20 Florida Events & Festivals to Experience in 2020

From scrub-jays to soda and frog legs to swamp cabbage, here are 20 Florida events and festivals to experience in 2020.

The 10th Annual Florida Scrub-jay Festival is Scheduled for Jan. 11, 2020 at Oscar Scherer State Park.

10th Annual Florida Scrub-Jay Festival in Osprey, Jan. 11, 2020

The Florida Scrub-jay is the state’s only endemic bird and it’s estimated fewer than 8,000 remain in the world. Festivals celebrating the scrub-jay are held throughout the state on different dates and the closest is the 10th Annual Florida Scrub-Jay Festival at Oscar Scherer State Park. The one-day festival includes a scrub-jay Q&A panel, presentations, guided walks, tram tours, fire demonstrations, environmental exhibitors, children’s activities, live music and the Scrub Jay 5K and 10K. The family-friendly event is free. (Oscar Scherer State Park, 1843 South Tamiami Trl., Osprey, Fla. 34229; Tel: 941-483-5956; friendsofoscarscherer.com)

33rd Annual Florida Manatee Festival in Crystal River, Jan. 18 & 19, 2020

Crystal River is the Manatee Capital of the World and the Florida Manatee Festival celebrates everything wonderful about the lovable sea cows. The two-day festival includes four music venues, entertainment, food vendors, kid zone, and boat tours of King’s Bay. Take the free bus tour to the Three Sisters Springs unit of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge to view manatees from the boardwalk. Festival Admission: $5 per person, 12 years and younger are free. Boat tour of King’s Bay is an additional fee. (Historic Downtown Crystal River, N. Citrus Ave., Crystal River, Fla., 34428; Tel: 352-795-3149; www.gomanateefest.com)

29th Annual Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival in Fellsmere, Jan. 16 – 19, 2020

Have a hopping good time during the world’s largest frog leg festival in the Frog Leg Capital of the World. More than 7,000 pounds of frog legs and 2,000 pounds of gator tail will be served up along with family-friendly fun with carnival rides, games, and craft booths at the Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival. Admission is free however there is a fee for the dinners and carnival rides. A frog leg on a stick, or a frog pop, is $3. 22 (South Orange St., Fellsmere, Fla. 32948; Tel: 772-571-0250; www.froglegfestival.com)

23rd Annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in Titusville, Jan. 22 – 27, 2020

Recognized by the Southeast Tourism Society as one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeastern U.S., the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival is one of the largest birding and wildlife festivals in the country. The five-day event includes field trips, workshops, presentations, and talks from professional photographers and biologists. Admission for the entire festival is $130 and single-day admission varies between $30 – $50, depending on the day. (Eastern Florida State College, adjacent to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, 1311 U.S. 1, Titusville, Fla. 32796; Tel: 321-268-5224; www.scbwf.org)

2020 Spring Training, Throughout Florida, Feb. – March 2020

The Sunshine State is home to the Grapefruit League with 15 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams practicing during spring training. Games allow fans to watch the current and tomorrow’s stars get ready for the season. In Southwest Florida, teams include the Atlanta Braves in North Port, Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Boston Red Sox in Ft. Myers, Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Minnesota Twins in Ft. Myers, and Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte. Practice typically begins in mid-February and games begin the end of February. (www.mlb.com/spring-training/grapefruit-league)

Snowbird Baseball Classic in Charlotte County, Feb. 14 – March 25, 2020

More than 20 Division I collegiate teams as Indiana State University, Northeastern University, The Ohio State University, and 20 Division III collegiate teams will play local ball fields during the month-long tournament. For more than a decade, the Snowbird Baseball Classic’s homerun reputation has made it the largest Division I collegiate spring tournament. (www.snowbirdbaseball.info)

54th Annual Swamp Cabbage Festival in LaBelle, Feb. 22, 2020

Florida may be one of the only states that consumes its state tree. The Swamp Cabbage Festival is the perfect opportunity to give swamp cabbage, which is from the heart of the cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), a try. In addition to swamp cabbage, enjoy the LaBelle Rotary Club’s world-famous armadillo races, the Swamp Cabbage Parade, cloggers, live music, Swamp Stomp 5K, a fishing tournament, and the Cattlemen’s Rodeo. Festival admission is free and fees are collected for specific events, food, and beverages. (Barron Park, 1559 De Soto Ave., LaBelle, Fla. 33935 www.labelleswampcabbagefestival.org)

69th Annual Wild Hog BBQ at the Everglades Conservation and Sportsman Club in Ochopee, Fla., Feb. 23, 2019

70th Annual Wild Hog BBQ in Ochopee, Feb. 29, 2020

The Everglades Conservation and Sportsman Club located in the heart of the Glades opens its gates to the public for the Wild Hog BBQ. In addition to barbecued hog ribs, enjoy a swamp buggy ride, live music, clay shooting, wildlife exhibits, and try climbing a greased pole. Bring your own chair, beverages, and cash for the raffles, vendors, and bail yourself out of the onsite fundraising jail. Advance tickets, which include the barbecue lunch/dinner are $20, at the gate $25. (Everglades Conservation and Sportsman Club, 50940 Loop Rd., Ochopee, Fla. 34141; wildhogbbq.com)

92nd Annual Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo in Arcadia, March 12 – 15, 2020

Giddy up! Watch adults and children compete during the thrilling four-day Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo. Included is bareback riding, bull riding, junior steer/bull riding, mutton busting, junior barrel racing, and team roping. (Mosaic Arena, 2450 Roan St., Arcadia, Fla. 34266; Tel: 800-749-7633; arcadiarodeo.com)

Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans 2020 in Punta Gorda, March 27 & 28

The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 signed by President Donald J. Trump designates March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Days. Across the country, communities will celebrate Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day the weekend of March 27 – 29. In Punta Gorda, festivities kick off March 27 with a concert and continues March 28 with a Welcome Home Parade, Welcome Home Ceremony at the Vietnam Wall of Southwest Florida with North Port’s Emanne Beasha (a finalist on America’s Got Talent) signing the National Anthem, and concert at Laishley Park featuring Lee Greenwood. The concert is free for all veterans and they must register. Concert admission for non-veterans is $20. (welcomehomevietnamvets2020.org)

3rd Annual Sebring Soda Festival, April 3 – 5, 2020

The Sebring Soda Festival is Florida’s fizziest festival and opportunity to taste some of the more than 200 unique craft sodas with flavors as strawberry-rhubarb, candied bacon, and key lime. Walk around downtown Sebring’s Circle and listen to live music, admire vintage autos, and grab lunch from one of the restaurants or food trucks. (Downtown Sebring on the Circle, 347 Fernleaf Ave., Sebring, Fla. 33870; Tel: 863-385-8448; www.sebringsodafest.com)

20th Annual Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin’ Festival in Sopchoppy, April 11, 2020

The early bird gets the worm and so do worm grunters. The Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin’ Festival attracts thousands of visitors curious in seeing the famed Sopchoppy worms rise from the ground. Also called worm charming or worm fiddling, a worm grunter vibrates the ground causing the worms to rise and they are collected to be sued as fishing bait. A wooden stake, called a “stob” is driven into the ground and rubbed with a “rooping iron” to cause the vibration.

A worm grunting competition and demonstrations are scheduled early in the day because the worms dig deeper as the soil heats up with the rising sun. The day also includes a 5k run, horseshoe championship, hula hoop contest, vendors with food and arts and crafts, crowning of the Worm Gruntin’ King and Queen and Worm Grunters Ball. Admission is free. (Downtown Sopchoppy one block from U.S. 319, Sopchoppy, Fla. 32358; www.wormgruntinfestival.com)

Rock the Ocean’s Tortuga Music Festival in Ft. Lauderdale, April 17 – 19, 2020

Music and conservation intertwine to create one of Florida’s most celebrated annual events, Rock the Ocean’s Tortuga Music Festival. About 50 musical acts will perform over the three days and Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw and Barenaked Ladies are scheduled to take the stage. The three-day general admission pass is $239 and a single-day general admission pass is $135. Children 6 and younger are free. Gates open a Noon daily and end around 10 p.m. each night. (1100 Seabreeze Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. 33316; Tel: 888-512-7469; www.tortugamusicfestival.com)

A Tagged Redfish Being Released for the 2019 CCA Florida STAR Tournament.

CCA Florida STAR Tournament, Statewide, Memorial Day – Labor Day

The Coastal Conservation Association Florida STAR is the state’s largest family-friendly saltwater fishing competition. Presented by Yamaha, the catch, photo, and release tournament combines conservation, data collection, social media, and education. Prizes and scholarships are valued at more than $500,000. During the 2019 tournament, two of the three tagged redfish caught by registered tournament anglers during the entire tournament were caught in Charlotte County. (Statewide; www.ccaflstar.com)

5th Annual Vero Beach Wine and Film Festival in Vero Beach, June 11 – 14, 2020

Celebrate “a life worth living” during Vero Beach Wine and Film Festival, a combination of fine wines and films over a long weekend of private events. The film festival features unique films from both independent and Hollywood filmmakers and top boutique vintners from across the country. The PICK 4 CINEMA Pass is $35 and offers access to four official film screenings and access to pre-screening wine tastings. (Tel: 772-217-3786; vbwff.com)

2nd Annual Key West Mermaid Festival in Key West, July 1 – 5, 2020

Mermaids, captains, seafarers, anglers, mermaid enthusiasts, and locals will step back in time on Bone Key (the original name for Key West) and celebrate everything mermaid during the Key West Mermaid Festival. Events include a mermaid meet-and-greet, parade, and parties. Many events are free. (Festival headquarters: The Captain’s Mermaid Boutique, 608 Front St., Key West, Fla. 33040; Tel: 305-204-4226; www.keywestmermaidfestival.com)

24th Annual Mango Mania Tropical Fruit Festival in Cape Coral, July TBA

Mango Mania Tropical Fruit Festival is a delicious celebration of Pine Island’s famous mangoes and other tropical fruits. Taste about 20 different kinds of sweet, juicy mangoes and watch how to cut a mango the easy way. Vendors sell mango-flavored items and it varies each year and may include hot sauce, fish tacos with fresh mango salsa, or refreshing ice cream. There are activities for the whole family including mango recipe contests, MangoMania hat decorating followed by the hat parade, mango eating contest, entertainment, educational talks, and see the world’s largest mango. An admission fee is collected. (German-American Social Club, 2101 Pine Island Rd., Cape Coral, Fla. 33991; Tel: 239-283-0888; www.mangomaniafl.net)

41st Fantasy Fest in Key West, Oct. 16 – 25, 2020

Body paint, feathers, glitter, and masks are some of suggested attire for Fantasy Fest. Let your freak flag fly during activities as the Zombie Bike Ride, Sloppy Joe’s Annual Toga Party, Annual Headdress Ball, Masquerade March, and the Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade. “Roaring 2020s and Future Fictions” is 2020’s theme. Entrance fees and reservations may apply for events. Visit the website for schedule and applicable costs. (Tel: 305-295-9112; www.fantasyfest.com)

27th Annual Nights of Lights in St. Augustine, Saturday before Thanksgiving, 2020 – Early Feb. 2021

Millions of white, twinkling lights sparkle from sidewalks to rooftops through 20 city blocks of the Nation’s Oldest City. National Geographic has listed St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights as one of the top ten holiday light displays in the world. One of the best ways to enjoy the magical spectacular is through a tour either by trolley, horse-drawn carriage, or boat. Dozens of holiday-themed activities are offered during this sparkling extravaganza. Admission is free. (www.NightsofLights.com)

Rocket Launches on Florida’s Space Coast, Throughout the Year

Space exploration continues with NASA and its partners and rocket launches happen throughout the year. Viewing a rocket launch in Brevard County, also known as the Space Coast, is a treat, especially hearing its roar and feeling its rumble. Visit the NASA and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex websites for launch schedules and keep in mind, launch times and days may change due to uncontrollable variables. (www.nasa.gov/launchschedule and www.kennedyspacecenter.com/launches-and-events)

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Author: Solo Travel Girl

Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, SoloTravelGirl.com with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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