Whatever your passion, Florida has something for you. Here are just some of the major events scheduled this month in the Sunshine State.
S outh Florida
PALM BEACH INTERNATIONAL POLO SEASON – The best polo players in the world will compete in this 17-week event. But, it’s just as much, maybe more, about the polo lifestyle. New this year: the Lily Pulitzer Patio at the Pavilion featuring the Champagne Sunday Brunch; the Funky Buddha Beerstream Garden, serving craft beer, charcuterie and growlers, and the Coco Polo Lounge, an exquisitely renovated 1964 red double-decker bus, serving a lavish gourmet brunch. It’s not just for the rich and famous, with tickets starting as low as 30 bucks.
When: Jan. 1-April 23
Where: International Polo Club, Wellington
THE RACE OF CHAMPIONS – This international phenomenon makes its United States debut as the Miami Marlins baseball stadium will be transformed into a cutting edge race track to host a world-class auto racing experience featuring some of the best drivers in the world. There will be non-stop entertainment between races, including car and bike stunt shows. Some of the participating drivers: 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, NASCAR star Kurt Busch and past Indy winners Juan-Pablo Montoya and South Florida’s own Ryan Hunter-Reay.
When: Jan. 21-22
Where: Marlins Park, Miami
ALL WE NEED IS MUSIC, SWEET MUSIC, THERE’LL BE MUSIC EVERYWHERE:
The Sunshine Music Festival features the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Mavis Staples, Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers and the North Mississippi All Stars.
Grammy winner Suzy Bogguss and mouth trumpet specialist Victoria Fox are the headliners for the South Florida Folk Festival.
The Fifth Annual Baygrass Bluegrass Festival will feature a blend of Oldgrass, Newgrass and the next generation of the genre’s stars. Headliners are the Adventures of Annabelle Lyn, the Coppertones and Grandpa’s Cough Medicine.
When & Where: Jan. 28-29 at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale
Web: sunshinemusicfestival.com, southfloridafolkfest.net and baygrassbluegrass.com
SOUTH FLORIDA FAIR – Get ready for 17 days of national concert acts (Dr. John, Chase Bryant, Molly Hatchet and 38 Special are the headliners), midway rides, exhibits, amazing livestock shows, auctions, competitions, tons of kids activities and of course, lots of corn dogs and cotton candy and other tasty fair food. This year, the special theme is New Orleans and offers the best flavor of that great city this side of the Big Easy.
When: Jan. 13-29
Where: South Florida Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach.
EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY – Forget about the calories and have a great time at any of these annual events, with most of them also featuring live music:
International Chocolate Festival (Jan. 20-22 at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, Coral Gables; fairchildgarden.org)
Key West Food & Wine Festival (Jan. 25-29 at various locations in Key West; keywestfoodandwinefestival.com)
Kiss Country Chili Cook-Off (Jan. 29 at C. B. Smith Park, Pembroke Pines; wkis.com)
Naples Winter Wine Festival (Jan. 27-29 at various locations in Naples. All you need is at least $8,500 for this one, but hey, that’s for two people. napleswinefestival.com)
QUANTUM KEY WEST SAILING REGATTA – This annual international regatta features world-class competition and yachting teams from 12 countries and 24 states. More than 100 yachts (large and small – 23 to 72 feet) compete for class championships. To view the action, fans can book seats on spectacular boats ranging from excursion catamarans to historic tall ships or from land at the city’s Atlantic-front eateries, resorts and beaches.
When: Jan. 15-20
Where: Key West
ARTS & CRAFTS EXPLOSION – The SoFla arts & crafts scene is bursting at the seams in January. You’ll be able to see (and of course, purchase) great works of art in a variety of media: painting, photography, sculpture, ceramics, clay, glass, wood, jewelry and so much more. Alphabetically, here’s the what, when, where and web info for 14 great fairs or festivals:
Boca Raton Fine Art Show, Jan. 28-29 in downtown Boca Raton; HotWorks.org)
Coral Gables Festival of the Arts (Jan. 28-29 in downtown Coral Gables; coralgablesartfestival.com. This one also includes the amazing Miami Food Festival and for the youngsters, the really cool KidZ Fest.)
Delray Beach Festival of the Arts (Jan. 21-22 in downtown Delray Beach; artfestival.com)
Key West Craft Show (Jan. 28-29 in Key West’s historic Old Town; keywestartcenter.com)
Punta Gorda Craft Festival (Jan. 21-22 along Sullivan Street in Punta Gorda; artfestival.com)
SWAMP BUGGY WINTER CLASSIC – The 67th season at the track known as the “Mile O’ Mud” is bound to make history as Jeeps, Air-Cooled and Four Cylinders duke it on Saturday, trying to get to the class finals on Sunday. The buggies range from standard jeeps with snorkels to giant monsters with NASCAR racing engines.
When: Jan. 28-29
Where: Florida Sports Park, Naples
DELRAY BEACH FASHION WEEK – This year it’s not quite a week long, but who’s counting? It still is an amazing event that showcases local, national and international designs found in the downtown boutiques. It features high energy fashion design events, beauty experiences, in-store designer trunk shows, makeovers, art expositions and the grand finale: The Fabulous Fashion Show showcasing more than 150 looks from 50 different stores.
When: Jan. 25-29
Where: Various locations in downtown Delray Beach
THE CELTS ARE COMING! THE CELTS ARE COMING! – At the Florida Keys Celtic Festival and the Caloosahatchee Celtic Festival, grab your kilt (or buy one at the event) and enjoy Celtic bands, a children’s glen and Celtic and local food fare and beverages. New this year at the Marathon gathering: The Hickory-Stick Golf Tournament.
When & Where: Jan. 27-28 at Centennial Park in Fort Myers
Web: celticheritageproductions.com for both events
MIAMI FILM FESTS – There are two worthy of your consideration in January:
The 20th edition of the Miami Jewish Film Festival will offer some 40 films spread out over two weeks at one the country’s preeminent gatherings of its kind.
The Miami International Science Fiction Film Festival will screen 60 features and short films, give away lots of awards, explore social gamer fandom and also feature field trips and panel discussions.
When & Where: Jan. 12-26 at various theaters throughout Greater Miami and the Beaches; Jan.13-17 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Miami
Web: miamijewishfilmfestival.org and miscifi.com
DESOTO COUNTY FAIR – A true, old fashioned rural county fair, this week-long event highlights beauty pageantry and 4-H livestock, which includes goats, rabbits, chickens and pigs. But it also has all the tilt-a-whirl rides and funnel cakes you’ve come to expect from a fair, as well as games, prizes and crafts vendors for only a $5 entry fee.
When: Jan. 27-Feb. 4
TAMPA BAY BLACK HERITAGE FESTIVAL – Leading up to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, this 10-day celebration includes live entertainment, health and business seminars, speakers, and food and craft vendors along with a huge music fest featuring national acts – all to celebrate African American culture and history.
When: Jan. 12-22
Where: Tampa, various locations
GASPARILLA – Tampa kicks off its longtime, famous pirate-themed celebration with a family-friendly, fun children’s parade, full of floats bearing swashbucklers, firefighters, costumed characters and other bead-throwing dignitaries. A week later, the adults come out in full force to repeat the same route, this time including an accompanying boat “invasion,” bands and “krewes” partying well past sundown.
When: Jan. 21 & Jan. 28
LAKELAND PIGFEST – More than 150 acclaimed chefs and barbecue teams from around the country compete for top titles in chicken, ribs, pork and brisket categories, while local teams also compete for bragging rights. Purchase some “pig bucks” and taste some of the tender meats and sauces for yourself, or just wander the free event and enjoy the live music and other shenanigans with a cold beverage.
When: Jan. 27-28
Where: Sun ‘n Fun Convention Campus, Lakeland
KUMQUAT FESTIVAL – Tens of thousands of visitors flock to this quaint Pasco County festival honoring the most adorable of citrus fruits, the kumquat. Sample kumquat pie, cookies, smoothies, ice cream, marmalade, salsa and other treats while checking out the car show, Miss & Mr. Kumquat Pageant, quilt challenge, farmers market and other family-friendly activities.
When: Jan. 28
Where: Downtown Dade City
PHOTOFEST 2016 — Whether you’re picking up travelers or traveling yourself, skip the waiting game and instead spend some time in the Artport Gallery, part of the major renovation at the Tallahassee International Airport. Photofest 2016, which celebrates art in public places, is a juried exhibit featuring 27 local artist features both beautiful landscapes and mind-altering photography.
When: Jan. 1 - Feb. 20
Where: Artport Gallery, Tallahassee
LIGHTS, CAMERA, CUBA! — The Sunshine State’s ties to Cuba extend far beyond the boundaries of Miami. Spend an afternoon enjoying the vibrant colors and fanciful illustrations of the Efrain Barradas Mexican and Cuban Film Poster Collection, which features authentic and vintage movie posters.
When: Jan. 5 - Feb. 10
Where: University Gallery, Gainesville
CIRCUS XTREME — Lions, tigers and acrobats, oh my! Be amazed by the “Greatest Show on Earth” with Circus Xtreme (Jacksonville) features all your circus favorites: death-defying stunts, amazing animals and feats of superhuman strength.
When: Jan. 19-22
Where: Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville
AMELIA ISLAND RESTAURANT WEEK — Amelia Island and Fernandina’s 9th annual restaurant week has a boozy flair. Special events throughout the week include a four-course Distillers Dinner at the Omni Amelia Island that features a different liquor-based beverage paired with each course, Mixology Tours through historic Fernandina, and a Bourbon Affair at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island that pairs small-batch and house-infused bourbons with sushi and sashimi. Other than the special events, diners will be able to choose between a three-course prix-fixe lunch or dinner at dozens of local restaurants.
When: Jan. 20-29
Where: various venues, Amelia Island and Fernandina
MUSIC IN THE GARDENS — Explore the state park’s formal gardens, as well as its distinctive rocky Atlantic coastline, before parking yourself in a lawn chair for an afternoon of old-fashioned folk songs by Naming the Twins. The local duo, who are not twins by birth, present their harmonies with a sibling-like sense of humor. The child-friendly event has a play area that includes bubbles, a painting wall, hula hoops and more.
When: Jan. 22
Where: Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, Palm Coast
STEPHEN FOSTER DAY — The 97 bells in the 200-foot Carillon Tower playing the music of Stephen Foster will be the highlight of the annual event honoring the “father of American music.” Foster is best known for his classic American folk songs “Oh! Susanna,” “Camptown Races” and “Old Folks at Home” which made Florida’s Suwannee River famous. Also includes performances by the winners of the Stephen Foster and Jeanie Auditions, a statewide vocal competition and a reception after.
When: Jan. 22
Where: Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, White Spring
HOGGETOWN MEDIEVAL FAIRE — Prepare yourself for days of centuries-old festivities. Pledge your loyalty by wearing your team’s colors, choose sides during the life-size game of living chess featuring medieval heroes at battle and test your skills in games of chance. There will be a live jester, knife throwing, Medieval dancing, falconry and mounted knights on horseback jousting in full-body armor. Children can visit the royal pavilion, ride a camel and feast on giant turkey legs.
When: Jan. 28-29, Feb. 3-5
Where: Alachua County Fairgrounds, Gainesville