux fur) post dip. Bellamy Beaver, the Ichetucknee Partnership’s mascot, will pick his favorite cover-up.

Apalachicola’s world famous oysters star in the town’s annual cookoff; Photography by Jeremiah Stanley

Apalachicola’s world famous oysters star in the town’s annual cookoff; Photography by Jeremiah Stanley


January 13–14

At the Apalachicola Oyster Cook-Off, savor the briny, succulent riches that brought this tiny town fame. Contestants get two hours to prepare a dish using at least one pint of oysters or a dozen on the half shell. Judges evaluate entries for originality, taste, presentation and “predominance of oysters.” Children’s games, a silent auction, a 5k run and a choreographed dance performance by Apalachicola’s intrepid firefighters round out the weekend’s festivities.

Photography by Barry Luther

Tour de Falesco endurance bicycle race; Photography by Barry Luther


January 14

Those perpetuating the myth of Florida’s flatness clearly have never tackled Tour de Felasco. Now in its 15th year, this endurance bicycle event traverses San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, one of the state’s most diverse ecological and geological preserves. Covering 50 miles (or 62, for the truly diehard), the route contains rolling hills, short climbs, sinkholes, creek crossings and log bridges. Noticeably absent: paved roads.


February 17–19

10,000 visitors flood the riverside town of Steinhatchee during this annual hootenanny, now in its ninth year. Stomp and shake as up and coming musicians audition for the Suwannee River Jam, which occurs a couple months later in Live Oak, an event that’s drawn such stars as Sheryl Crow and Luke Bryan. This qualifying competition helped launch the career of country singer Rion Paige, who later competed on “The X Factor” and recorded an album in Nashville. Other past performers have included Jaime Davis. Naturally, the festival gives due attention to the area’s ubiquitous fiddler crab: There are a parade, filled with crustacean-themed costumes and floats, and a footrace for crabs to run around a tiny track.



Photography by Patrick M. Rose, Save the Manatee Club

Photography by Patrick M. Rose, Save the Manatee Club


Crystal River
January 14–15

As the only place in the country where people can legally swim with manatees, Crystal River attracts throngs of ecotourists every year. At the 30th annual Manatee Festival, the city will celebrate the gentle giants with a street party, complete with live music, a beer garden, and arts and crafts vendors peddling sea cow-themed souvenirs such as sun catchers, whirligigs and mailboxes. For many, though, the highlight of the festival is taking a guided boat ride through Three Sisters Springs to see manatees up close. “We have the opportunity to introduce visitors to this friendly, endangered mammal in a way that others cannot,” says event coordinator Kathleen Grady-Weil.


Dade City
January 28

For 20 years, as many as 40,000 people have turned out to celebrate “the little gold gem of the citrus family” at the Kumquat Festival. More than 425 vendors line up in the historic downtown to sell crafts and delight visitors with copious kumquat treats, including pies, cookies, cakes, smoothies, ice cream, marmalade, chili, hot sauce and martinis. In the days leading up to the celebration, the town hosts the Miss and Mr. Kumquat Pageant, and growers offer tours of their groves and packinghouses.

Photography by Daytona International Speedway

Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway; Photography by Daytona International Speedway


Daytona Beach
January 28–29

Since 1962, racing legends from around the world have traveled to Daytona to enter this arduous 24-hour marathon. It’s more about technology, design, precision and skill than perhaps other racing events. Competing in teams of four, drivers take turns speeding along the 3.56-mile course in cars with colored lights that refer to the rank of the driver and signal a driver etiquette code. While the nonstop racing provides intense action from sunrise to sunset, there is plenty to do away from the track. Visit the fan zone to tour teams’ garages and get drivers’ autographs, stroll through the infield to enjoy free concerts, take a ride on a 150-foot Ferris wheel and indulge in some gourmet grub at Taste of the 24.

Charles Bradley at the Gasparilla Music Festival; Photography by Caesar Carbajal

Charles Bradley at the Gasparilla Music Festival; Photography by Caesar Carbajal


March 2–9; 11-12

The Gasparilla hoopla doesn’t end in January when pirates hang up their eye patches and beads. Festivities carry into March with artistic celebrations. The Gasparilla International Film Festival (March 2–9) shows about 100 films—several have a Florida focus—followed by industry panels, workshops and parties in the Tampa Theatre downtown and the Muvico Centro Ybor 20 theatre. On the film fest’s heels comes the Gasparilla Music Festival (March 11–12), which brings 50-plus bands to Tampa’s Riverwalk. Past acts have included Erykah Badu and Jason Isbell. You’ll find many music genres—rock, R&B, bluegrass, hip-hop, jazz, pop, and gospel. This is the first time the two festivals have coincided, creating an experience like “Austin’s South by Southwest,” according to Rachel Feinman, president of the Gasparilla International Film Festival.



Photography by LILA Photo

An amuse-bouche at the Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival; Photography by LILA Photo


Palm Beach
December 8–11

With a roster chock full of James Beard-recognized chefs, including South Florida favorites Michelle Bernstein, Jose Mendin and Richard Hales, the Palm Beach Food and Wine Fest treats gourmands to bites and bevs from nearly 40 of the nation’s most creative culinary minds. The epicurean tour de force includes a mix of lively dinners, intimate tastings, glitzy parties and cooking demonstrations in some of the island’s swankiest establishments, such as The Four Seasons Resort, The Breakers and Café Boulud. Coolio, a rapper with several hits in the 1990s who later penned a cookbook and competed on Chopped, will serve as headline entertainer.


January 7–8

To celebrate its 60th anniversary, the Sarasota Orchid Society is joining forces with neighboring organizations in Manatee County, Venice and Englewood and 10 growers to present A Symphony of Orchids. The Sarasota Municipal Auditorium will be filled with thousands of exotic-looking flowers. Participants will spend a full day constructing massive displays to wow the public and judges from the American Orchid Society. “These will include the rarest species,” says event coordinator Jane Hagerstrom. “People leave with armloads,” Hagerstrom says, “so serious buyers should arrive early for the best selection.”

Crowds meander down Collins Avenue during Art Deco Weekend; Photography by Miami Design Preservation League

Crowds meander down Collins Avenue during Art Deco Weekend; Photography by Miami Design Preservation League


Miami Beach
January 15–17

In 1926, a hurricane turned Miami Beach into a blank slate. As the city rebuilt in the ‘30s and ‘40s, it created the highest concentration of Art Deco architecture in the world. In the 1970s, the Miami Design Preservation League formed to protect the iconic structures. Travel back in time during Art Deco Weekend, an event packed with lectures, museum exhibits, films, antique sales and guided walking tours. This year’s affair, which marks the 40th anniversary, will include a vintage-inspired fashion show, featuring a DJ playing ‘30s music backed by a techno beat, and a Jazz Age lawn party.

Scrumptious cloves at the South Florida Garlic Fest in Del Ray; Photography by VMA Studios

Scrumptious cloves at the South Florida Garlic Fest in Del Ray; Photography by VMA Studios


del ray
February 10–12

Affectionately known as the region’s “best stinkin’ party,” the 18th annual South Florida Garlic Fest extols an ingredient embraced by cultures around the world. Listen to nationally known musical acts as you meander down Gourmet Alley, where you’ll find more than 80 garlic-laced dishes that beg to be washed down with a glass of vino in the Cloves & Vines Wine Garden. Kids can unwind in an amusement park area. The weekend’s pinnacle moment is the crowning of Garlic Chef, following an hour-long competition in which contestants receive a box of staple goods and one “mystery item.” Reigning champ Eric Baker, executive chef of Delray Beach’s Max’s Harvest, aims to defend the title.

More than 1,300 boats will be on display at the Miami International Boat Show; Photography by Miami International Boat Show

More than 1,300 boats will be on display at the Miami International Boat Show; Photography by Miami International Boat Show


February 16–20

More than 100,000 nautical enthusiasts from 35 countries are expected in the Magic City for the 76th annual Miami International Boat Show. Complimentary water taxis shuttle visitors from downtown to the Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin, where more than 1,300 boats will be on display and vendors will sell marine accessories, electronics, engines and apparel in tented exhibit space. This year will include a yachting experience, giving attendees an exclusive look at opulent vessels from top-of-the-line manufacturers like Beneteau and Viking. Seafarers eager to get their feet wet can take part in on-the-water power boating and sailing workshops or paddle sports demos.


Scout Key
February 20–27

The Florida Keys’ southern latitude and clear night skies make for phenomenal stargazing. “It’s the best spot in the United States to see certain constellations with your naked eye,” says Tim Khan, a member of the Southern Cross Astronomical Society, which hosts the Winter Star Party. Hundreds of amateur astronomers from around the world gather at Camp Wesumkee on Scout Key, where they park RVs, set up tents and bunk in chickees, for a week of celestial viewings and conversations. They mingle with fellow enthusiasts, swap tips for spotting and photographing stars, shop for equipment, listen to distinguished lecturers and admire the beauty sparkling from above.