Fall is a busy time in Florida, and though it will be a while before the temperatures and humidity drop, we still find ourselves outdoors more. A number of upcoming events help us celebrate the changing of the seasons even though we notice the increased travelers on our roads more than the changing of the leaves.
GO FOR THE OOM-PAH-PAH
Oktoberfests, always popular celebrations, are staged at a number of venues around Florida. Jacksonville is joining the festivities with its first Oktoberfest Oct. 11-13, which it calls Jaxtoberfest. On tap: German cuisine and beer, chicken dances and polkas, entertainment on multiple stages and games.
Among other Oktoberfests, Cape Coral boasts that its event is the state's biggest. In its 28th year, the Cape Coral Oktoberfest, Oct. 18-20 and Oct. 25-27, will feature a huge tent, a biergarten, three stages, live bands and, of course, lots of beer. Tampa holds its Oktoberfest Oct. 11-13 with German cheer along the Hillsborough River in Curtis Hixon Park. For list of other Florida Oktoberfests and more details, go to funtober.com/oktoberfest/florida.
Related by name, but not substance, is Daytona Beach's Biketoberfest, which brings together motorcycle fans for a weekend of races, street festivals, concerts and other events. More than 100,000 bikers and bike fans are expected to descend on Daytona Oct. 17-20. For more information, go to biketoberfest.com.
RIDING THE WAVES
With fall coming on, surfing in Florida will shift into higher gear because fall and winter are when the best waves hit Florida's east coast. Surfing in Florida, with its modest waves (perhaps 3 or 4 feet in fall, and more if a nor'easter or hurricane in the Atlantic is stirring up big swells), will never compete with Hawaii or California, but it still attracts a goodly number of aficionados. One of them is Jason Epperson, 28, who surfs around New Smyrna Beach, one of the better spots to ride a wave. "On a really good day, you'll see 30 to 60 surfers out there,'' he said.
Florida's most favored surfing spots are New Smyrna, Ponce Inlet, Sebastian, Jacksonville Beach and Cocoa Beach. Cocoa Beach is the home of the celebrated Ron Jon Surf Shop, which occupies an entire block. In New Smyrna, the Red Dog Surf Shop is home base for surfers.
The Florida State Surfing Championships will be held at Jacksonville Beach Oct. 10-13.
Weekday visits to Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld Orlando will cost less for the next few months. The two parks are offering a $50 weekday admission good through Dec. 20. For an extra $25, guests can add a day's visit to a water park. SeaWorld weekday ticket holders can visit Aquatica Orlando, and Busch ticket holders can visit Adventure Island. The new weekday tickets are available to U.S. residents online or by calling toll-free 1-888-800-5447, or go to seaworldorlando.com or buschgardenstampa.com.
Would you like to meet a fairy tale princess? You'll be able to do so this fall, when Walt Disney World opens Princess Fairytale Hall in the Magic Kingdom. Part of the park's New Fantasyland expansion, the hall will allow guests to meet Aurora, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White and Jasmine. Ariel and Belle won't be there because they have their own venues in New Fantasyland.
WATER PARKS WINDING DOWN
With summer on the wane, waters in Florida's organized swimming holes will soon be getting cooler, and with kids back in school, fewer of them will be visiting water parks.
Because of this, many water parks will cut back on opening times in autumn and winter, or close for the season.
Here's a guide to what's open and when. (All dates are subject to change without notice.)
• Busch Gardens, Tampa: Adventure Island closes Oct. 13. It will reopen March 8.
• SeaWorld, Orlando: Aquatica is open daily year-round.
• Walt Disney World, near Orlando: The theme park has two water parks, open daily year-round except for maintenance periods. Typhoon Lagoon will be closed for maintenance Oct. 26 to Dec. 21, and Blizzard Beach will be closed Dec. 22 to March 15. These dates are tentative and subject to change.
• Legoland Florida, Winter Haven: Its water park is open on Saturdays and Sundays in September and October. It is closed from November to February.
• Wet 'n Wild, Orlando: Open daily year-round.
If you happen to be visiting Orlando this month, you might want to take advantage of Orlando's Magical Dining Month, during which more than 60 top restaurants offer three-course prix fixe dinners for $33. A dollar from each dinner will be given to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida. Go to visitorlando.com/magicaldining/to learn more.
For a taste of foods from all over, Epcot at Walt Disney World is staging its 18th annual International Food and Wine Festival from Sept. 27 to Nov. 10. Thirty global marketplaces will be featured in the long-running exposition, along with special dinners, demonstrations, wine tastings and other culinary doings. Park admission is required.
BLUE WATER PADDLING
The annual Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival, Nov. 1-3, is a three-day event featuring canoeing, kayaking and other activities along the sugar-sand shores and gulf waters of Lee County. In addition to paddling, there will be demonstrations, speakers, instruction, socials, music, a fishing tournament and group tours. For more information, go to calusa bluewaypaddlingfestival.com.
Jay Clarke, the former travel editor of the Miami Herald, is a freelance writer based in Coral Gables.