February in Florida is full of festivals and fun. Here are some that are worth checking into.
FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL – The Strawberry Capital of the World goes all out to honor its most prized fruit, serving it on shortcake, in milkshakes, by the container or by the flat. Plus, check out the Styx or Boyz II Men concerts, carnival rides, livestock shows and the fried candy bar truck.
When: Feb. 27-March 9
Where: Plant City
RIO DE LA PAZ FESTIVAL AND ART OF THE RIVER – As a celebration of Juan Ponce de Leon and the Spaniards arriving in Florida five centuries ago, this festival aims to teach modern-fay folks about the history of the Peace River and Florida's beginnings. The theme extends to its food vendors, historical-themed artwork and crafts and other activities.
When: Feb. 7, 8
OLD FLORIDA OUTDOOR FESTIVAL – Everything you ever wanted to know about duck calling, birding, hunting and other shooting sports, all wrapped up in a fun, kid-friendly event. Eat well at the chili and BBQ cook-offs while enjoying country music concert.
When: Feb 8, 9
SILVER RIVER KNAP-IN AND STONE AGE ARTS FESTIVAL – Expert stone tool makers, archaeologists, potters, bow makers and other prehistoric skills makers from around the region get to show off how it was done in the Stone Age
When: Feb. 22, 23
Where: Silver River Museum, Ocala
LEESBURG MARDIS GRAS – Experience the famous New Orleans street party, Leesburg-style! A little less raucous than the real thing (i.e. family-friendly), the event features three parades, fire eaters, jugglers, pets in costumes, music, and of course, beads.
When: Feb. 22
Where: Downtown Leesburg
FIESTA DAY – Once considered a day of rest for the immigrant cigar factory workers, this 67-year-old event feature shuts down the popular 7th Avenue for a day and opens it to ethnic food stands, arts and crafts and live entertainment.
When: Feb. 22
Where: Ybor City
MAIN STREET LIVE – More than 130 musical acts take over 18 stages along Daytona's Main Street entertainment district, featuring some of Florida's best blues, orchestra, acoustic, country, rock, folk, hip hop and punk bands.
When: Feb. 8
Where: Daytona Beach
BEER, BOURBON & BBQ FESTIVAL – A $35 ticket buys you a sampling glass to taste a hundred different types of beer and bourbon, and when you get hungry, some of the area's best BBQ joints will be selling their top pig products and side dishes.
When: Feb. 22
CLEARWATER SEA-BLUES FESTIVAL – Thousands flock to Clearwater's Coachman Park each year to see some of the country's best blues acts – the popular and lively Vintage Trouble is headlining this year – and taste seafood and other noshes from area restaurants.
When: Feb. 15 & 16
SHAKE RATTLE AND SOUL FEST – Dozens of sideburned and sequined Elvis impersonators descend on Sarasota's Robarts Arena to compete for top prize, while other impersonators perform the likes of Rod Stewart, James Brown and Roy Orbison.
When: Feb 7-9
ORLANDO WETLANDS FESTIVAL – Spot a white ibis, bald eagle, river otter or bobcat along a guided nature hike, then stick around for hayrides, face-painting, live animal demonstrations and other fun and education adventures at this free event.
When: Feb. 15
Where: Fort Christmas Historical Park, Christmas
SILVER SPURS RODEO – Billed as "the largest rodeo east of the Mississippi," this 70-year-old event is the real deal, featuring bareback riding, steer wrestling, bull riding, team roping, barrel racing and the crowd-pleasing clown act.
When: Feb. 21-23
CLEARWATER BEACH UNCORKED – Local top chefs, brewers and winemakers and other gastronomic experts turn Clearwater Beach's white sands into a stage for culinary performances. Sample from more than 100 wines or visit the special dessert tent for pastries, chocolates and other treats.
When: Feb. 8 & 9
Where: Clearwater Beach
51st ANNUAL COCONUT GROVE ARTS FESTIVAL – Nearly one mile of great art, yummy food, fun and live entertainment. This annual affair that turns 51 will feature 380 of the finest artists and craftsmen in the world.
When: Feb. 15-17
Where: Coconut Grove, Miami
CARNIVAL MIAMI – This three week-event is the largest Hispanic festival in the country. It includes a variety of events, including: jazz performances, a beauty contest, cooking contest, domino and golf tournaments, and of course, Calle Ocho, the world's largest street festival on the final day.
When: Feb. 16-March 9
Where: Various locations throughout Miami-Dade County
PALM BEACH COUNTY SPORTING EVENTS – Like to watch the best in the world at tennis and golf? First up: The Delray Beach International Tennis Championships, featuring Andy Roddick's ATP Champions Tour debut. Next: The Honda Classic, the first 2014 Florida event on the PGA tour.
When: Feb. 14-23 for the tennis and Feb. 27-March 2 for the golf
Where: Delray Beach for the tennis and PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens for the golf
Web: www.YellowTennisBall.com for the tennis and www.pgatour.com for the golf
MIAMI INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOW – Preview the latest in powerboats, sailboats, engines, cutting-edge marine electronics, accessories and nautical apparel in a show that features more than 3,000 boats and 2,000 exhibitors.
When: Feb. 13-17
Where: Miami Beach Convention Center, Miamarina at Bayside and Sea Isle Marina & Yachting Center.
RIVERWALK BLUES & MUSIC FESTIVAL – Get your boogie on outdoors and indoors at the 24th installment of this annual affair. Headliners are: JP Soars & The Red Hots featuring Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Eric Lindell, Johnny Sansone, Samantha Fish, Tinsley Ellis and The Regulators.
When: Feb. 14-16
Where: North side of the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale
KEY WEST HOUSE & GARDEN TOUR – You'll see a series of elegant and unique private homes, ranging from exquisite restorations to creative renovations that complement their architecture. 54th annual event also includes a look at some of the city's spectacular private gardens.
When: Feb. 14-15
Where: Key West
GOOSEBUMPS: THE SCIENCE OF FEAR – Ever wonder why your knees tremble, your hands shake and your heart races when you get scared? This interactive exhibit allows you to experience fear in an exciting, safe environment. Exhibit highlights include: Fear Lab, Fear Challenge Course and Fear Theater.
When: Feb. 1-Sept. 14
Where: Museum of Discovery & Science, Fort Lauderdale
EVERGLADES CITY SEAFOOD FESTIVAL – This freebie packs 'em in for fresh seafood, country music, carnival rides and crafts booth, as this small town of 500 swells to 50,000 folks! While you are there, check out this off-the-beaten path pocket of Old Florida with many original buildings and a rich history steeped in the lore of pirates and smugglers and murder and mayhem.
When: Feb. 7-9
Where: Everglades City
PIGEON KEY ART FESTIVAL – In its 20th year, the festival, which also includes live music and delicious eats, takes place on the mainland. However, ticket stubs can be used for a free ferry trip and tour of historic Pigeon Key, a tiny island where Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad workers lived in the early 1900s. The offer is good for a year.
When: Feb. 8-9
Where: Marathon Mile Community Park at Mile Marker 49 and Pigeon Key
FOOD NETWORK SOUTH BEACH WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL – This is a star-studded affair, showcasing the talents of famous chefs, culinary personalities and wine and spirit producers. Eclectic lineup includes Rachael Ray of the Food Network, food critic Ruth Reichl, rocker Sammy Hagar, the Miami Heat's Shane Battier and PBS television personality Rick Bayless.
When: Feb. 20-23
Where: Various locations throughout South Beach
ERTH'S DINOSAUR ZOO – Go back to prehistoric Australia and experience all kinds of creatures, from cute baby dinosaurs to raptors and birds. Ancient creatures come to life in an eye-popping display that will thrill audiences of all ages.
When: Feb. 13-14
Where: Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale
CIVIL WARS DAYS HERITAGE FESTIVAL – Experience colorful Civil War reenactments, the roar of cannon fire and uniformed Yankee and Rebel soldiers, while learning about Key West's past.
When: Feb. 7-9
Where: Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West
THIRD ANNUAL ALACHUA AUDUBON BACKYARD BIRDING TOUR: Hoping to catch of a glimpse of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Carolina Chickadee or Swainson's Hawk? Tour six of Gainesville's best backyard birding habitats and speak with local experts to learn how to attract birds to your own yard. The event takes place in the winter to match the migratory arrival of several bird species.
When: Feb. 8
Where: Wild Birds Unlimited, Gainesville
BELLA LUNA: A MAGICAL NIGHT UNDER THE STARS: Treat your Valentine to a not-so-secret, but still romantic rendezvous on the rooftop deck at the Museum of Science and History. The museum's annual salute to sweethearts includes Cosmic Concerts, live music, stargazing, a roving magician, decadent desserts (think chocolate!) and adult beverages. Reservations required.
When: Feb. 8
Where: Museum of Science and History, Jacksonville
FLIGHT TO FREEDOM AT FORT MOSE: From 1687 to 1763, hundreds of slaves escaped the British by traveling along the Freedom Trail to sanctuary in Spanish-controlled Florida. Every 15 minutes, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., guides will lead hikes along a stretch of that trail in Fort Mose Historic State Park explaining the conditions and history of their journey. Also includes a lecture by Dr. James G Cusick from the University of Florida on slavery and the struggle between Spain and Britain to control the Southeast.
When: Feb. 8
Where: Fort Mose, St. Augustine
ST. GEORGE ISLAND TOUR OF HOMES: From the Gulf beaches to the gated community of St. George Plantation, tour seven homes in this small seaside community to ooh and aah over stunning home decors while enjoying the gorgeous views. Shuttle service is provided. The tour also includes a peek inside the St. George Plantation Clubhouse and Cape St. George Lighthouse and Museum.
When: Feb. 8
Where: Cape St. George Lighthouse, St. George Island
FULL MOON KAYAKING ECOTOUR: This Valentine's Day, trade the overcrowded restaurant scene for the pristine waters of the Guana River and that three-piece suit for shorts and flip flops. Just think — you and your loved one can enjoy a romantic evening in Real Florida while paddling the serene waters at sunset, looking for Bald Eagles and watching the full moon rise on Ripple Effect Ecotours' two-hour guided journey. No kayaking experience necessary.
When: Feb. 14
Where: Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, Ponte Vedra Beach Florida
6TH ANNUAL FIDDLER CRAB FESTIVAL: Head over to the Big Bend for a weekend of fun featuring Fiddler Crab races, boat tour cruises along the Steinhatchee River, a touch tank for kids, the Swamp Water Challenge Cook Off, a fishing tournament, live music, an arts and crafts show and plenty of great eats to chow down on.
When: Feb. 14-16
Where: Steinhatchee Community Center, Steinhatchee
WOLF TO WOOF: THE STORY OF DOGS: Get to know man's best friend better at this hands-on, family-friendly exhibit exploring the history and biology of the evolution of dogs. How do you stack up against our favorite furry friends? Go nose-to-nose with dogs in a sense of smell feature or test your vocal range in the howling area. Also includes artifacts, multimedia displays, photomurals and dioramas.
When: Feb. 15-Sept.1
Where: Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville
10Th ANNUAL PALATKA BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL: More than 15 musical acts in three days round out the lineup for one of the state's can't-miss tributes to Bluegrass. Headliners include Daily and Vincent (2014 Grammy nominees for Best Bluegrass Album), Seldom Scene (former Grammy nominee), The Gibson Brothers (2013 and 2014 International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainers of the Year), Rhoda Vincent (the New Queen of Bluegrass and a five-time Grammy nominee) and Gene Watson (50-year country music legend).
When: Feb. 20-22
Where: Rodeheaver Boys' Ranch
AMELIA ISLAND BOOK FESTIVAL: Get writing tips from best-selling authors and start filling in your summer reading list at Amelia Island's annual ode to books. The two-day event features a VIP reception, a writer's workshop with New York Times best-selling author David Baldacci, a luncheon with Cassandra King and a chance to meet more than 25 authors in various panel discussions. Special to this year's event is a concert by Danny Ellis, an Irish singer/songwriter, who wrote about his troubled youth in the slums of Dublin and the healing power of music in the best-selling "The Boy at the Gate."
When: Feb. 21-22
Where: various venues, Fernandina Beach, Yulee and Amelia Island
PENSACON 2014: Twist your hair into a side braid and accessorize your look with a bow and arrow a la Katniss Everdeen of the "Hunger Games" or keep it simple and just get a pair of pointy ears to blend in with fellow Trekkies at Pensacola's celebration of all things Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, Comics and Animé. The three-day event will feature guest appearances by actors and the creative geniuses behind fan-favorites like "Star Wars", "Doctor Who", "Game of Thrones" and "Walking Dead".
When: Feb. 21-23
Where: Pensacola Bay Center & Crowne Plaza Grand Hotel
PIRATES OF LOST TREASURE 20Th ANNUAL PIRATE FLOTILLA BOAT PARADE: Ahoy matey! It's pirate season in Florida and Perdido Key celebrates the fortune-hunting buccaneers with a boat parade along the Intracoastal Waterway. Boats will be decked out with flags in Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold and green, meanwhile 21st century pirates will toss thousands of strings of beads to landlubbers along the parade route.
When: Feb. 22
Where: begins at Holiday Harbor Marina, Perdido Key
NORTH FLORIDA FINE ARTS FESTIVAL: Add to your collection and learn more about different art mediums — whether it be photography, sculpture, pottery or jewelry — while chatting with artists from around the country displaying their work at the annual show.
When: Feb. 22-23
Where: Lake City
AMELIA ISLAND FILM FESTIVAL: Just in time for Hollywood's biggest night — that little shown known as the Oscars — Amelia Island brings movie magic closer to home. The annual fest features a two-day high school competition, a college short film series, 5 award-winning feature films, 20 short films and ... of course, an Oscar Party. Dress yourself in something that glitters and get ready to walk the red carpet.
When: Feb. 27-March 2
Where: various venues, Amelia Island
60TH ANNUAL KREWE OF LAFITTE MARDI GRAS PARADE: Pensacola's only illuminated night parade is a swashbuckling good time featuring the 250 pirates from the Krewe of Lafitte and a dozen lighted floats. The largest all-male Krewe in the Panhandle has been tossing trinkets and entertaining crowds along the parade route since 1954 to celebrate Carnival.
When: Feb. 28
Where: downtown Pensacola
THE LAST GOOD WAR: THE FACES AND VOICES OF WORLD WAR II: From the D-Day beaches of Normandy to the North African deserts and to the icy western front of Russia, the stories of WWII's greatest generation have captivated millions of Americans. One of which was photographer Thomas Sanders who traveled the country photographing and interviewing hundreds of veterans. More than 30 of Sanders' photos are paired with each subject's WWII account in this traveling exhibit.
When: Feb. 28 - April 4
Where: Cultural Center of Ponte Vedra Beach
The story originally appeared on the VisitFlorida.com website