Festivals—Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach
plus South Florida attractions worth visiting
I am a lover of festivals and have been since I went to my first art fair in the streets of Fells Point in Baltimore. Here in South Florida we are very fortunate to have so many great festivals and outdoor events that occur annually. Below I share some of my favorites. You can do a search online to find the details and websites for these festivals. I'm just going to list and briefly describe them. Below that, you'll find a few attractions that I like to take people to when they visit here.
The Greek Festival in Boca Raton at the St. Mark church on Yamato Road is held every year in January. oh… the food! You have to try the Greek lasagna (Pasticcio) And the baklava sundae. Greek dancing is lively and fun to watch. And there are lots of great vendors including an outstanding selection of jewelry. Plus rides and games.
Also in January is the huge pirate Fest that takes place in Tampa Florida. I just love it! It's called Gasparilla, after a pirate that pillaged and plundered off of Florida's coast. The ships come in with cannons blazing on Saturday around one o'clock. Then the parade begins after that. A three-hour parade of great floats and too many pirates to count. My arm got tired trying to catch the beads so they were just bouncing off of me. After the parade the party continues in the streets surrounding the parade area and at Jackson's on the water, but also in Ybor city, the nightlife and barhopping section.
On the same weekend is the Warrior Dash = on a ranch near Yeehaw junction. Men and boys dressed up like anything from Vikings to businessmen to superheroes do a 5K through underbrush, pastures, swampland etc. and then the partying and drinking begins. Not for the timid.
In February Delray has the Garlic Festival—complete with great live bands, awesome street food and vendors, of course—lots of garlicky foods. Kudos to Nancy Stewart and Bern Ryan for making this fun event happen every year on the grounds of Old School Square.
Late February through early March is the Renaissance Festival in Deerfield Beach, Florida. I find that this is an often misunderstood Festival. It is not weird, it is not gay, it is not silly or stupid. It is very well done with vendors and some of the attendees accurately portraying the clothing, activities and speech of medieval times. It's like going to Williamsburg in Virginia—you are placed back in time and you get to feel a sense of what it was like. The food is outstanding for festival food and the games of skill are challenging and lots of fun. Real men do attend, and take this stuff seriously—throwing battle axes or shooting arrows at a target. Or trying to ring the bell with a hearty swing of that huge mallet.
It is so much fun to dress up in the medieval clothes - bustiers, tattered wench tops, bustling skirts, leather vests, boots.... if you've never been, don't knock it till you've tried it. You will probably be converted. This festival travels around the country and you can attend it on Virginia Key in Miami were my favorite location, Crownsville Maryland. I should mention the great jewelry and crafted wares for sale, like SWORDS and knives.
In April is the Delray Affair—wow! The largest art show on the East Coast with several hundred booths throughout downtown Delray Beach. If you are into art, crafts, jewelry, pottery, sculpture, paintings, and all things unique and wonderful—then you need to come to the Delray affair. Book a room at Crane's BeachHouse and make a weekend of it.
Fast forward to October and the week of Halloween and you have a festival that is an absolute blast. A feast for the eyes, the ears, and a tummy. I'm talking about Fantasy Fest in Key West Florida. Again—a misunderstood event. People from all walks of life and of all ages attend and enjoy this week -long Festival. Take Mardi Gras and combine it with Halloween and you get a good idea of fantasy Fest. You do not see blatant nakedness. What you see is the occasional painted woman or man and almost always the paint job is tasteful—appealing and just plain cool. Don't get me wrong—it's not for kids. But whether you are single or couple you can have a blast barhopping, attending the various festival events that take place each night, and letting your creative or slightly wild side out for a day or two.
I think dressing up is one of the funnest things that you can do and it makes me sad to see half of the tourists walking around Fantasy Fest in regular clothes, there just to gawk at those of us who enjoy life to the fullest; who get into things; and who don't take ourselves so seriously that we can't don a wig or a silly outfit. If you go, dress-up. Or at least put on a fake nose, some silly glasses—and you'll have an immediate bond and camraderie with all the other people who are having fun by going with the flow of the Fest. I always notice that the people in costume are having way more fun than those who walk around in regular clothes. I once put a skull cap on a plain-dressed guy who looked bored sitting with his pals. Told him he'd get more attention this way. Left him yacking with a couple ladies. Saw him 2 hours later - he said he was having more fun than he'd had in 3 days there and everyone loved his cap. !!
Book your hotel way in advance and expect to pay double or triple normal rates. Three and four night minimums apply everywhere. But it's worth it! All the hotels sell out.
ATTRACTIONS IN SOUTH FLORIDA, PALM BEACH COUNTY ATTRACTIONS, BROWARD COUNTY ATTRACTIONS -- and ONE VERY SPECIAL, UNIQUE ATTRACTION TWO HOURS AWAY
Again, I'm just going to list those that I think are worth visiting. You can find more details online.
The beach at the end of Key Biscayne in Miami is worth a visit.
Bayside in Miami is worth visiting one time. It is an open air plaza shopping area.
The wooden roller coaster in Hollywood Florida is fun.
Pompano Park Harness racing is something different to do for a day. I like making three dollar bets. :) Isle Casino is there. I also like to bet on the ponies at Gulfstream Park, Hallandale. Casino there too.
Spanish River Park in Boca Raton is beautiful and a great place for a picnic or a day at the beach.
Morikami Gardens near the border of Boca Raton and Delray Beach is beautiful and tranquil. You can walk the gardens and have lunch there.
When in Delray visit the Cornell Museum at Old School Square. The Crest Theatre and the Delray Beach Playhouse both have live theater shows throughout the year.
The Lake Worth Playhouse is also fabulous!
Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach is pretty cool and you will see animals up close. The Palm Beach zoo is a great zoo and you can also camp there overnight. Now that's cool—waking up to the sound of a lion roaring in the distance.
RagTops in West Palm Beach features cool old cars and an old style soda fountain. You can see a "drive in movie" in one of the antique cars. Neat place to hold an event.
***Two hours drive from Delray Beach on the turnpike toward Tampa/Orlando and you reach Yeehaw Junction. There you will find the historic Desert Inn bar. Once the only watering hole for 100 miles for cowboys crossing the state. But...it's more than just a really old bar full of history. It is also a museum of priceless relics from when Florida was wild & woolly! The upstairs was once a "house of ladies" (you know... ill repute...) and many of the items these women used and documents from that time are still there. Partners Anna and Samantha are preserving and restoring the bordello, and welcome your visits. And yes, the place has Spirits -- above and beyond whiskey and rum. I myself felt the presence of those souls long since passed, with cooler-cold rooms and a screw hitting my foot out of nowhere.
Email Sam for more details or to arrange a visit: firstname.lastname@example.org
Both Broward County and Palm Beach County have air boat rides and everyone should do it one time. You go West out toward the Everglades and you get a feel for what Florida was like before it was developed. Both times I've ridden an airboat I have seen alligators. Everglades National Park is so quiet and calm and pretty.
I'll stop here, with one more note: seeing me and my friends out and about on a night when we are fired up is another one of Florida's attractions! Join me at one of my upcoming events.